House of Representatives

October 5, 2021

 

Shepherd [00:04:46] I invite the members, staff, press, and guests in the galleries to stand and be led in prayer by Representative Frederick Love and remain standing for the Pledge of Allegiance to be led by Representative Lane Jean. 

 

Love [00:05:04] You should have saw that back row when he said Fred Love was going to pray. Everyone, let’s be in an attitude of prayer. Heavenly Father, we first come just thanking you for waking up this morning. Heavenly Father, thank you for blessing us with this day that we were not promised. Heavenly Father, we pray that we just take your wisdom, Heavenly Father, and apply to all decisions that we are making today. We pray that you’ll keep us. We pray that you would deliver us back home safely. And we pray that we find our homes and our families in safe condition. This we pray in Jesus name, amen. 

 

Unidentified [00:05:43] [Pledge of Allegiance]

 

Shepherd [00:06:00] Members, please indicate your presence by pushing the yellow present button. Prepare the machine, Mr Clerk. Cast up the ballot, Mr Clerk. With 95 members present, the chair sees a quorum. Are there any requests for leave? Rep. McNair, for what purpose? 

 

McNair [00:06:47] Leave for Representative Cozart. 

 

Shepherd [00:06:49] Is leave granted for Rep. Cozart? So noted. Rep. Allen, for what purpose? 

 

Allen [00:06:53] Leave for Represent Barker. 

 

Shepherd [00:06:55] Is leave granted for Rep. Barker? So noted. Rep. Gazaway, for what purpose? You’re recognized. 

 

Gazaway [00:07:02] Leave for Representative Mayberry. 

 

Shepherd [00:07:03] Is leave granted for Rep. Mayberry? So noted. Rep. McCullough, for what purpose? 

 

McCullough [00:07:08] Leave. 

 

Shepherd [00:07:09] You’re recognized. 

 

McCullough [00:07:10] Leave for Rep. Denise Garner. 

 

Shepherd [00:07:12] Is leave granted for Representative Denise Garner? So noted. Representative Holcomb, for what purpose? 

 

Holcomb [00:07:17] Leave. 

 

Shepherd [00:07:18] You’re recognized. 

 

Holcomb [00:07:19] Leave for Representative Bragg. 

 

Shepherd [00:07:21] Is leave granted for Rep. Bragg? So noted. Rep. Frederick Love moves we dispense with the reading of the previous day’s journal. Without objection, so ordered. Are there reports from select committees? Are there reports from standing committees? Read the reports, Mr Clerk. 

 

Clerk [00:07:38] Mr. Speaker, we the Committee on Public Health, Welfare, and Labor, to whom was referred Senate Bill 739 beg leave to report that we’ve had the same under consideration and herewith return the same with the recommendation that do pass. Respectfully submitted, Jack Ladyman, chair. 

 

Shepherd [00:07:50] Is there any unfinished business? Are there any executive communications? Morning hour’s ended. Rep. McKenzie, for what purpose? 

 

McKenzie [00:08:27] Point of clarification. 

 

Shepherd [00:08:28] Let’s hear your point. 

 

McKenzie [00:08:30] I have a question about the ruling of the chair regarding SB 730 being declared, I believe, entered improperly. 

 

Shepherd [00:08:50] Represent McKenzie, SB 730 was passed by the Senate yesterday and was transmitted to the House. Upon reading the bill across the desk, as is our normal practice yesterday evening, after my review of the bill, I determined that the bill did not meet the requirements of the resolution in the proclamation by which we’re convened. Specifically and consistent with my past interpretation of the resolution, SB 730 makes no mention, while it does refer to COVID 19, it makes no mention of COVID 19 relief funds, specifically the American Rescue Plan. And just as I did with Representative Bryant’s bill, I determined it was improperly introduced. Before, I reached out to– I reached out to Rep. Garner before I made that determination. I attempted to reach, to contact him by telephone and also texted him so that he would be aware of that. Obviously, I understand he disagrees with my interpretation, but that is, is my interpretation of the resolution, and that is the reason why I ruled that it was improperly introduced. 

 

McKenzie [00:10:03] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to object to that ruling at this time. 

 

Shepherd [00:10:33] All right, members. So as I understand the motion, the motion is to appeal the ruling of the chair that SB 730 was improperly introduced and therefore was not assigned to a committee. That is a proper motion. It is debatable. OK. The parliamentarian has advised me that, given the nature of the motion, that I can explain my ruling and then Rep. McKenzie would be allowed to, to explain her motion, and then we would have normal debate as is our normal practice. To the– as further explanation, members, I would call your attention to House concurrent resolution 1015, which this was introduced by myself and Senator Hickey and was passed by the House. This is the resolution that allowed us to go into extended recess. Probably the most relevant portions of House concurrent resolution 1015, and similarly, the proclamation by which myself and Senator Hickey reconvened the House is over on Page 5, subsection G. It says that the president pro tem of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives may by joint proclamation reconvene the General Assembly at any time for the purpose of: a) considering vetoes, b) correcting errors and oversights, c) completing its work on congressional redistricting, d) considering legislation related to the COVID 19 public health emergency and distribution of COVID 19 relief funds, and e) considering the need for further extension of the regular session of the 93rd General Assembly or to adjourn sine die the regular session of the 93rd General Assembly. And then it goes on to conclude the resolution. Members, as I studied that resolution– obviously, at the time the resolution was introduced, we probably– who would have known that, that the language would become so hotly debated. But my review of it was that, as you look at considering vetoes, considering errors and oversights, completing its work on redistricting, considering legislation related to COVID 19 emergency and distribution and considering the need for further extension, there is an ‘and’ between between D and E. My interpretation of that was that therefore when we reconvened that we had to reconvene for all of those purposes. And that’s I– you might think, what does this have to do with my ruling? I interpreted ‘and’ to mean all of those. There actually was an argument that Senator Hickey and myself could have reconvened the House strictly for redistricting, but I did not believe that was consistent with the plain language of the resolution. I’m telling you this because, similarly, under subsection D, it says, considering legislation related to the COVID 19 public health emergency and distribution of COVID 19 relief funds. And consistent with my decision that I had, that we had to reconvene for all those purposes, for the same reason I interpreted that ‘and’ to likewise be inclusive of both COVID 19 public health emergency and the distribution of COVID 19 relief funds. The resolution, the only funds that the resolution refers to, are the– I believe it’s referred to as the American Rescue, American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. And many have heard Senator Hickey many times in the past say that the intention of this resolution was to allow us flexibility to deal with those funds because when we went into recess, guidance had not been promulgated back yet by the federal government. And so Senator Hickey’s view is a narrow view of that. But I can tell you that that certainly was his intention at the time. I’ve interpreted it based on the plain language of the resolution, and therefore for the same reason that I felt that I had to reconvene for all of those purposes, it is the same reason I believe that any bill to be filed in this House or in the Senate for consideration by the House, if it relates to COVID 19, it must also relate to the American Rescue Plan Act. And that was my decision. And that’s why I ruled it was improperly introduced, just as I did Representative Bryants bill early in the session. And so obviously, if I’ve done that for– if I ruled that way with respect to a House member, I would certainly attempt to rule the same way for a member of the Senate. Irrespective of my personal opinions on any of these bills, I would hope that the body would know that I am guided by the rules of the House, the statutes and constitution of the state of Arkansas and the plain language of resolutions that this House passes. And therefore, I made my decision that this was improperly introduced. Rep. McKenzie, you may explain your motion.

 

McKenzie [00:15:57] Thank you, Mr Speaker. A couple of things. With regard to Representative Bryant’s bill, if you recall, I did stand up and object to that as well. If I recall correctly, I think there was some confusion, but I think he also stood up and let us know that he was pulling that one down. So I didn’t see the point to, to further this discussion. With regard to the ruling of the speaker, if you take a look at that, that resolution that we passed, 1015, first of all, my understanding is of judicial review that the courts look at the plain language of the bill, of the legislation, of the resolution. If it is not ambiguous, that’s where it ends. We don’t go on to an intent discussion at that point. And that is fair to our citizens. It makes sense. No citizen should have to see what laws we pass up here, take a look at it and say, All right, I understand what that means. But wait, I better call the sponsor and see what they were thinking. That is, that is the principle behind the judicial review concept that we look at, the plain meaning of the bill. And if it’s not ambiguous, we stop with the legislative intent. I don’t believe that this is ambiguous. That can be open for discussion. But even if this were ambiguous, if you take a look at the beginning of this resolution, you’ll see whereas, whereas enumerated individually. We, we see whereas we have an issue with redistricting. We don’t have the census figures. Whereas, the next enumerated, whereas we are in a state of emergency, and it recognized both state of emergencies. The Arkansas State of emergency, 60 days, and the federal state of emergency, still ongoing. And next enumerated, it dealt with whereas we have these COVID 19 relief funds that we must tend to. So even if there is ambiguity, we’ve got a problem and that our own resolution sets out above those entities, those three different things, the two different COVID matters individually, not together. This resolution also references the only case that’s really close to being on point, and its, and its intent to be structured within those guidelines. Thought went into this resolution. If the intent, which, again, only matters if this is ambiguous language. If the intent was that those two– that it was to only reference the COVID 19 relief funds, why, why would we throw confusion in there and mention the COVID 19 emergency? Now, in typical fashion for me, I’m not even sure I support this bill. I’ve got some concerns about it. But I think we need to be consistent. I think we do have some guidelines here for judicial review. And we’re also aware that the Senate came to a different conclusion. But primarily, I go back to the standard for judicial review. This language, I believe, was clear. If it was unclear, we pretty much referenced our intent in the resolution itself. Thank you. 

 

Shepherd [00:19:37] Rep. McKenzie has explained the motion. Would anyone like speak against the motion? Would anyone like to speak for the motion? Represent Lowery, for what purpose? You recognized to speak for the motion. 

 

Lowery [00:20:05] Thank you, Mr Speaker. I certainly respect the speaker’s counsel that he’s been given by our parliamentarian that the word ‘and’ as a connector typically would say that you have to do both things. But ‘and’ is really many times in English writing is just used to create a more fluid sentence, that it is not, that one section is not conditional upon the other. But the most important point that I wanted to make is that, you know, we really are establishing, I think, a very harmful precedent, one that might even come back to bite us during this session. And it is that the Senate did deem this bill as germane. Now I know that that was a, that was a ruling by the presiding officer, the lieutenant governor. It had lengthy debate by the members of the Senate. When there was an attempt to appeal that decision, and the Senate upheld his decision that the bill is germane. I think we really create a crisis or a tension between the House and Senate that goes beyond our typical tension that we know exists. But it could be very problematic when it comes to some of the other bills that are yet to, to go between the House and the Senate, could even, could even affect the redistricting. I just would object to the the argument that ‘and’ is a conditional connector, that you have to operate, there has to be operational connection between the two. ‘And’ in this case just to– basically points to the same general area of discussion. So for those reasons, I would ask that you would vote for the appeal of the decision of the chair. 

 

Shepherd [00:22:07] Rep. Lowery has spoken for the motion. Would anyone like to speak against the motion? Would anyone like to speak for the motion? Rep., Rep. Fite, for what purpose? 

 

Fite [00:22:21] Just a question. Could you clarify before the vote what the for and against means, please? 

 

Shepherd [00:22:28] Yes, I will clarify before we vote. Rep. McKenzie, are you closed for the resolution– I mean, for the motion? Rep. McKenzie is closed for the motion. The parliamentarian has advised that I have the opportunity to rebut the motion. And as to the arguments that are presented, perhaps I wasn’t clear. The only reason I offered up intent was to demonstrate we are not even acting consistent with what has been stated was the intent. The intent, Senator Hickey has stated, was to only deal with COVID 19 relief funds. I’ve said that that was his intent, but I’m telling you that I’ve interpreted it consistent with the plain language of the resolution. And to Representative Lowery’s point, that is true. Sometimes there is that use. But then later on in the resolution, we use the term ‘or.’ So if we’re going to– if– we would be rendering the term ‘or’ meaningless if now we’re going to say ‘and’ is not inclusive of all those. And finally, it’s– what is the point of adding COVID 19 relief funds if it doesn’t have to connect back to the COVID 19 emergency? In other words, you would have just said COVID 19 emergency, because that includes the relief funds. It includes the mask. It includes quarantine. It includes everything. So why did we specify that? And to be clear, my view is that it is not as narrow as just COVID 19 relief funds, but that I believe any bill that’s introduced must not only touch on the COVID 19 emergency, it must touch on the COVID 19 relief funds, which specifically are the American Rescue Plan. And then finally, now the argument is that somehow this will do damage to our relationship with the Senate. So now are we going to be beholden  to the Senate’s interpretation? I will tell you this. I doubt there is anybody in the great state of Arkansas that has spent more time reading this resolution, looking at the law– this is not based on strictly the parliamentarian’s advice. This is based on the advice after consultation with multiple attorneys and my reading of it. Because irrespective of personal opinions, it is important as we’ve all, as we all can understand, it is important that we apply the resolution consistently, and I am absolutely confident that we are applying it consistently. And based upon the plain language of the resolution, to allow a resolution, a motion to move forward that does not touch on the American Rescue Plan funds not only throws wide open this resolution and largely causes it to be meaningless, I think it would jeopardize most, most of the other work that we’re going to do. Represent Lowery, for what purpose? 

 

Lowery [00:25:12] Question. 

 

Shepherd [00:25:13] You’re recognized.  

 

Lowery [00:25:14] I wanted to ask you, in terms of your explanation, you reference a list of things related to COVID, and one of them is quarantines. Is there a COVID relief funds connection to quarantines? Is there a cost to quarantines? 

 

Shepherd [00:25:32] It would all depend on the language of the bill. 

 

Lowery [00:25:34] Yeah. Follow up. 

 

Shepherd [00:25:36] I mean, there are other bills that have been filed that I think could be questionable. But I did not– I’m trying to be consistent. If it was referencing the American Rescue Plan, we’ve allowed those to go forward. 

 

Lowery [00:25:49] Follow up. 

 

Shepherd [00:25:50] You’re recognized. 

 

Lowery [00:25:51] Sp your clarification is that any of the other bills that may be coming to us, if there is not a, a provision that talks about relief funds, they also would be in your interpretation, would not be germane. 

 

Shepherd [00:26:04] That’s my view. But I would reserve the right to look at the language of the bill. I mean, I try to not make it based on, you know, just gut feeling or what, what I personally think. I want to read the bill. But that’s, that’s been my view, and that’s been, that’s been– I’ve been consistent on that all along, even though that differs from Senator Hickey. Rep. Flowers, for what purpose? You’re recognized. 

 

Flowers [00:26:30] Question. 

 

Shepherd [00:26:31] You’re recognized. 

 

Flowers [00:26:32] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just wanted to clarify. So this is, what this vote would do is overturn your decision and interpretation to allow us to consider a Senate bill that you’re saying doesn’t fall within the language of the call. 

 

Shepherd [00:26:54] The motion is an appeal of the chair’s ruling. If that motion is successful, then– so the motion is shall the decision of the chair stand as the judgment of the House. If that motion is successful, then my understanding is that then I can either refer that to the Rules Committee or I could refer it to the full House for consideration. 

 

Flowers [00:27:16] So a yes would be to, for your decision to stand or to overturn it?

 

Shepherd [00:27:23] Correction, this is, this is a vote. A negative, a negative vote would overturn my decision. 

 

Flowers [00:27:30] OK, no, OK. So if I say yes, what am I saying yes to? 

 

Shepherd [00:27:36] You’re–  you’re, you’re sustaining my decision. You’re agreeing with me. 

 

Flowers [00:27:42] And follow up, sir?

 

Shepherd [00:27:44] You’re recognized. 

 

Flowers [00:27:47] Could, could the sponsor of the bill in question amend his bill to reflect whatever concerns that the House has based upon its consistency with the call>

 

Shepherd [00:28:02] That could happen, but the bill would have to be recalled to the Senate. 

 

Flowers [00:28:05] OK, thank you so much. 

 

Shepherd [00:28:08] Represented Lowery, for what purpose? 

 

Lowery [00:28:11] Parliamentary inquiry. 

 

Shepherd [00:28:14] You’re recognized. 

 

Lowery [00:28:14] My understanding that the motion on the floor is appealing the decision of the chair. So a yes vote would sustain that appeal and would overturn your ruling. 

 

Shepherd [00:28:25] I’ll let the parliamentarian answer.

 

Parliamentarian [00:28:28] Thank you for the question, Representative Lowery. The question that will be before the House is: Shall the decision of the chair stand as the judgment of the House? Shall the decision of the chair stand as a judgment of the House? So the question is to sustain the speaker. It’s not to overturn the speaker. It’s a, it’s a positive action. 

 

Love [00:28:52] OK, thank you. 

 

Shepherd [00:29:01] Rep. Ray, for what purpose? 

 

Ray [00:29:02] Parliamentary inquiry. 

 

Shepherd [00:29:04] You’re recognized. 

 

Ray [00:29:05] Is the vote threshold for this measure a majority, or is it a majority of those voting? 

 

Parliamentarian [00:29:15] Thank you, Representative Ray. The vote threshold is this, is this. A majority vote in the negative overturns the decision of the chair. A majority vote or a tie vote sustains the decision of the chair. 

 

Shepherd [00:29:44] And the threshold is that of those voting. Any, any other, any other question? All right, members, just as a reminder. The ruling of the chair has been appealed. The question before the House is shall the decision of the chair stand as the judgment of the House. A majority vote in the negative overturns the decision of the chair. A no vote is against the decision of the chair. A majority vote or a tie vote for the motion sustains the decision. So a yes vote agrees with my decision. Any questions? All in favor, say aye. Any opposed. The ayes have it. Mr Clerk, please read House Bill 1972. 

 

Clerk [00:30:57] House Bill 1972 by Representative Bryant to address mandates related to coronavirus 2019, to provide exemptions for employees from mandates related to coronavirus 2019, and to declare emergency.

 

Shepherd [00:31:09] Ok, Rep. Bryant advises he wants to pass over 1972. Mr Clerk, please read House Bill 1977. 

 

Clerk [00:31:24] House Bill 1977 by Representative Bryant to provide employee exemptions from federal mandates and employer mandates related to coronavirus 2019 and to declare an emergency. 

 

Shepherd [00:31:34] Rep. Bryant, you’re recognized to explain the bill. 

 

Bryant [00:31:38] Thank you, Mr Speaker. After that activity and five days being here, I wish we could leave it right there, but we’re not there yet. I also apologize for having 1972 on the calendar for so long. With the way that we don’t know when the session is going to end, I was advised it’s probably better to keep it in case I got to– we just got to hit the hammer on it. So, so I will withdraw 1972 because 1977 is a more agreed upon bill. We took, had a little more time because redistricting obviously is taking a little bit longer that we were able to iron out the best we could some issues with 1972. So we got 1977 before us today. What I’d like to do is go through a few of the specifics of the bill and maybe add some statements or some comments. And then towards the end, just address a few of the issues that have brought forward to me by the colleagues of the House to see if we can get to a conclusion to see what’s best for the needs of Arkansans. So section one of the bill gives our legislative findings and intent. Obviously not codified. I have yet to find any member in here that isn’t concerned with the federal government mandating vaccines over Arkansans. If you do feel like that’s, that’s a good thing, sorry, I didn’t get to you yet. But my immediate survey says we have a problem with that. So but, do we have a problem with, with Arkansans mandating vaccines? And that is, that is a hard issue because conservatives say we’re for business, but we’re also for personal liberty. So as I said in committee, these two issues are going head to head right now. So then you just have to figure out, you know, which side of the fence do I step on based on the information and the science that I believe or that I interpret that is given to me. So what this bill does, it says vaccination mandates are an overreach of authority. Many employers will also, if they’re not already mandating internally as their decision, which is where the rub is, they will be mandated to by OSHA or by another federal entity. So the intent of this bill is to protect employees from that overreach and then also create a mechanism of potential funding for those that wish to do a different route rather than be force vaccinated. So if, if an employer mandates a vaccine– this bill doesn’t mandate that they do it– it just says if an employer chooses to mandate a vaccine– and to go off course of that, what we’re seeing is a lot of employers believe in the vaccine and they want to do that. But then they give basically a decree to all subsidiary businesses of theirs that just do business through contract or through this negotiation that they too are also going to mandate it. Even if that business says, I don’t want to do that for my employees. So we’re giving employers basically the authority of the state to start pushing their overreach into other businesses. So if, if an employer chooses to mandate it, or if they are told they’re going to mandate it by the federal government, what this bill does is say, you know, we’re not getting rid of title 7 exemptions. Federal law still has title 7 exemptions. However, most employees that are concerned with these mandates are saying, Look, I’ve got a title 7 exemption. I was medically exempt from getting this vaccine, or I was religiously exempt from getting this vaccine. And the response that the employer is giving them is, great, we’re going to put you on unpaid leave for 12 months. If you change your mind, call us back. We’ll put you on the line. And that’s just, I don’t think that was the intent of Title 7 exemptions. It was to work with the employee to keep them employed while they work through this. So, what this bill does, it says if that’s the case, the employer must offer, in addition to other things– if they want to offer, you know, wear a mask, to eat outside for lunch, to change their hours of work– if they choose to do that in addition to that, they’re going to give two different paths to prove that they are safe against other employees or other consumers or other auxiliary parts of their business. And to do that, they can test weekly. Now, a lot of you say, you know, test weekly, I think there’s debate. You know, what if they’re exposed more than– what if they’re exposed [unintelligible] have the ability to test. I think most reasonable Arkansans will work with their employer to do that. But I’d also like to note that even federal guidelines that are coming down through OSHA ,100 employees or more, that’s the same requirement they get, vaccinate or test weekly. So I believe there’s some, some evidence that says weekly testing will get us to a point where we’re actually trying to combat the virus. The other option is an antibody test. Now, as I said in committee, there are numerous studies, peer reviewed and government studies that say natural immunity is a valid reason to basically not vaccinate. So the CDC has always given that guideline. In fact, if I want to send my kids to school, I can go get them antibody tests in lieu of the vaccine if I think they’ve had it. And that’s an acceptable practice in the CDC and in our local governments in lieu of vaccination. Additionally, natural immunity in lieu of vaccines has been proven by the NIH, which is the National Institutes of Health, which obviously gets a lot of contracts from the FDA and the CDC to do these studies. So it’s a government study. They have determined through their studies that natural immunity can last six to eight months. That’s, that’s about the time that their levels start to break down a little bit. Does it drop below immunity levels that are safe for a public? It doesn’t. That’s just saying that’s when they’re seeing it drop below. So those are the two avenues. So if the employer is going to, to pave a road to vaccines, what we’re asking for is two additional lanes for employees to go back and forth. In addition to that, we worry about funding. So what this bill does is it directs the, the FDA to establish rules to use ARPA funds to potentially pay for that testing. So that’ll go through the normal process. And our ARPA funds have already been, already been appropriated. We, we being the sponsor of the bill or anybody as a member of these chambers can direct an expenditure out of those funds. It’ll go to the steering committee. The steering committee can approve it, deny it, change the amounts. If, if– once it goes beyond the steering committee, it goes to rules. Same thing. Approve it, change it. Then it goes to ALC for a vote. Now, if no funds are available, then the employee can ask their insurance company. Most insurance companies provide one weekly test. You go through a drive through, and you know, at your local mall, give your insurance card, get that test, give it to your employer. Or but,obviously, if that– and if that option is not available, the cost of the tests will be borne by the employee. We want them to make sure that they have skin in the game as well, because, you know, if an employer has, you know, 13 employees that don’t want to do it, that can start getting costly on the employer. So the employee will have some responsibility if they can’t get other sets of funding. And that, that ultimately is the essence of the bill. Some questions that get asked me is, aren’t we, aren’t we dictating to employees their employee, I’m sorry, dictate to employers the employee employer relationship. And my answer is kind of, in essence, is is to remind people that we did that with Act 516 last year. Representative Meeks had the bill about injecting microchips into employees, and this body voted overwhelmingly we didn’t want that. We did not want employers mandating that they can put a microchip in employees. And some might say, Well, that’s different. This is public safety. Well the body of evidence is growing that could dispute some of those public safety. We know are going to require booster shots every six to eight months? But the essence of 516 was we’re going to inject legislation in between the relationship between employees and employers. So then we pass on to, well, that’s just free market. As I alluded to earlier, free market is businesses compete with businesses. So but what happens when businesses collude and they lock out a profession? Is that– are we just going to say, Hey, you need to leave our state and go to a different state where we do not collude, allow our businesses to collude and lock you out? Because that’s what’s happening. I’ve got several, several constituents that are looking at moving to Nebraska or to Florida that have basically allowed these exemptions to pass and they haven’t colluded inside their industry. And then lastly, if it was truly free market, we wouldn’t have given out hundreds of millions of dollars to these businesses to survive. They would truly have to be part of their own free market. So if we’re going to give them our funds, just like when we take money from the federal government, we might not like all the ropes with it, but we’re tethered. It’s just the fact of it. So when businesses start taking our money to survive, they have to deal with our regulations, which are numerous. I talked to one of the representatives yesterday that said her HR said there’s 30 different questions I can’t ask employees because regulations won’t let me. So it’s not new precedence to, to be involved in employee employer relationship. In this case, we were just adding additional avenues for employees to take. And several employees are elated with this bill because they feel like they’re getting pushed down from their, the people that are paying their contracts because they’ve got no other option to take. So this gives them options to say, Look, I can give these options and you still need to be acceptable so we don’t have to lose our contracts. And the last one that just, just to address briefly is CMS and OSHA guidelines. So OSHA has already come out with their, basically their intent, but no laws. There are no rules have been made. And we don’t know when it’s going to be. So if we add– and CMS the same thing. They’ve said nursing homes are going to do it, but we still don’t have any rules on that as well. So we don’t know when we’re going to get those. Is it, is it likely? Yes, it is. And I mean, personally, I’m not– I think the federal government is the servant of the states. So I don’t want to necessarily put language in bills that say, I’m waiting on the federal government to tell us what to do, then we’ll do something different. If the federal government does come down, which likely they will, then the supremacy clause takes into effect. And I ask these questions to several smart lawyers, and they agree that it is a supremacy clause issue. Now one could be argued that it doesn’t necessarily match. What if one says, do A, and the other one says, do B? Well, the answer they give is they take whichever one is more stringent. The same thing that they’re going to suffer between CMS rules and OSHA rules. OSHA is going to give one direction for 100 or more employees and CMS is going to give it other rules for all employees. So what hospitals will do is they’ll take the more stringent of the two, which will likely be the CMS rules. So with that, I would like to let it be open for debate. I know several of you want to speak and, and have, you know, additional concerns of the bill, and so I’m going to step out of the well and let you–

 

Shepherd [00:43:52] Rep. Murdoch, you’re recognized. Rep. Bryant has left the well. Rep. Jean. Rep. Bryant has explained the bill. Would anyone like to speak against the bill? Rep. McCullough, you’re recognized to speak against the bill. 

 

McCullough [00:44:18] Thank you, Mr Speaker. I had a few questions, but I’ll try to just address in general what those would have been. I don’t really agree with the slippery slope argument regarding personal liberties. Businesses have the right to drug test and, and ask and require a lot of qualifications out of its workforce. There’s still a lot of unanswered questions and confusion. Some say businesses and government are trying to control people. I say they’re trying to protect. It’s what public health policy is for. People have choices of where they work. I have found that out personally in my life. This bill, like many others that we file, might be unconstitutional, and we’ll have to hemorrhage some more money defending that. And finally, it just seems counterproductive to me for us to work so hard in Arkansas to bring our numbers of infections and our deaths down and then oppose options to get us out of this pandemic. So I respectfully ask for a no vote. 

 

Shepherd [00:45:30] Rep. McCullough has spoken against the bill. Would anyone like to speak for the bill? Rep. Crawford, you’re recognized to speak for the bill. 

 

Crawford [00:45:41] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Hello, friends. Let’s get back to the basics. We’re a free people in a constitutional republic in an economic system of capitalism. It’s a wonderful thing. As Vince Lombardi said to his talented team of football players, we need to start with the basics. And he held up a football, and he said, this is a football. I stand before you talented legislators today and say we need to get back to the basics. This is the Declaration of Independence. This is the Constitution with the Bill of Rights. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are two of the most important and enduring documents in our nation’s history. It has been said that the Declaration of Independence was a promise and the Constitution was the fulfillment. The Declaration of Independence in the second paragraph says, We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it. And to institute new government laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall most likely to affect their safety and their happiness. As a legislative body, we are not the end. We are merely the voice for those who elected us. The corporations in Arkansas are a part of free enterprise, economic freedom and personal liberty. And we are grateful for them. And they’re part of making Arkansas a great place to work. But we are elected to be the voice of the people. We are a republic. A republic is a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them for governing. But we’re seeing tyranny. Tyranny is unjust or oppressive governmental power, a government in which a single ruler is vested with absolute power. We’re seeing edicts passed down from Washington, D.C. today. We’re watching it every day. Mandates and lockdowns or a tool of tyranny. We are in a pandemic and we bend for our countrymen, which we have done for the past 18 months. But we don’t lay down and we don’t give our freedoms away. We’re learning more about the virus. We’re learning about therapeutics that will heal before you’re sick enough to enter a hospital. We’re learning that vaccines are not foolproof against the virus. We’re learning that in some cases the shot is causing adverse effects in people, and it seems no one wants to tell us what’s in the vaccine. People have a right to know what is being injected in their bodies. The last time this was done on such a large scale was to the Jewish people when they were used as guinea pigs. Arkansas is a right to work state. You can be fired without representation. In this case of medical freedom, we are the people’s representation. Socialism has a choice, the same as a right to work state does. It provides needs for each person in exchange for the contributions of that person. This is what is happening in our country today. You take the shot, we’ll let you continue to work. We’re setting a dangerous precedence by allowing mandated vaccines that have only been tested for six months. We’re not even sure if there are long term side effects associated with this new vaccine. At some point, freedom must override fear. Instead of coming against the people, let us come together in legislation that works for all people. If you want to be vaccinated, you have the right to do so. If you don’t want to be vaccinated, you have the right to say no. I ask you today to vote on the side of freedom for the people as laid out in our constitution. Thank you. 

 

Shepherd [00:51:55] Rep. Crawford has spoken for the bill? Would anyone like to speak against the bill? Representative Clowney, you’re recognized to speak against the bill. 

 

Clowney [00:52:11] Thank you, Mr Speaker. Colleagues, I’ll be quick. I just want to– my main concern about this bill has to do with Medicare and Medicaid funding, and I just want to address something that Representative Bryant said in his presentation. In his presentation, he said that if CMS regulations come down and say hospitals that don’t have vaccine man– that do not have vaccine mandates will forfeit their Medicare and Medicaid funding. He said that if, if those regulations come down, that’s just a supremacy clause issue that goes to the federal courts. The courts will say federal law overrides state law and it will be taken care of. That’s not actually how it would work. The supremacy clause comes into play when two laws, a federal law and a state law, are in direct conflict with one another. If we pass this bill into law today and the CMS regulations come down as we expect they will that say vaccines must be mandated in hospitals or else those hospitals lose their funding, those two laws actually aren’t in conflict. They aren’t in conflict with each other. That’s not a conflict that the federal courts would then have to decide. That’s a conflict that every hospital would have to decide. The supremacy clause doesn’t govern that. That puts Arkansas hospitals in the position of having to choose between following state law or forfeiting those Medicare and Medicaid funds. Now, I think we all are assuming that they would choose to just break the state law. But I would argue that that’s a really bad and dangerous way to make policy, and I would just ask you all to consider that and vote no. Thank you. 

 

Shepherd [00:53:42] Rep. Clowney has spoken against the bill. Would anyone like to speak for the bill? Rep. Bentley, you’re recognized to speak for the bill. 

 

Bentley [00:54:00] Thank you, speaker. Colleagues, in the midst of these unprecedented times, I think it’s important that we sometimes periodically step back, climb out of the weeds and remember just what we’re here for. I had the opportunity last month to do just that when I took a trip down the Freedom Trail in Boston. I stopped at the site of the Boston massacre and the North Church and actually walked through Paul Revere’s home. As I touched the walls in Paul Revere’s house, I couldn’t help but wonder, what would our founding fathers say about where we are right now? What would they say about the times that we’re in? I’m sure that they would want us to continue to fight for the individual liberty and the freedoms that they gave absolutely everything for. I also had the opportunity after I left Boston to go to Plymouth and look at the national monument that stands out over the Plymouth Harbor. As a monument to our national founders, 81 feet tall, the tallest monument in our nation– and if you haven’t seen it, I certainly wish you’d take the time to go do so. This granite enshrines the values of our nation’s founding on faith in almighty God, morality based on his words, laws based on justice and mercy, and education based on the word of God. It’s truth– and truth in our education based on the word and also liberty over tyranny. Today we see forces of tyranny like never before in my life trying to overrun individual liberties. When our constituents are faced with an assault on their constitutional rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it is up to us, this body, to defend those rights. I was very thankful this body during the session passed HB 1547, stopping the state from mandating a COVID vaccine. I’m not sure about you, but I have received countless thank you’s from teachers that have said thank you so much for not mandating the vaccine over and over. And I get thank yous from people that work in the public sector. I had hoped that we would pass the same protection for our constituents that work for private enterprise, but unfortunately we did not have the votes to do so. Today, before you, we have a compromise bill. This bill does not stop a private company from implementing a vaccine mandate, but it does provide some very common sense provisions to allow our constituents who have already had Covid and developed a natural immunity to present a positive antigen test in lieu of a vaccine. And for those who have not had COVID, to be routinely tested to show that they are negative for the COVID virus. I would much rather see a stop all mandates, but I am definitely willing to support this compromise in the meantime. All of us want to see this pandemic beaten. Some of us feel the only way we can do that is to get everyone vaccinated. But I think that we have to stop and have an honest debate about the facts, about the truth that’s out there. This vaccine is not 100 percent effective. It is not 100 percent safe. It is not 100 percent effective. It is not 100 percent safe. And we need to look at those. I don’t know about– I don’t know about you, but it’s a hard time finding the truth out there. There’s so much information everywhere. We certainly can’t trust the mainstream media that sold out to the left long ago. It’s hard for us to find truth. Myself, I have found myself listening to Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin on the Senate floor, a man of reason, and I just really have listened to him because sometimes I want to find someone that I know. Maybe our constituents feel that way, but we feel if you present something on the floor, you better have your facts straight because some is going to come back and just prove you wrong. So I’ve just have found myself listening to him. And this past week, Senator Ron Johnson showed a technical brief. It’s from England, not from America, because sometimes we have a hard time getting the true facts out of America. But this Health England report, technical brief number 23 was put out in England on September 17, 2021. And it showed a seven and a half month period in England that they had 750,000 new COVID cases. 80 percent of those were the Delta variant. And that was 600,000 folks in England. Of the 600,000 cases, 43 percent of those were unvaccinated, 27 percent were vaccinated and 30 percent were partially vaccinated. Of those 600,000 folks in England, 2,542 of them died. Out of that 2,542 people in England that died, 63 percent of them were fully vaccinated. 1,013. Let me read that again. Of those people that died from COVID 2,542 of them, 63 percent of them were fully vaccinated. 27 percent were unvaccinated. So is the Delta variant really a pandemic of the unvaccinated? I’m not sure. We cannot fully get to good public health decisions if we don’t get the facts out there and we don’t openly debate them. So we see it’s not 100 percent effective against Delta. Now let’s look at the safety factor. In the past 10 months, the following has been submitted to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. 750,000 adverse reactions, including 66,000 hospitalizations, 7,000 heart attacks, 6,600 reports of myocarditis, myocarditis, and 15,000 deaths. And 5,000 of those deaths were in the first three days after the vaccine was given. Yes, these have not been verified, but they have also not been unverified. It is important to note that the Harvard study came out before the pandemic even started that said, only 1 percent of vaccine adverse effects were even reported. Let me repeat that. A Harvard study before the pandemic came out stated that only 1 percent of vaccine adverse reactions were reported. We’ve had testimony of myocarditis right in our committee here over at Mac A. I’ve talked with nurses across the state, and my own constituents have shared their reports of adverse reactions from the vaccine. Given this data about adverse reactions and the safety of this vaccine and the fact that working age adults in Arkansas have a 99.95 percent 99.99 percent chance of defeating COVID, it should be their individual decision and their right to choose whether they want to receive the vaccine or not, not their employer’s. It is very weighty decision that they should make. They should take the risks and the benefits. Those that are 65 and older, those that have health conditions definitely should look at that and weigh out the risk and the benefits and make their own decision. This bill does not put anyone’s coworkers at risk. Multiple studies have recently shown that the natural God designed immunities gained from overcoming COVID are 13 to 27 times stronger, and they last longer than any of the vaccines that we have. If an employee can show positive negative antigen report or recent negative COVID test, there is no reason for them to have to have the vaccine as well. We all want this pandemic to end. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my precious constituents who have died due to COVID. And that is why I have fought like a tyrant to get early COVID treatment, effective early COVID treatment in the state. I think it’s criminal that we don’t have it, and I have been fighting like crazy to get it because I am tired of seeing constituents die unnecessarily. We have got to have honest, open debate so that we can get good public policy. We’re not going to defeat this without honest and open debate. Fear and half truths will not get us there. We must return to where we started, where I started this whole talk about. We must return to the truce that we were based on, to pass laws that are based on truth, mercy and justice, protecting your constituents’ individual liberty and freedom. And I will end with that. I hope that all of you have read a letter that our attorney general signed because she and other attorney generals said the second that OSHA’s rules are put out there, they are ready to fight. So we’re not, we’re not on our own. We have attorney generals, 24, across the nation ready to fight against OSHA, against this tyranny we received from this bad administration. I‘m tired of being silent. We have got to change. We are Republicans, we are Republicans. We represent our constituents and it’s time for the truth to be out there. This is a simple, simple compromise bill. And if we can’t pass this bill with a massive majority of Republicans, God help us. And I would be happy to take any questions from constituents. 

 

Shepherd [01:03:15] Representative Collins, for what purpose? 

 

Collins [01:03:17] Question. 

 

Shepherd [01:03:18] You’re recognized. 

 

Collins [01:03:19] Thank you. Representative Bentley, I think that all credible sources are pretty clear that this vaccine, all three are very, very safe. There’s really no serious argument about the safety. Are you– 

 

Bentley [01:03:31] There is a very serious argument about the safety. 

 

Collins [01:03:32] If I could finish my question–

 

Bentley [01:03:33] I just read it. I’m not– 

 

Collins [01:03:34] If I could please finish my question– 

 

Bentley [01:03:36] [01:03:36]I’m not going to– sorry. 

 

Shepherd [01:03:37] House will come to order. Rep. Bentley, if you’ll allow Rep. Collins to ask his question. 

 

Bentley [01:03:42] [01:03:42]I will. I apologize.

 

Collins [01:03:44] Thank you. Are you aware that the VAERS database does not show anything about causation? All it does is it is a place where adverse events are reported, whether or not they’re caused by the vaccine. They just have to have happened and reported. Whether or not that actually happened is not even necessary. It just has to be reported to the system and then it shows up in the system. So these deaths, these heart attacks, all these things are not necessarily caused by the vaccines. Are you aware of this? 

 

Bentley [01:04:17] I– if you listened to my statement, what I said in my report was they have not been verified, but they also have not been unverified also. And I’ve talked to nurses across the state who will tell you that there is absolutely no system in their hospital on where to report the adverse reactions to. That they don’t have time to report adverse reactions because they’re too busy trying to keep our constituents and our family members alive. There is nowhere for them to report. So that’s why I gave you the Harvard report that said only 1 percent, 1 percent on average is reported. So there could be multiple more. I have cases throughout my district of people that have adverse reactions, and I don’t think that my constituents are lying to me or the nurses that I’ve talked to. I will take their word for it because I know they’re heroes every day fighting for us to keep our constituents alive. 

 

Shepherd [01:05:02] Rep. Lowery. For what purpose? 

 

Lowery [01:05:03] Question. 

 

Shepherd [01:05:03] You’re recognized. 

 

Lowery [01:05:05] Yes. Representative Bentley, I know that you’ve been involved in health related issues through the years. I mean, I’ve heard your testimony many times, so I trust your viewpoint. Are there not already limitations on private employers in the state of Arkansas of what questions or what information they can get from an employee? For instance, they, they can’t ask a woman that they are going to hire if she is currently pregnant or if someone has AIDS, is that not correct? 

 

Bentley [01:05:37] That’s true. I’ve been a small business owner for the past 20 years. There’s a multitude of things that I cannot ask my employees, multitude of things. And for someone to say that by not passing this bill, we’re going to be a bastion of freedom for business in Arkansas is a joke. I mean, I can list you 2,000 regulations I have to abide by– my little small business without even thinking twice about it. So no, this is not going to enforce some undue penalties on businesses in Arkansas. 

 

Shepherd [01:06:05] Rep. Murdock, for what purpose? 

 

Murdock [01:06:07] Question. 

 

Shepherd [01:06:07] You’re recognized for a question. 

 

Murdock [01:06:09] Representative Bentley, are you aware of the possible ramifications that will leave– that this bill, if passed, could leave our hospitals who care for your constituents that you are lamenting that you care about so much and they’re dying. They end up in the hospital when they get very sick. This bill possibly could leave our hospitals in Arkansas in a very precarious position. It was testimony by, from the hospital association to the fact that CMS, if the federal government mandates what they are mandating, and we do something different, how your decision, our decision as a body here will affect those that become very sick. And we know a lot of people have become sick from this disease. So how do you justify making a decision that’s somewhat subjective in terms of what you do know, don’t know, verified, and of course, the word you used is unverified– how will you make a decision to possibly leave our hospitals in peril where they cannot take care of the sick because of the rulings that will come down from CMS? What’s the thinking there on how we balance that? 

 

Bentley [01:07:26] I really appreciate your question because you know what? I know that you love your constituents as much as I do mine and we’re all in this together. We really are. But I think in answer to that, I’m going to read what the attorney general’s letter that our attorney general signed on to about vaccine mandates because I think we need to look at what’s going on in New York. Are you understanding what’s going on in the state of New York right now, where they have fired 70,000 health care workers and they’re having to bring in their National Guard just to keep their hospitals afloat and labor and delivery units have shut down? So let me read in response to your question, because this is what attorney generals have said about mandates coming down from the federal government, which would be CMS or OSHA or any of those. So I’m going to read this if that’s OK, a very short statement. They said, these, these federal mandates, vaccine mandates represent not only a threat to individual liberty, but a public health disaster that will place vulnerable workers and exasperated national hospital staffing crisis with severe consequences for all Americans. OK, so what we’re saying is without this right now, we’re having hospitals that are having to shut down in New York, where they’ve already instituted this mandate in New York and in Massachusetts. Thankfully, we in Arkansas protected our public workers, but in those states they did not. So they’re already seeing massive processes with hospitals shutting down because they don’t have employees there to cover our constituents. So I think that there’s ample opportunity for our attorney general and other lawyers to get up, and which they’ve already said they will, fight against these federal edicts coming down from Washington. 

 

Shepherd [01:08:53] Rep. Godfrey for what purpose? 

 

Godfrey [01:08:56] Question. 

 

Shepherd [01:08:56] You’re recognized for a question. 

 

Clowney [01:08:57] Thank you, Mr Speaker. Representative Bentley, I’m not sure you quite answered Rep. Murdock’s question, which was about the Medicaid and Medicare funding. I understand your concern about the strain on the health care system with, with professionals leaving because they don’t want to be vaccinated. I just want to hear, do you think it’s more of a threat that health care providers are requiring vaccines for their health care providers or more of a threat to our health care system that we lose all of this vital funding? 

 

Bentley [01:09:22] I would just say that Mark White, when he was in committee the other day, didn’t even have bullet points of what the CMA  funding is. So I’m not going to answer things based on threats or hearsay or whatever because we don’t have nothing in writing. And as soon as it gets in writing, we can respond to it. But at this point, there is nothing in writing, and that was from Mark White in testimony. There’s not even a bullet points on what the CMS might look like. I’m going to end my, my comments, sir. Thank you all for your time. We are all in this fight together, and this is a great time for freedom. 

 

Shepherd [01:09:49] Rep. Bentley has spoken for the bill. Would anyone like speak against the bill? Rep. Flowers, you’re recognized to speak against the bill. 

 

Flowers [01:10:04] Colleagues, many of us in this body have had the experience of this virus in different ways, whether it our family members, protecting our family members, several of us have had the virus. Some of us have almost died from the virus. Almost 8,000 Arkansans have died from this virus. Almost 500,000 people have contracted the virus. And we know based upon our own medical authorities, our own scientific authorities– not politicians, not policymakers– science has driven the policies. As a matter of fact, if we go back to addressing the policies, you know, I’ve heard people come in the well and talk about how decisions should be made because we’re Republicans. We are Arkansans. And we are supposed to be making the best decisions, especially around this pandemic, for our constituents. As a matter of fact, it is Republicans and Democrats in Washington who have driven the policies that have allowed this country to use our wealth, our extreme wealth and spend $18 billion through Operation Warp Speed. That was a policy of President Trump’s. And if I’ll remind all of you, President Trump got the virus– I mean, got the vaccine and the virus. Many of us have had the vaccine. And so when we talk about tyranny, which is a cruel and oppressive government or authority. Vaccine mandate is not tyranny. As a matter of fact, we have mandates throughout our schools and when we travel to protect us from mumps, rubella, measles and the flu. So that’s not consistent. We’ve heard arguments in this chamber and others likening this to having something to do with, aligning this with racial discrimination. The Holocaust? Y’all, this is about public health. This is about protecting lives. That’s it. And if we really want to look at the impact to our small businesses, what about restaurants? What about the private ownership of a restauranteur who has already suffered financially, who already can’t find employees to come work in a state where tourism is our second largest industry. What about if that person wants to say, hey, I want to assure people who come to Arkansas or come to my restaurant that my employees are safe. And they make a decision because they are free Americans and because they are a small business operating in the economy that we have. Why in the world would we go against science and CDC policies and guidelines to craft a law that operates against federal laws providing the freedom of small businesses and our corporations to keep their employees safe and their customers safe? I ask you to not vote as a Republican or conservative or leftist or Democrat or progressive. I ask you to base your vote on that of a leader that has been elected as an Arkansan to operate in the best interests of Arkansans. And with that, I ask you to vote no. Thank you. 

 

Shepherd [01:14:28] Rep. Flowers has spoken against the bill. Would anyone like to speak for the bill? Representative Haak, you’re recognized to speak for the bill. 

 

Haak [01:14:43] Thank you, Mr Speaker. Thank you, colleagues. I just wanted to affirm the principles that I believe we all agree on. We all want health. We all want safety. We all want to protect the health and welfare of every individual. We want to help businesses protect workers. We want to help the economy stay strong with a healthy workforce providing needed goods and services, whether health care employee, factory worker, large or small business. We want them all to prosper physically and financially. During the COVID pandemic, states have taken quite drastic, varying approaches to dealing with COVID. For instance, Governor Hutchinson just cited yesterday the strong state economy, with sales tax revenue outpacing forecasts by a huge margin because our state did not shut down completely. Varying states chose different ways to combat the COVID pandemic. As has been stated, 24 states, attorneys general and our governor have responded that are against vaccine mandates by the federal government. I won’t read one of the quotes that I was going to read my colleague read earlier. But this is from, signed by 24 states attorneys general in response to federal mandates that have been proposed going through OSHA. All of these provisions are most naturally focused on dangers occurring at work because of one’s work. Those are current OSHA regulations as opposed to dangers occurring in society generally, including at work. So COVID is everywhere, in the grocery store, in the restaurant, in your workplace. For OSHA to regulate something that is in every aspect of our lives is a whole new avenue for OSHA to address. Allowing OSHA to mandate vaccines, and this is a quote, to protect against a virus that is endemic in society generally would vastly alter the constitutional balance of power. Millions of Americans work for private companies subject to OSHA rules. Thus, reading the statute as empowering the Department of Labor to regulate employees’ responses to illnesses existing in society at large would entail reading it to regulate the health and well-being of millions of Americans. That would be a sweeping intrusion on traditional state authority. And in quotation marks and citation, the regulation of health and safety matters is primarily and historically a matter of local concern, and we have fallen on that side of this issue for COVID during this whole pandemic. The last quote I would like to share from this letter, our constitution principally entrusts the safety and health of the people to the politically accountable officials of the states to guard and protect. Your proposed plan would invert that structure and put the federal government at the forefront. States have taken varying approaches to dealing with the virus and whether or not it is agreement, that is how our constitutional structure is arranged. We have experienced many life altering disruptions in the last year and a half. Disruptions in personal health, disruptions in relationships, in our family and at work, disruptions in business and school shutdowns and slowdowns and working and doing school from home, material and consumer shortages, and sadly, death. We all saw how COVID negatively impacted patient care in our hospitals and care facilities and passed No Patient Left Alone. The detrimental impact of isolation and mental health care crisis has not yet to be measured or is yet to be measured. COVID dramatically disrupted and changed the landscape of all our lives. I put my name on an earlier version of a bill because of the people I met who reached out with their personal circumstances. I also met with employers who are concerned about their workplace being safe for all employees. My name is on this bill for those individuals I met and those business owners as well. The individual bears the greatest risk and liability, and that is their personal health. And for that reason, this bill, this bill should go into effect under an emergency clause and provide the protection and exemptions and cost of compliance now. This bill fulfills both sides. It is not either or, either business or the individual. In my mind, it is fulfilling the goal of both sides by providing accommodations that provide physical protection for workers and the protection of individual rights. HB 1977 is a path forward that protects the workplace and individual workers’ health and medical freedom. Thank you. Any questions? Thank you. 

 

Shepherd [01:20:55] Rep. Haak has spoken for the bill. Would anyone like to speak against the bill? Would anyone like to speak for the bill? Rep. Boyd, you’re recognized to speak for the bill. 

 

Boyd [01:21:11] Thank you, Mr Speaker. Colleagues, I’m going to be as quick as I can be because I know we’ve been here a while. So in America, historically, we treat individual patients. There’s a patient healthcare provider relationship. What is happening now is we’re treating a population. So historically the state has been able to regulate healthcare. Our federal government has gotten around that under the guise of an emergency. So what this is about is this is about making sure or helping ensure that Arkansans have that right to an individual provider patient relationship. So with that said, I’d appreciate a good vote. Thank you. 

 

Shepherd [01:21:54] Rep. Boyd has spoken for the bill. Would anyone like to speak against the bill? Would anyone like to speak for the bill? Rep. Richmond, you’re recognized to speak for the bill. 

 

Richmond [01:22:25] Thank you, Mr Speaker. I’ll be very quick on this. These are the times that try politician’s souls, we’ve realized that. Because no matter how we vote on this, for or against, it’s like refereeing a basketball game. Half the people out there are going to be upset. And that goes all the way across the political spectrum. Can’t be avoided. But we have a responsibility to vote. And so I want to go back to the constituents. From the very beginning, this whole COVID thing has been mishandled, not intentionally, but it’s been mishandled because any time you start telling people you have to do this or you have to do that, they’re going to resist. And that’s what’s happening here. This vaccine may very well be exactly what we need, but when you start forcing people, we have a problem. And unfortunately, we look at the constituent, the individual and say, What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you get this vaccination? We’ve said that it’s safe. But part of the problem with that, of course, is that the information has been controlled and more people feel that instead of information, what they’re getting is propaganda. So we just haven’t done a very good job really being honest upfront, saying it may do this, it may do that, it may not do this, it may not do that. And the constituents, a lot of them have distrust and rightfully so. And I’ll just sum it up by showing you one of the reasons why that they do. This is the information that you get if you take a tetanus shot. There’s a, there’s a lot of stuff in this. This is what you get if you take a COVID shot. There’s nothing in it. It’s completely blank. And that causes concern. How can you overcome it? By being honest, being truthful, letting people make up their own minds as we go along. And you’ll see, as people see this vaccination get a little older, a little more trying, people will be happy to take it if it doesn’t really cause problems. We find ourselves now in a position that we don’t want to be in because none of us want to tell a private business– well, most of us don’t want to tell a private business what to do. It’s a lose for all of us, frankly, and we’re all going to get loser dust on us no matter how we vote. It’s just, that’s the facts. But go back, remember who your constituents are, and if they want this bill to pass, I recommend that you vote for it. If the majority of the people in your district don’t want this bill to pass, vote against it because that’s your job to represent your constituents. Thank you. 

 

Shepherd [01:25:34] Rep. Richmond has spoken for the bill. Rep. Meeks, for what purpose?

 

Meeks [01:25:36] Motion, please? 

 

Shepherd [01:25:38] Let’s hear your motion. 

 

Meeks [01:25:39] I’d like to move for immediate consideration. 

 

Shepherd [01:25:44] That’s a proper motion. It’s not debatable. All in favor say aye. Any opposed? The ayes have it. The question before the House is the passage of House Bill 1977. We have four pairs on the desk. Representative Christiansen votes yes, Representative Richardson votes no. Witnessed by Representative Dodson. Representative Richardson is the present member. Are there any procedural objections to this pair? Representative Bragg votes yes, Representative Godfrey votes no. Witnessed by Representative Bryant. Representative Godfrey is the present member. Are there any procedural objections to this pair? Representative Barker votes yes, Representative Perry votes no. Witnessed by Representative Haak. Representative Perry is the present member. Are there any procedural objections to this pair? Representative Cozart votes yes, Representative Lanny Fite votes no. Witnessed by Representative McNair. Representative Lanny Fite is the present member. Are there any procedural objections to this pair? Hearing no objections, please do not vote either of these voting machines. Prepare the machine, Mr Clerk. Has everyone voted? Has everyone voted? Cast up the ballot, Mr Clerk. By a vote of 64 yeas– 68 yeas, 19 nays and 6 present– excuse me, 68 yeas, 23 nays, and 6 present, the bill and emergency clause have passed. Rep. Meeks, for what purpose?

 

Meeks [01:27:49] Motion, please? 

 

Shepherd [01:27:50] Let’s hear your motion. 

 

Meeks [01:27:51] After the announcements, reading of the bills, transferring or the bills, placing the calendars on the desk, members amending their own bills with their own amendments, members withdrawing their own bills, finalizing resolutions, reading communications, and any remaining committee reports, I move that we adjourn until 11 o’clock tomorrow morning. 

 

Shepherd [01:28:05] That’s a proper motion. It’s not debatable. All in favor say aye. Any opposed. The motion passes. Are there any announcements? Representative Dalby, for what purpose? 

 

Dalby [01:28:16] Announcement. 

 

Shepherd [01:28:16] You’re recognized.

 

Dalby [01:28:17] Judiciary will meet in 15 minutes in room 149. 

 

Shepherd [01:28:20] Representative Tosh, for what purpose? 

 

Tosh [01:28:22] Announcement. 

 

Shepherd [01:28:22] You’re recognized. 

 

Tosh [01:28:23] State Agencies will meet at 1:30 room 151. 

 

Shepherd [01:28:27] Representative Wing, for what purpose? 

 

Wing [01:28:28] Announcement. 

 

Shepherd [01:28:29] You’re recognized. 

 

Wing [01:28:30] We have good news. Happy Birthday, Representative Womack. 

 

Shepherd [01:28:43] Any other announcements? Continue to monitor your e-mail and the schedule online. If no other announcements, the desk will remain open as needed for the reading of the bills and upon completion of the items named in the adjourn resolution, the House will be adjourned until 11:00 a.m. tomorrow.