From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our great nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
The legislature enacted 1,112 new laws during the 2021 regular session, and seven of those bills became law even though the governor didn’t sign them.
Under the state Constitution, the governor has five days to either sign or veto a bill, after it has been given final approval by both chambers of the legislature.
There is a third option. The governor can refuse to sign a bill, to signal that he is opposed to the bill, but not so strongly that he is willing to veto it.
I also opposed most of the seven bills that became law without the governor’s signature. I only voted for two of them.
The most egregious example is Act 608, which the governor called unconstitutional. It calls for the Arkansas legislature to review the executive orders issued by the President of the United States.
If legislators think it is a constitutional overreach of presidential authority, they can seek a state attorney general’s opinion.
The problem with Act 608 is really simple – neither the Arkansas legislature nor the Arkansas attorney general has the power to declare executive orders unconstitutional. That can only be accomplished through the court system, after months and years of litigation.
The only purpose that Act 608 will accomplish is to create a bureaucratic tangle of conflicting regulations, whenever the federal government issues an order that affects agriculture, the environment, and Covid-19.
I’m proud I voted against it.
I also voted against two measures that will make it harder to vote. One act moves up the deadline for submitting absentee ballots, from the Monday before the election to the previous Friday. This will hinder thousands of Arkansas voters.
Another bill, Act 974, empowers a legislative committee to investigate voter fraud. It reduces the authority of local election officials, county clerks and prosecutors. Instead of taking politics out of the process, it guarantees that partisan politics will influence every election dispute.
We should not stand in the way of impartial election officials, which is why I voted against the bill. If allowed to stand, Act 974 will come back to haunt us.
Another bill the governor refused to sign would basically exempt churches and religious groups from government efforts to control a pandemic. Language in the bill accused the governor and public health officials of jeopardizing our religious freedom.
“This statement could not be more inaccurate,” the governor said. I agree.
While more than 5,800 Arkansas citizens have died from Covid-19, the state has done everything in its power to keep people from dying of the Covid-19 virus, while respecting their religious freedom.
Finally, the governor refused to sign Act 1100, which prohibits state agencies from teaching or training employees in so-called “divisive concepts.”
An example of a “divisive concept” is saying that one race is better than another, or that the U.S. is fundamentally racist.
Nothing of the kind has ever been taught in state agencies, and the sponsors of the bill were at a loss to come up with a single example of it ever happening. The governor said that the bill addresses a problem that does not exist.
It’s easy to complain about imaginary enemies that don’t really exist. It’s a lot tougher to take on real issues like job creation, better education standards and affordable health care.
From the Capitol, it is always my greatest honor and most sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.