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Weekly Address – April 16, 2021

From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our great nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.

The Senate has picked three possible constitutional amendments to refer to voters. I will be among the members who further narrow that list.

Whichever measure we select will be on the general election ballot in November of 2022. If voters approve in the statewide election, it will then become part of the Arkansas Constitution.

There is a growing consensus for an amendment that would empower the legislature to call itself into session, independently of the governor.

Now, the legislature meets once a year, as spelled out in the Constitution. When we adjourn, we can only re-convene at the call of the governor in a special session.

Under the current Constitution, the governor has the power to limit the agenda that legislators may consider during a special session.

A Senate committee has given its approval to a proposed amendment that would allow legislative leadership to call us into session.

The Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate are elected by their colleagues.

If approved by voters, the amendment would authorize the Speaker and the President Pro Tem to call a special session.

If the leadership doesn’t proclaim a special session, one could be called on a vote by two-thirds of the members of the House and Senate.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a factor that has created some impetus for this proposed amendment.

There is a sizeable group of legislators who disagree with restrictions and mandates issued by the governor and the state Health Department.

They feel left out of the decision-making process, and they have been outspoken in voicing concerns about how those public health directives have affected small businesses and churches.

Two other proposed amendments came out of the Senate committee and will be considered by the entire Senate.

One Senate proposal would guarantee the right to bear arms and the other would put language in the state Constitution protecting the freedom to practice religion.

We’re still in the initial stages of the selection process. Typically, the Senate and House won’t agree on three amendments until the final days of the legislative session.

Right now, the Senate is focused on choosing one amendment, and the House is doing the same. Choosing a third amendment will require lots of tough negotiations between the House and Senate.

That is the way it’s supposed to be. The framers of our Constitution intentionally made it difficult to change the document. Any amendments require compromise between opposing parties, and a broad consensus among different areas of Arkansas.

From the Capitol, it is always my greatest honor and most sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.


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