House of Representatives
October 6, 2021 Part 1
Shepherd [00:00:50] I invite the members, staff, press and guests in the galleries to stand and be led in prayer by Representative Monte Hodges and remain standing for the Pledge of Allegiance to be led by Representative Lane Jean.
Hodges [00:01:04] Let’s pray. First of all, God, we want to start off with an attitude of gratitude and tell you thank you. Thank you for new mercies that are new every morning. We thank you, Lord, for the privilege to serve your people, all people. They were created in your likeness, in your image. We trust in you with all our heart. We don’t lean into our own understanding. In all our ways we will acknowledge you. We pray for guidance and wisdom as we take care of the people’s business. That all we do bring you glory and bring you honor. It’s in Jesus’ name the Christ we pray, amen.
[00:01:58] [Pledge of Allegiance]
Shepherd [00:02:09] Members, please indicate your presence by pushing your yellow present button. Prepare the machine, Mr Clerk. Cast up the ballot, Mr Clerk. With 97 members present, the chair sees a quorum. Are there any requests for leave? Representative Brooks, for what purpose?
Brooks [00:02:53] Leave.
Shepherd [00:02:53] You’re recognized.
Brooks [00:02:54] Leave for Representative Perry.
Shepherd [00:02:55] Is leave granted for Representative Perry? So noted. Representative Gazaway, for what purpose?
Gazaway [00:03:01] Leave.
Shepherd [00:03:01] You’re recognized.
Gazaway [00:03:03] Leave for Representative Mayberry.
Shepherd [00:03:04] Is leave granted for Rep. Mayberry? So noted. Rep. Payton, for what purpose?
Payton [00:03:09] Leave for Rep. Miller.
Shepherd [00:03:10] Is leave granted for Rep. Miller? So noted. Representing Frederick Love moves we dispense with the reading of the previous day’s journal. Without objection, so ordered. Are there reports from select committees? Are there reports from standing committees? Are there– is there any unfinished business? Are there any executive communications? Members, one thing I failed to mention earlier this week, our Arkansas state troopers that are providing security for us today are Corporal Richie Whitley and Corporal Trey Keller. Without objection, Representative Speaks moves House Bill 1982 be placed on second reading for the purpose of amendment. Read amendment number one, Mr. Clerk.
Clerk [00:04:12] Amendment number one to House Bill 1982.
Shepherd [00:04:17] Representative Speaks, you’re recognized to explain the amendment.
Speaks [00:04:30] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We took away just a little of Pulaski County, and we put Lincoln County into the 1st district, put Greenwood School District back into Sebastian County. And after doing this, it brought all four of the districts within less than 0.05 in their present population. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:05:07] Representative Speaks has explained the amendment. Would anyone like to speak against the amendment? Representative Scott, you’re recognized to speak against the amendment.
Scott [00:05:29] Colleagues, today, I’m asking that we look beyond intent, that we look at the impact of what we do here. The impact is not unclear. It is not unknown. We know what these maps do. We know what the breakdowns are. I’m asking you all to not ignore something you know to be so wrong. This map cuts and distorts Pulaski into three congressional districts. While maybe not the intent, it is the impact that it dilutes black votes in the south, southeast, northeast parts of the county, sending some to the 1st and the 4th. The Supreme Court has repeatedly found that racial packing and cracking is unconstitutional. When they made this decision, they didn’t look at intent. They looked solely at the impact, and that’s what I’m asking you to do today. Communities in Pulaski County are going to be in a tough position of having to talk to three different congresspersons for any major project, need, or natural disaster. This is not good for economic development. It is not good for representation. I want my colleagues, and I’m asking you, those who support this map, who have you spoken to in these communities? Have you spoken to people in Rose City, in Wrightsville? This legislature sometimes has a history of ignoring people in communities like these. Now we are about to make a major decision impacting those who represent them. I hope you’re listening to me, your colleague, your friend, your supporter. We are not without good, good options. Yet we speak of this option as if it’s the only one that we have. We speak as if the amendments have fixed something, but they haven’t. We have a choice in this body. We will see the racial impacts for what it is or we will ignore it because it’s very convenient for us to do so. Well, that’s a choice for each of you, but I urge you to reconsider and do the right thing. And I just want to say that I’ve spent years down here building relationships with each of you. I’ve gone out my way. I’m a black woman in this body. I represent these communities. You can’t ignore my color. You see my heart because you’ve gotten to know me. But I represent these communities and I don’t have a voice. And I’m your– I’m their voice here. This is going to really impact the people that I serve every day and I’m asking you to reconsider.
Shepherd [00:08:34] Representative Scott has spoken against the amendment. Would anyone like to speak for the amendment? Would anyone like to speak against the amendment? Representative Ennett, you’re recognized to speak against the amendment.
Ennett [00:08:54] Good morning, colleagues, Mr. Speaker. I spoke with the sponsor about this, about her previous bill, the previous version of this bill that would have split Pulaski County into two congressional districts. And I spoke to her yesterday about this version of the bill. I explained to her that this bill would split up a majority black district into three congressional districts. It would split up black precincts and it will split my legislative district into three congressional districts. This is not fair. It’s very blatant to the people that I serve in District 36. I ask all my colleagues here to vote against House bill 1982. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:09:43] Representative Ennett has spoken against the amendment. Would anyone like to speak for the amendment? Would anyone like to speak against the amendment? Representative Love, you’re recognized to speak against the amendment.
Love [00:10:02] Good morning, colleagues. Actually, it wasn’t even my intent to come up and speak against this amendment because I usually don’t speak against amendments. But I have noticed that this does split Pulaski County into three different congressional districts and, you know, some people might say, hey, that means more representation. But when you’re disenfranchising a community, that’s not more representation. I want us just to take a step back, because whenever you talk about race, it really, it really just goes to the core of people. Because first of all, nobody wants to be intentionally accused of actually disenfranchising or doing anything for race. But as Representative Scott said, as Representative Ennett said, you cannot ignore what’s going on here. And so if we would just take a step back and look at the communities that this map is impacting, you would see the disparate impact and you would know that race cannot be ignored when we look at this. So what I’m asking you is to consider voting down this amendment because we can do better. And just take into account that race can be taken into account. We don’t have to look at it as a negative thing but actually looking at it from a human standpoint and looking at the communities and how they will be disparately impacted. So I ask you, just take a step back, look at this map, truly understand that this is impacting real communities. They’re real African American communities. And let’s go back to the drawing board and do better.
Shepherd [00:11:56] Thank you. Rep. Love has spoken against the amendment. Would anyone like to speak for the amendment? Would anyone like to speak– Rep. Ray, you’re recognized to speak for the amendment.
Ray [00:12:14] Colleagues, look, I know several of you may have problems with the bill and be opposed to the bill, but I don’t think there’s any problem with letting Representative Speaks amend her own bill so that we can move on to debate onto the bill. In terms of splitting Pulaski County, I know there’s, there’s several other bills, some some bills filed by members of the opposing party that have split Pulaski County. So I think we can do away with a little bit of the moral outrage on this. But I think we ought to just let Representative Speaks amend her bill and then we can have a full and thorough debate about the merits of the map as amended. And if you don’t like the map, you know, vote no on the map. And if you do, vote accordingly. Thank you.
Speaker [00:13:00] Representative Ray has spoke for the amendment. Would anyone like to speak against the amendment? Representative Payton, you’re recognized to speak against the amendment.
Payton [00:13:16] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Members, I sit on State Agencies Committee. I’m sure most of you probably didn’t even see the map until 15 minutes ago. But this bill was rushed. It was being modified right up to the last minute yesterday. It was rushed through committee yesterday, and this amendment is evidence of that. It needs corrected because it was rushed. Now I know everybody wants to go home, but we’re not done with our business yet. The Senate just failed to pass the companion bill to this bill. We were told yesterday in committee that this is what we had to do because this is what the Senate wanted, which goes against my grain and I voted against it in committee. But anyway, evidently, it’s not what the Senate wanted. They just failed to pass it on the Senate floor. This bill is rushed. This amendment is also rushed. This amendment is necessary because the bill was rushed. It’s time that we quit rushing with the people’s business. Most of the bills we handle down here, you know, we can come back and change it. It’s not the law [unintelligible]. We can come back and change it. Folks, whatever we pass on redistricting stands for 10 years. Let’s quit rushing it. Let’s get it right. Thank you.
Speaker [00:14:43] Representative Peyton has spoke against the amendment. Would anyone like to speak for the amendment? Representative Dodson, you’re recognized to speak for the amendment.
Dotson [00:14:59] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Members, this is a member’s own amendment. The reason we pass member’s own amendments as a courtesy to members is because they can simply file a new bill with all of the changes in it. Please pass this amendment as a courtesy. Thank you.
Speaker [00:15:16] Representative Dodson has spoke for the amendment. Would anyone like to speak against the amendment? Representative Springer, you’re recognized to speak against the amendment.
Springer [00:15:35] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Members, I join in with my colleagues in the districts that abut my district, District 34. So I go join in with them opposing this amendment. I just want the record to reflect that I, too, oppose this amendment. Thank you.
Speaker [00:15:54] Representative Springer has spoke against the amendment. Would anyone like to speak for the amendment? Against the amendment? Representative Allen, you’re recognized to speak against the amendment.
Allen [00:16:15] Thank you, Mr Speaker and colleagues. This is my third time in the history of being in this chamber to come down here and oppose a bill. Originally I was in support of Representative Speaks’ bill. If you look at this map, this map is totally different from the original map. And the only thing that I have to say is when we vote on something like this is very important. I think it’s important that we get it right, and there’s no sense in us rushing to get this bill passed when all we have to do is spend a little bit more time, energy and effort to correct it and to come up with something that’s workable for everyone. So with that in mind, that’s the reason why I will oppose this bill. Thank you.
Dalby [00:17:19] Would anyone like to speak for the amendment? Against the amendment? Representative Speak, you are closed for your amendment? Representative Speaks is closed for her amendment. The question before the House is passage of Amendment 1 to House Bill 1982. All in favor say aye. All opposed nay. The ayes have it. Mr. Clerk, read amendment number 2 to House Bill 1982.
Clerk [00:17:58] Amendment number 2 to House Bill 1982.
Shepherd [00:18:02] Representative Speaks, you’re recognized to explain amendment number 2.
Speaks [00:18:08] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Before I start with this one, I want to tell you, the Senate has an identical bill to what this one is. My name is on that bill. And Senator English, who is– her bill is on my bill. So they are absolutely just alike and they– probably be coming over here. Amendment number 2 is just a technical correction, and it does not change any of the districts or the precincts in the map. It was just a technical problem.
Shepherd [00:18:50] Represent McKenzie, for what purpose?
McKenzie [00:18:53] Question.
Shepherd [00:18:55] Is it a question of the chair or a question–
McKenzie [00:18:56] No, I’m sorry. Question on her amendment.
Shepherd [00:19:02] You’re recognized for a question.
McKenzie [00:19:04] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Representative Speaks, I just have a question on the amendment process. I know you’re on State Agencies. So my understanding was, I believe that, that you all scored these, listened to them and then ranked them and then voted on them and then chose the top one. But if there was going to be a significant change, that perhaps there was going to be a revote. So that’s my question here with regard to the process as we had these different amendments. Is, is your bill here and these amendments, is that that first one that came in number one? And if so, are we significantly changed this? Has there been another vote? That’s just my question on the process. Thank you.
Speaks [00:19:52] This on– this– what you’re talking about is totally different from what we’re doing here today. We had two amendments. We put one on yesterday. And so what I’m doing is just letting the body know what that was. And amendment number 2, we found out last night that there had been a technical error. And in order to fix that, we have to correct that because we want to make sure that everything gets done exactly what we’re supposed to do. And that’s all we’re doing is correcting that technical error. It was in the codifying– or not codified, but it was in the language and in sections and that had to be amended and put in. So I’d appreciate a good vote.
Shepherd [00:20:43] Rep. Speaks has explained the amendment. Would anyone like to speak against the amendment? Would anyone like to speak for the amendment? Rep. Speaks is closed for the amendment. The question before the House is the adoption of amendment number 2 to House Bill 1982. All in favor say aye. Any opposed. The amendment is adopted. Send the bill to engrossing and return the bill to committee, Mr. Clerk. Morning hour’s ended. Mr Clerk, please read Senate Bill 739.
Clerk [00:21:26] Senate Bill 739 by Representative Bryant to provide employee exemption from federal mandates and employer mandates related to the coronavirus 2019 and to declare an emergency.
Shepherd [00:21:36] Rep. Bryant, you’re recognized to explain the bill.
Bryant [00:21:38] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This bill, Senate Bill 739, is exactly the same bill we debated yesterday, House Bill 1977. The only difference is is that this bill does not have the emergency clause on it and some of the sponsors are kind of flipped on it. Instead of Senator Hammer, it’s actually Senator Ballinger on, on the bill. So I’m sorry– flip that the other way. It says Senator Ballinger on the House bill and Senator Hammer on this bill. So I’ll take any questions if anybody has got any.
Shepherd [00:22:07] Representative Ray, you’re recognized for a question.
Ray [00:22:09] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Representative Bryant, so we, we passed your bill yesterday. And the Senate, my understanding is, approved that bill this morning. What is the– can you just explain the functional purpose in passing two identical versions of the same bill?
Bryant [00:22:26] Well, they, they put a lot of work into their bill, just like I put a lot of work into mine. They requested since it kind of– the Senate took the lead on the bill that the House pass it and send it back. And so I’m honoring that request.
Shepherd [00:22:39] Representative Richmond, for what purpose?
Richmond [00:22:41] Question.
Shepherd [00:22:42] You’re recognized for a question.
Richmond [00:22:44] I don’t know if you can answer this or what. But if I understand this correctly, this bill does not– the Senate did not pass the emergency clause. And so when we look at what is presented to us right now, it still has the emergency clause on it. Tell me again what we’re doing with this bill.
Bryant [00:23:01] We’re passing it identically to House Bill 1977, but it should not have the emergency clause because it was not adopted.
Richmond [00:23:08] OK, so what are we– if we pass it, it’s passed without the emergency clause?
Bryant [00:23:12] Correct.
Richmond [00:23:13] Thank you.
Shepherd [00:23:17] Representative Crawford, for what purpose?
Crawford [00:23:19] Question.
Shepherd [00:23:20] You’re recognized for a question.
Crawford [00:23:21] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So if we were to pass this, what does that do to the bill we passed yesterday? Will this one supersede yours if the governor signs it last and we won’t have an emergency clause? So that’s my question.
Bryant [00:23:37] That is correct. But to Rep. Ray’s point, the House bill got debated on the floor of the Senate this morning, and they were not able to to pass the emergency clause.
Shepherd [00:23:49] You’re recognized for a follow up.
Crawford [00:23:50] Thank you. So in my estimation, it’s best to stay with the bill that we passed yesterday and to vote this one down. Would you agree?
Bryant [00:24:01] I’ll let you have your vote.
Shepherd [00:24:04] Representative Dotson, for what purpose?
Dotson [00:24:07] Parliamentary inquiry.
Shepherd [00:24:09] Let’s hear your inquiry.
Dotson [00:24:12] I guess the question is, I understood the Senate recalled the bill, the House version of this bill, this morning. Is that– is that back in the Senate, I suppose? And if that’s the case and they’re considering the emergency clause on it, would it be premature to consider this bill that doesn’t have an emergency clause on it that we sent there if they’re still debating that?
Shepherd [00:24:37] We received just a few minutes ago a request from the Senate to return House bill 1977, but we have not taken that up. As, as most know, it would require leave of the House to send the bill back to the Senate, and we’ve not taken that up at this point in time.
Dotson [00:24:57] So would it– I guess, delaying the consideration of this particular bill until we take that up on whether we’re sending it back to him, be in order?
Shepherd [00:25:16] We, we have worked through the agenda, the calendar that we have before us. This letter was received while we were in the midst of our business here. The, the decision, as with, with– it’s been past practice was to work through the calendar. Quite honestly, since we received this, while I’ve been up here, that’s one of the things after we took up this bill that I anticipate recessing briefly just to make sure that we handle that request appropriately. But we’re at this point on the calendar. But as always, that’s, that’s subject to the will of the body.
Dotson [00:25:51] I guess– finally, I guess, would a motion be an order to delay action on this bill until we take up that other action?
Shepherd [00:26:05] Representative, Representative Bryant has the floor right now, so there’s–
Dotson [00:26:08] Thank you.
Shepherd [00:26:08] That’s not appropriate for a motion at this point in time. Rep. Payton, for what purpose?
Payton [00:26:21] Question.
Shepherd [00:26:23] Question of me or the–
Payton [00:26:24] Yeah, have you– Dotson covered most of my questions, but it created more.
Shepherd [00:26:29] You’re recognized for a question.
Payton [00:26:31] So would Representative Bryant be at liberty to request this bill be held until the end of business today or put it at the bottom of the calendar?
Shepherd [00:26:50] It is. It is at the bottom of the calendar.
Payton [00:26:54] OK.
Shepherd [00:26:55] So, Representative Bryant has left the well. Representative Payton, you’re recognized.
Payton [00:27:10] I’d like to make a motion that we suspend action on this bill until we’ve considered the letter from the Senate.
Shepherd [00:27:19] I take it that’s a motion to postpone temporarily.
Payton [00:27:22] Yes. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:27:25] That’s a proper motion. It’s not debatable. The question before the House is a motion to postpone temporarily. And the parliamentarian has advised me it’s– that would be a– it’s non debatable, a majority of a quorum. And similarly, to bring it back up, it requires, would require a motion and a majority of the quorum to bring it back up. All right. Proper motion. The question before the House is a motion to postpone temporarily Senate Bill 739. All in favor say aye. Any opposed. The ayes have it. House will stand in recess for 10 minutes.
Shepherd [00:00:25] The House will come to order. Mr Clerk, please read the letter from the Senate.
Clerk [00:00:34] October 6, 2021, the honorable Sherri Stacks. Dear Mrs. Stacks, the Senate respectfully requests the return of Senate bill– to the Senate House Bill 1977. Respectfully submitted, Ann Cornwell.
Shepherd [00:00:51] Is leave granted to send the bill back to the Senate? I, I heard several say no. Is, is there a motion to consider the– to send the bill back to the Senate? Rep. Lundstrom, for what purpose?
Lundstrum [00:01:13] Yes. The question I have is just a point of clarification. For what purpose would the bill be going back? What’s the conclusion?
Shepherd [00:01:21] Mr. Clerk, can you hand me the letter? The letter doesn’t indicate the point of sending it back. The letter just says, “Dear Mrs Stacks, the Senate respectfully requests the return to the Senate of House Bill 1977. Respectfully submitted, Ann Cornwell, secretary of the Senate.” Representative Payton, for what purpose?
Payton [00:01:56] Thank you, Mr Speaker. I stood for a motion, but I think the sponsor of the bill probably takes precedent.
Shepherd [00:02:02] Rep. Bryant, for what purpose?
Bryant [00:02:05] Motion.
Shepherd [00:02:05] Let’s hear your motion.
Bryant [00:02:05] Motion to send the bill back to the Senate. House Bill 1977.
Shepherd [00:02:10] It’s a proper motion. It is debatable. Do you wish to explain the motion? You’re recognized to explain the motion.
Bryant [00:02:28] Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Senate and I spent a lot of time on this bill. There’s a lot of questions still going on between the Senate. And, and the Senate sponsors, as well as myself, wish to send it back. I request this body as a courtesy to allow that. And so, I would like that sent back. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:02:46] Rep. Bryant’s explained the motion. Would anyone like to speak against the motion? Rep. Jean, you’re recognized to speak against the motion.
Jean [00:03:00] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I do not think we need to send this back. The games that are being played down the Senate are this. They want the emergency clause passed on both these bills or they’re going to hold up the map, the congressional map, which means we’ll stay here days longer. Now we can work with the Senate. But in my 11 years here, they usually do not care what we think down here. That’s, that’s just track record. We are our own body. I think it’s a mistake to send this back and playing these games on because the map is not going to come out down there until they get both emergency clause passed. I’m just telling you. I would ask that we not send it back. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:03:51] President Jean has spoken against the motion. Rep. Payton? Would anyone like to speak for the motion? Rep. Payton, you’re recognized to speak for the motion.
Payton [00:04:03] Thank you, Mr Speaker. I mean, it’s really quick how fast we can pivot from show courtesy to a member that wants to do a member’s own amendment to not showing courtesy to a member that wants to allow the Senate to recall the bill. This is Rep. Bryant’s Bill. He obviously concurs with, with sending it back to the Senate. But also, you know, a little courtesy shown to the Senate might give us an opportunity in the future to ask them for courtesy when we need it. I would recommend a good vote.
Shepherd [00:04:36] Representative Payton has spoken for the motion. Would anyone like to speak against the motion? Would anyone like to speak for the motion? Rep. Dotson, you’re recognized to speak for the motion.
Dotson [00:04:55] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Members, this bill or this motion to recall this to the Senate, if, if it does not pass, then it gets transmitted to the governor without an emergency clause. I think the purpose of the Senate– I watched and listened to quite a bit of back and forth on this earlier this morning, and my understanding of it is, they’re trying to recall it so they can continue the debate on whether or not to add the emergency clause to this particular bill. We have the Senate version of this bill that we can take up immediately after we consider this motion if we so choose, vote it out of here, and send it to the governor’s desk so there is a bill on the governor’s desk that does the exact same thing as, as the House bill that is being considered right now. So I would, I would suggest we go ahead and grant leave to send this back to the Senate and let them continue their their discussions on it. We have a Senate version of it that does not have an emergency clause on it, and we can go ahead and vote that out of here, send it to the governor’s desk. And there is a law forthcoming on the books, and they can continue to debate whether they want to try to add an emergency clause or not. And there are two separate bills at that point in time. If both of them pass and go to the governor’s desk, it’s my understanding that the emergency clause– if they do pass it with an emergency clause will go into effect as a separate piece of code. So the identical versions will stay the same, but the emergency clause will go into effect if they get that done. If they don’t, then, then nothing else happens.
Shepherd [00:06:33] Representative Eaves, for what purpose?
Eaves [00:06:35] Question.
Shepherd [00:06:36] Let’s hear your question.
Eaves [00:06:37] Rep. Dotson, has the Senate had at least two or three times to debate this bill, in essence, whether it’s a Senate bill or House bill, and had the chance to pass the emergency clause?
Dotson [00:06:47] I cannot speak to everything the Senate has done, but I know there’s been a lot of debate back and forth with, with a few different motions and roll calls and various types of things. That’s, that’s on them.
Eaves [00:07:01] Follow up? So we don’t have really any guarantee what they’re going to do to this bill. I’ve watched the Senate for the last week, and the word ‘circus’ has been tossed around a couple of times. I’m uncomfortable that they may take the bill and do something other than the emergency clause. Is that a possibility?
Dotson [00:07:17] Well, if they do something other than the emergency clause, they would have to amend the bill and send it back to us for concurrence. Then we would get to decide ultimately what happens to it. If we pass the Senate version of this bill, then there’s no need for this one to even go to the governor’s desk. So I think we have control of what happens with the policy at this point in time. They haven’t requested a recall of Senate Bill–
Eaves [00:07:43] 739.
Dotson [00:07:44] 739. Thank you. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t remember the number. So we can go ahead and pass that. And this particular House bill would have– it wouldn’t matter if it passes or it doesn’t pass. They can play with it all day long or all week–
Eaves [00:07:58] This bill leaves the house and goes back to the Senate, they can do whatever they want with it.
Dotson [00:08:01] Yeah, they can kill it if they wanted to. Absolutely. Or they could pass it with an emergency clause and it would go to the governor’s desk. Or they can amend it, and it would come back here for concurrence. Anyway, I appreciate a good vote on the motion. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:08:14] Rep. Dotson has spoken for the motion. Would anyone like to speak against the motion? Would anyone like– Representative Flowers, you’re recognized to speak against the motion.
Flowers [00:08:31] Colleagues, I realize what I say probably won’t have a whole lot of impact on anybody’s vote because people have staked their positions on this. But I want to say this. We are the House. And I see this as a bunch of bullying. I think that this jimmies with our process. I was back there eating popcorn, and I never thought that I would sit back and eat popcorn and really be doing it. I always say I’m going to do it. That’s what that was. There are a lot of other ways that whatever you all or the Senate is trying to get done, it can get done without bypassing and jimmying with our process and bullying us into doing something so that we don’t do what we came down here to do as it relates to drawing the lines of these districts. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:09:21] Sen. Flowers has spoken against the motion. Would anyone like to speak for the motion? Representative Ladyman, you’re recognized to speak for the motion.
Ladyman [00:09:32] Thank you, Mr Speaker. Rep. Jean, I totally agree with what you said. I don’t think the Senate respects us as an equal body, and I’ve seen that over the time that I’ve been here. And I haven’t been here as long as you have, but I’ve seen that. But in this case, I was over at the Senate this morning when they were debating this. The bill passed with a simple majority. The emergency clause failed by two votes. There’s four members that are not there today. They had pairs on the original motion. The governor would not allow those pairs for the vote on the emergency clause or the expungement of the emergency clause. And they want to call this bill back so that they can have a full body to consider the emergency clause. So I just want to let you know that.
Shepherd [00:10:24] Rep. Ladyman has spoken for the motion. Would anyone like to speak against the motion? Would anyone like to speak for the motion? Rep. Bentley, you’re recognized to speak for the motion.
Bentley [00:10:43] Colleagues, I just want to quickly remind you that this body yesterday voted for this bill with the emergency clause in place. And so it was the will of this body to have the emergency clause intact. So this really simply is asking us for a chance to bring it back to the Senate for a full body there for them to get the emergency clause as we wish for. And remember, it’s about our constituents back in our district. We have thousands and thousands of Arkansans that are about to lose their job and lose their livelihood. And it’s a little more important than us maybe wanting to get home and get done and get out of here. We’re here for the people’s business. And I would ask you for a chance for the people’s business to continue. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:11:16] Rep. Bentley has spoken for the motion. Would anyone like to speak against the motion? Would anyone like to speak for the motion? Rep. Bryant, you’re recognized to close for the motion.
Bryant [00:11:32] Well, I really stepped off in it this time, didn’t I? I can appreciate everybody’s comments. I would say that this body, to Rep. Bentley’s point, this body passed, passed out our bill with 68 members. Two thirds of this body pushed this bill to the Senate. Now, if the Senate’s got their own games, that’s their games. This body has an intent and will to pass this with emergency because whether or not they play games it’s not a game to my constituents. It’s not a game to your constituents. And so just the 90 days is so critical to the people at my doorstep today. We’ll give them reprieve. The emergency– it won’t– will it still affect future? Sure, it will. But you know, if you watch the Senate, you know, an hour of their games on the floor for maybe our entertainment is, is worth it, but it’s not a game to these people that are in your districts affected by this legislation. So if the, if the Senate thinks they’ve got the votes, to Rep. Ladyman’s point, I watched it as well. You know, procedurally and they had some issues because of the pairs. They can get those issues worked out and actually do the will of their body. So I’d appreciate a good vote on sending this back. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:12:46] Rep. Flowers, for what purpose?
Flowers [00:12:49] Question.
Shepherd [00:12:49] Is it a question of Rep. Bryant or myself?
Flowers [00:12:52] Yourself.
Shepherd [00:12:52] You’re recognized.
Flowers [00:12:53] Mr. Speaker, what is the vote threshold in order to pass this motion?
Shepherd [00:13:00] A majority of the quorum.
Flowers [00:13:02] Thank you.
Shepherd [00:13:05] All right. Bryant is closed for his motion. The question before the House is the return of House Bill 1977 to the Senate. All in favor say aye. All those opposed. The no’s have it. I see five hands. Prepare the machine, Mr. Clerk. Has everyone voted? Has everyone voted? Cast up the ballot, Mr. Clerk. By a vote of 60 yeas, 32 nays, and zero present, the motion has passed. Members, we’re going to pass over Senate Bill– well, 739, there’s still a motion holding it at this point in time. Members, at this point in time, we’re going to go into a recess to allow House State Agencies to meet. I’m going to recognize Rep. Tosh for an announcement.
Tosh [00:14:25] State Agencies Committee members, we’ll meet in Room 151 in 15 minutes. 15 minutes, Room 151. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:14:33] All right. The House will stand in recess until 1:30 p.m. this afternoon.
Shepherd [00:00:26] The House will come to order. Read the committee reports, Mr. Clerk.
Clerk [00:00:34] Mr. Speaker, we the committee on State Agencies of Government, Governmental Affairs to whom was referred House Bill 1982 beg leave to report that we have had the same under consideration and herewith return the same with the recommendation that do pass. Respectfully submitted, Dwight Tosh, Chair.
Shepherd [00:00:52] All right. Members, we’re, we’ve reached the end of the regular calendar. We’re moving to the supplemental calendar. Mr. Clerk, please read House Bill 1982.
Clerk [00:01:15] House Bill 1982 by Representative Speaks concerning the definition of four United States congressional districts of Arkansas and to declare an emergency.
Shepherd [00:01:23] Representative Speaks, you are recognized to explain the bill.
Speaks [00:01:32] Thank you, Mr Speaker. I bring to you a good congressional map, and that one, I believe, will stand the challenge if necessary. It’s been scrutinized more than any bill since I’ve been down here. For you who have not been in State Agencies, I want to go through some of the changes that, that has changed from the existing map. So we start with the 1st District. Boone and Marion County, they have been added as well as a small portion from Pulaski County, which is from the north side of the river that is the row crop farmland and some small portion that was a swampland, leaving all the cities whole as in precinct– and also the precincts whole. The 2nd District, we added Cleburne County. On the 3rd District, we removed Newton and Pope County, adding Madison County. The 4th District, we placed Newton and Jefferson counties, and they are whole counties now. From Sebastian County, we removed a small portion that’s known as Bonanza, placing Pope into the 4th District, removing five small county towns from Pulaski County that is south of I30. This map meets all the principles we were asked to follow. It does not split but two counties. It maintains districts as previously drawn as close as possible. America requires a census every 10 years and for only one purpose, and that is to balance the population of the congressional districts. This map has all of the four congressional districts less than 0.05 per population. In closing, this map can be defended and challenged in court, and I would appreciate a good vote.
Shepherd [00:04:02] Representative Ennett, for what purpose?
Ennett [00:04:04] Question.
Shepherd [00:04:04] You’re recognized for a question.
Ennett [00:04:07] Representative Speaks, did you speak to anybody in Pulaski County before you decided to present this bill to us?
Speaks [00:04:14] I did not speak to them personally. In fact, I’ve had some phone calls from Pulaski County and we did have some folks that did come and speak to us.
Shepherd [00:04:27] Representative Love, for what purpose?
Love [00:04:30] Question.
Shepherd [00:04:30] You’re recognized for a question.
Love [00:04:32] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Miss Speaks, now, is it your testimony that you leave cities whole?
Speaks [00:04:39] [00:04:39]The large cities, yes.
Love [00:04:41] [00:04:41]OK, now I do live in the city of Little Rock. And my house, actually, is now in the 4th Congressional District. Can you explain how we leave this whole yet my House, my House district, which is Pulaski– I know I live in Pulaski County, but I live in Little Rock. Now it’s in the 4th Congressional District.
Speaks [00:05:07] [00:05:07]Isn’t that a suburb of Little Rock?
Love [00:05:11] [00:05:11]No, it’s in Little Rock.
Speaks [00:05:13] [00:05:13]Well, I was told it was a suburb a while ago of Little Rock.
Love [00:05:18] [00:05:18]No, I live in Little Rock.
Speaks [00:05:20] [00:05:20]Hmm. OK.
Shepherd [00:05:31] Representative, Representative Love, for what purpose?
Love [00:05:34] I’m still on the question. The question is, is now, would you– you just said that you left cities whole, yet I’m letting you all know that my house is now drawn into the 4th. So is it your testimony that we did not leave the city of Little Rock whole?
Speaks [00:05:55] That isn’t what I’ve been told when we sat down and drew out– was drawing all the maps. If it is, maybe I misspoke, but that isn’t what I’ve been told. And I was told just a little while ago that it was in the suburbs.
Love [00:06:12] I don’t, I don’t live in a suburb. I live in Southwest Little Rock.
Speaks [00:06:15] So you know where you live. Okay.
Shepherd [00:06:18] Representative Springer, for what purpose?
Springer [00:06:20] Question.
Shepherd [00:06:20] You’re recognized for a question.
Springer [00:06:22] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Speaks, you and I had a conversation earlier last week, and I would just like to follow up on the question asked by Representative Ennett. You indicated that you had spoken with persons within Pulaski County and received their opinion about your particular map. Is that correct?
Speaks [00:06:42] No, I said I had received an email from someone that said they lived in it– or a text. I think it was an email that they lived in Pulaski County. But speaking to someone personally, I have not.
Springer [00:06:57] Follow up, Mr. Chair. What did that person tell you in that email? What did they indicate to you?
Speaks [00:07:02] Oh, I got so many. They were asking us to to protect them and basically was all it was. I mean, nothing in specific.
Springer [00:07:15] Last question, Mr. Chair. Did they indicate to you that by doing your map the way that you were doing it that you were diluting their voting power, that you were causing it to be diluted?
Speaks [00:07:28] No, ma’am, they did not.
Springer [00:07:30] Do you– thank you, Mr. Chair.
Speaks [00:07:33] Thank you. And I would ask for a good vote.
Shepherd [00:07:36] Representative McKenzie, for what– Representative Speaks has left the well. Representative Speaks has explained the bill. Would anyone like to speak against the bill? Representative Collins, you’re recognized to speak against the bill.
Collins [00:07:55] Thank you, Mr Speaker. Great cities make a great state and great counties make a great state. I think we all know that we help our counties and our cities by keeping them intact when it comes to congressional districts. And that’s why, for the most part, you all have fought to keep your counties together and your cities together, as have all of us. And we’ve collectively taken great pains to avoid splitting up counties and cities. With Pulaski, however, it’s been the opposite. It’s been a rush to see who can carve us up most egregiously. As one sponsor said, it’s the icing on the cake to split up Pulaski County. This bill before us today is particularly egregious because it splits us up not two ways, but three ways. And because it divides our cities, including Little Rock and North Little Rock and a small part of Jacksonville. We all know what this map is doing. Pulaski County votes Democratic and has a large black population, particularly in the southern and eastern areas. We are putting these parts of Pulaski County in different congressional districts, and in so doing, we are weakening and diluting Democrats’ voice in electing a representative, and we are weakening and diluting black Arkansans’ voice in electing a representative. The map is likely illegal. It’s personally offensive to me and many others, and it is very sad. Even if you subscribe to the most cynical view of redistricting, that the purpose is for the party in power to run up the score, we really don’t have to do this to Pulaski County. There have been plenty of maps, including Representative Speaks’ initial map that split no counties, are legal, and leave four solidly Republican districts. There are also a few maps that split Pulaski once, not twice, that don’t split cities, that don’t track obvious racial lines, and those would be a lot more defensible than this. Again, great cities and great counties make a great state. In my time in the Legislature, I’ve kind of gotten used to people trying to talk down Little Rock. Sometimes there’s a grain of truth that gets exaggerated. Sometimes it’s misunderstanding or fear. Sometimes there’s a political agenda and sometimes a racial agenda. But Little Rock is our capital city. Little Rock belongs to everyone. I’m proud of it. I love it for its potential. I love it for its people. I love it for its flaws. I love the way it soars when people believe in it, and you all should, too. Wherever you live in the state, you benefit from a Little Rock that is strong, safe, growing, thriving and well-represented in Congress. Same for Pulaski County, our largest county by far. There are companies, stadiums, stores, recreational sites, cultural resources, creative spaces and cultural opportunities that would not exist in Arkansas if not for Little Rock and Pulaski County. Not to mention the human capital, the brilliant, energetic minds who build businesses, provide jobs and in so doing, sustain communities and strengthen families. Many of those people come to Arkansas or stay in Arkansas because of the city and this county. Everyone in the state, wherever you live, this is your city. You can and do eat in our restaurants and shop at our Dillard’s or our Costco. Walk the Big Dam Bridge. Visit the Old Mill. Can take as much as you want directly in those ways, or indirectly benefiting from the jobs and economic power we pull into the state and spread to all four corners of it. Or you can vote for this map. And whether or not you intend to, you are going to hurt us. And in doing so, you’re going to hurt your own constituents. Arkansas is too small. Our fates are too entwined. The stakes are too high to let partisanship, regionalism, and racial gerrymandering come at the expense of our great capital city and this county, our largest. We’re on the same team. When we sabotage each other, we all lose. When we fight for each other and empower our people, we all win. This bill hurts all of us. I urge you to please vote no. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:12:06] Rep. Collins has spoken against the bill. Would anyone like to speak for the bill? Rep. Pilkington, you’re recognized to speak for the bill.
Pilkington [00:12:17] Thank you, Mr Speaker. We’ve had a lot of talk about Little Rock, Pulaski County on this map, but actually what I want to talk about is where I’m from, the River Valley. This is actually the only map that I’ve seen presented that concentrates River Valley counties together and gives us a stronger voice. We’ve constantly been in a situation where Pope’s in the 3rd, Johnson’s in the 4th, and other, other counties are spread out. And so for me, representing my people and what they want, they would like to see a map like this where the River Valley is concentrated. And one other thing I’d like to say is, you know, I’m– I love elections. I help out all the time on different races in the state, and we actually could make these districts redder, but didn’t. When you look at the average Orvis ratings in congressional districts, it’s about 62, 63 percent Republican across the state. This map actually is bluer than the average of most districts when you look at the 2nd Congressional District. So I just want to throw that out there. We could have actually gone way harsher if we wanted to. But I’m going to be voting for this map because I’m representing my people in the River Valley who like this and like being concentrated. If you feel that your county is not getting that deal, feel free to vote against this bill. And I would, I would think that is a reasonable place to vote. But I want people to understand the reason why I’m voting for it is because where I live in the River Valley, this is a good map for us. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:13:43] Representative Pilkington has spoken for the bill. Would anyone like to speak against the bill? Representative Springer, you’re recognized to speak.
Springer [00:14:00] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Members, I come before you today and I’m coming because of my mentor, John Walker. Had he been here, he would have been appalled at what’s taking place here today. He would say the record is clear. This bill has clear tactics of gerrymandering, cracking and packing. This bill makes the case to show that the limits that the United States Supreme Court has already placed on congressional redistricting is really valid here. The districts have been solely manipulated based solely on race. And I heard Representative Pilkington say, which is pretty clear for the record now, you all could have done this even more harsher. So the record is clear. This is a clear case of gerrymandering based upon race. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:15:06] Rep. Springer has spoken against the bill. Would anyone like to speak for the bill? Would anyone like to speak against the bill? Rep. Godfrey, you’re recognized to speak against the bill.
Godfrey [00:15:23] Thank you, Mr Speaker. Colleagues, I represent a racially and ethnically diverse legislative district. And as a white representative, that’s a responsibility I take very seriously. It’s a priority of mine to continually consider, center, and seek out the diverse voices of my community to take their concerns seriously and to be under the mentorship of those who can help me see my blind spots. When we, as white representatives, hear from our colleagues and constituents of color who are telling us we’ve missed the mark, we need to listen. Our intention is irrelevant here. We must consider our impact. And we continue to hear that the communities of color in Arkansas will be hurt by this map. Therefore, I will be voting no, even though it won’t impact my own community in Northwest Arkansas, because what matters to me and what should matter to all of us more than the narrow interests of our own districts and our own politics and our own limited experiences, is that all Arkansans voices be taken seriously. Vote no, please.
Shepherd [00:16:33] Representative Godfrey has spoken against the bill. Would anyone like to speak for the bill? Rep. Ray, you’re recognized to speak for the bill.
Ray [00:16:50] Well. Sorry about that. Colleagues, I think this is a good map. There, there’s no map that is going to be perfect. But this is a good map. I don’t think we should let perfect be the enemy of the good. This map is the product of the State Agencies Committee, 20 members of this body. One fifth of this body has been working on this map diligently. Unless you find it truly objectionable, I think we ought to support the committee here. A couple of things I will mention about this bill and about the map, some of the areas of contention that we’ve sorted through. So on this map, Chicot and Desha counties stay in the 1st District. There was a lot of feedback on that topic. These are largely minority communities. I think Chicot County is majority minority. We heard a lot of feedback from those communities, and they are staying in the congressional district that they have provided feedback on. I know there’s been a lot of feedback on Sebastian County and the desire for that county not to be split. I totally understand where they’re coming from from that. But some county in the 3rd District is probably going to have to end up being split. Because if you put all of these counties in whole, you’re going to be about 10,000 over on population. And so those people are going to be underrepresented, according to the principle of one person, one vote. And if we don’t split Sebastian County, then it’s going to be Crawford County or it’s going to be Madison County or it’s going to be Carroll County. So if you represent one of those areas, that’s certainly something to take into consideration. The previous map split the city of Alma basically straight down the middle. And this map corrects that. The previous map split five counties. This map only splits two. I think a lot of people would consider that a vast improvement. I do want to talk about Pulaski County because that has clearly become the biggest point of contention. I happen to live in Pulaski County. Pulaski County is the largest and most populous county in the 2nd District. It is the center of gravity. It holds the most sway in our 2nd congressional district elections. And if this map is adopted, all of that is going to continue to be true. It’s still going to be the largest county. It’s still going to hold the most sway. It’s still going to be the center of gravity. It was said on the Senate end that in terms of the African American composition of the 2nd District in this map versus the current one, they’re quite comparable. You know, a couple of things that haven’t been said is that 10 years ago, when the other party drew these maps, they split Jefferson County, which is a majority minority county. In this session, there’s been two maps that have been filed, one by a Democrat senator and one by a Democrat House member that split Pulaski County. So I think we can just tone it down on some of the performative theatrics here and the moral outrage that’s being dialed up about splitting a county. The idea that this is a quote gerrymander is laughable. If you want to see what a gerrymander looks like, Google Illinois’s 4th Congressional District. It starts out down here and then it snakes over here and then it goes up here and that comes back around here to get some other towns. Or better yet, Google, Google Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District. I don’t even think it’s contiguous. It is so messed up it has a nickname. The Washington Post called it the praying mantis. I’m really, I’m really disappointed that at every turn in this body, it seems like the issue of race is continually injected into the discussion. There’s a bill that gets passed that deals with duty to retreat and it gets called racist. We passed school choice legislation, that gets called racist. A map comes out of the committee with lines on a map, it gets called racist. We’re going to come down here next week and we’re going to try to provide tax relief for hardworking Arkansans, and somebody is going to call that racist. It’s a cheap political trick designed to score cheap political points, and that’s how I feel about it.
Shepherd [00:21:45] Rep. Ray has spoken for the bill. Would anyone like to speak against the bill? Rep. Hodges, you’re recognized to speak against the bill.
Hodges [00:21:59] Thank you, Mr Speaker and colleagues. And yes, I am going to talk about race. I’m going to talk about reality. And racism is reality. I’m not trying to win an Academy Award by being up here, so there’s no theatrics here. This is about lives. This is about people. This is about doing the right thing. Rep. Allen mentioned this in his speech earlier, and I think it bears repeating, I don’t come down here to speak against bills. In fact, I believe in this session was my first time out of my five terms speaking against a bill. But I told you and I told you repeatedly during session that to be silent is consent. I feel compelled to come speak against this bill. We all know what’s going on here. It’s no secret. Southeast Pulaski County is being split into three different congressional districts. Before we came down here to draw these maps, we all knew who lived in the southeast corner of Pulaski County. Who all knows who lived in South Little Rock, Rose City, Wrightsville and College Station? It’s people who look like me. Not as good looking as me. In fact, according to the census data, the precincts that this map moves to the 1st and 4th District are 65 percent and 70 percent nonwhite, respectively. This means that neighbors, church goers, classmates and coworkers living in the same communities are going to have completely different representation. I live in Blytheville, Mississippi County. I can tell you we don’t need the same things that people in Rose City do. This map completely ignores their needs. That part of Pulaski County has its own judicial subdistrict because of the racial makeup of those precincts. This is so they have fair and diverse representation on the bench. This map will do the exact opposite. It will dilute and diminish their representation. Many have said it is impossible to make maps that don’t have county splits. But that just simply is false. Many maps have been filed with legal deviation that don’t split counties. As a matter of fact, Rep. Nelda Speaks’ original bill, House Bill 1959, which I heard mentioned earlier, had no county splits. You can easily make the 2nd District fairly drawn by just looping off Van Buren County. You’ll still have your Republican delegation in Washington. That map wouldn’t change that. Any partisan advantage gained by this map is worth little compared to the negative effects this will have on the black communities in Pulaski County. So ask yourself, is it worth it to have a little partisan gain at the sake of those communities? Is it worth it to, to deafen the voice of the people who look like me? I will be voting no. I believe we can do better. I ask you to vote no as well. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:25:50] Rep. Hodges has spoken against the bill. Would anyone like to speak for the bill? Rep Wooten, you’re recognized to speak for the bill.
Wooten [00:26:02] Colleagues, I was going to sit there and not say anything and not get involved, but I, I’ll be involved because I represent my people. But when I look at this map, I’m bringing a different representation to you, my colleagues, from the points of view that have been offered. I’ve lived in St. Francis County. I’ve lived in Arkansas County. And I’ve lived, I have lived in Polk County. And I have lived in Pulaski, and I live in White County at the present time. I’ve lived in every district but one, the northwest corner of the state. And I can assure you from from my perspective and from the perspective of the people that I have become acquainted with, this map is well-suited for the state of Arkansas. And like Representative Ray, I’m sorry to see race introduced in this body is a factor in this consideration. There’s not one thing in the rules or laws that apply to the drawing of this map that mentions race. It talks about representation, proper representation, and I don’t think you can get any closer than 0.05 percent differentiation between these districts. This map has been debated and debated and debated, and this is the consensus of the State Agency committee. We need to support that committee. The committee structure is designed to vet and ferret out those things that would be a waste of time or perhaps not due consideration. And we owe it to that committee to support this bill and pass this bill as it is. It has been reached by deliberation. People from Pulaski County had every effort possible made to them to come and appear before the State Agency committee. They had every opportunity to contact every member of this body, and I have not heard from a person in Pulaski County. You say, Well, you won’t. I said, Well, let me tell you one thing, I’ve heard more from Northwest Arkansas about some of the legislation we’ve considered recently than my whole district. I have gotten more phone calls from Northwest Arkansas and more texts and more emails than my district. So you tell me that the people of Pulaski County can’t stand up and dial or punch a phone– excuse me, I age myself– punch a phone and call the state representative in another district. Sure, they can. This is an effort to do the best that we can do. In my opinion at this point in the deliberation of this body, this is the best map available. And Representative Speaks, like many others, have spent a considerable amount of time to secure this map and to represent the state of Arkansas. And let me tell you, don’t forget this. No one’s being denied representation. No one’s being denied representation. Every district as a congressman, whether the county’s split or not. And this is not going to affect the well-being of Pulaski County. I’ll assure you of that. It’s not going to. Anyone that’s representing Pulaski County has the responsibility to listen to them exactly like they do someone in another county of the state in their district. But it’s true that great cities and great counties make a great state and we’re a great state. And the point of race should not, in my opinion, be a factor in this. I love black people just as much as I love white people. I’ll do anything I can to help them in any way possible. But just because of the race being thrown in here is not right. It’s unnecessary and I thank you for your time.
Shepherd [00:30:50] Rep. Ennett, for what purpose?
Ennett [00:30:52] Comment.
Shepherd [00:30:57] We, we don’t have– I don’t think comments are appropriate. You could, you could ask a–
Ennett [00:31:01] Question, I’m sorry.
Shepherd [00:31:03] Was it a question for me or for Rep. Wooten?
Ennett [00:31:07] For Representative Wooten.
Shepherd [00:31:08] Rep. Wooten has left the well. Rep. Wooten has spoken for the bill. Would anyone like to speak against the bill? Rep. Crawford, you’re recognized to speak against the bill.
Crawford [00:31:21] Hello, friends. What a great day in the neighborhood. Well, I have to speak because River Valley is not whole, as was said and River Valley is happy. Because I live in the River Valley, Sebastian County. Representative Speaks came with the greatest map known to man with House Bill 1959. It had the right numbers in it. No county was split. Everybody was whole. And I’m going to say what Representative Charlene Fite said when she said, why is everybody picking on Crawford County? Well, I want to know why everybody’s picking on Sebastian County. Sebastian County needs to be whole. Do you know when I take a picture in my backyard, it comes up that I’m in Bonanza, and you have a split Bonanza. Bonanza is my zip code. So for that reason and many other reasons, I will be voting no. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:32:32] Rep. Crawford has spoken against the bill. Would anyone like to speak for the bill? Rep. Tollett, you’re recognized to speak for the bill.
Tollett [00:32:47] Thank you, Mr Speaker. Thank you, colleagues. I just want to bring a little bit of a different perspective to this debate. First, I want to thank Rep. Speaks for presenting this. Everyone in this room has had the opportunity to draw your own map, build a consensus and get that consensus approved through the committee, same as Representative Speaks. However, she’s the one who got it done. And while I did not initially like everything about her first map, the amendments to this map, after hearing from our colleagues who have come to the capital to speak, I think changes– the changes are well warranted and better representative of the state of Arkansas. I want to say this. There is a disparity that exists in the state of Arkansas. But it’s not necessarily always around racial lines. A lot of times it’s just like our public school system, which I have a little bit of experience about. See, we have a problem in our public schools or a divide in our public schools along urban public schools and rural public schools. They don’t work the same. They don’t function the same. They need different representations. And in this map, I think it balances rural versus urban quite well. If you look at it, you will see the 1st and the 4th. Those are the majority of rural areas that exist in the state of Arkansas. They deserve to be represented by representatives who represent rural areas. The 2nd and the 3rd are more your urban areas in the state of Arkansas. They deserve representatives who represent urban areas. Now I’m in the 1st. My district is a minority or majority minority district. I’ve heard repeatedly how splitting a little sliver off of Pulaski County will disenfranchise African American voters. You know where the majority of minority districts lie in the state of Arkansas? They lie in the 1st. And we are glad to have African American voters join with us in the 1st and represent them in the 1st and let their voices be heard in the 1st. We want to increase their voice, and we will welcome them with open arms. The same as, I’m sure, the 4th will as well. In addition to this, I would like to commend Representative Speaks to listening to my colleagues, my constituents when they drove hours from Lincoln County to have their voices heard. See, we’re supposed to keep groups similar. Well, Lincoln, Desha and Chicot are similar in that most of that area is row crop farming. It’s rural, the same as the sliver of Pulaski County. It deserves a representative who represents row crop farmers. And so I would like to thank Rep. Speaks for including Lincoln County back into the 1st and keeping those groups who drove all their way up here to let their voice be heard and us hearing their voice to keep them together. I don’t see this as silencing voices. I see it as increasing voices, increasing representation for both minorities, for farmers and for rural Arkansans in the 1st. So I will be voting yes and I will ask you to vote yes as well. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:37:23] Rep. Tollet has spoken for the bill. Would anyone like to speak against the bill? Rep. McKenzie, you are recognized to speak against the bill.
McKenzie [00:37:38] Thank you, Mr Speaker, I think I can be quick. I had some questions, so– and I have some concerns. So I’m leaning toward no, but if I can get those concerns, you know, soothed here. My question’s about the process. And so may be either in your closing or maybe another member of the committee, I’ve tried to watch as best I can the State Agencies. My understanding, I think, was that we’re going to hear a bunch of bills, we’re going to vote the agency members in order and then, you know, come to consensus at the top one. And that’s probably a very loose, poorly description, poorly description of what happened or what was the process. And then my understanding is that your bill, Representative Speaks, was the top, had the most support. My question is, is that bill pretty much intact now? Because I thought there was some discussion about and that would seem fair to me if the bill amends to the point where it morphs into another bill, then I’m worried about the process. Was there another another chance for the committee members to vote? So that’s my question. Since we only do this every 10 years, I don’t want to belabor the point. I don’t know that my– I’m tucked up in the northwest corner. My district’s not changing a whole lot, but getting smaller. But I want to make sure we’re doing it fair and transparent. So that’s what I’m wanting to hear is how did that process play out. The bill that was voted number one, is it still essentially the same bill? And if not, was there a chance to revote? And if I’ve misunderstood the process, I appreciate the clarification. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:39:23] Representative McKenzie has spoken against, against the bill. Would anyone like to speak for the bill? Rep. Wardlaw, you’re recognized to speak for the bill.
Wardlaw [00:39:33] Thank you, Mr. Chair. I was doing my best to stay out of this place this session. Rep. McKenzie, I’ll speak to your question on process. The bills were graded and the committee did an awesome job meeting prior to this session, coming in, meeting with people from Lincoln County. Southeast Arkansas has been up here almost every meeting we’ve had. There’s been representation from the 1st District and others. Rep. Tosh done the best job any chairman could have ever done, and I’m not telling that to gain brownie, brownie points for him. I’m telling you he did an awesome job. And that graded process went forth. There was a motion made in committee to substitute Representative Speaks’ bill. The majority of the committee voted to do that, so the process was followed. Everything that got us here today was done by the majority of the State Agencies committee. It was done by vote and it was done fair and it was done adequate. And there was a lot of votes taken, but her bill was– the bill that’s here, 1982 was substituted. I think the number was 1971, if I remember correctly. But there was a motion made and the committee voted a majority to substitute that motion to the graded process.
Shepherd [00:40:54] Rep. Wardlaw has spoken for the bill. Would anyone like to speak against the bill? Representative Clowney, you’re recognized to speak against the bill.
Clowney [00:41:06] Thank you, Mr Speaker. Colleagues, I’ll be quick, too, but I did just want to give some numbers on one thing. We had a colleague earlier stand up front in here and say that he was tired of racism being injected, allegations of racism being injected into this debate. I actually hadn’t heard anybody make allegations of racism. I heard us talking about race. And so I do just want to talk about race very quickly as it pertains to this bill. There are two slices of Pulaski County that are being discussed as being kind of carved out, one of the 1st and one to the 4th. Those districts are 65 percent nonwhite and 70 percent nonwhite, respectively. Representative Tollett stood down here and talked about the importance of keeping row crop farmers together, condensing their political power. Representative Pilkington did the same thing. It’s what we all do. We want folks who have the same interests to be kept together. I am sorry that conversations of race may feel inconvenient to some members of this body, but I guarantee you that the impacts of race and racism are worse for our colleagues of color who are telling us quite clearly not what the intent of this bill is, but rather what it does. I would ask you to consider that and vote no. Thanks.
Shepherd [00:42:24] Rep. Clowney has spoken against the bill. Would anyone like to speak for the bill? Would anyone– Rep. Ladyman, you’re recognized to speak for the bill.
Ladyman [00:42:35] Thank you, Mr Speaker. And I’ll try to be brief, but, but I wanted to commend Representative Speaks on the work that she did and just give you some facts on the work that she did. She filed– you know, we had previous meetings, but we went into our first committee meeting here. She had the first bill that was filed. I had the second bill. We had the first– look, we had, we had 17 bills to rank. We had eight in the House and there was nine in the Senate. So that’s where we started. But let me tell you, from the very beginning, Representative Speaks, her primary goal– and I know this more than anybody because I tried to convince her to change her primary goal– her primary goal was to not split a single county in the state of Arkansas. My bill was very similar to hers, but I split three counties, which was an improvement because as somebody has already said, there was five counties split 10 years ago. So she was adamant about not splitting counties. But to her credit– well, let me just say I dropped my bill and supported her bill as a co-sponsor because it was a better bill. Other people did that. But to her credit, after discussions, she relented and said, Yeah, to get the numbers right, we’ve got to split a county. We had counties, we had cities that were split 10 years ago. So I know people don’t want a county split and you don’t want to be your county. But you know, in Pulaski County, I realize you don’t want your county split. But as has been said, Sebastian, Searcy, counties have been split many, many times. So it’s just kind of like not in my backyard. Nobody wants to be split. But the only way that we can make this map work and get the numbers right, which was the primary concern to get equal numbers, is to split a county. So we had to do that, and I appreciate Representative Speaks being able to do that and compromise.
Shepherd [00:44:50] Rep. Ladyman–
Ladyman [00:44:50] I would ask for a good vote.
Shepherd [00:44:52] Rep. Ladyman has spoken for the bill. Would anyone like to speak against the bill? Rep. McCullough, you’re recognized to speak against the bill.
McCullough [00:45:07] Thank you, Mr Speaker. I just have a few things to add. I appreciate and agree with much of what my colleagues have said today. There are a lot of inconsistencies here in what we say and then what we do. None of us wanted our county split up. I think we’re better than this. None of us want our city split up. I think we did have maps, and I think we could have maps that achieve all of those goals that work out for the best for all of us. I think there was mention made of Pulaski County people maybe not showing up to these meetings or emailing or whatever. It’s been hard enough for us to follow the calendar and to be up here and to break for 30 minutes and and then it not being posted online in time for anybody to get here. To try to get somebody to get here is nearly impossible, especially people that have families and that are working and trying to live their lives and trusting us with those lives. I also could not sit in my seat today and listen to anyone accuse my friends and my colleagues, your colleagues of cheap political tricks. And to dismiss their perspective and their lived experience is ridiculous. And often when we hear that something’s not about race, it is about race. I just suggest that we listen to the folks that, that know what they’re talking about. Thank you.
Shepherd [00:46:49] Representative McCullough has spoken against the bill. Representative Berry, for what purpose?
Berry [00:46:54] Motion.
Shepherd [00:46:55] Let’s hear your motion.
Berry [00:46:56] Mr. Speaker, I move for immediate consideration.
Shepherd [00:47:03] That’s a proper motion. It’s not debatable. All in favor say aye. Any opposed. The ayes have it. The question before the House is the passage of House Bill 1982. Prepare the machine, Mr Clerk. Has everyone voted? Has everyone voted? Cast up the ballot, Mr Clerk. By a vote of 59 yeas, 30 nays and 5 present, the bill is passed. Members, we’re now going to, going to vote on the emergency clause. Members, we’re voting on the emergency clause. Prepare the machine, Mr Clerk. Has everyone voted? Has everyone voted? Cast up the ballot, Mr Clerk. By a vote of 63 yeas, 28 nays, and 2 present, the emergency clause has failed. The House will stand in recess for 10 minutes.
Shepherd [01:04:21] The House will come to order. Read the bills, Mr Clerk.
Clerk [01:04:37] Senate Bill 743.
Shepherd [01:04:38] Without objection, read the bill a second time.
Clerk [01:04:40] Senate Bill 743.
Shepherd [01:04:41] State Agencies. Representative Bryant, for what purpose?
Bryant [01:04:56] Motion.
Shepherd [01:04:56] Let’s hear your motion.
Bryant [01:04:57] Motion to, to remove House bill– I’m sorry, Senate Bill 739 from the table.
Shepherd [01:05:03] That’s a proper motion. It’s not debatable. The question before the House is to take Senate bill 739 off the table. All in favor, say aye. Those opposed. The ayes have it. Mr Clerk– Rep. Bryant, you’re recognized to continue your presentation on the bill.
Bryant [01:05:42] Thank goodness, looks like we’re coming to a close on our week. So we just want to go ahead and get Senate Bill 739 heard, debated, and off the floor and to the governor’s desk. So I appreciate a good vote.
Shepherd [01:05:57] Rep. Dotson.
Dotson [01:05:58] Question.
Shepherd [01:06:00] You’re recognized for a question.
Dotson [01:06:01] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Representative Bryant, just for clarification for everybody, this bill is identical to HB 1977 that we already passed out of here yesterday with 68 votes, I think, and an emergency clause. So this– the only difference between the two is this one does not have an emergency clause on it. Is that correct?
Bryant [01:06:23] That is correct.
Dotson [01:06:23] Thank you.
Shepherd [01:06:25] Rep. McKenzie, for what purpose?
McKenzie [01:06:27] Question.
Shepherd [01:06:28] You’re recognized.
McKenzie [01:06:30] All right. I’m trying to figure out what’s going on here for myself and my vote and for people watching. So you’re saying you want to go ahead? Your, your, your idea is to present this for a vote. It’s already passed the Senate without the emergency clause. But you want to go ahead and get this to the governor’s desk. And my question is, what’s your thinking behind that for? Because I didn’t realize it was on the table. Just give me a rundown of where we are and why we’re there.
Bryant [01:07:02] One in the hand, two in the bush is the best I can give you the answer. You know, I gave the House Bill back to the Senate. They can– they’re going to do what they want to do with it. I agreed to that. And this is our chance to ensure that the governor at least has one of these bills on the table.
McKenzie [01:07:23] Follow up question. Is there any reason why we must vote on this now? Is there any reason why we can’t give it some thought, let our constituents weigh in because we’re going to have to be back here one way or the other tomorrow.
Bryant [01:07:39] It’s, it’s already been heard. It’s already been debated. I doubt anybody’s changed their vote on identical bills to the House bill. So I just figured we just got to get out of the way.
Shepherd [01:07:54] Rep. Love, for what purpose?
Love [01:07:55] Question.
Shepherd [01:07:56] You’re recognized for a question.
Love [01:07:57] OK, so I’m reading, I’m reading the title. Now, are we voting on the emergency clause or are we not? Because this says to declare an emergency. Does this have an emergency clause in it or does it not?
Bryant [01:08:10] I will defer to parliamentary inquiry on that, so I don’t misspeak.
Love [01:08:15] Does this bill have an emergency clause on it, Buddy, or I mean– because I’m reading to declare an emergency. So does it have an emergency clause on it or does it not?
Shepherd [01:08:25] After consultation with the parliamentarian, to specifically to your question, I believe it references to declare an emergency because that is literally in the bill’s title or subtitle, whatever we display here. The bill– in the body of the bill does contain an emergency clause. We’ve looked at this today and based on the parliamentarian’s recommendation after consultation with attorneys and everybody else is that since the emergency clause was not passed by the Senate, it is not part of what is being transmitted for a vote. And so our determination is that we are only voting on the bill without the emergency clause. And the basis for that is that the emergency clause was not passed by the Senate.
Love [01:09:07] OK. All right, thank you.
Bryant [01:09:09] Thank you for a good vote.
Shepherd [01:09:15] Rep. Bryant has explained the bill. Would anyone like to speak against the bill? Rep. McKenzie, you’re recognized to speak against the bill.
McKenzie [01:09:32] Thank you, Mr Speaker. I’m speaking against this bill because I don’t have a whole lot of peace on what I’m doing right now. And I get uncomfortable when we recess. Things happen and we come back and the plan goes. I may be on board with that plan. It may be a great plan. But I have had all of 30 seconds to think about it. So, I’m speaking against this bill because I can see no reason why we can’t bring it up tomorrow after I’ve had a chance to reflect on it. And I’m just– I’m trying to be sweet, but I’ve had a belly full of this. We recess for a second– and now perhaps I need to start being invited to these meetings. But better yet, I’d like this stuff to take place in front of you all, in front of my constituents because I’m not exactly sure I’m on board with this. So when I’m not on board, I’m a no.
Shepherd [01:10:35] For the benefit of the body, Rep. Bryant asked to make the motion as I was sitting here reconvening the House. It was a proper motion. It was voted on by the membership. There was no request by anybody else, just to set the record straight. If the body didn’t want to hear it, they could have voted it down. Rep. McKenzie has spoken against the bill. Would anyone like to speak for the bill? Rep. Haak, you’re recognized to speak for the bill.
Haak [01:11:09] Thank you, Mr Speaker, and thank you, Representative McKenzie. As a freshman, I often feel the way you expressed yourself, what is going on here. I would just like to recap the major points of the bill and the reason for it. Senate Bill 739 is exactly the same as what we voted for yesterday and HB 1977, along with an emergency clause. It says, and I’m going to paraphrase the author of the bill, it says that businesses, should they choose, can mandate a vaccine. Representative Bryant described that yesterday as one pathway, one highway. We are wanting to add two more lanes right next to that. If an employee so chooses, a business will accommodate them showing proof of immunity. They can show proof of immunity by having a vaccine or by having antibodies, which the vaccine gives, as well as having had COVID 19. So if a person tests and has the antibodies, that’s just the same as a vaccination. The other accommodation, which is similar to what is being proposed at the federal level for employees to be tested weekly. An employee may choose that option. So two additional roadways that we’re paving. If a business in Arkansas so chooses to mandate a vaccine, we are not mandating anything. We are not mandating vaccines. We are not mandating anything other than options, giving options for employees to show they are providing a safe workplace with antibodies that they test positive for, or a negative test that’s approved by the CDC and the FDA. So those are the options that we voted for yesterday, and we know that there are people all across our state, large and small businesses, that are facing termination because there’s only one choice they have, and that is to take the vaccine. Our bill offers them two different options, accommodations, and allows that to go into effect immediately. And I’ll take any questions.
Shepherd [01:13:42] Rep. McKenzie, for what purpose?
McKenzie [01:13:44] Question.
Shepherd [01:13:44] You’re recognized for a question.
McKenzie [01:13:45] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And this may be– I’m not sure who the proper person to propose this to. What is the status of– the Senate has asked, and we voted to send back HB 17-something. What is the status now if we vote on this, pass it or fail, is– because I believe the Senate already passed that out, but not with the emergency clause. So what is the status of that bill now that is over in the Senate chamber? Should we not pass this or even pass it? Is it still, is it still something that has passed the Senate chamber and can go on to the governor’s desk? What’s the procedure, whoever can answer that? Thank you.
Haak [01:14:37] So I’m sure that’s a parliamentarian question. I will just say I agree with Representative Bryant that should two bills go to the governor’s desk– at the end of the day, we want to pass a bill that provides additional accommodations for Arkansas employees. So I’m going to allow for any other discussion on that, but we don’t want to miss the opportunity for one of these bills to survive this process.
Parliamentarian [01:15:11] Thank you, Mr Speaker. Thank you, Representative McKenzie. I don’t know the status of House Bill 1977 in the Senate. All that I do know is that this bill is before the House at this point.
Haak [01:15:30] Questions? Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Shepherd [01:15:38] Rep. Haak has spoken for the bill. Would anyone like to speak against the bill? Would anyone like to speak for the bill? Rep. Bryant, you’re closed for the bill? Rep. Bryant is closed for the bill. The question before the House is the passage of Senate Bill 739. Prepare the machine, Mr Clerk. Has everyone voted? Has everyone voted? Cast up the ballot, Mr Clerk. By a vote of 61 yeas, 25 nays, and 4 present, the bill is passed. Rep. Meeks, for what purpose?
Meeks [01:16:27] Motion.
Shepherd [01:16:28] Let’s hear your motion.
Meeks [01:16:29] After the announcements, reading of the bills, transferring of the bills, placing the calendars on the desk, members amending their own bills with their own amendments, members withdrawing their own bills, finalizing resolutions, reading communications, and any remaining committee reports, I move that we adjourn until 10:00 tomorrow morning.
Shepherd [01:16:44] That’s a proper motion. It’s not debatable. All in favor say aye. Any opposed. The motion passes. Members, I think we’ve got just a couple of announcements. Please listen closely with regard to scheduling, in particular of State Agencies committee meeting. Representative Tosh, for what purpose?
Tosh [01:17:02] Announcement.
Shepherd [01:17:02] You’re recognized.
Tosh [01:17:04] Committee members, State Agencies will meet immediately, let’s say, within five minutes. Let’s try to be in the committee room, room 151. Thank you.
Shepherd [01:17:14] Any other announcements? State Agencies is meeting in five minutes, and then we’re set to come back in tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock. Continue to monitor your email and the schedule on the website. If no other announcements, the desk will remain open as needed for the reading of the bills and upon completion of the items named in the adjourn resolution, the House will be adjourned until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.