Senate State Agencies

October 5, 2021


Rapert [00:00:03] Members, the committee will come to order. We met– we had this meeting called upon the adjournment of the Senate in anticipation that we would actually have a House bill. That House bill is stuck on the floor of the House from the other end. So we do not have the counterpart to 743 that’s even here. So there’s, there’s no action for that. It’s, it’s not yet finished. And, staff, I’d love for you to inform us if we have any news of this as we proceed. But, but right now, just to make sure members understand, we don’t have that counterpart bill. What we do have and I’ve always tried to extend courtesy in the committee. Senator Irvin has a bill that she filed. She just wanted to speak to the bill, and with no objection, I’d like to give her that courtesy. You’re recognized. 


Irvin [00:01:12] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Members, really, when I was looking at the maps late yesterday afternoon, and I’ve been a little preoccupied to be fair. And when I was looking at the maps yesterday, to me, it– I, I wanted it to just be a matter of public record, a map that I think that I liked based on, based on the work that we’ve been doing with the Buffalo River Conservation Committee. We have worked with a lot of local landowners, business owners, state agencies, locally elected officials and a lot of stakeholders to bring focus to the Buffalo National River area and to the watershed area. It’s complicated because we’re working with the National Park Service and director Faust is doing a phenomenal job. But we’ve just gotten the OK to proceed with a national river plan, which is going to involve a lot of detailed planning and information. And currently the way that the Buffalo National River is, it’s divided into three different congressional districts. And so what I did was file a map, and to be fair, it was done this morning. I filed it this morning, so I don’t think it’s fair to ask you to take action on it since it’s so quickly filed. But I just wanted it to be a matter of public record, and it just, it came to me yesterday. But I think consolidating that area into one congressional district will really help us with our efforts in what we’re trying to do there with the Buffalo National River and working on this river plan that’s very, very extensive. And the reason why I moved it to the 1st District is because our congressman, Rick Crawford, has done a tremendous job working with our fish hatcheries, which are national fish hatcheries. We have state and federal fish hatcheries, as well as Blanchard Springs Caverns is a federal park. And so he’s very familiar with that process and with those individuals that deal with those types of issues. And so that is the reason why I presented this map, primarily, is because trying to put the Buffalo National River into one congressional district. I can answer any questions. You can look at the deviants at the bottom of the page. Furthermore, just to be clear, Representative John Payton had filed this map, and this map also includes an amendment because of a school district that was split over in Sebastian County. And this also moves Cleburne County back into the 1st and puts Lonoke county in the 2nd. And it does split Pulaski County, but only in two congressional districts versus three. Those are just things that I would point out to you. And it does take a little portion of Conway County in order to meet the deviations. And with that, I’ll answer any questions. 


Rapert [00:04:18] OK. Senator Tucker.


Irvin [00:04:22] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Senator, the same questions I’ve asked of Senator Davis and Senator English. If you know, because we don’t have a zoomed in version of Pulaski County, if you know where the line is drawn in Pulaski County. And then if you know what portion of population that’s in Pulaski County has moved into the 4th District. Those are my questions. 


Irvin [00:04:42] So no, I do not have that information. I think we tried to follow the lines based on a little bit like what Senator English had in her map. Instead of– but instead of it being in three congressional districts, we just moved it into one– or from two into one. 


Rapert [00:05:02] All right. Members, any other questions? Excuse me. Seeing no other questions, senator, I know you said you’re going to pull the bill down. We do have one person here that wanted to speak on this bill. I’d be happy for– 


Irvin [00:05:20] Yes, I would love for her to be– I also represent Cleburne County, and so my constituents are interested in keeping Cleburne County into the 1st District and so on their behalf is another reason I follow this map. 


Rapert [00:05:36] And I appreciate that. I want everyone to have an opportunity. Miss Martin, if you would, if you’d just come and make your comments and, and then I don’t see anyone else. And given the situation on us having to come back this afternoon, we should wrap up relatively quickly. But I will tell everyone that given the dynamics here, whether or not, whether or not you can stay or not, where we may be at the call of the chair here because we have this counter bill that Senator English’s companion bill from the House that has got to make it if we’re going to take care of that too. 


Martin [00:06:21] Hi, good morning. 


Rapert [00:06:22] Miss Martin. I wanted to almost call you by first name. But Miss Martin, you’ll be recognized. Jackie Martin, correct? 


Martin [00:06:28] Correct. Thank you. I live in Heber Springs, Cleburne County. And I have lived there for almost 20 years. My family has been from that area since 1867, so I have deep, deep, deep roots there. But it’s not just me. There’s many other people in our community that have the same roots. For a very, very long time and even back to 2009, it was predicted that we could never, ever elect a Republican in the 1st congressional district. We proved them to be wrong. Since then, Mr Crawford has increased his percentages in that 1st congressional district and Cleburne County was very much a part of that movement, very much a part of that movement. And because of that, our county committee grew to be a very influential committee in the 1st Congressional District within the Republican Party. We do not want to lose that influence, and we are concerned that being pulled into the 2nd Congressional District, which really doesn’t align with our community quite honestly. Yes, we do drive to Conway and do business there. Yes, we do drive to Little Rock and do business there. But we do not live there. And our community is very rural. It’s based on the lake there, the river there. Our industry is very tourist oriented. It’s not at all like a metropolitan area or a district like this. So I just feel that it would be best for Cleburne County to stay in the 1st congressional district because of our history there. We have been in the 1st Congressional District since 1980 is the last map I could find where we were put in the 1st Congressional District. And I really, really, really would appreciate your consideration of my concerns because some of you sitting here today benefited from our work. So I just– we’re still willing to work, but we just don’t want to have our influence within the Republican Party diminished at all. That’s all I have to say. Thank you.


Rapert [00:08:43] Members, do you have any questions for Miss Martin. I just want to publicly thank you. I’ve never got to do this in a setting like this. But opportunity allows that. The very first time I ever gave a political speech in my whole life was on a stump– 


Martin [00:08:58] My tea party. 


Rapert [00:08:59] That’s right, it was on a stump in front of the Cleburne County Courthouse. And so I,  I enjoy that and love the people up there. Unfortunately, right now, even though I love everybody, I don’t have the ability to make all these changes. And, but I appreciate the advocacy that you’ve had, Senator Irvin, the map that you brought. Is there anything that you have further today? 


Irvin [00:09:19] No, I just– I mean, I would reflect those comments and that it is a rural community. And that’s why, to me, Lonoke and Cabot is more of a bedroom community, so to speak of Little Rock and more centralized, which is why I think it just makes more sense to me and to others. And so again, I know, I know this was filed– I tried to file it last night, but we couldn’t get the– staff couldn’t get it done until this morning. So because of that, I don’t think it’s fair to take action on it right now because it was just filed this morning. But– 


Rapert [00:09:53] Ok, Senator, we– 


Irvin [00:09:53] I just– I appreciate the committee. I appreciate Miss Martin being here on short notice. And I appreciate the ability just to state, you know, the reasons why I’m putting forth this map and for all of those various reasons, but particularly because of what we’re trying to do at the Buffalo National River and the Conservation Committee and that river plan is going to be really, really important and it would be nice to have one congressman to be able to work with on that. Thank you. 


Rapert [00:10:24] I understand. Definitely respect all of the concerns. All right. Thank you very much, Senator Irvin. Nothing further on that. Members, do you have anything further to bring before the committee at this moment or any questions? Do we have an update on the posture of the House bill? With that being said, it’s 11:20, and since they’ve called us back into session at 2:00, I’d like to go ahead and adjourn so people can go have some lunch, do whatever you need to do. If we do get a bill, we could feasibly come back. I’ve been communicating with all of you, including Senator Tucker, to make sure that’s public, too, about the ability to come back. So I want to make sure that everybody understands that, be looking for a text message if we need to come back in to handle this. Okay. Thank you very much. With that, we’re adjourned– or in recess, let me put it that way. We recess pending the call of the chair. 


[03:43:18] [Recess] 


Rapert [03:43:18] Better hit it again, so they hear it online. There we go. The committee will come to order.  Members, we have a bill from the House. Senator English, are you going to present this bill? Members, bring our attention to House Bill 1982. Senator English, as the Senate sponsor, will present the bill. 


English [03:43:54] Thank you. Senator Jane English, District 34. And House Bill 1982 is the exact replica of the bill we just passed out of the Senate, SB 743. 


Rapert [03:44:08] All right. 


English [03:44:08] Hope for a good vote. 


Rapert [03:44:10] Members, members, do we have questions? I don’t see any questions. Senator English. I have one person signed up that wants to speak on the bill. You have anything further before I call them? OK. We have a Miss Evans in the room? Miss Evans, you’re the only one signed up, so if you’d like to come up and say what you’d like to say on this bill. We’d be glad to hear you. 


Evans [03:45:09] OK, thank you. My name is Loriee Evans. I’m here today representing Indivisible Little Rock in Central Arkansas. We are a voting rights advocacy organization– 


Rapert [03:45:20] Could you speak up just a little– 


English [03:45:21] Absolutely. 


Rapert [03:45:22] Pull the mic closer. 


Evans [03:45:22] Yeah, certainly. So I’m here today because of our interest in every person having one equal vote. 


Rapert [03:45:32] And would you restate who you represent? I don’t think anybody heard it clearly.


Evans [03:45:37] Sure. Loriee Evans with Indivisible Little Rock in Central Arkansas. I’m a resident here in Pulaski  County in Little Rock. 


Rapert [03:45:44] Thank you. 


Evans [03:45:45] So I would like to make three points to enter into the record with regard to HB 1982, if I may. One, transparency and public notice is the first one. I am literally still out of breath because I was rushing here to get here to be able to enter in some of the information that I have into the public record. And it was– I have had– been texting all day long with a number of people about when this bill might be heard so that I might have an opportunity to enter in comments into the public record. If you don’t, if you didn’t have that kind of flexibility that I had today, which most people don’t, and certainly if you’re not in the Little Rock region, you do not have an opportunity to speak on this bill. So that includes most Arkansans. And so I just wish that there were a means available for more citizens and voters to have been able to give comments and feedback, public comments and feedback on all of these redistricting bills. It was really almost impossible to do that because there was no online means. There were no online hearings. And then the notice sometimes would be, you know, these bills were filed at 8:45 and being heard the next day– 


Rapert [03:47:10] Are you going to to speak for or against the bill itself, ma’am? 


Evans [03:47:13] Yes. So I just want it entered into the public record that no, that any kind of lack of public testimony– 


Rapert [03:47:23] Ma’am. 


Evans [03:47:24] –against– 


Rapert [03:47:23] Ma’am, look, please speak on the bill. 


Evans [03:47:26] Any lack of public testimony against HB 1982 is not evidence of opposition to it. It’s possibly evidence that people just did not get notice and were not able to make it here. 


Rapert [03:47:41] For the record, as well, you may not be aware we had several weeks schedule where people– three different times, meetings where we had people that came in, some of them came to every meeting and spoke against various maps, including these very maps that we’re talking about. 


Evans [03:47:57] Very good. 


Rapert [03:47:58] This bill was scheduled in the House. I don’t want to argue with you, but I’m not going to let you disparage the process without at least giving a response. 


Evans [03:48:07] Okay. 


Rapert [03:48:07] So now at this time, you can speak to the bill or I will be done with you and we’ll just go vote it. 


Evans [03:48:14] Well, then I’ll speak to the bill, sir. Thank you, Mr. Chair. Done right, redistricting would produce an exact portrait in miniature of the people as a whole, per words of John Adams, one of the framers of the U.S. Constitution. Done poorly, it thwarts the will of the voters that makes districts less competitive. So with regard specifically to HB 1982, I would like to enter into the record, and I do have a map of my community of interest, which is the Little Rock metropolitan region, which includes Little Rock, North Little Rock, Jacksonville, Maumelle, Sherwood, Wrightsville, some of the areas that have been, of course, carved out of the 2nd Congressional District. It’s largely an urban region with busy rush hour, public transportation that crosses the region, commuters that drive from some of these communities across the county to others, school communities that stretch across the county. Pulaski county as a distinct capital city. The, the community inside are a distinct capital community, and it is a community of interest. All of the, all of the communities within the county. And it’s in the best economic development interest of the state for its citizens, workers, commuters, students, most of whom utilize services and rely upon these services across the county for them to be represented together. I would argue that actually serves the interests of the state as a whole to maintain Pulaski County as one single community of interest and not divided. So I will submit my map into the record. And the other, the thing that I would like to mention with regard to HB 1982 is– and again, here I’m not exactly sure. I’ve got a, I’m thinking as I talk because I know that there have been amendments to the bill since these notes and analysis were made per the bill last night. And I know there have been some amendments made since then, so I’m not necessarily– I know these notes may not be exactly accurate as of this moment, but I think they still are pertinent. So with regard to splitting up counties, why would the Legislature choose to pass a map that breaks a large community of interest into three separate congressional districts when many proposals have been made which keep counties whole? So with regard to, as it was last night, HB 1982, the carve out, it carves out 13 precincts. 30– those precincts contain 37,599 central Arkansans who live in the metropolitan region. That’s almost 40,000 Arkansans who will be directly impacted– Little Rock, North Little Rock voters, by being carved out of the 2nd District, having their capital region votes diluted. Pulaski County as a whole is 56 percent white. The 13 precincts that were carved out of of District 2 of Pulaski County in this particular bill is 39 percent white and 71 percent minority. So, and again, I have here data that’s pulled from the– this is the– includes the 1920– I mean, the 2020– is that it– census data, and it includes information statistics on the minority carve out. So which would, of course– the impact of the bill, whatever the intent was, the impact will be racial gerrymandering. So just want that to be entered into the data and I have a few more comments here, but I’ll just let it rest there. 


Rapert [03:52:22] All right. Thank you for your comments. Thank you for being here. Senator English. 


English [03:52:27] Yes, I’m closed for the bill. 


Rapert [03:52:30] OK. Members, you have any other questions or comments? Do I have a motion on this bill? I have a motion do pass from Senator Hester and a second from Senator Garner. All those in favor say aye. All opposed no. The bill passes. Thank you, Senator English. This bill will be calendared, be transmitted to the floor of the Senate, becalendared. My assumption is it’ll be tomorrow when we come in at 9:00 a.m.. Thank you very much, committee. Unless there’s an unforeseen circumstance now, I think we truly are done. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your work. 


Garner [03:53:07] Senator? 


Rapert [03:53:08] Yes. 


Garner [03:53:08] Quickly, I think I have another map I want to enter into the record. 


Rapert [03:53:11] Hey, we’ll run that sucker like a you know what. So, all right, we’re adjourned.