Senate Public Health
October 1, 2021 (morning meeting)
Bledsoe [00:00:00] And we are meeting today to hear bills that were sent back to the committee. We want to welcome you. We’re glad you’re here. And I have already told so many people what, what we expect. And I just wanted to go over them for the third time, but somebody said we couldn’t hear you. So let’s, let’s– and no one will say, Well, we didn’t, we didn’t hear it, we didn’t understand. All right. First of all, please silence your cell phone. All right, sometimes I think we all think they’re off and they’re still on. So please check. Please silence your cell phones. And then the other thing is if you have come to speak for or against a bill., For those of you who have been to committee before, you know we do that at the end of the bill. And coming after someone else has come on that same bill, saying the same thing will not help your bill. So if you’ve got some new information– and that’s why you need to listen very closely to the speakers that are coming to the table– if you’ve got new information that’s different. But if you’ve got five people saying the same thing, that doesn’t help. And if, if you’ve got five people saying the same negative thing about the bill, that doesn’t help either. So if you’re with a group, get with one person and let that person come to the table. We save time and we’ve got 12 bills today. And we do, we do have to be in the chamber at 11:00. And so about 10:50, we will adjourn so that these members can get back on the floor of the Senate. After that, we hope to come back and finish the ones that we have not heard. So don’t be discouraged, the bills will be heard. So again, saying the same thing, whether it’s negative or positive about the bill, does not help. And I’m going to ask this, if– please, please be courteous during the meeting. No clapping, no cheering, no booing, none of that. And if you do, I’m going to ask that you leave. We can’t hear up here if there’s all of that going on. So again, we want this to be a good experience for all of you. And with that, I see a quorum. The chair sees a quorum and the meeting is starting. And Senator Blake Johnson, I believe you’re going to be first. And you have Senate Bill 732, and you are recognized to present your bill. And do you have an amendment?
B Johnson [00:03:07] I do.
Bledsoe [00:03:08] All right. Members, if you’ll take a few minutes to look over the amendment. All right, ladies and gentlemen, Senator Johnson, would you explain your amendment?
B Johnson [00:04:03] Thank you, chair, members. The amendment creates two things that I would like to include in the bill and that is giving a positive incentive for the vaccine. I did not intentionally disallow that for an employer, and that’s not coercion as far as threatening or with a job. That’s, you know, giving them a bonus or whatever, that’s, that’s the first part of the amendment. And the second part allows any other funds, federal funds that may be available, become available to be used also. And that’s the amendment.
Bledsoe [00:04:44] All right. Do I have any questions on the amendment? Seeing no questions, we have a motion to adopt. Second. All those in favor say aye. All those opposed. Your amendment has been adopted. And if you would proceed with your bill.
B Johnson [00:05:03] Thank you. Members, I think every member heard yesterday what that I presented and didn’t get to close on. But this is a matter of coercion, and it includes all persons in the state of Arkansas, not just employed persons, but this, this bill gives the same protections as we have in the school systems in Arkansas for many years. And that is the medical contraindications, the religious and philosophical beliefs. The religious and philosophical beliefs is, and the medical contraindication is in federal law. And the philosophical belief is in Arkansas law in the education system. So this gives everyone those same exemptions. And if, if taken as punitive in an employment situation, then it would allow them to be compensated equal to what they would get unemployment if we have the funds to do so.
Bledsoe [00:06:12] All right. Any questions for Senator Johnson? All right. Seeing no questions, does anyone in the audience– OK, we have a list here. But it’s a process. I say, does anyone in the audience want to speak for or against? I have a, it looks like Ashley Vance or Mr. Vance or Mrs. Vance. OK, if you would come to the table. And are you speaking for or against? You’re speaking for. Now the next time I call, it will be against. I’ll go for and against. So if you would sit at the table. And you’re going to speak for the people that are coming behind you?
Vance [00:07:09] These are my children, yes.
Bledsoe [00:07:11] And your name is?
Vance [00:07:12] Ashley Vance.
Bledsoe [00:07:14] Ashley Vance. All right. You are recognized to speak for the bill.
Vance [00:07:18] Thank you, ma’am. The people y’all represent here in Arkansas, we need this. And we need y’all to back us. You’re the only ones– you’re here to speak for us. And I’ve seen a lot that have been voting against us. My job will be terminated as of January 1st. I’m a single mother. This is my why. I work 12 hour shifts at a plant in Sheridan, Arkansas. And they have told me if I do not receive this vaccination, I will be fired. I will be terminated. But they won’t say they fired me. They are going to say that I voluntarily resigned. I know that people in the government seem to be exempt and do not have to take this vaccination. How can you decide for me what’s right for me when you’re not being threatened, when your job is not being threatened, when your family is not being threatened? Please take that in consideration. I will have to sell my home and I may not be able to afford to feed my kids. These are the faces of the people that y’all are supposed to protect. We count on y’all. Please be there for us. Turn this back into the great United States it was when our forefathers made it so. And remember what they did? Please, we beg you. There are many like me with my same story. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Bledsoe [00:09:09] All right. All right. Thank you for that testimony. All right. Just announcement, wait a minute. Ma’am, Miss Vance, if you wouldn’t mind coming back. We’re going to see if the committee has some questions for you, if you don’t mind.
Vance [00:09:32] Oh, no. I’ll answer anything.
Bledsoe [00:09:33] All right. Thank you so much. All right, committee, do you have questions for this witness? All right. Seeing none, thank you so much. You were very concise and good testimony. Thank you.
Vance [00:09:47] Thank you, ma’am.
Bledsoe [00:09:49] We have something that we would like to– the committee to know. Right under us is a room about this size and a little bit larger, and they will have seating for everyone and you can watch us on the monitor. And you don’t have to stand. And when your time comes, I’ll call out the name and you can come on up and we will hear you. So if there are any, if any of you would like to go to the room right under us, then we will– yes, follow him. All right. We have someone to speak against this bill. Josh Silverstein, if you would come. OK. And please say your name for the record, please.
Silverstein [00:10:55] Green means it’s on?
Bledsoe [00:10:58] Yes. Yes.
Silverstein [00:10:59] My name is Josh Silverstein, and I’m a law professor. And I live and work here in Little Rock. However, I’m speaking here today in my individual capacity. I’m not speaking behalf on the university where I teach. I want to thank the committee for this opportunity to testify against Senate Bill 732. My comments are a little bit broader, so they apply to some of the other bills as well. Conservatives have long believed in the sanctity of property and contract rights, and liberals, of which I am one, have not been far behind in their concern for such rights. Accordingly, in the United States, we generally allow parties to freely contract with whomever they choose and to restrict access to their property in whatever way they deem appropriate. Such liberty is an essential feature of the American economic system, which is largely capitalist and market based, and such liberty is justifiable on what philosophers call both consequentialist and down to logical grounds. Put more simply, liberty of contract and property both increase human welfare and our goods as ends in themselves, meaning liberty is a right to be valued in its own way. Of course, property and contract rights are not absolute. There’s a multiplicity of other compelling concerns in our society, such as to preserve the physical safety and property of others, as seen in the laws of nuisance and some environmental regulations that limit contract and property rights. But freedom of contract and property rights are bedrock principles of our republic. Senate Bill 732 and other proposals like it that would bar employers from requiring employees and or their customers to be vaccinated are fundamentally inconsistent with the rights to contract and property that conservatives claim to hold dear. Frankly, it is quite surprising to a liberal like myself to see conservatives so quickly jettison their concern for property and contract rights. I spend a lot of time trying to convince my fellow liberals that they should have greater appreciation for property, contract, markets and capitalism. And I was most glad to see the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party beaten back soundly in the primary last year. But it now appears that it isn’t just liberals that we need to worry about. Apparently, some conservatives aren’t as close to committed as markets, private enterprise and liberty as they should be. Moreover, bills like Senate Bill 732 don’t just override property and contract rights without a compelling justification. They do so in a context where property and contract rights are being exercised.
Bledsoe [00:13:36] Excuse me for interrupting, but there’s someone here in the, in the audience that has a camera with a flash and it is bothering one of the committee members. So if you would either take off the flash– OK. All right, thank you. Please forgive me for interrupting.
Silverstein [00:13:56] Not at all. Moreover, bills like Senate Bill 732 don’t just override property and contract rights without a compelling justification. They do so in a context where property and contract rights are being exercised by private enterprises to protect the physical health, safety and even lives of their employees and customers from a deadly pandemic that has killed over 600,000 Americans and many millions across the world. We all need to understand what is at issue here. Some private businesses are choosing to exercise their contract and property rights to only deal with individuals who are vaccinated. They are doing so because they quite rightly fear for the health and lives of their customers and employees. Businesses in this context aren’t just exercising their property and contract rights for commercial purposes. They are adopting vaccine mandates for both such purposes and to protect the health and lives of the people they work with, the people they do business with and the people they live with. If private companies are prohibited from requiring proof of vaccination, then the government of the state of Arkansas will literally be telling businesses that you are forbidden from physically protecting your own customers and employees. Again, that is shocking, and all the more so because it is conservatives who are arguing for such a significant limitation on the rights of private enterprise. I can’t think of any political philosophy at any point along the American political spectrum that would approve of barring employers from requiring vaccination to protect their own customers and staff. Restricting the right of employers to require vaccines would be like the government barring employers from requiring their employees be sober on the job so they don’t injure someone while drunk or like barring employers from requiring their employees have adequate training with dangerous equipment to minimize the risk of injury. In this country, we sometimes limit property and contract rights when commercial values are plausibly outweighed by other values, such as physical safety. But here physical safety and commercial values are on the same side, thus the case for limiting contract and property rights here is exceptionally weak. I understand the concern of many, that many of you have for the jobs and financial well-being of those who choose not to be vaccinated, such as the person who testified before me. And at no point during the pandemic have I supported a government imposed national or statewide vaccine mandate. But the solution isn’t to run roughshod over property and contract rights. The solution is something like Senator Garner’s proposal in SB730 and Senator Hammer’s in SB739 that those who lose their jobs due to their vaccine status receive unemployment benefits. That is a reasonable compromise that provides support for those who choose not to get vaccinated while preserving the contract rights of every Arkansas business, rights those businesses sometimes wish to exercise to ensure the safety of their clients and workers. I’ve been trying to think of a law anywhere in the American legal system that bars employers from protecting the health and lives of their own customers and employees in circumstances like this. I’m a lawyer and a law professor. I’ve got a lot of experience with the law, and I can’t think of one. Thank you for listening. I will be happy to answer any questions, and you may cross me off for testifying for any other bills because my testimony would otherwise be duplicative. So this is it for me today.
Bledsoe [00:17:25] All right. Thank you. Committee, do you have any questions for Mr. Silverstein? All right. Senator Hester, you’re recognized.
Hester [00:17:34] I appreciate your testimony, and I completely agree with you that most of these that we’re going to vote on today are anti-free market. Alright, the free market is tough, and it’s tough when we allow it to work. Alright, and we’re in this room right here because we don’t want to allow the free market to work. Alright, there’s no question about that. Do you believe that the government should require a minimum wage?
Silverstein [00:17:55] I don’t. But I believe the government has the authority to do so. But I don’t believe the government should require a minimum wage. This is one of the areas where I’ve tried to convince my liberal friends in the Democratic Party there are better alternatives to helping those than a minimum wage, for example, a negative income tax such as that argued for by Milton Friedman. I believe that the poor in this country and the working poor are the responsibility of all of us. And so I think it’s unfair to place that burden on those businesses within the market who are paying for a service that is generally worth less than the minimum wage. And so I think if we’re going to help those in poverty or who are at the bottom of the working class, that is a collective responsibility and we should do it through the tax and spend system, not through the minimum wage. And I voted against the minimum wage when it was on the ballot a number of years ago.
Hester [00:18:46] Thank you. I was just going to see if you were consistent.
Silverstein [00:18:48] I try to be. I’m not perfect like any of us, but I try to be consistent. And it was conservatives like Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek who convinced me that I might have the right values, but I sometimes have the wrong means.
Bledsoe [00:19:00] All right. Thank you. All right, ladies and gentlemen. Yes, please.
Hammer [00:19:07] Thank you and great to see you this morning. Glad you’re here and thank you for articulating your thoughts. I guess what I’m trying to get my mind around is and you can help clear it up. In some way, are we not treating human life like property by the fact that we are requiring that something be injected into them that they have a philosophical difference or religious or even a medical exemption? When we refuse that right, how have we not treated that human life as an object, which is, I think, contrary to what we as humans should be doing? I need your answer to that, please.
Silverstein [00:19:40] So there are two things I want to say in response. I am open to some type of exception for those where the vaccine is medically contraindicated. I think that might be a kind of a middle ground where we might operate. But I’m also going to partly dispute the premise of your question because as I said, I’m not in favor of a vaccine mandate from the government or at either the national or the state level or even the local level. What we have here are private businesses that are saying we’re going to require a vaccine, and if you don’t want to, you will have to go and deal with someone else, whether you’re one of our customers or employees. And we’re doing that because we’re trying to protect the health, safety and lives of our own employees and customers. We’re not going to let you put a risk on other people that we are working with.
Bledsoe [00:20:33] Yes.
Hammer [00:20:35] Follow up. So what about if you have, you have a number of deaths– but I’m going to tell you about the number of deaths, I think a good inquiry as to how those deaths have been classified would be money well spent to determine if all those deaths are really COVID related or to the extreme, number one. But number two, when you have a debate as to the good or the bad of the vaccine and you have evidence and it’s kind of like putting two scientists in the room, you’ve got to decide which scientist am I supposed to pick or which doctor or which lawyer, you’re going to have difference of opinion. What do you do when you’re in a situation where we have claims that the vaccine has actually had detrimental effect? You have examples of where the vaccine has had no positive effect. So why do we say we’re going to force either one when both sides present different arguments?
Silverstein [00:21:28] I think it’s a great question. First, let’s assume the evidence is mixed. That’s exactly the circumstance in which we allow the market to operate, in which we allow people to choose, in which the government does not step. In if the evidence is in fact mixed, and I certainly agree that while we’ve been dealing with the pandemic for about 18 months, we need a lot more research on what’s going on and we need that research to be free and open and unbiased and unpressured from any point on the political spectrum. But when evidence is mixed, when we don’t know exactly what’s going on, those are precisely the circumstances where liberty, freedom of contract and property rights should govern. On top of that, I would add that the vast majority of the evidence supports the conclusion that the disease itself is far more dangerous than the vaccine. No vaccine is free from side effects. There are real concerns there. But the pandemic, the virus itself, is multiples of times more dangerous than the vaccine. So the evidence may be a little bit mixed, and so that’s a situation where we allow private individuals and businesses to decide for themselves who they wish to associate with, but on top of that, when they choose to put in place a mandate, they are acting against what is by far the greater danger based on the available evidence. Good to see you too, Senator.
Bledsoe [00:22:51] Alright. Any other questions from the committee? All right, seeing none, thank you so very much.
Silverstein [00:22:56] Thank you again.
Bledsoe [00:22:56] Glad you were here. All right. There are no other people who would like to speak against the bill, but we have some that would– we– in fact, we have nine that want to speak for the bill and does someone have a consensus? Yes, sir?
[00:23:16] I’m sorry. I didn’t put my name on the list, but if I could be able to respond to what the professor said very shortly? I didn’t not sign up to speak again.
Bledsoe [00:23:23] [00:23:23]Well, then you would be speaking for the bill?
[00:23:27] [00:23:27]Yes, ma’am.
Bledsoe [00:23:30] [00:23:30]Committee? All right. Is that all right? The committee agrees that you can come to the table, and if you would make your comments very quick.
No name [00:23:45] Very quick, very quick. OK, sorry. Madam chair, honorable members of the Senate, thank you so much for being here today. We appreciate the opportunity. I’m not a law professor in any sense or legally trained in any sense, but I would just point out that my grandfather’s face is on a dozen of the pictures that hang in the upper levels of this building. Roscoe Delano Brown. I’m not saying that for some kind of special status. I’m just pointing out that I like to think I have a special respect for your positions and the work you do because of my family history. I would just like to reinforce Senator Hammer’s point that I believe, even though I’m not legally trained, the professor was arguing for property and contract rights as a main. He seems to be arguing those property and contract rights extend to the bodies of the employees. From my understanding, that seems very simple and very clear in his argument. And I do not think that is the case. Also, I would point out as far as not allow people to imbibe alcohol before they come into work, that is a case of keeping something out of their bodies for the purposes of work, whereas they would put something, force something in their bodies when they’re not at work because of the effects of these vaccines are lasting. And that is the only counter points I had. Thank you very much for your–
Bledsoe [00:24:53] All right. Wait just a minute, please. Committee, do you have any questions? Seeing none, thank you very much. Now, ladies and gentlemen, there are nine people that have signed up to speak for this. Did– remember, do not come to the table and say the same things, and I’m going to go down the list. And if you want to just say I’ve changed my mind or I don’t have anything new to add. Miss Hendrick.
Stevens [00:25:25] Madam Chair, excuse me. I was– I signed up first on the list. Debbie Stevens, for the bill.
Bledsoe [00:25:34] All right. Yes, yes. Let’s see. Yes, you did. You’re right. Please come to the table. Now, remember, we’re talking about new things, new things to add.
Stevens [00:25:44] Yes, ma’am.
Bledsoe [00:25:45] Thank you. All right. Please tell us who you are and who you– I believe you represent Families of Arkansas.
Stevens [00:25:54] Yes, ma’am.
Bledsoe [00:25:54] All right.
Stevens [00:25:55] Thank you very much. My name is Debbie Stevens. And I appreciate the opportunity to speak on behalf of my family and other families in Arkansas. I graduated in 2009 with a master’s degree in education administration from LSUS and I’m currently working on an additional degree from SMU. My husband and I chose to move from Louisiana to the beautiful Ouachita mountains located in Montgomery County almost 10 years ago. We love it here, and we truly– it’s truly become our home. We have four children and 10 beautiful grandchildren. The reason I’m here today is to educate you on how the vaccine can and does affect the lives of voting Arkansans around the state and personally, my family. My mother is a 73 year old breast cancer survivor. She went through double mastectomy and many rounds of chemo in order to win her battle against the deadly disease. She felt due to her vulnerability with illnesses that it would be in her best interest to take the vaccine. She took her first shot in June and had very few side effects. Her second shot she received in July. At that time, she experienced very few side effects as well. She has been able to resume somewhat of a normal life in the middle of a pandemic. She’s been able to return to visiting her family, which she kept herself isolated before. I’m also here today to speak to you on behalf of my 49 year old healthy brother in law, George, who no longer can speak for himself. George could light up a room with his infectious laugh and his silly antics. He was the kindest spirit I have ever known. He loved his family with his whole heart. He was a big teddy bear who cheers Saturdays watching his Miami U games. All of that changed in late July. In order for George to attend his daughter’s graduation from physician assistant school in New York, he was required to present documentation that he had been vaccinated. No vaccine card, no admission into graduation. Who’s going to miss their child’s graduation after a conscious accomplishing such as, a feat such as great as that. Therefore, he felt he had no choice but to get the vaccine. Miss graduation or get vaccinated. Sounds kind of familiar. Vaccination or lose your job. What did he do? He felt he had no choice. He reluctantly took the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Two hours later, he started running a fever and just three weeks, three short weeks later, my sweet sister in law had to make the hardest decision of her life to turn off life support that were keeping him alive after having massive strokes and brain hemorrhages due to the vaccine. He was gone. August 19th of this year. Oh, and he must be unhealthy, you say? No, he was just your typical 49 year old. You want to know the irony of this story. He missed his daughter’s graduation, but his daughter missed her graduation as well because she was at the bedside of her father, who was dying. He missed her– he’s going to miss her wedding. He’s going to miss his 50th birthday. He will miss our family Thanksgiving vacation. He will miss the birth of his beautiful grandchildren, all because he was pushed, coerced and backed into a corner to get a vaccination that he didn’t even need. Because guess what else? He had had COVID in March and had survived it. And I feel certain that he still had the antibodies, just as I do from when I had COVID in December. And I test myself regularly for antibodies and I still had antibodies when my child caught COVID four weeks ago and I was fine. Don’t do this to another family in Arkansas. I’m begging you. I pray that you will make the right decision and allow the citizens of Arkansas the individual freedom to make their own choice. Thank you, and God bless.
Bledsoe [00:30:27] All right, committee, do you have questions for this witness? All right, seeing none, thank you so much for your testimony.
Hammer [00:30:35] Were you legally able to seek any compensation from Johnson and Johnson or from the institution that required the vaccination? Have you pursued any or were you told that you could not?
Stevens [00:30:48] My– currently my sister in law is seeking attorney advice on that.
Hammer [00:30:53] All right, thank you.
Bledsoe [00:30:54] All right, thank you. All right. Next is Henrick. Mrs. Henrick. Or have I already called you and didn’t–
[00:31:02] Is it Kayla? Kayla Hennecks?
Bledsoe [00:31:05] Yes, it is. If you would come to the table, please, and tell us who you are, where you’re from for the record,.
Hennick [00:31:13] My name is Kayla Hennick. I am a mother of three small children. I homeschool my children, which is a huge blessing. But I also still work for a medical facility. I’ve worked in health care for the past 15 years, serving my community in some capacity. But the last 10 years I’ve spent as a respiratory care practitioner. I’m the first person that you will see when you come to the hospital with COVID. I’m the, I’m the person that will intubate you when you have to go on a ventilator. I’m the person that has to manage your ventilator settings, and I’m also the person that has to face time your family as I’m standing at the head of your bedside, bagging you, telling your family what we are doing. I have worked for the past two years in COVID units. And if anybody is well versed on proper PPE, it’s those of us who work in the medical industry. Over the past 15 years, I’ve come in contact with T.B., meningitis, flu, countless, countless different things. But because we are well educated on how to properly protect ourselves with the provided PPE, I have never once contracted anything. Over the last couple of months, it’s been, it’s been made aware that, you know, we have been asked to get the, get the vaccination or we lose our job. We lose our job October 31. So that’s very, very soon. As I said, I’m a mother of three small children and I have to have my job. I have to go to work to provide financially for my family, to put food on the table, to make sure my kids have clothes on, on their backs and a roof over their head. They are my responsibility, but I also have a responsibility to myself and to protect my own health as well. And by working in a facility that has given me an option of either taking something that I do not personally agree with or losing a job, that really puts you in a really hard spot. And, you know, as a, as a Christian conservative mother, I have to stand up for what I know is the right thing to do, and I have to be here for my children. And that may look like me having to lose a job so my children don’t lose their mother. As as a human being, I was vaccine injured already once, and I will not let myself go through it again. I’m still dealing with, with issues that it took me six years to get over. And so for me to be told that I have to inject something into my body that could either mean life or death or lose my job, I’m not OK with that. And so I thank you so much for allowing me the time to speak and to share my story.
Bledsoe [00:34:13] All right. We do have some questions. Sen. Hammer.
Hammer [00:34:16] Thank you, Madam Chair. The employer that you work for, does the employer wish that they had an option to give you that if it was there, they would extend to you? Or are they wanting to be in compliance with federal mandates that require you to be vaccinated?
Hennick [00:34:35] They are wanting to be in compliance with the, with the mandate.
Hammer [00:34:40] So do you think if they had an option where they could allow you to do something else other than to get the vaccine, is that something that they wish they had a pathway forward that is not available to them now?
Hennick [00:34:51] We are able to send in exemptions, but unfortunately some have been approved and some have been denied. And as we were just sitting here, I got a text on my phone that my sister in law, her exemption, religious exemption was just denied. So, you know, there’s been some discrepancies in who’s approved and who’s denied. So.
Hammer [00:35:16] OK, so were– was your– did you apply for an exemption?
Hennick [00:35:20] I did, but I have not heard anything. And they told us they weren’t sure when when we would find out. But like I said, the deadline to be vaccinated is October 31, and we’re already, you know, in October. So that doesn’t give us very much time to take care of what we need to take care of.
Hammer [00:35:36] Thank you.
Bledsoe [00:35:38] All right. Any other questions from the committee? All right, seeing none, thank you so very much for your testimony. All right, again, anything new. I’m going down the line. I believe we have a Robertson. All right, if you would come to the table and introduce yourself.
Robertson [00:36:06] I’m a little short, so.
Bledsoe [00:36:09] I think we’re waiting on someone else?
Robertson [00:36:12] Yes, sorry. I’m going to speak to myself and I’m going to speak for my husband as well because he is on the list, but he really doesn’t wish to speak.
Bledsoe [00:36:21] All right.
Robertson [00:36:23] My name is Lavina Robertson. We have eight children. This is my husband, Anthony Robertson. He is a permanently disabled veteran. He served nine deployments for you all. I was a teacher in PCSSD. PC, here in Pulaski County. I gave up my career to come back home due to my son, who was disabled due to medication that was labeled as pregnancy safe. I took that medication and it made it where part of his brain did not form. Therefore, he will never be able to live on his own. So right now on the way here, I listen to Dr. Dillaha push and encourage pregnant women to take this vaccination without very many studies, without very, very little time to know what will happen to these unborn children. When the medication I took had gone through studies, had data, and they were still wrong. It had damaged thousands and thousands of babies and caused unknown miscarriages. We don’t have the proper studies to know what’s going to happen to these children. But we’re not giving these pregnant women who work, many in health care, many in teaching positions, many in other types of jobs the option to not take it because apparently they are property. That’s what we’re hearing, that they are no different than a tool in the shed. No different than a mask. No different than a vacuum cleaner. No different than a pencil or a computer. And that’s not OK. Every single one of us have an inherent right to protect our own bodies. We have our liberty to our own bodies. And we have the right to protect our own children when they’re inside of us. And so when there is a medication that is brand new that we don’t have the studies to know long term effects on our own adult bodies, nevertheless the long term effects on the children inside of us that we are responsible to grow, to, to, to protect, to feed. How dare you all pressure us? How dare you tell us that we’ll lose our jobs, that possibly unemployment won’t be available for these mothers? How dare you take their health insurance? That it not OK. You don’t know what will happen to these children. I love all of my children and I will protect my son until his last day. But I wish that he could live a normal life and that was stolen from him. And every one of these other mothers should have that choice not forced on them.
Bledsoe [00:39:30] All right.
Robertson [00:39:30] Now, I’ll speak to a different thing. My husband served nine tours overseas to protect your rights as citizens, your liberties, your freedoms. He took three full series of the anthrax vaccine and is permanently damaged because of the anthrax vaccines. There were no exemptions in the military for vaccines at that time. Now, because of the massive debacle of the anthrax vaccine, because it had to go through congressional permit for national security reasons to be used and therefore is approved for that usage only because it was wartime issued, they could use it on the military. He, he took it all every single time. He didn’t have a choice. Because of that debacle, there are now exemptions for the military. There are exemptions for the military that they can use, but you are not wanting to give those same exemptions to the citizens out here. So the military are trying to use their exemptions because of all of the disabilities that were put on them. All the veterans whose careers were stolen from them because he can’t have a full time career more. We live on V.A. compensation and SSDI. That is not the life we had planned. It is not the career path that we had planned. That has stolen so much dignity from this man. And now you all are telling the workers of this state, a conservative constitutional state, this is supposed to be a constitutional based state. That’s why we stayed here. We settled our family here. You’re telling all of these citizens that they can’t have the same right to exemptions that they’re now giving the military. And that is not OK. So I beg you, please give at least these people the same rights that the military has because the military are seen as property. They signed their rights away. These people are not property. These are citizens with every constitutional right given to them by the creator. Please give them those rights and those liberties afforded to them by the Constitution and don’t steal their health and their rights away from them. I do have other matters I will speak on later today. I will no longer take up your time. If there’s any questions.
Bledsoe [00:42:04] Are there any questions from the committee? All right, Senator.
Rice [00:42:09] Just to clarify, I don’t think it’s the Legislature that’s imposing this on you. We’re the Legislature. This is the private sector that’s imposing this on you. We’re here to, to see if we can provide those protections. So, you know, you mentioned several times that please don’t us imposing that. We’re not. That’s coming from the private sector.
Robertson [00:42:30] I apologize for that. But this is the way I look at it. At this point, It’s not per se the private sector, because all of this has been backdoored. All of this has been come down from the Arkansas Department of Health as pressure to businesses. All of this has come down from the governor as pressure to businesses. All of this has come from the federal government as pressure to businesses. So there is no longer private sector–
Rice [00:42:57] I respect what you’re saying and agree. But that’s not the legislative body.
Robertson [00:43:01] You’re right, that is executive.
Rice [00:43:01] That’s coming down from the executive body. I just want to be clear, it’s not– the Legislature is not the one imposing this on you.
Robertson [00:43:08] You’re right.
Rice [00:43:08] Thank you, Mrs. Chair.
Bledsoe [00:43:09] Thank you, and thank you for your testimony. Any other questions? All right, sing none, thank you so very much. All right again, anything new. So we have– sir, are you standing to come and testify?
J Smith [00:43:26] [00:43:26]Yeah, I’m signed up for SB 736, but this was discussion has started. And I was never on a list so.
Bledsoe [00:43:35] [00:43:35]OK, now this this is 732.
J Smith [00:43:40] [00:43:40]And my discussion is pertinent to 732 and 736 as well.
Bledsoe [00:43:45] [00:43:45]Just a minute. What is your name?
J Smith [00:44:03] [00:44:03]James Smith.
Bledsoe [00:44:07] [00:44:07]All right. You’re not signed up for this bill. You don’t think that you could wait for 736 that you did sign up–
J Smith [00:44:20] [00:44:20]You’ve been speaking about evidence that the vaccine–
Bledsoe [00:44:22] [00:44:22]All right. Come, just come on. And if you would be very succinct, please. And please state your name and where you’re from for the record.
J Smith [00:44:35] [00:44:35]I’m Dr. James Smith–
Bledsoe [00:44:37] This– excuse me, you’re for. Yes.
J Smith [00:44:41] Yes. I’m from Prairie Grove, Arkansas. I have something I want to hand out to committee members, and it has to do with evidence that the vaccine is actually harmful. And I do have proof of that.
Bledsoe [00:44:53] I’m sorry, but we didn’t allow someone else to pass out their information. If you want to wait until the end of the committee and see if the committee would like to, the committee members would like to accept it, that would be fine.
J Smith [00:45:09] Yes. So I’ve been doing lots of research searching for peer reviewed clinical studies of the vaccine. And what I’ve come across is that the S1 portion of the spike protein from the vaccine is actually highly toxic to humans, specifically to the ACE2 receptors in the lungs, liver, kidneys, intestines, brain, so forth and so on. The study, in particular, I’m referring to, to, was– I don’t know if you understand the structure of, of the virus. So I need to make sure you understand the structure of the virus first. So the viral particle, it has spike proteins. And I’m assuming all of you are aware of the spike proteins. Now, the spike protein has two components, so there’s an S1 component and S2 component. The S1 component of the spike protein is the tip of that spike protein, and that is what’s being manufactured by the mRNA vaccines and also by the adenovirus vaccine, which is the Johnson & Johnson. The main portion of the virus is called the viral membrane and inside that is called the nucleocapsid. So the nucleocapsid is where the main genetic material for the virus comes from. So as everyone familiar with that information, because it’s pertinent to the evidence I’m about to present to you–
Bledsoe [00:46:28] I think you should go ahead and present your information. And let me ask you this before you start, you said that you were an M.D.?
J Smith [00:46:35] I’m a chiropractor of —
Bledsoe [00:46:37] All right. Go, go ahead.
J Smith [00:46:39] So the study that was done, it involved trans human mice. And what these trans human mice were, they had ACE2 receptors inside the lung tissue, human ACE2 receptors because they wanted to see what was the toxic component that was causing lung reactions. So they exposed these, these mice to saline through the lungs. They exposed them to the S1 spike protein, and they exposed the mice to the full spike protein, which was the S1 and S2 of the spike protein. And what they found was that the S1 portion of the spike protein causeD massive lung inflammation and edema and something called a cytokine storm. Now, that cytokine storm caused massive inflammation and eventually led to tissue death within these mice, when they exposed the mice to the full spike protein, what they found was that the S1 and S2, the spike protein, did not cause much lung inflammation. When they exposed the mice to saline, there was no lung inflammation. So the common denominator was that just the S1 portion of the spike protein was highly toxic to humans. Now, when they expose mice without the ACE2 receptor to the S1 portion of the spike protein, there is no lung inflammation. So it’s specific for human ACE2 receptors. And there are other studies in the document that I’m handing out that show that the spike protein is toxic to the heart. It inflames of the heart tissue, causes parasites and causes pericarditis. Another issue that we found was that the S1 portion of the spike protein causes something called vaccine induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia. Now, vaccine induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia leads to massive blood clots throughout the body, and that is a known issue with these vaccines, and the mechanism is explained in the information that I’m handing out to the committee here. There was an autopsy that was performed on a patient who died post-vaccine and that patient who died post-vaccine they look for a spike protein in the body. They also look for nucleocapsid. They ran antibody tests. And these antibody tests, when they ran out by test, he had antibodies to the spike protein in virtually every tissue in the body. Now, when they look for antibodies to the nucleocapsid, they found none. That was a direct connection between the vaccine inducing his death and not the virus, and they put him down as a COVID death. Now we’re not performing autopsies and there’s a reason why. Because if we ran these two antibody tests, if we ran the S1 spike protein antibody test and we ran a nuclear capsid antibody test and we had no antibodies in these patients who had passed away to nucleocapsid on only to the S1 spike protein, it would be a direct connection between the vaccine and their death. And hospitals don’t want to run this test. They don’t want to run the two antibody tests, so they’re only running S1 spike protein antibody tests. It gives a biased conclusion stating that they did die from the virus. But when you don’t run the nucleocapsid test to look for the whole virus antibody, then you cannot come to the conclusion that they died from SARS-CoV-2. You have to come to the conclusion that they died from the vaccine. It’s very important that we start running these antibody tests so that we can prove that either they’re dying from the virus or that they are dying from the vaccine. So why are we not running the antibody tests to to the spike protein and to the nucleocapsid? It’s very important that we, we come to some conclusion here on if the vaccines are safe or not, and in order to do that, we have to run these two antibody tests.
Bledsoe [00:50:27] Thank you so much for your testimony. Any questions from the committee? Seeing none, thank you so very much. All right. Karen Long, anything new? and ladies and gentlemen, I just will remind you that this is our first bill. This is our first one and we have several more to go. And if you would introduce yourself for the record. Please, have a seat, please.
Long [00:51:07] My name is Karen Long.
Bledsoe [00:51:09] Miss Long, can you sit? Sit down. Yes, that’s fine. Thank you.
Long [00:51:14] My name is Karen Long. I lived in Arkansas.
Bledsoe [00:51:18] OK, do you have your mic on?
Long [00:51:19] Let me pull it closer.
Bledsoe [00:51:19] There you go.
Long [00:51:23] Anyway, my name is Karen Long. I’m an RN here in Arkansas. I’m was trained here at Baptist. Anyway, my– I specifically want to speak to coercion. All right. I specifically want to speak to the laws that we have on our books. I’m so nervous, but it’s, it’s, it’s everything to me. I’m a psychiatric nurse. We have laws on our books, we have laws on the books that protect everyone in this state. Everyone in the state that’s ill, whether you’re ill with COVID, whether you’re ill with mental illness, there are certain lines that we do not cross. We have laws on our books that protect us from bodily intrusion. We have laws on the books that protect our students from restraint procedures. We have laws on the books that allow us to travel, allow us for to move from room to room without restriction. These are just our constitutional rights. It’s sad that we have to have bills for this to protect the sick, but we do. They’re on our books now. It’s my job as a nurse to treat the ill. That’s what I do. Whether it’s your body, whether you’re mind. There are lines that we do not cross and that’s the will of the person. Because they have a will. It’s their God given right. It’s my job to protect that. I don’t care whatever your business. I don’t really care. I’m the nurse. I am the bottom line. There are certain things that we do not cross. Number one, I do not, I do not have the right to put a mask on somebody without their consent. A simple piece of cloth. I don’t have a right to put a restraint on somebody. Those are on your books right now, specifically for students, even specifically for our students. If the person willingly take it off because we’re specifically talking about coercion, if they’re allowed to take it off, it’s not. If they voluntarily do it, it’s not a restraint. If they voluntarily want to wear this thing on their face, if they voluntarily want to take a shot, OK, that’s your will. That is the baseline of what we do. That’s the bottom of the barrel that we can do to protect somebody, their bodily integrity, their mind, their brain. It’s not just physical things that we protect. All right. So there– so I get really upset because these, this is the baseline that I protect. This is the very base that I protect. I expect that from lawmakers. I expect that from my constitution because this is the very basic thing we do. I can’t tell somebody. I can ask somebody. I can even mandate somebody to do something, OK. I can ask them to do something. If they voluntarily do it, that’s fine. That’s kind of what the government first did to us. If we just, you know, stop the curve. Just do this. So we, we’re complying with that. It’s just ratcheted up. It’s ratcheted up to now that they’re demanding. Even to demand, it’s not law. You, you people make laws, and laws on the books right now protect us from restraints, protect us from bodily intrusion, things like that. I just, I can’t even fathom that we’re in this place right now. But this is where we are. OK. And then we have to come to the point are they safe and effective? We don’t even know if they’re safe and effective. We’re always behind the curve. Someone puts out a mandate, we have to have time to find and gather the information because they’ve already planned it all out for us. You know, this whole thing, this whole pandemic thing or plandemic, whatever you want to call it has– it’s been rehearsed. It’s been rehearsed. We’re on the back end of this. We’re trying to fight back. We’re trying to fight back for something where we have, something that’s like, now finally looks like the flu. But fear is our biggest, biggest hurdle here. You know, I didn’t have a choice whether I wanted to go work in the middle of a pandemic. I, well, sure, I had a choice. I could quit. You know, I chose to work. I chose to be out there in the middle of it–.
Bledsoe [00:56:26] Miss Long.
Long [00:56:27] I had to get over my fear.
Bledsoe [00:56:29] Can you–
Long [00:56:29] Anyway. I just I don’t, I don’t agree with coercion at all. Just I work from the totally opposite end. And we have laws on her books right now that protect patients from restraints. If my corporations treat me like a patient like I’m ill, then they have the right to protect my rights with that. That’s all I have to say.
Bledsoe [00:56:51] All right, thank you. Any questions from the committee? All right.
Hammer [00:56:56] Do you know how much your institution received in additional funding because of not having enough staff to work?
Long [00:57:04] I worked for the state of Arkansas at Arkansas Health Center.
Hammer [00:57:07] OK, I thought you mentioned another firm, so you worked for the state, then?
Long [00:57:11] I did until May, yes.
Hammer [00:57:12] OK. All right. Thank you.
Bledsoe [00:57:13] Any other questions from the committee? All right. Miss Long, thank you so much. You did fine. All right, ladies and gentlemen on the committee, we have only eight more to go. So let’s take– I’m going to ask again– this is Byner. Is this new, Miss Byner?
Bittner [00:57:38] Yes, ma’am.
Bledsoe [00:57:39] All right. Please introduce yourself for the record.
Bittner [00:57:43] Sure. My name is Chelsea Bittner. I’m a pharmacy tech at Mercy in Rogers, or I was a pharmacy tech at Mercy in Rogers. I was suspended as of 4:00 yesterday afternoon. There have been a few things that have been talked about this morning that I would really like to hone in on. Our second speaker, the attorney, 600,000 deaths from COVID. I would like to remind you that as of about 6:30 this morning, there were 569,293 adverse reactions, according to VAERS. Even if all of those adverse reactions are not attributed directly to the vaccine or a normal vaccine reactions, only 1 percent of side effects are reported to VAERS. It’s pretty telling to me– I as a pharmacy technician, I go on the COVID unit multiple times a day. My hospital is actually where I caught COVID in July with a properly fitted mask. I was one of my family of 7 that got sick. I’m obviously unvaccinated. When I caught COVID, I developed symptoms and I was able to quarantine myself and keep my family safe. Nobody in my family got sick. Health care workers– and I said this Wednesday when I spoke on the steps and when I spoke on the House floor in the Public Welfare Committee there. Your hospital workers are trying to keep their sanity. We were put on pedestals 18 months ago and hailed as heroes, and big business has now put a rope around our neck and kick those pedestals out from under us. We are left swinging. We were offered up as sacrificial lambs for a common good. The same common good that we have served for the last 18 months. We have stared COVID in the face every day for the last 18 months and never blinked. We never shied away from it. We never, never put our safety above our patients. Ever. We get into health care to serve. We don’t get into health care for the pay or the schedule. Couple of things, if you think that your your health care workers aren’t being retaliated against and humiliated, unfortunately, you’re wrong. We’ve been called everything from uneducated to plague rats. I walked out of my hospital yesterday having, having given the last three and a half years of my life to my license plate stolen in the parking lot. I made a very public Facebook post about a month ago, expressing my concern about my story, shared 41,000 times. I have no doubt that my plates were stolen because of my vaccination status. No doubt what happened yesterday in the Senate only, only amplified the humiliation that we felt. We came down here Wednesday, and I say we– there’s a group of us. I see several friendlies in here that were here Wednesday as well. We drove down. I got up at 3:30 this morning to be here in time because we had senators yesterday that claimed that they weren’t given enough time to get their constituents here. We made arrangements to get off work and to drive down here and be here. Yesterday was a slap in the face. Yesterday was a slap in the face to the work that we did on Wednesday, to everything that we got accomplished on Wednesday. You might as well just spit in my face. I applied for a religious exemption August 15th. I was denied less than 24 hours later by a panel of strangers in St. Louis, a panel of strangers who thought that they were competent enough, that I was their hero and I was a stranger to them. They decided my fate and the fate of my children and my family as strangers. You know, I, I used to wear this as a badge of honor. It’s worthless to me now. That was turned off at 3:30 yesterday. I couldn’t access my own department for an employee that I’m still– or an employer, that I’m still an employee under. I saved lives for 18 months, and they don’t trust me to get into my own department.
Bledsoe [01:02:01] All right, thank you. Committee., Any questions for this witness? Seeing none, thank you so very much. We do have– and I overlooked it– a couple of people that would like to speak against. So Randy Zook and I believe Mr. Hudson. And if you would go to the table, then please introduce yourself for the record.
Zook [01:02:47] Good morning. I’m Randy Zook with the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.
Hudson [01:02:53] Jim Hudson, Arkansas Department of Commerce.
Zook [01:02:59] In the interest of time and respect for the committee members, first of all, thank you for giving us an opportunity to speak about this, giving me an opportunity to speak about it. I want to make a record, just as we made a record in the House Committee, generally opposed to anything that constrains businesses’ rights to manage and control their employee relationship, anything that interferes with that. Arkansas has a long history of being an employ, employment at will state, as well as a right to work state. And we think we jeopardize that with these proposals to prohibit companies from requiring vaccines by their employees. Their motivation is very straightforward. Those who have done it and those who are considering doing it, their motivation is very straightforward. They’re doing it to protect their other employees and their customers, in many cases, but primarily other customers. Many of the settings in a lot of our major businesses across the state, the physical settings are, are close, close at hand. They have spent tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds, doing everything possible to limit any exposure and contact and, and sharing of space. Plastic barriers, capes, masks, added ventilation, added HVAC equipment, special doors prohibiting customers and visitors on plant floors. All of those things have been done. And despite their best efforts, far too many people, because they are not vaccinated, end up in the hospital and in worse cases die. We respectfully, and, look, to confirm our position on this, we polled our executive committee about this issue just yesterday, asked a straightforward question: Do you believe the state of Arkansas should prohibit employers from requiring reasonable medically endorsed steps, such as a vaccine of their employees? And to a person– these are 15 senior executives of major corporations across the state, the names of which you would readily recognize, they’re in your districts, they’re your primary employers, they’re the primary drivers of your economy, of this economy– to a person, they said, No, we do not want that interference. [47.8s] r point is, it is up to and should remain the employer’s prerogative to make that or set that expectation. Second, and just, just for some information that sort of confirms the view on this, United Airlines was one of the earliest companies to adopt a requirement of all their employees. They have 67,000 employees across the U.S. They notified their employees in August that they would be required by September 30th to have gotten vaccinated. 96 percent complied right off the bat. 2,000 of them sought exemptions. Most of them received exemptions, either religious or preexisting medical condition. The number to be terminated as of about a week ago as a result of refusal to get a vaccination or applying for and getting an exemption, the number had dropped to 593 employees out of 67,000 who had not been vaccinated. It dropped to 320 the day after the deadline, which was the day before yesterday, and many of those are getting vaccinated hour by hour, day by day. So that small fraction is continuing to decline. If you applied that same number to Arkansas, those same sets of numbers, you’d be talking about roughly 6,000 people who are still refusing and have chosen not to get vaccinated out of the working population in the state, not the total population. Now the other issue is unemployment insurance. Unemployment insurance is paid for 100 percent to the dollar, to the penny by the employers in the economy, not shared by employees. Employees make no contribution to the cost of unemployment insurance. It’s a tax by any other name. It’s called an insurance premium. It’s called a fund contribution. And as a result, we have a very healthy– now, despite the pandemic, we have a very healthy–
Unknown [01:08:01] Chairman, is this on– is he speaking to the bill?
Zook [01:08:02] I am speaking to the set of bills.
Unknown [01:08:05] This bill?
Zook [01:08:06] I was going to hoping to save some time, but not come back for each.
Bledsoe [01:08:09] He’s speaking on several bills, but they all are related. Go ahead.
Zook [01:08:17] But the unemployment insurance trust fund is in good shape. We don’t want to see that undermine or eroded, and with that, I’m happy to conclude my remarks. I don’t want to wear you out. One senator asked, Could I keep it under 30 minutes, and I promised to keep it under 10. So we’re opposed to all of the bills that limit the employee’s rights– employers’ rights– that limit or constrain the employer’s rights to set the terms of employment, and that’s basically our case.
Bledsoe [01:08:53] All right. Thank you. Mr. Hudson.
Hudson [01:08:58] Thank you.
Bledsoe [01:08:59] Introduce yourself.
Hudson [01:08:59] Yes, Jim Hudson, Arkansas Department of Commerce. And I won’t cover again the ground that Mr. Zook covered. Just a couple things to point out very quickly, first of all, you’re very well aware– it’s– we’ve seen it reported, it’s been discussed here that we do have this federal series of mandates. And as I shared in the House Public Health Committee meeting couple of days ago, we want to go on record saying that we don’t support that. It is an utterly terrible idea. And so we are opposed to government mandates of all variety. And the concern that we have is that, you know, the employers of Arkansas who’ve been through so much in the past 18 months trying to keep their businesses going, trying to get employees back to the workplace in the safest possible manner, that this is just a measure, these measures that we’re discussing today, create just a series of headwinds against them being able to do that and very particularly, you’re putting them between a rock and a hard place. You’re asking them or telling them they’ve got to make a choice between following state law or following federal law. And the truth of the matter is that from the federal perspective, the OSHA standard that will be promulgated in a matter of days is a incredibly heavy hammer– several thousand, $14,000 fine per employee per day of noncompliance. And so we’re taking it to these employers and the state is you’ve got to make that choice. Well, they can’t make that choice. They’re going to have to follow the federal standard and we know that constitutionally under the supremacy clause that that federal standard is going to preempt any state action. And we can disagree with that federal action all day long. And I will join you in that disagreement with that. But that is the legal reality on the ground, and we are going to be creating a problem for employers in that regard. And then just real quickly to add in terms of, you know, the message that I think is getting sent, you know, to employers around the country. It is our job at the Department of Commerce that you have given us to go out and market the state of Arkansas to the nation and to the world and to say, Come here we are open for business and we are friendly for business. We’re rated one of the highest states in terms of our friendliness toward the business environment. And one of those reasons is because we don’t seek to put government mandates to address every single situation that we may have a personal disagreement with, however strongly that may be. And so the thing that concerns me is that it does create a little bit of an obstacle for us to do that as we put these measures out there. Because as Mr. Zook said, you know, these are measures that employers are taking in order to keep their businesses safe and keep their employees safe. And if those businesses are open, employees are working, they’re earning wages. They have to take care of their families.
Bledsoe [01:11:58] I’m sorry. Go ahead, please.
Hudson [01:11:59] And really just to bring my remarks to a conclusion, with that, I would say we would ask you to please reconsider these measures and let’s make sure we keep Arkansas open for business. Thank you, ma’am.
Bledsoe [01:12:10] Will you answer some questions from the committee? All right, Senator Hamner, you’re recognized.
Hammer [01:12:16] Thank you, Madam Chair. So have you seen the rules that have been passed down from the feds as far as how it applies to this? You spoke as though you had seen them. Have you seen them?
Hudson [01:12:28] I’ve seen the executive order on the subcontractor provision, the contract provision. OSHA, it has not promulgated its rules yet. It’s scheduled to promulgate its rules sometime in the next several days. It’s pending.
Hammer [01:12:41] Okay, so where did you see those rules? Are they up on their federal website or where are they accessible?
Hudson [01:12:48] Are you referring to the remark about contractor rules?
Hammer [01:12:51] Yes, yes. It’s the president’s executive order. It’s available on the Federal Register. It’s also available, I think, on the White House website.
Hammer [01:12:57] But as far as the detailed rules that are coming down that state are going to have to comply with that are going to be imposed upon businesses, those have been released? Is that what you’re referring to?
Hudson [01:13:07] Yes, sir, the General Services Administration, I believe, was the releasing agency. They released fairly– not detailed enough guidelines, but I think as far as they’re going to go last Friday.
Hammer [01:13:19] OK. And Mr. Zook, I just need to know and I ‘m going to ask you a question, which businesses do you represent as the state chamber? Because when Senator Clark had about a 7 hour judiciary meeting, some of us legislators were getting blown up by business, some of which are, if I called their names, you would recommend– you would recognize those too, saying, don’t force any mask mandate on us. I need to know which part of the business sector of the state of Arkansas you represent because we’re getting conflicting messages from employers. Do it and some are saying don’t. Which one do you represent then?
Zook [01:13:55] About 1,200 companies across the state. I don’t, we don’t pretend to represent every business interest in the state. We represent our members’ interests.
Hammer [01:14:06] Did you survey your– do you have a survey all 1,200 to be able to show us what the survey results were?
Zook [01:14:12] We did not survey all 1,200. We surveyed our executive committee who basically is the governing body of the organization.
Hammer [01:14:20] All right, thank you.
Bledsoe [01:14:21] All right. Any of the questions from the committee? Senator Sullivan.
Sullivan [01:14:27] Yes. Mr. Zook, you mentioned that there were some committee– businesses that would not require a vax mandate. Can you tell us who those are?
Zook [01:14:36] I can’t identify them individually, but I can– generally speaking, smaller businesses probably will not, or most of them will not. Some of them will.
Sullivan [01:14:44] I thought you referenced that comment when you talked about your executive board and right after talking about your executive board, you stated that there were some of those– some businesses wouldn’t require–
Zook [01:14:56] No, I’m not referring to–
Sullivan [01:14:57] So it’s not from the executive board?
Zook [01:14:59] I’m not– I’m not talking about some of the executive committee. I’m talking about some businesses in general, typically smaller. Some of the restaurants were not going to do this.
Sullivan [01:15:08] But you have no data to support–.
Zook [01:15:09] I have no data on that.
Sullivan [01:15:10] That’s just a statement you’re making without data.
Zook [01:15:13] I think it’s a fact.
Sullivan [01:15:13] OK. You’re saying that’s a fact?
Zook [01:15:15] I’m stating, yeah, I would be comfortable saying that’s a fact, that some businesses–
Sullivan [01:15:20] So you have survey information that would indicate that?
Zook [01:15:22] I can get national information that’s not– if that would be helpful.
Sullivan [01:15:27] OK, thank you. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Bledsoe [01:15:30] All right. Remember how we are to act within the committee, please? All right, Senator Hammer, you’re recognized.
Hammer [01:15:41] Thank you, Madam Chair. I’ve written this question out and I don’t know if Mr., I think it’s Silverstein, is still in the room that he might come back and answer it as an attorney, but here’s, here’s what I’ve got. In the absence of liability being assigned to either the requirement or mandate of the employer on the employee or mandate of the government, when do the employees stop being humans, which should have legal recourse or property, which does not have legal recourse? Because if we are not providing them legal recourse in order to be able to seek restitution for damages or are denied unemployment, at that point, I’m having a hard time distinguishing when is a person an employee or when is a person a property? And you’re shaking your head, Bob, like– but, but I’d like to, I’d like to know where the defining point is, given the fact that they have had been, they’ve been provided no legal recourse in the event they have an adverse effect of something that was imposed upon them. That sounds to me more like treating them as property than treating them as humans. I need that understanding from the business sector, please.
Zook [01:16:57] You know, I would have to get some legal help on that. I know that there is a possibility that employees would have– if someone believes they’ve contracted COVID on the job that employees would have– there’s some opportunity for a worker’s comp claim. I’m not exactly sure how it would be resolved, but I know you all did that in the last, in the regular session. So that’s an opportunity. Plus, an employee with a company health insurance, any health insurance costs are going to be covered, first of all, by their health insurance plan. So those those remedies and help are available through the employment. But I just, I’m sorry, Senator, I just can’t answer the question about, as you phrased it.
Bledsoe [01:17:44] Any any other questions from the committee? All right, seeing none, thank you very much.
Zook [01:17:49] Thank you very much. Appreciate your time.
Bledsoe [01:17:50] All right. We have Jackson Mopes. Remember, ladies and gentlemen, we have a few more left and we’re still on the first, the first bill and we cannot meet when the chamber goes into session, which is at 11:00. You’re recognized– please, please speak– identify yourself for the record. Is it on? Is your–
Mopes [01:18:27] Okay. My name is Jackson Mopes. I work for the largest wireless company in the United States, and they are getting ready to slowly roll this out. And I, they’re very reluctant to, but I think they’re being coerced, and that’s basically going to transition to coercion to us. And the last time I read online about these, you’re supposed to, when you get informed consent, it shouldn’t be coerced. And I think a person who has 90– a person who is being asked to take this or lose your job, it sounds to me like that’s coercion. That’s not informed consent. And I’m a numbers guy. I’m an engineer. And I like– I went to look at some of these VAERS numbers, and you think this is a safe vaccine? I looked at every year that since VAERS has been in inception and the average deaths on vaccines, all vaccines was 158 deaths per year. That’s an average. And the total number up til 2021 was 4,898. I look today or last night, it’s 15,386 deaths. That’s their number, not my number. Now you tell me, you think, you think people in this room want to take their chances with the vaccine like that? I don’t think so, but they’re pitted up against a wall. I’m a single– I’m a, I’m a sole person who earns income in my family. And if I lose my job, you know, my wife’s got cancer, I got kids at college and just like everybody else, we got to provide for our families. So this puts us in a bad situation. So and there’s been a lot of people around the, around the world who’ve been signing on to saying that we, we’ve got to stop this. 4,200 doctors have signed a physician’s declaration stating that we got to stop all this. We’ve got to stop these vaccines and we can’t be using them. They’re not, they’re not safe. I mean, 158 deaths a year on average. The second highest year was in 1994, and it was 223. That was the highest here of all the years I looked at. So all I’m saying is if I was given the choice, I would not take this and I would like to have a religious exemption. I’m a Christian, but it’s not uniform. This person gets one. This person doesn’t. This company does. This company doesn’t. I mean, that’s the problem. It’s not a uniform thing. And my HQ is in New Jersey. So I don’t know if they’ll give anybody any exemptions. So because every time they do, they probably have to pay that whatever that fine is that they’re going to pay. So that’s just the main thing I wanted to talk about with you today.
Bledsoe [01:21:06] I appreciate your testimony and I appreciate how concise you were. Members, do you have any questions? Seeing none, thank you so very much.
Mopes [01:21:16] Thank you, ma’am.
Bledsoe [01:21:16] Ladies and gentlemen, I am– yes, sir.
[01:21:21] I’m on your list to speak.
Bledsoe [01:21:23] I think–
[01:21:24] The opportunity for me to speak after those two guys would be perfect.
Bledsoe [01:21:28] OK, well, what is your name, sir?
[01:21:38] Michael ?
Bledsoe [01:21:38] Well, the ones I have, I have– I don’t seem to– I did– I see your name now. All right now we have an issue here, ladies and gentlemen. I know you’re going to be disappointed if we cannot vote on this bill after we’ve had so much testimony. But we are running out of time. And if– what I’d like to do, and may be it will help. I don’t know. But I’d like to call this man up and I’d like to call two others up at the same time. And if you would be succinct, there’s only one more left that I will not call up because three’s kind of– I think you have three chairs that are available right there. But you need to remember the more you talk, the quicker we are going to run out of time. So please. All right. OK, please come to the table and I’m going to ask– wait just a minute. Christina Reeves, OK, and your husband– is there– or David Reeves? Please come to the table. And the three of you have some time. OK.
[01:22:54] I’ve been up for 20 hours. I drove three hours to get here–
Bledsoe [01:22:56] All right. What is your name?
Bledsoe [01:23:03] Well, I’m not saying that you have to do it now, but we’re going– I’ll bring you up the next time and– right after them. OK. All right. And don’t let me forget because I don’t see your name. But anyway. All right. Tell us who you are and where you’re from. And if you would go first, please.
Missouko [01:23:20] My name is Michael Missouko. My name is Michael Missouko, and I’m here as a citizen of the state of Arkansas, one that wants to protect, protect his individual liberties and freedom. Milton Friedman once said the self interest of people in government leads them to behave in a way that is against the self-interest of the rest of us, end quote. What I just saw, corporate donors, health care, food processing, grocery, big box, they’re all here today, working the crowd because they’re under pressure of the federal and social sources to mandate vaccinations upon their employees. Do you think they really care about you? If you guys are gone, either terminated on your own or you’ll walk away from that company, they’re not going to remember you in 30 minutes or 30 days that you even worked there. This is what makes me mad. He had a slip of the tongue. They came here because they want you to agree. They want the state of Arkansas to agree with their mandate, which limits our individual freedoms and health care choices. Basically, note to big business if you’re still in here, your social responsibility is to increase your profits and continue to pay me stock dividends. So listening the government to mandate that your employees prevent you from accomplishing that task. I’m sorry that that’s happened to you. Maybe they ought to be doing tort reform that people, if they get sick, they can’t come back and sue you because I think that’s what it’s all about.
Bledsoe [01:25:01] [01:25:01]All right. Thank you.
Missouko [01:25:02] [01:25:02]No, I got one other thing.
Bledsoe [01:25:03] [01:25:03]OK.
Missouko [01:25:06] [01:25:06]We the people, including yourselves, having– have sacrificed greatly during this event. And as of this moment, we still are at liberty to pursue our own self-interest. And I fully expect you without hesitation to uphold and protect our freedoms and shun the temptation to mandate corporate tyranny upon us. Thank you all for your time. Please do the right thing.
Bledsoe [01:25:32] All right. Identify yourself for the record and where you’re from.
C Reeves [01:25:36] My name is Christy Reeves and I am from Mountain View, Arkansas. My husband and I actually just moved there about four and a half months ago. We could have chosen anywhere in the United States to move, and we chose Arkansas. One, because its natural beauty and two because of the freedoms that are offered its citizens. Not only did we relocate here, we relocated our children, our grandchildren and our business. In 1986– and Sen. Hammer, this kind of goes along with the question that you asked. You asked, the people who passed away, are they able to get restitution from anyone for that? In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed HR 5446 bill into effect, which is also known as the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act that ensures no vaccine manufacturer shall be liable in a civil action for damages arising from a vaccine related injury or death. That means they, they’re not responsible. So I ask you this, if they’re mandating these employers to vaccinate their employees, who’s responsible for the damages that the employees have? Who’s responsible for the side effects? Not the vaccine manufacturers. Is the state going to be responsible for that? Is that going to fall on the employers? Am I as a business owner going to need to pay for the medical expenses my employees have because they’ve suffered an adverse reaction to this vaccine? You say, I’ve heard some of you say you can’t tell private businesses what to do, but you’re doing just that when you’re enforcing these mandates. You’re not giving them the choice. You’re not giving the citizens the choice to make on their own. If they weren’t being forced to comply with these mandates, they wouldn’t be forcing their employees to get a vaccine. I also heard Representative Ferguson ask one of the health care workers yesterday, Why don’t you want to take this shot? You’ve taken others, why not this one? Quite honestly, it was none of her business why that woman wants to refuse a medical procedure. That is something that should be between a patient and their medical practitioner, not a government elected official and their constituent. Just as it is not an employer’s place to force a vaccine on its employees. Y’all don’t have to worry about your jobs. Y’all are exempt. If my husband loses his job, our family of seven loses our health insurance. We lose our pension. He loses his retirement insurance. And at our age, it’s not– somebody yesterday, one of– I don’t know who was– said, Just go find a job where they don’t require vaccines. It’s not that easy to just pick up and go find another job. I’ve had adverse reactions to seven different vaccines, including Bell’s Palsy, Bell’s palsy and one of the worst case of mumps my doctor has ever seen. This is why choice is so important. Side effects from vaccines are not as rare as the manufacturers lead you to believe.]We are here for our individual liberties, period. Not for businesses, not for corporations, for our individual liberties. And I’m asking you to do whatever it takes to protect the citizens of Arkansas, not the corporations. Don’t make us regret our decision for moving here.
Bledsoe [01:29:00] All right.
C Reeves [01:29:00] Because if need be, we will leave.
Bledsoe [01:29:02] Thank you. Did your husband– would he like to say something as well? All right. Please identify yourself for the record.
D Reeves [01:29:12] Yes, ma’am. I’m David Reeves, also from Mountain View, Arkansas of course. I’m going to be real brief. We are definitely against these mandates, and we stand strong for personal immunities. And I’m sorry, I’m a little nervous too. I don’t like speak in front of a bunch of people. But about seven years ago, my wife had a back surgery and that resulted in her taking a fluoroquinolone for an infection that she got after that back surgery. That antibiotic almost killed this woman right here. She was in a wheelchair. Sorry. She was in a wheelchair. I had to have her dad come and sit with her while I went to work. We stopped– we walked away from the medical system that day. They wanted to take her thyroid out. They wanted to radiate her thyroid. They didn’t have any answers for us. This was an antibiotic that they deemed safe. You know, we didn’t ask any questions. We trusted the doctor. We did what he told us to do. And we treated this naturally. Like I said, we walked away from doctors. We went whole foods. I’m not going to get into the details, but you see, you’re sitting right here right now. I’ve had COVID. She’s had COVID. My kids have had COVID. Thank God, we followed the natural path before we got it because I ran fever for a day. You know, her too. You take care of the terrain, your immune system takes care of you. You know, her dad, elderly people have had COVID. They take care of themselves. Her dad just got blood tests last week. Eleven months later, he still has antibodies.
C Reeves [01:31:07] Natural, natural antibodies.
D Reeves [01:31:08] Natural antibodies. So where is, where is that included in these mandates? Why can’t that be part of if these businesses are wanting to protect themselves, why don’t they offer people with natural immunities, antibodies. Why isn’t that in there with it?
Bledsoe [01:31:27] All right.
D Reeves [01:31:27] So I’m sorry, I’m done. Thanks.
Bledsoe [01:31:29] Well, thank you so much for your testimony. Questions from the committee? Seeing none, thank you so very much. All right. Perry Mannus and this gentleman over here. You said you’d been waiting a long time. You have a Perry– is he coming? Perry Mannus. OK. And have I left out anyone else? These are–
Turner [01:31:57] [01:31:57]I was number four on the list.
Bledsoe [01:32:02] [01:32:02]You were number four on the list? What is your name, sir?
Turner [01:32:05] [01:32:05]Chad Turner.
Bledsoe [01:32:08] [01:32:08]Well, it doesn’t– you didn’t put down this particular bill.
Turner [01:32:13] [01:32:13]I understand that, but seeing how the gentleman from, representing the business were talking about multiple bills out there. I can do the same thing.
Bledsoe [01:32:20] [01:32:20]Well, I think you need to wait, sir.
Turner [01:32:24] [01:32:24]I understand that, ma’am.
Bledsoe [01:32:24] [01:32:24] I think you need to wait because all of these people here are not going to get to– we’re not going to get to vote on the bill if we continue to–
Turner [01:32:34] [01:32:34]When, when will the committee be meeting back afterwards?
Bledsoe [01:32:37] [01:32:37]Well, we have to go into session at 11:00. I’m hoping this afternoon. I’m hoping– in fact, I’ve just sent a text to the President Pro Tem of the Senate saying that I would like to come back after session.
Turner [01:32:53] And with that, respectfully, I will just come back after the session then.
Bledsoe [01:32:57] All right. Any other people? OK.Right. This lady right here.
McClain [01:33:05] I actually came here to speak against all the bills. I wrote all. My name is Veronica McClain.
Bledsoe [01:33:11] All right. I didn’t see that. I’m sorry, if you could– I’ll just–
McClain [01:33:15] I know it’s a lot.
Bledsoe [01:33:16] So and there’s another, another sheet as well. But all right. After these people, I will let you speak against. Now anyone else. You want to speak for or against?
Unknown audience [01:33:32] For, but I was number two on the list. [unintelligible]
Bledsoe [01:33:36] So you want to speak on the other bills later?
Unknown audience [01:33:39] I will just speak later on the other bills.
Unknown audience [01:33:43] I signed up with several others, but we have to leave at noon to go get our children. And we are up here for the second day this week so I’d like to speak.
Bledsoe [01:33:50] All right. Come to the table. I’m going to put three at the table. All right. Was there a third one?
Unknown audience [01:34:11] I, I put down to speak for these bills, but generally speaking about [?] the bills. I’d like to address what Mr. Zook and the other gentleman–
Bledsoe [01:34:24] Eid you put down this particular bill?
Unknown audience [01:34:27] No.
Bledsoe [01:34:27] OK, then–
Unknown audience [01:34:28] You want me to come back after–.
Bledsoe [01:34:29] Please, and I don’t want to say I’m positive that we will be back, but I do hope so. Now we’re wasting time.
Unknown audience [01:34:37] I’m down for two, but I think my name is on that list as well. And that list for the next bill. But I’ll speak with this one.
Bledsoe [01:34:45] Well, if you’re not on this bill–
Unknown audience [01:34:47] I am.
Bledsoe [01:34:47] You are–
Unknown audience [01:34:48] I think I signed– I don’t know if it’s behind her. I signed up late.
Bledsoe [01:34:50] All right. Well go to the table, but this is it. All right. You have a motion.
Hester [01:34:58] I just want to say, I think the chair has been, been very clear. But she’s a super sweet person and maybe is not as clear to– I think 99 percent of the people in this room are about to get what you want if you let us vote. Or we can hear testimony. And it’s super important. And clearly how passionate everyone is, they want to be heard and you need to be heard. We want you to be heard. But that’s about all you’re going to get is to be heard and not what you want, what you came here for. So we will sit here– I will sit here till 10:00 tonight and hear everyone. Then we don’t vote and give you what you want. You understand? Like, I think we’ve just– the chair’ss been very nice and told you that. I think you’re about to get everything you want. So please continue. We will hear you as long as you want to be heard and then you’ll get what you want. Or we can–.
Sullivan [01:35:49] I’ll add to that– folks, we already voted this bill out once. So it’s already been voted out of committee and gone to the floor. So it’s fairly clear that you’re not talking to your opponents. You’re talking to the people that have supported what you want and have already passed this bill out of committee. So we do need to get to the floor so that we can address these things on the floor. Thank you.
Unknown audience [01:36:11] I’ll wait for the next one, because that’s more important to me.
Bledsoe [01:36:14] All right. And may I say this, we have a process here, and that’s why I gave the instructions three times. We want to, we want to hear everything you want to say, but we’re running out of time. And I think Senator Hester and Senator Sullivan made a good point. We’ll stay. We’ll have to go to session, then we’ll come back and you– but we’ll stay all afternoon to hear what you want, what you want to say. But we will not be able to vote if we run out of time. So, all right, if you would be very succinct. You’ve waited a long time, sir. And if you would be very succinct. we want to hear everything that you want to say though. Just be succinct and you as well and introduce yourself for the record, please.
Keeter [01:37:03] My name is Dustin Keetar. I’ve been a nurse in Arkansas for almost 20 years. I left my job at Mercy probably six to eight weeks ago because of the vaccine mandate. That was their only leverage that they had over me was my job. And that was my only leverage point, so I left. I did not give them the opportunity to replace me. Whenever you go into the medical field, the very basis– and we’ve hit on this before– of, of medical care is informed consent. That is the very basis, and it’s informed. If the patient has to talk to the physician before any procedure is done. When you go pick up a prescription, the pharmacist explains to you what the medication is for, what it might interact with. Whenever I decided not to take this vaccine, I went through and I looked at all the available information, my potential to be critically ill from it, my potential will have side effects from the vaccine. And just to make it short, all of the above was very unclear. The very system is unreliable. During the 106th Congress, they actually met on a committee and discussed the nature of the VAERS system and how unreliable it was and the adversarial nature that the, that the government had had formed against people that were seeking reimbursement for vaccine injury. That was in 2006. In 2007 as a reaction to that, I believe to that meeting, they actually funded a study for Ross VAERS– excuse me, for Ross Lazarus, to look into the amount of people that actually report vaccine injury, which we’ve talked about that– less than one percent. They try to provide the information to the CDC and it was ignored. They wouldn’t even return their phone calls. So our government knows that. And I’m pro vaccine. I’m pro vaccine, but it needs to be studied. They keep rationalizing this vaccine requirement through things like smallpox and all this other nonsense, which have infinitely higher death rates than what this this virus does. They cannot tell me that I can give informed consent for this vaccine. None of them can, and they will require you to sign a consent that says you understand that. And you also have to sign a piece of paper that says that they will not be held liable for your reaction, for any reactions for at all, period. And any reactions that you might have, they actually give you a piece of paper to say you need to report your reaction to a V safe database, which does not communicate with the VAERS system. I got that from the V safe area. They don’t, they don’t communicate between each other, so I cannot give informed consent for this at all.
Bledsoe [01:40:16] OK. All right, thank you. Any questions for this witness? All right. Ma’am, you’re ready. Introduce yourself for the record.
Drury [01:40:25] My name is Jaqueline Drury. I’m from Pea Ridge, Arkansas. I’m a single mom of three children. One of the individuals I’m speaking about today is my son. I was here on Wednesday. It is an honor and a disappointment to be back here today after all of the work we did on Wednesday for what the Senate did yesterday. Missy Irvin is wrong. The public knew. There were 500 of us on these Capitol steps to support these bills. We showed up in the committee meeting afterwards, and Chelsea specifically testified there as well. Senate– Deborah Ferguson asked Chelsea, who had told her the COVID vaccine was bad, who convinced her not to get the COVID vaccine. I have a list here for me personally who since 2015 has worked on convincing me not to get this COVID vaccine. They are Harvey Pediatrics of Bentonville, Pediatric Dr. Pollard, Northwest Medical of Springdale, DHS and CPS of Arkansas, Sanofi, the maker of Ranitidine, which is a Zantac medication that my son was given at six weeks old. They are also the largest company in the world, devoted entirely now to vaccines because their Ramitidine has been recalled and there is a class action lawsuit against it. Six years ago, my son was given this medication at four weeks old for acid reflux. I trusted my doctor. I trusted the pediatrician over my son. At six weeks old, he turned blue. He had a seizure. We were admitted to the hospital, and one of the side effects known for Ramitidine is throwing false positive drug screens for methamphetamines. The E.R. doctor filed a case against us with DHS, even though his second drug screen taken immediately after came back negative. His blood work came back negative. His father and I came back negative. His babysitter, who he was with– this was my first day back to work, was negative. No one wanted to stand up and take my son’s case and hold people accountable that made him sick, not the doctors, not the hospitals, not DHS, not CPS, no one. And now it’s been recalled because it’s unsafe. My second story is about my mother.
Bledsoe [01:42:52] Would you please make it–
Drury [01:42:54] I will. The VA of Fayetteville, Arkansas, UAMS, Mercy, VA Police Department, Senator Bledsoe and the OAG. My mother was sexually assaulted by a doctor at the VA hospital who was on a medical internship from UAMS and Mercy. We reached out. Bob Ballinger, love you. Thank you for fighting for us. We sent you information. We sent you information. We heard from neither of you. We sent information to the White House. We were heard by the OAG. The doctor admitted to what he did and said that was part of the gynecological procedure because he couldn’t get the speculum into her vagina. Not only has the medical system failed my family, we reached out to you individuals for help as well and you failed us. And now I implore you take a different direction this time. Do not let these employers do this to these employees. I’m safe. My employer is not doing this to me, but my friends are not and my children are going to grow up in a world that is not. I need you all to vote to protect the citizens of Arkansas today.
Bledsoe [01:44:01] Thank you so much. Question.
Hammer [01:44:07] You’ve referenced that we failed you yesterday and that this was heard. Was it– was what– is what you were referring to, did it get heard in this room in front of this committee? Or were you on the House side giving testimony in the House public health?
Drury [01:44:23] We were in the House side, sir.
Hammer [01:44:24] There’s a big difference. And that’s why it was sent back yesterday was so that you all could have the opportunity to come into this room. I want to make this important distinction because we’re getting blasted both on Facebook and now in this room that you had an opportunity. Yes, you did. But the way the system works down here, you get the opportunity to speak in House public health– you didn’t have that opportunity. And that’s why we wanted this referred back into this room so y’all could be here today to express the opinions that the chair has given you great latitude to do, of which I agree. And as was referenced while ago, when you walk out of here as far as this bill, I think you will be happy. Had that not happened yesterday, this would not have occurred and all the debate would have been on the Senate floor and you would had been denied that privilege. And that’s why we wanted to make sure it got put back in here. That– I want to hear– I want you to hear that because we wanted to hear what you have to say today. And barring what we did yesterday, you would not. I don’t care what anybody put out on their Facebook. I don’t care who’s running for office put anything out on Facebook. That’s the reality of the matter and that’s the truth. And you’ve been provided that platform today. I think all of us appreciate you being here today. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Bledsoe [01:45:42] Thank you. All right, ladies and gentlemen, are they any of the questions for the witness? All right, thank you so much. All right, ladies and gentlemen, you’ve heard the testimony you’ve heard– OK. All right. I’m sorry. One that is against. Yes, please. Please state your name for the record. And after this, we are going to take a vote.
V McClain [01:46:12] My name is Veronica McClain. I’m a parent here in Arkansas. I’m also a social worker. And I’m here today not to necessarily speak against anybody in this room because these individual stories are heartbreaking. And for every story here today, there is an opposite story of suffering and economic loss due to COVID. Covid death and long COVID disability continue to occur. So I also hear the suffering that’s in this room and people who feel like their rights are being taken away. My concern is not necessarily who’s right or wrong right here. But are we listening to the professionals? Are we listening to the constitutional attorneys that are talking about whether or not these laws are constitutional? Are we listening to the doctors that are studying these vaccines, the doctors that are treating these COVID patients? Are we listening to the people that have been harmed by COVID, as well? As someone who has recently sued the state of Arkansas and this body because of an unconstitutional law that you passed, Act 1002– I’m sure I’m going to get some fun comments after this– but I didn’t do that to, to force masks on anybody. I did that because that law was unconstitutional, and it took away local control. As a conservative state, as a Republican led legislature– I was raised by conservatives who told me that local control and less government is better. I’m not seeing that anymore. We seem to be pandering to this weird politicization of a pandemic. Employers in this state have more rights than employees. We are an at will state. We always have been. Y’all took away the right for employers to unionize during this session. Teachers can no longer do that. They can’t be recognized. So, you know, I hear what people are saying, but y’all are talking out of both sides of your mouth with these bills that you’re presenting. And so what I would ask is that you stop wasting taxpayer money. Pause. Take a breath and please consider, is this going to go to court? Is this going to cost us more money? That’s what we really need to be thinking about. All of these people have very valid arguments, and they matter. They absolutely matter. But that is not your job to make laws based on how one individual feels. Your job is to protect the public health and to defend the constitution of this state and of the United States. You all took an oath. So I would just ask you to please consider that. But I also really, really appreciate the fact that you allowed all of these people to come in and share their stories because they do deserve to be heard. And that is your job to listen to them just as it’s your job to listen to me. We don’t always have to agree, but we do have a constitution and we have rules in place for a reason. Thank you for your time.
Bledsoe [01:50:01] All right. Just a minute. Just a minute. Wait a minute. Are there any questions from the committee? All right. Seeing none, thank you so much. All right, senator. Would you like to close for your bill?
B Johnson [01:50:14] Yes.
Bledsoe [01:50:26] Now, remember what we talked about. If you like what’s going to happen here, save all of that until you’re outside the room, please. And we will come back. Hang around. I’ve had– I talked to the president pro tem and we will come back shortly. So with that, please, Senator Johnson, close for your bill.
B Johnson [01:50:50] Thank you, members. We didn’t adopt, that I can remember, my amendments. Did we? Did we? Okay. All right. There is no more– as the last speaker, there is no more local control than an individual basis. And this bill protects all individuals in the state of Arkansas with those exemptions. And that, with what she sued about, ultimate local control was to the individual basis. The– I appreciate everyone coming and everyone’s testimony, and I tried to walk the line as defined in person. That person is the corporations in the state of Arkansas, and individual people in the state of Arkansas as recognized by our laws. And that corporations should be granted the same protections as individuals because they are, when it’s broke down, individuals and citizens also. And this bill protects those individual freedoms and liberties and the people of Arkansas. And it also tries to, to not– our right to work state does not damage that. The, the push from the federal government is a possibility and a probability, but it’s not right now. Right now, this is a matter of choice and how those private companies are handling the citizens. I would appreciate a good vote and thank you guys for allowing me to close today.
Bledsoe [01:53:11] All right, ladies and gentlemen, you’ve heard testimony. You’ve had–
Sullivan [01:53:15] I have a question for the chair.
Bledsoe [01:53:16] All right.
Sullivan [01:53:17] If– yesterday, there were some questions about whether state agencies were here to speak against the bill or for the bill. I just want it on the record that there are no state agencies here to speak opposed to this bill. Is that correct?
Bledsoe [01:53:30] As far as I know.
Sullivan [01:53:31] Thank you.
Bledsoe [01:53:32] If they are here, I would ask that they raise their hand and we’ll let them speak. We did hear from–
Sullivan [01:53:40] I guess it’s probably too late. So just acknowledging that we’ve already closed testimony. It’s too late for them to speak. I just like to acknowledge, acknowledge that on the record, that no one showed up from any of the state agencies.
Bledsoe [01:53:52] No, we did have– we did have testimony.
Unknown Senator [01:53:53] Commerce, Commerce.
Sullivan [01:53:57] Good point. Ok, Department of Commerce. Thank you.
Bledsoe [01:53:58] All right. All right, ladies and gentlemen, you’ve heard testimony. You’ve heard, you’ve heard the bill explained and you’ve heard testimony. What is the will of the committee? All right.
Unknown Senator [01:54:11] Move do pass.
Bledsoe [01:54:12] As amended.
Unknown Senator [01:54:13] As amended.
Bledsoe [01:54:14] That’s right. All right. The question on the floor is– at the table is a motion do pass as amended. What is the will of the committee? All those– okay, and we have that second from Hester, Sen. Hester. All right. What is the will of the committee? All those, all those in favor– and remember in the committee room what I’ve said, please. All those in favor say aye. All those opposed. Congratulations. You have passed your bill.
Unknown audience [01:54:51] Hallelujah.
Bledsoe [01:54:56] Shhhh. And we– hang around. You can go have lunch or whatever, but we will be back as soon as we can in this committee room for the rest of the bills.