Arkansas Lawmakers Approve New Restrictions On Cryptocurrency Mines After Backlash Over '23 Law

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers on Wednesday gave final approval to new restrictions on cryptocurrency mining operations after facing backlash for limiting local governments' ability to regulate them last year.

The majority-Republican House overwhelmingly approved the Senate-backed measures, sending them to GOP Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders' desk. The bills were among the few non-budget issues on the agenda for a legislative session lawmakers expect to wrap up Thursday.

The bills are intended to address complaints about a law passed last year on cryptocurrency mines, which are data centers requiring large amounts of computing power and electricity. Local officials and residents who live near the operations complained that last year's law interfered with addressing complaints about the mines’ noise and impact on the community.

The measures require the facilities to apply noise-reduction techniques, and requires crypto mining businesses to get a permit from the state to operate. It also removes portions of the 2023 law that limited local governments' ability to enact measures regulating the sound decibels generated by the facilities.

“Let's do what we can to help those who have been impacted in a negative way, and work for better solutions,” Republican Rep. Rick McClure said before the vote.

Sponsors of the measure have described the bills as a stop-gap until lawmakers return for next year's regular session and take up more comprehensive changes.

The legislation also prohibits businesses and individuals from several countries, including China, from owning crypto mining operations in the state.

Democratic Rep. Andrew Collins, who voted against both bills, said he was concerned about the way that limit was worded and the impact it could have on foreign investment.

“We're casting a net that is both too wide and too narrow,” Collins said during a committee hearing on the bills Tuesday. “It's going to catch people up who are totally innocent, and it's going to miss a lot of people who are either home-grown or are from countries not on this list.”

Lawmakers passed the legislation as the House and Senate gave initial approval to bills detailing the state's $6.3 billion budget for the coming year. Both chambers are expected to give final approval to that legislation Thursday.

Sanders plans to sign the crypto mining bills into law, her office said.