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Weekly Address — May 15, 2020

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

Southland Casino in West Memphis and Arkansas's other two casinos, in Pine Bluff and Hot Springs, have been allowed to re-open their doors on Monday, May 18.

Among other restrictions, they must limit the number of patrons to one third of their capacity, and all patrons will have to wear a mask.

The casino will also keep track of all people who attend, so that in case of another outbreak they can be traced and contacted.

If you're waiting in line, you'll have to maintain six feet from other people. If you're sitting at a slot machine, you will have to be at least six feet away from other players.

Even though numerous restrictions will be enforced, I'm encouraged by the re-opening of the casinos. Combined with the re-opening of restaurants, hair salons and barber shops, we are gradually getting back to business as usual.

The key to controlling the coronavirus is to go into quarantine if you get the virus, or suspect that you've been in contact with someone who has gotten it.

In fact, an interesting showdown is developing in Fort Smith, where a promoter is planning to put on a concert by Travis McCready. It is scheduled for May the 15th, which is three days before the state's scheduled re-opening date of May the 18th.

The promoter is currently in negotiations with public health officials over the details of seating, and how many people will be allowed in the concert hall.

If they iron out an acceptable plan, the Fort Smith concert would be one of the first to be held in the entire country, since mass gatherings at live concerts were prohibited in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Another encouraging development is that legislative committee meetings are taking place again, using Zoom and video technology.

There were some awkward moments to start with, because lawmakers had to get used to the new technology, but it's good that we are back to conducting the people's business.

The public is able to watch legislative meetings, through live streaming, and we still allow the public to have input on rules, regulations and decision-making.

You can be assured that Arkansas elected officials will not use the pandemic as an excuse to begin conducting government business behind closed doors.

Just as businesses have been affected by shut-downs, so have government offices, town hall meetings and quorum courts.

County and municipal business is gradually getting back to normal. Employees are returning to their offices, but with restrictions because they deal with the general public.

It's just not feasible to postpone government activities until a vaccine has been developed. That

could take researchers another year.

Until then, people need to able to voice their concerns when government decisions affect them. For example, if the city is considering a zoning ordinance that affects property owners, everyone affected must still have the right to express their opinions.

Law enforcement is working on a return to normal, because police officers still have to bring people in for questioning, and prosecutors still need to file charges and bring criminals to trial.

We're getting back to where we have to be. Understandably, any lack of progress can be frustrating and distressing. We've all been pushed out of our comfort zones.

For the most part, I've been proud of how people are responding.

No matter how great the challenge, Americans roll up their sleeves and get the job done, with grace and good spirit.

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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