House State Agencies
Sep 29, 2021
Tosh [00:00:03] If there’s anyone in the audience that if you look over the agenda and you’re here to speak for or against any of the bills that will be presented today, then there’s a sign up sheet. Where’s the sign up sheet? Is it outside the– just outside the door. Be sure to sign up and it’ll make its way up here. We’ll recognize you to speak for or against the bill. Committee members, before we get started, let me just kind of outline to you kind of how I hope things go today. Let everybody get settled down here a little bit, because we’ve got a lot of business to take care of, and it’s extremely important. Committee members, what I plan to do is we’ve got– we’re not going to go back over the bills that were presented to this in the joint committee meeting during the three days that we met. We all heard those bills and there’s no need to hear them again. But we do have four bills that have been filed since we had those meetings. And those bills will be heard today, and I believe the sponsors of the bills are in the room and they’ll be called upon here in a little bit to present those bills. After we’ve heard those– after we’ve heard the presentation from each of the sponsors, then this committee will be, be asked and what hopefully we can do is we can come to a consensus and we can be able to move one bill out of this committee to the House floor.
The way the chair plans on doing that, and all of you were here with me during the constitutional amendment, is that what I did, I had you to rank in order what you felt like was your number one choice of the bills that were presented, then your number two choice and your number three choice. There’s a form that has been devised by BLR that will be handed out to each committee member. Once we’ve heard the presentations, you’ll be presented that form. At that time, the chair will recess the committee for an hour and a half. And then what I would ask you to do is within one hour of that, you need to have that form back to Mattie. And then she will tabulate those numbers. And then when we come back in an hour and a half, she’ll have that information available to this chair and I’ll present it to the committee at that time. And then ever which, ever which proposal was number one, then that sponsor will go to the end of the table and will not have to represent– present their bill again. But then I’ll look for a motion from this committee as to whether to approve the bill or not.
So with that said, let me go back over that again, just to make sure. We’re going to hear the new bills, then you’ll be handed a form. You’ll be asked to vote in your first choice, second choice, third choice. I’ll use the same weight scale that I used during the constitutional amendments. Your first choice will receive three points, your second choice will receive two, your third choice will receive one. Then the bill getting the most points will be considered the number one bill from the will of this committee to be presented. And then like I said, those forms then will be handed out. We’ll recess for an hour and a half. But the forms need to be back to the Clerk, to Mattie here, within one hour to give her time to be able to tabulate those scores so that then we can call upon the sponsor that ever whose bill was number one to go to the end of the table for the committee to make that vote. With that said, let’s go ahead and start with the agenda at this point.
And I understand that on the agenda today, committee members, as you look at it, there are some of these– some of the bills that are listed on the agenda– and you probably need to make a note of this so that when you vote on the form, you will not take them into consideration– it’s my understanding because the sponsor has, has pulled the bill down. If I’m incorrect in that, then the sponsor of that bill needs to let me know. But for example, Representative Speaks, I believe you’ve got two bills on the agenda and it’s my understanding House Bill 1959 you no longer want that bill considered. Is that correct? OK, so that bill will not be considered. Representative Ladyman, you have House Bill 1960 on the agenda. Do you still want that bill considered at the end of the day by the committee? OK, so just make a note, committee members, that 1959 and 1960 will be pulled down and even though they’re going to be on your form, the voting form. Just mark through those and do not cast a vote for either one of those bills. House Bill 1962, Representative Murdock. I see– I thought I saw you walk in the room. You still want your bill on the agenda, correct? OK. 1963 Representative Dodson. Representative Dotson wants that bill pulled. 1963. So mark that, when you get your forms, you’re voting forms, mark off 1963.
What I’ll do, committee members, to help, once the forms are handed out, I will go back through so you can strike at that time the bills that are not to be considered. House Bill 1964, Representative Ray. You in the room? I can’t find– yes. Do you want your bill still considered? OK. Rep. Flowers? Got it. Representative Meeks. Got it. OK. So again, that’ll be– I’ll go back over these with you when you get your forms. But 1959, 1960 and 1963 will all be– we’ll strike those from the voting for, when they’re handed out, and I’ll do that again when those forms are handed out. So that’s just kind of explaining the process to the committee members and to those in attendance. And again, I remind those in attendance as you look at the agenda, if you want to speak for or against any of these proposals, be sure and sign up so that we can call on you to do so. So the first item on today’s agenda will be House Bill 1968. Representative Whitaker. Committee members, every map– Rep. Whitaker, just one moment before you present your bill. Let me make another comment to the committee. You should have in front of you every map for every bill that’s on today’s agenda, even the ones that I just said we would not be considering. So you may want to pull those out of the batch. But– I think, Representative Gonzalez, you just say you have a question?
Gonzalez [00:07:33] I do.
Tosh [00:07:52] Just a minute, committee. Representative Whitaker. Sorry about the delay, had an issue there, but anyways, you’re recognized to present House Bill 1968.
Whitaker [00:10:07] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, committee. At the outset, I want to go ahead and clarify something. What you don’t– didn’t see on the agenda today was House Bill 1961, which is– I presented to the committee during our first hearing. I actually formally withdrew that this morning, so it wouldn’t appear on– so it wouldn’t appear here. But 1968 is a different bill and a different map. Throughout this process, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend to every one of the meetings and hear the presentation for every map. Two things kept coming to the fore during every presentation. Two major things. A couple others we’ll get to in a moment. It was the very sincere desire of folks in both the House and the Senate to have maps that kept deviations between the four districts at or below one percent plus or minus. The other thing that we saw strongly voiced over and over again was the desire for whole counties. While it seemed there was– folks were certainly generous enough as far as wanting to discuss the theory of splitting counties, the minute you presented a map that had split counties in it, you had rather stiff opposition and strong opinions. So being an old geographer, I was– I saw a challenge and I was like, If nothing else, I’m, I’m going to work and try to find a map that does those two things at least. And what you see before you in 1968 does both. You have four congressional districts with no county splits. It not only doesn’t introduce any new ones, it eliminates all the current splits. Every county is whole. Also, each district is within the plus or minus one percent deviation. Just quickly, the First District is probably the largest deviation. It’s .81 over. The Second District is minus .56. The Third District is minus .15. And the Fourth District is minus .1. I also, as a subsidiary matter, heard over and over very good reasons to change the map that I presented in 1961 to return and keep Desha and Chico County in the First District. That’s the map. I’ll take any questions.
Tosh [00:13:08] Any question from committee members? Seeing none. No one has signed up to speak for or against the bill. Representative Whitaker, you’re recognized to close with your bill.
Whitaker [00:13:20] Well, I just want to thank everybody who’s worked with us. It’s been an incredible process. There are a couple of really good bills that we could, we could enact before the end of the week. I’m certain I’m going to keep mine in the mix. I appreciate a good vote on the form we do later today, but I stand ready to support this committee, whoever this committee’s bill comes out because I’ve talked to almost all of you and received your feedback. And I think we got, we got good, good common sense folks pushing good bills. So thank you for your time.
Tosh [00:13:59] Representative Whitaker, thank you for bringing this bill before us. We appreciate your time and effort in it. And Representative Gonzalez. Representative Gonzalez, you’re recognized to present House Bill 1969.
Gonzalez [00:14:42] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Committee. This is a good bill, great bill, best bill that’s been filed this session. I really appreciate a lot of support on this. This, this keeps most counties whole. There are a couple of counties split, Sebastian and Pulaski County. Pulaski along, along the river there. I mean, it is what it is. Some of the maps that I’ve seen, it has– would be hard to drive from one part of the district to the other without entering another district, going through another district. This kind of takes care of most of that issue, and the deviation is really low on it. I would, I would like to say that this would withstand a court hearing, but I don’t know that and we don’t know that about any of the maps. I’d like to say this map won’t get a suit, but I don’t believe that about any of them, so. That’s it.
Tosh [00:15:44] You closed?
Gonzalez [00:15:45] I am closed. I’ll take questions.
Tosh [00:15:47] Okay, any questions from committee members? Representative Johnson, you are recognized for a question.
Johnson [00:15:56] Thank you, Mr. Chair. So the line on Sebastian County where it’s divided, do you have a sense of how far south that goes? Where’s that dividing line?
Gonzalez [00:16:03] It’s south of Greenwood. It’s just divided on precinct lines just to get the population where it needed to be.
Johnson [00:16:11] Okay, but it’s south of Greenwood?
Gonzalez [00:16:12] Mm hmm.
Johnson [00:16:12] Thank you.
Tosh [00:16:15] Representative McCollum, you have a question? OK. Any further questions from committee members? Saying none, no one has signed up to speak for or against the bill. Representative Gonzalez, you’re recognized to close with your bill.
Gonzalez [00:16:28] I’m closed. Appreciate a good vote.
Tosh [00:16:29] Rep. Gonzalez is closed with his bill. We appreciate you bringing the bill before this committee, sir. Committee, the next–
Gonzalez [00:16:42] Could I make a comment about possible amendments?
Tosh [00:16:46] Yes, feel free.
Gonzalez [00:16:48] So committee there something on this that you see that, that you like the bill overall but would like to see amended, I think there, there is going to be an opportunity for, for that process. If you all come to me and say, Hey, you know, I’d be willing to rank yours first if you would make these small changes, I’d be willing to do that. And I might be willing to support some of the other ones with small amendments as well if anybody else is willing to do the same.
Tosh [00:17:17] Okay. And the vice chair is exactly right. If, if you want to talk to the sponsor and he’s– he or she is willing to make an amendment to that and that would need to be done when we’re recessed, brought back, and then heard by the committee and, and again explained as amended. Is that what you’re saying, Representative Gonzalez?
Gonzalez [00:17:36] Yes.
Tosh [00:17:36] OK.
Gonzalez [00:17:37] Thank you.
Tosh [00:17:38] Thank you. Representative Ladyman.
Ladyman [00:17:46] Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I had a question for staff.
Tosh [00:17:49] Let’s hear, let’s hear the question.
Ladyman [00:17:51] Is it possible to do an amendment in that hour and a half recess to a bill?
Tosh [00:18:03] Just a minute and we’ll find out.
Ladyman [00:18:04] Thank you.
Clerk [00:18:07] Rep. Ladyman, we would absolutely be able to get a map together. If there’s a lot of changes to the precincts, and that’s going to be a little bit more difficult timing wise, but we would do our best to get that amendment processed during the time that we have to get it back.
Tosh [00:18:23] The problem we run into, Representative Ladyman– I understand about the amendments, but here’s the problem. And if we can work around it, I think obviously we need to do so. But once we recess and the members then are handed out the, the sheet to vote on, then they’re voting on the bills as they were presented and never having the opportunity to hear the amendment once they cast their vote. Which I really have a problem with that because just the fairness of it. So I think when a member votes, they should not only be voting on the bill, but if there was an amendment, they should have the opportunity to be voting for that amendment as well. So I think therein lies the problem of trying to do an amendment at this point, but I would sure take that under consideration if it’s the will of the committee. Representative Dodson, you’re recognized to present House Bill 1970.
Dotson [00:19:24] Thank you, Mr. Chair, members of the committee. House Bill 1970 is basically a mirror copy of SB 725 that many of you already heard the particulars of. Just to kind of go through it briefly for anybody who wasn’t there on Monday, this leaves the 3rd Congressional District identical to the presentation I made on Monday. It has Benton, Carroll, Madison, Washington, Crawford and the north part of Sebastian County. So the entire Fort Smith area is all part of the 3rd. Greenwood is part of the 3rd. The South part that is currently in the 4th Congressional District would stay in the 4th. And it changes three precincts, all south of Greenwood, just for that population deviation to be .00 percent. It’s actually 24 people off of the spot on number, and that’s as close as I could get it with, with precincts. If you’re looking at your, your map outline– actually, this map outline doesn’t have– there it is. You look at your map outline, it moves Madison County out of the 4th into the 3rd, makes Crawford County whole, Newton County whole, and moves Pope into the 2nd. Newton, Boone, Marion all go into the 1st, and Searcy County is made whole in the 1st. The other change is it moves Cleburne County out of the 1st into the 2nd, and it leaves all of South Arkansas basically south of Saline County alone except for Jefferson County. It changes one precinct down there to get that population within, within that tight variance. So the overall variance on this map is .17 percent. It’s the, the tightest variance of any of the maps that I’ve seen to date. And then it also splits Pulaski County the way that Senator Davis presented on Monday. And I’m more than happy to answer, try to answer any questions.
Tosh [00:21:48] Questions from committee members? Representative Whitaker, you’re recognized for a question.
Whitaker [00:21:56] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Dodson, just to clarify, I’m pretty sure I understand, but the difference– one of the big differences here is that your, your map from the other day actually had that slice of Saline County. And you’ve abandoned that of Senator Davis’s plan?
Dotson [00:22:15] Right, so Saline County is whole, wholly in the second and not split at all. Pulaski County is the county that split in the, in the second. And it’s identical to SB 725 that Senator Davis is presenting in the Senate.
Whitaker [00:22:33] Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Tosh [00:22:36] Representative Meeks, you’re recognized for a question.
Meeks [00:22:39] Thank you, Mr. Chair. And just to clarify in the splitting of Pulaski County, are you splitting any cities or are you leaving all the cities whole?
Dotson [00:22:45] So as you go in, it– we obviously had to follow precinct lines, but it, it goes up on the– follows the river around Little Rock. So Little Rock stays in the 2nd. North Little Rock is what would move to the 4th. And then it stays to the east side of 167 Highway as it goes up there and follows all those precinct lines along there. So everything on the east side of 167, that’s– part of a municipality would be, would be divided along that major thoroughfare.
Tosh [00:23:27] Representative Deffenbaugh, you’re recognized for a question.
Deffenbaugh [00:23:31] Thank you, Mr. Chair. I guess my whole problem with this is we fought this battle, Sebastian and Crawford County for 10 years. We’ve been split. And, you know, it’s– to be honest with you, it sticks in my craw that we’re one of the few to get split again. So my question is, is there another way to do this?
Dotson [00:23:57] Oh, there’s, there’s a hundred-plus different ways to do various things. To get the deviation of population as tight as it is, this is, in my opinion, the best way since south Sebastian County is naturally fit more within the 4th. And we’re not making a wholesale change within, within that area of the state on that side of it. North Sebastian County would move entirely into the 3rd where it’s currently split. And that’s what I’ve heard a lot of people in the Fort Smith area are really wanting to be part of the 3rd in its entirety. It also makes Crawford County whole and wholly in the, the 3rd District as opposed to being split in half. So we’re– we have fewer split counties with this than, than is currently there. I think we have five currently split counties. This would take it down to three and trying not to make as many wholesale changes around the edges as possible with Southeast Arkansas and, and that, that section up there around Sebastian and Crawford counties.
Tosh [00:25:08] Rep. Jean, you’re recognized for a question.
Jean [00:25:13] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Rep. Dotson, I don’t have a blown up version of this, but I do have quite a few kin folks up in Sherwood. Does this stop at the Sherwood, North Little Rock city limits?
Dotson [00:25:31] So as much as possible. Unfortunately, in drafting a bill, you have to follow precincts. We can’t get into, to broken block level data, discovered that as, as we’re trying to draft some of these bills. And so the– there are some precincts that cross the municipal boundaries, if that makes sense. So I tried to follow that line as closely as possible. But on the– let me see if I can find the– on the– what is it– the southwest corner of Sherwood, there is a tip of it that is part of a precinct that is, is connected to the North Little Rock precinct.
Jean [00:26:18] Follow up.
Tosh [00:26:19] Recognized.
Jean [00:26:21] I’m assuming Jacksonville and Gravel Ridge are still in the 2nd.
Dotson [00:26:28] Jacksonville– everything on the east side of that 167 line is all in the 2nd. Everything on the– did I say east? Everything on the west side of 167. The, the majority of Jacksonville is, but there are– there is a little bit that sticks over to the east side of 167 that is part of the– would be part of the 4th.
Jean [00:26:52] So is all of North Little Rock in the 4th or is it part of–
Dotson [00:26:58] Yes. Well, as far as I can, as far as I can tell.
Jean [00:27:02] Just to get my mind around it– if I can continue–.
Tosh [00:27:04] Go ahead.
Jean [00:27:07] North Little Rock stays pretty much all live in the 4th–
Dotson [00:27:11] Correct.
Jean [00:27:12] — and just a little sliver of Sherwood’s the 4th?
Dotson [00:27:15] Right.
Jean [00:27:15] And then the east half of the interstate going cutting through Jacksonville is in the 4th?
Dotson [00:27:20] Right.
Jean [00:27:21] OK, thank you.
Tosh [00:27:25] Seeing no further questions from committee members. No one has signed up to speak for or against the bill. Representative Dodson, you’re recognized to close.
Dotson [00:27:34] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Members of the committee, certainly appreciate your first vote on this, and if you can’t give me a first vote, I’d appreciate a second vote on your map. This is, this is one that is labor of a lot of input from a lot of different folks on both ends of the Capitol– have gotten a lot of– a lot of the senators have been working on this as well. So I think this one has a lot more support after having heard from a variety of people than some others that are in consideration. Not to detract from the efforts of anybody else, but I think it’s, it’s been well discussed by a lot of folks. So and if there’s any changes, I’m again open to any feedback on there just like Representative Gonzalez. Thank you and appreciate a good vote.
Tosh [00:28:28] Thank you, Representative Dodson. Committee members, the next item on today’s agenda as House Bill 1971. Representative Speaks. Representative Speaks, you’re recognized. Also I see Representative Ladyman at the end of the table. So I guess, Representative Speaks, you’re going to present the bill, correct?
Speaks [00:29:01] That is correct.
Tosh [00:29:02] You’re recognized to do so.
Speaks [00:29:03] Thank you, Mr. Chair. I bring to you House Bill 1971. It is almost identical to the other one that I pulled down. The counties are all whole. I tried to– except for– I lost the county– Pulaski County– except Pulaski County. And that was some of the changes that I made. But I tried to take the map, as I said before, that we are working with now and then build from that to just work with what we had to to get it in balance with the, the numbers. What I’ve done with this one, I took and put Van Buren in because a lot of– I’ve listened and a lot of people wanted that back in to the 2nd District. And all I done with the Pulaski County was– let me tell you this, all of Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Jacksonville are all whole. We didn’t even touch them. We just have this southeast corner– isn’t that what is called– the south east corner, which is farmland, and we just done enough to get out to where we could make our numbers come out to what we had to have. And everything is below 1 percent. And you might want to tell where just exactly– because we have it where the guidelines is very easy to follow.
Ladyman [00:30:41] Mr. Chairman, I’ve got a couple of comments.
Tosh [00:30:43] You’re recognized, Representative.
Ladyman [00:30:46] I want to thank Representative Speaks for putting this map together. I think it’s a very good map. It does not make wholesale changes to the existing map, which my bill was similar to that and that’s why I came on board with this bill. I had three counties that were split in my bill. Rep. Speaks was able to do this without splitting a lot of counties. But the guidelines in Pulaski County, there’s a map there in the back you can look at, but the south east corner of Pulaski County that comes out of the 2nd District is bordered by Interstate 30 on the north side and then 440 on the west side, down to 530 on the west side. So it just takes out that southeast corner. And to answer Representative Deffenbaugh, here’s another way. Because we did not split very many counties. Only one. We tried to keep that to a very minimum, tried not to split any. But it’s just not possible to do this without splitting at least one county.
Speaks [00:31:57] And we also left in that the precincts, they’re whole. If there’s any little town that’s in this here, they are whole. We did not try– we worked very hard to keep from splitting anything that’s going to make it hard during election or hard for the people who live in this. And I’m open for questions.
Tosh [00:32:22] OK, any questions from committee members? Rep. Jean, you’re recognized for a question.
Jean [00:32:29] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Speaks, I’m going to ask you the same thing as Rep. Dotson. And it’s just your map, in South Pulaski County, have you split any cities?
Speaks [00:32:43] We didn’t split any cities, did we?
Ladyman [00:32:45] No, Representative. There are no cities that are split. I think the two cities that are in that area are Wrightsville and– and what is it, College Station? I think that’s the only cities in there and they are wholly in that–
Jean [00:33:00] We did, we did not split the city of Little Rock at all in this map?
Speaks [00:33:02] No.
Ladyman [00:33:02] The city of Little Rock, city of North Little Rock, city of Jacksonville is not in the part that’s cut out.
Jean [00:33:07] OK, thank you.
Tosh [00:33:10] Any further questions from committee members? Seeing none. No one has signed up to speak for or against the bill. Representative Speaks, you’re recognized to close for your bill.
Speaks [00:33:21] Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would appreciate a good vote. I think that I’ve worked very, very hard and, and Ladyman, Representative Ladyman came on board with me in trying to make sure that we did not hurt these counties and that we stayed within the guidelines. And we’ve met every one of those. So I appreciate a good vote. Thank you.
Tosh [00:33:45] Thank you. Representative Speaks and Representative Ladyman for bringing this bill. Committee members, at this time, I’m going to ask staff to hand out to you the form for voting. Once you get that in front of you, I’m going to go back over it with you to– you got a pen in hand– to tell you which bills to strike that are not in consideration as pulled by the sponsor. No, I’m waiting for you to get the forms in front of you. Hey, committee members– hey, Representatives, if you’re not on this committee, please do not be talking or speaking with committee members at this time until I recess. Committee members, I waited for you to get the voting form in front of me. If you have it in front of you, let’s go through it because I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding. House Bill 1959, if you have your pen, you can strike through that. That has been pulled by the sponsor. House Bill 1960, you can strike through that one. That has been pulled by the sponsor. 1962 is still active. That’s Representative Murdoch. House Bill 1963 is pulled by the sponsor. That’s Representative Dodson. House Bill 1964, Representative Ray, is still active. House Bill 1965 by Representative Flowers is still active. House Bill 1966 by Representative Meeks is still active. And then, of course, the bills we heard today, 1968 by Representative Whitaker. 1969 by Representative Gonzalez. 1970 by Representative Dodson. And by– and House bill 1971 by Representative Speaks.
Just as a reminder, committee members, the time now is 1:42. So by 2:42, be sure and fill out these forms. Remember, your first choice, second choice, third choice, or you only have to put your first choice, or first and second. That’s up to you. But get those filled out and have them back to to Maddie within by 2:42. And then we’ll be back here in committee– just a minute– we’ll be back in committee at 3:15. Make sure you have that back to her by 2:45, we’ll say. And then back here in committee at 3:15. Maddie just informed me that she will stay here in the committee room and she’ll be right here for you to be able to turn your forms back in. You might want to take today’s agenda sheet with you in case you just need to look back and try to help remind you of what bill was presented by who. So with that said, this committee is in recess.
Tosh [02:08:57] Committee members, it’s 3:15. Committee members, it’s 3:15. We’re– committee, committee meeting is back from recess. At this time, as I laid out earlier when the meeting began earlier today, the results of how we were– the process we were going to use. At such time, I’d like to share with the committee as– what your will has been as far as the maps and the proposals that’s been presented to us. The, the map or the proposal or the bill that received the most points was House Bill 1971. That was Representative Speaks. And they have received 43 points. The bill that received the second most points was House Bill 1970 by Representative Dotson. That bill received 22 points. The bill that received the third most votes was House Bill 1969 by Representative Gonzalez. That bill received 17 points. So that is the vote total, the most points at this time. And of course, any discussion? Representative Wardlaw, you’re recognized.
Wardlaw [02:10:14] I have a motion, if you would take it.
Tosh [02:10:17] And what’s, what’s your motion?
Wardlaw [02:10:19] I motion that we adjourn to 6 p.m., recess to 6 p.m. I think is the proper term. I’m sorry for the adjourn word. And we come back at that time with a consensus behind Representative Speaks’ map that has received 43 points.
Tosh [02:10:37] That is a proper motion. Any discussion on the motion? Seeing none, all in favor say aye. All opposed say no. The ayes have it. We will be back– committee will– we will meet again at 6 p.m. right here and room 151. Thank you, committee.
Tosh [02:10:54] So the chair is– we’re back in committee meeting. We reconvened. And at this time, we have no further business to take up at this time. So what we’re going to do is adjourn. And we will meet again here in State Agencies upon adjournment of the session in the morning. So I will announce that at the end of the session in the morning as to what time we’ll be back in here. So seeing no questions from committee members, this meeting is adjourned.