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The Arkansas General Assembly gathers for the 2024 Fiscal Session from Apr. 10 to May 9.

Arkansas House adopts crypto mining resolutions

On Tuesday, representatives in the Arkansas House met to start the special session by reading Gov. Asa Hutchinson's call. The House and Senate voted to approved proposed tax cuts by the governor.
Arkansas House
On Tuesday, representatives in the Arkansas House met to start the special session by reading Gov. Asa Hutchinson's call. The House and Senate voted to approved proposed tax cuts by the governor.

The Arkansas House has adopted two resolutions opening the door for new regulations on cryptocurrency mines.

The resolutions don't mean the bills will ultimately pass but they do allow members to discuss them in committee. The House and Senate are currently in a fiscal session. For each chamber to take up a non-budget bill, they must first get a resolution adopted by a two-thirds vote.

Six other resolutions to regulate crypto mines failed on the House floor Wednesday.

The mines have prompted complaints over noise and energy usage in rural Arkansas communities. There have also been their concerns about their alleged ties to overseas organizations and foreign governments.

With virtually no discussion, legislators passed a state law last year to deregulate the mines. Since then, some lawmakers have been fighting for more regulation. Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, failed to extend a special session last year so he could regulate the mines.

One resolution which passed Wednesday, sponsored by Rep. Rick McClure, R-Malvern, would allow lawmakers to consider putting basic regulations on the mines. That includes requiring them to follow noise ordinances, get local government approvals before construction and not to work with a “prohibited foreign party controlled business’.” This includes companies whose controlling assets are owned by a “prohibited foreign party.”

“Don't we wish we had the information that we have today when we originally voted on this?” McClure asked. “It would have been a different day.”

A second similar bill was sponsored by Rep. Jeremiah Moore, R-Clarendon. The law would add sound limits for the mines and other general business regulations. Moore said the mines need to have the same oversight as other organizations.

He has been outspoken against a mine recently built in DeWitt. A grassroots movement of locals have been speaking out against it. Moore called DeWitt a good town that “you would be proud to grow up in.”

“If there is a bad actor and there are many,” he said. “How is a small town going to stand up to a billion dollar corporation?”

Moore said he has been subpoenaed by lawyers representing crypto mine owners after speaking out against them.

“These bad actors must be stopped,” he said.

Six other resolutions to regulate the mines, put forth by Rep. Josh Miller, R-Heber Springs, failed to pass the House on Wednesday. They would have allowed bills that, among other things, prevent anyone from using a foreign computer to perform crypto mining. They would also charge crypto mining businesses for using too much energy.

In his remarks, Miller addressed concerns from his colleagues that it was inappropriate to bring these bills up in a fiscal session.

“Nobody is in more of a hurry to wrap this up and get back to work than me,” he said. “But sometimes you have to deal with things. If you don't agree with me, go sit next to one of these residences that is by a crypto mine.”

Miller's resolutions were met with mixed feelings by House lawmakers, many of whom felt they were too vague and all-encompassing. Rep. David Ray, R-Maumelle, said he and his colleagues were generally united against the mines, but thought the legislature should be "more selective" of bills considered in a budget session.

“I think we ought to take up ones that address issues that we have a consensus about dealing with. When it comes to this issue, I think there are some things that we have consensus on,” he said.

Ray said he wanted to combat the problem, and that he had personally visited a crypto mine site in the Bono community near Greenbrier. He described the noise as “torture.”

“I can't imagine what it's like to live next door to that facility,” he said.

He felt the resolutions by McClure and Moore were more equipped to address the issue as they honed in on parts of crypto mining people are more universally concerned with. Ray said he was interested in regulating the mines' noise and their owners' potential connections to foreign governments.

Miller responded to the criticism, saying his six resolutions would allow lawmakers to begin looking into the issue of crypto mining and tweak the laws in committee. All six resolutions ultimately failed.

Rep. Tippi McCullough, D-Little Rock, joined a small group of other lawmakers in voting “present” on the resolutions. She said “I do believe this issue deserves more attention,” but that she would “ prefer to finish our business here and then take this up in a special session.”

Copyright 2024 Little Rock Public Radio. To see more, visit Little Rock Public Radio.

Josie Lenora is a news anchor and reporter for KUAR News at Little Rock Public Radio. She has listened to KUAR and NPR since she was a young child growing up in Little Rock and says she is thrilled to give back to an organization she loves. Josie was previously an intern in the fall of 2021 assisting in production, then spent another semester with the station interning in the newsroom in the spring of 2022.