TENANT BILL DEBATE: Rep. Robin Lundstrum, with Rep. Mark Lowery, the committee chair, discuss her effort to kill a landlord-tenant bill.

Rep. Robin Lundstrum, fresh off a sneak attack on the voter-approved minimum wage law, mounted another evening coup attempt Wednesday, this time an effort to kill the bill to provide a guarantee of habitable housing for renters.

Lundstrum, who without notice pushed her minimum wage rollback bills through a lightly attended evening committee meeting Tuesday, mounted an attack on a different issue Wednesday. She made a “do not pass” motion for HB 1410, Republican Rep. Jimmy Gazaway’s proposal to make Arkansas the 50th and last state to require habitable housing for rental tenants. As it stands, tenants have little recourse if a landlord fails to provide heat or other requirements of a livable residence.


Lundstrum said the bill had been on the Insurance and Commerce Committee agenda for six weeks and it was time to act. She said the committee had been generous with its time. “I’m extremely frustrated,” she said. She said people had traveled to testify Wednesday morning, when the bill was deferred.  “At some point we need to land this plane,” she said.  “There’s a time to let it go.”

Do-not-pass motions are virtually unheard of. Rep Laurie Rushing objected to the motion, particularly since Gazaway wasn’t present. He did get notice of the proceeding and arrived late. Lundstrum then withdrew the motion.


You can watch the action here, beginning about 4:02 p.m.

Gazaway said he was still meeting with realtors, leading the opposition to his bill. He said he’d been working on amendments to meet their objections. He said realtors requested a meeting at 5:30 p.m. yesterday, with the bill on the agenda Wednesday morning. He said realtors had been slow to respond to proposals he’d made to address their concerns and had not offered their own amendments as he’d requested. He said he’d run the bill next Wednesday. Rep. Mark Lowery, chair of the committee, then said he’d like the debate and vote to happen Monday afternoon, after adjournment of the House. Gazaway said he could do that if realtors cooperate.


History suggests little cooperation can be expected from the Arkansas Realtors Association. A report by KATV’s Jason Pederson explains why they might feel comfortable about their treatment by members of the House Insurance and Commerce Committee.

A check of 2018 campaign contributions shows that the Realtors Association donated money to nearly every committee member.

One of the exceptions is the only realtor on the committee…Laurie Rushing of Hot Springs.

In a statement to KATV Rushing says “To my disappointment, I do not feel that the Realtors Association will ever be in agreement to protect landlords or tenants with a habitability bill. It is time that we do something right for Arkansas and get a habitability bill passed.”

The KATV report provided some background on objections to Gazaway’s bill.

“They specifically asked that any references to the word ‘safe’ be stricken from the bill,” says Rep. Gazaway following a Tuesday night meeting that lasted several hours. “Any references to ‘materially affecting health’ be stricken from the bill. They have asked that the provisions regarding smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors be stricken from the bill.”

Noted: Mullenix Associates is the lobbyist for the Arkansas Realtors Association. Mullenix Associates threw a dinner Monday night at one of Little Rock’s most expensive restaurants, Arthur’s Steakhouse. Honored guests? Members of the House Insurance and Commerce Committee. Well done.

Lundstrum, by the way, told David Ramsey yesterday that she will forge ahead with her bill to rollback the voter-approved minimum wage increase despite the opposition of the governor. It’s backed by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, which has had a pretty good session so far, what with tax cuts for millionaires, more to come for corporations, sales tax increases to keep its highway contractor members busy with an expanded road-building program and other helpful measures.


In that vein, a grassroots group still plans a noon rally at the Capitol today to support preservation of the minimum wage increase and to release poll numbers showing public support for that is high.