From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
The past year was an important one for state government, starting with the election of a new governor.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the first woman elected as governor of Arkansas.
Although she is only 40 years old, she has significant political experience, as a White House spokesman and as the daughter of former Governor Mike Huckabee.
The state Senate has 13 new faces. That’s more than a third of the 35-member body. In the House of Representatives, more than a fourth of the body will be newcomers, with 26 new members.
They will bring new ideas and new attitudes to the legislature, and that’s good. However, the learning curve for legislators is a steep one, and it takes several years to master the details of the democratic process.
The budget process is particularly complex, and that is where policy is written.
If you want to know the political philosophy of an elected officials, look carefully at how they vote on budget issues, because that tells you how much money they want to spend on education, public safety, highways and health care.
The 2023 legislative session is just around the corner. It convenes on January 9, the second Monday of the year, as mandated by the state Constitution.
That’s when all those newcomers will get their baptism by fire. I wish them well.
Besides electing a new generation of elected officials, Arkansas voters did something equally important when they defeated a bad bunch of proposed amendments.
One amendment would have allowed the legislature to convene whenever it pleased.
Had it passed, it would have gone a long way to creating a full-time legislature, composed of professional politicians. We already have that in Washington, and we certainly don’t need it in Arkansas.
Another amendment would have raised the bar for adoption of initiated acts and proposed amendments that are placed on the ballot by citizens’ groups.
Arkansas voters were wise to defeat the measure because it would have weakened the power of the people to govern themselves.
Arkansas voters also defeated an amendment to allow people to file lawsuits if they believe government has infringed on their religious freedom.
It was totally unnecessary, because the Constitution already protects our freedom to worship as we choose.
As we approach the end of 2022, the state Capitol is more beautiful than ever.
The hallways are decorated in Christmas colors, and at night time the entire Capitol is covered in white lights.
If you are in Little Rock or central Arkansas during the holidays, it is definitely worth a trip to the Capitol.
I plan to enjoy the Christmas holidays by spending as much time as possible with family and friends, and we wish you a Merry Christmas filled with love and joy.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.