VCK Democratic Women are delight to have a new Legislative Reporter! Cortney McKee, member of VCK, will monthly report on the activities of the Arkansas Legislature, and provide clear action for us. Thank you, Cortney!
State/Legislative recap: 1/9/2023- 1/24/2023
The 2023 Regular Session began on January 9th at noon. The pre-filing period for bills and resolutions began on November 15. The session is set to end on March 9th. The first week was mostly organizational and they re-elected Speaker Matthew Shepherd for a third term as leader of the House. Sarah Huckabee Sanders was sworn in and issued 7 executive orders the first day and another EO the next day. Perhaps the worst EO, was the banning of teaching of CRT. Or, as I like to call it, history. Of course, if you are a state employee, you might be upset about the EO government spending freeze, freezing pay raises and promotions for state employees. Don’t worry, that did not apply to her own appointees or the state legislature. The independent citizens’ commission recommended a 6% raise for legislators. The raise has not gone into effect yet. Current salary for legislators is 44k plus per diem. Meanwhile, teachers, who before the election were told to wait for raises until this session, are still waiting, three and a half weeks into the 60 day legislative session.
Action alert: email your state senator and representative. Matt McKee email@example.com and Alan Clark. Rep. Cozart: firstname.lastname@example.org, Rep. McGrew email@example.com, Rep Warren: firstname.lastname@example.org, Write to the local paper about your opposition to vouchers. School choice and vouchers are not synonymous like they want you to believe. Tell them we need a stand alone educator pay raise. Sentinel Record: email@example.com, HSV Village Voice firstname.lastname@example.org
Week 2 saw the introduction of a plethora of bad bills. And now, half way into week 3, over 300 bills have been filed. None of them are for teacher raises. I have chosen the most concerning bills thus far, to go over. Many of them new ways to imprison more people and for longer times, which seems antithetical to self-proclaimed freedom loving.
SB43- To classify drag shows the same as sex shops and strip clubs and to limit the areas in which drag queens and transgender people may appear or interact. So vaguely worded, it basically bans transgender people from public. A lot of people testified passionately against the bill, while only one person testified for it. A huge LGBTQ rally was held on the steps of the state capitol. However, the bill passed committee, passed the senate, and is now headed to the House. If it passes the house, it goes to Sarah Sanders to sign into law. What to do now? Contact your representative. Action Alert: email your representative. Rep. Cozart: email@example.com, Rep. McGrew firstname.lastname@example.org, Rep Warren: email@example.com tell them they cannot just incriminate people for not having the same beliefs and the bill is too vaguely worded and completely unnecessary. Make your email personal, and as polite as you are capable, assuming you are as angry as you should be.
SB81 Amends the law for obscene materials, creates an offense for furnishing harmful items to minors and amends the law concerning obscene materials loaned by a library. It was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee and has yet to be placed on the committee’s agenda. Sex stories from the bible would qualify as obscene. Action Alert: it has not made it on the judiciary committee agenda yet. Email members of the judiciary your opposition to this bill. Matt McKee firstname.lastname@example.org and Alan Clark email@example.com are on that committee.
HB1156- It is a bathroom bill that would require students in K-12 public schools to use male or female-exclusive restrooms according to their gender assigned at birth and requires hotel rooms for overnight school trips to be assigned according to a student's gender on their birth certificate. This bill has been deferred for now. No action alert.
SB62- Act 710 of 2017, requires private businesses contracting with the state to sign a pledge certifying they will not boycott Israel. This bill would require an additional pledge that private businesses won't boycott energy, fossil fuel, firearms, or munitions manufacturers. Proponents of these bills will keep working to prohibit speech they don't agree with or like, until no such speech is allowed. It was referred to the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee. It would prohibit the state or public entities that boycott the energy, fossil fuel, firearms and ammunitions industries. Currently, in Arkansas, a conviction on trafficking or distributing fentanyl carries with it a punishment of between 10 and 40 years. It has been deferred. No action alert
HB1174- The intent of this act is to add protections for unborn children, and to allow appropriate prosecution when a person causes the death of an unborn child, and repeal provisions that may allow a person to solicit, advise, encourage, or coerce a pregnant woman to abort her unborn child. Currently deferred. No action alert
Compiled by Cortney McKee for VCK.
Cortney is a lifelong Arkansan and was educated in the state. She has a B.A. in Political Science, a Masters in Public Administration, and a graduate certificate in nonprofit management. Follow her on Twitter: @mckeecortney