From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our great nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
Even though the legislature recently passed a law to prevent the University of Arkansas from selling acreage at Pine Tree Research Station in St. Francis County, the issue is still far from over.
Several of the university’s top officials traveled to the Capitol to outline the status of the proposed sale.
However, they failed to convince members of the Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs of their intentions to obey the letter of the new law.
Perhaps they explained themselves poorly. Perhaps they intend to proceed with the sale, in spite of the new state law.
Whatever the intentions of the university’s leadership, their attempts to explain themselves only made legislators more upset.
One thing is certain. The legislature will continue to do everything in its power to stop the sale of about 6,300 acres in Pine Tree Station to a private company.
During the legislative session earlier this year, the Senate voted to oppose the land sale by a vote of 31-to-3. In the House, the vote was 88-to-1.
The state legislature has a powerful ally in United States Senator John Boozman, who assured committee members that he would do what he could to prevent approval of the sale by the U.S. Agriculture Department.
The university stands to make about $17 million from the sale of land.
Local citizens are adamantly opposed to the sale because they have had hunting and fishing access for as long as most people can remember.
The university pledges to keep some of the acreage available to local hunters and fishermen.
The bigger issue is a constitutional question about the three branches of government. Which body ultimately holds the power to purchase and sell government property?
Of course, the vast majority of lawmakers believe it is the legislature.
On the other hand, university officials have operated for years under assumption that Amendment 33 to the Arkansas Constitution grants them autonomy.
It certainly looks as though the university’s proposal to sell acreage at Pine Tree Station will not happen.
But if the university insists on proceeding with the sale, we may get a test case before the Supreme Court that decides the issue.
From the Capitol, it is always my greatest honor and most sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.