By requiring a risk assessment for each child, courts can properly categorize those who are not likely to re-offend. Now, Juvenile Courts function with an emphasis on community involvement for these children instead of state managed disciplinary actions like incarceration. Under this new law, troubled youth are given the care and attention they deserve to help escape the cycle of crime before it destroys their chance at a normal life. It should be noted that this bill passed with zero dissent from the General Assembly.
In an effort to make our streets and highways safer, Rep. Fite also passed a number of bills that protect Arkansans from dangerous drivers. Act 288 amends the law on distracted driving to include the use of cellphones in school zones as an offense. Similarly, Act 166 increases the penalty of passing a stopped school bus to at least five hundred dollars. Both measures are guaranteed to protect Arkansans, especially our children, as these laws are enforced.
In an effort to protect victims of domestic violence, Rep. Fite has passed a few bills that address this evil head-on. Act 498 redefines Domestic Battery in the First Degree to include a Class Y Felony (the most serious crimes not punishable by death in Arkansas) in some circumstances and stiffens penalties for abuse of those 60 years of age or older, and increase penalties for abuse of children aged 4 or younger.
Likewise, to protect victims seeking professional help from domestic violence, she passed Act 499. Victims of domestic abuse are often afraid of seeking help as to not make their situation publicly known, especially to their abuser. Any victims who seeks the help of a shelter, center, or advocate for domestic abuse can do so with the guarantee of confidential reporting. This is a significant privilege for victims as many are in situations that pose imminent risk of serious harm to them or their loved ones.
One of Rep. Fite’s most significant victories this year was for the deaf community. Given their specific needs and underserved population, it can be difficult for these Arkansans to find help in a number of ways. Act 644 sponsored by Rep. Fite is a ‘Bill of Rights’ for the Deaf Community regarding mental health needs. This Act provides the deaf community with mental health services that are fluent in their primary means of communication, such as American Sign Language. Not only does this provide them with the ability to communicate freely with their mental health providers, it also seeks to ensure those providers are familiar with the unique culture of the deaf community.