Feb. 14, 2022
Eaves [00:00:05] All right, members– anyone in the audience wishing to speak for or against a bill, make sure you have signed in. And first up on the agenda, we have Representative Wardlaw, House Resolution 1003. You are recognized.
Wardlaw [00:00:20] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Almost feels like Council repeat. Everybody’s in here.
Eaves [00:00:25] Hey, pull that mic up a little bit closer if you can. There you go.
Wardlaw [00:00:27] Is that better?
Eaves [00:00:28] Yeah.
Wardlaw [00:00:29] So we’ll start with House resolution 1003. Is that correct? Okay, so House resolution 1003 is to– is the funding mechanism bill. So this bill is the PSC funding bill. So what this resolution will do is give us the right to file a bill to change the way we fund public school employees insurance. What we’ll do is take the matrix from 161 to 300 and some change. The reason for that change, in the past, we’ve dropped in about $60 million annually on the back end to fund teachers insurance. What this is going to do is put it on the front end so we can budget for it. So you ask yourself, what’s the problem with the back end? The problem with the back end is is when you’re figuring premiums, you figure premiums in the spring to come out in the summer before the fall open enrollment. We don’t ever drop that money in until late summer, sometimes first of July. So those premium dollars are never figured on time to be put out to the teachers so that they can see those premiums before open enrollment. What this is going to do is put it all in a budgeting process. It’s also going to put a mechanism in the adequacy committee, which is our education committee, that they will be able to raise that on a medical CPI, which is usually a higher percentage than inflation. So they’ll be able to take that out of the matrix every year, analyze it, analyze that CPI, and be able to– its ranges anywhere from 8 to 10 percent annually. So we’ll be able to put an increase on it where we’re not putting an increase on the whole matrix, just on this portion. Mr. Chairman, I’d be happy to answer any questions on this bill.
Eaves [00:02:07] All right. Are there any questions by the committee?
Wardlaw [00:02:11] Or resolution, I’m sorry.
Eaves [00:02:13] Thank you. All right. Seeing none, is there anyone in the audience that would like to speak for or against this resolution? All right. Seeing none, we have no other questions. We have a motion do pass.
Wardlaw [00:02:24] I need to close, Mr. Chairman.
Eaves [00:02:26] My fault. Go right ahead.
Wardlaw [00:02:28] No, it’s my fault.
Eaves [00:02:29] No, no. My fault.
Wardlaw [00:02:30] So there was some questions and concerns from one of the agencies, and I want to make sure– I promised them I’d hit the high points of those concerns in this committee to have it on the record. They were worried about some of the funding decisions by the EBD director. So later in the package, we’re going to get to where we set up a governing board and we set up all the controls for each one of those pieces of the pie and how those decisions are made. In this bill, it says the EBD director has a little bit of control. Later, you’re going to see that we’re going to remove that control and put it to a sub board, to the Board of Finance, which is where it is today, and then ultimately to the Legislative Council, which is us, the Legislature. So we’re not giving the EBD director any more control, actually probably taking some control away from the EBD director. So I just wanted to make that clear. That was one of their concerns on this particular resolution.
Eaves [00:03:23] Thank you for closing for your bill. I apologize for jumping the gun on there. All right, members, you’ve heard the bill and the bill is now closed. We have a motion do pass. All those in favor signify by saying aye. All those opposed. The ayes have it. The resolution is passed. Members, we’re moving down to House Resolution 1004. Representative Wardlaw, you are recognized.
Wardlaw [00:03:43] Thank you, Mr. Chair. This is probably one of the easier bills. It’s quite a few pages, but it’s really multiplies or goes down to basically one sentence. Where that sentence is is a lot of states around us require participation when you’re a working employee before you can be eligible for retiree benefits. So all this bill does, says that you had to be on the plan for five cumulative years, which means not five consecutive, but five cumulative years before you qualify for retirement benefits. This bill doesn’t do anything today. So what it does is when it goes into effect, when it’s passed and it is actual law, anybody hired from that point forward, this bill will be effective on them. So any of our current employees, our current teachers, our current administrators, this bill doesn’t do anything for them. The impact of this bill is about a 15 to 20 years from now impact. But we think it will be a very positive impact because the people we’ll be supplying retired benefits had paid into the system when they were working and healthy. That’s all this bill does, Mr. Chair, and I’ll be glad to take any questions. And I did answer their concerns in my presentation.
Eaves [00:04:42] All right. Thank you, representative. Members, any questions? All right. Seeing none, anyone in the audience like to speak for or against the bill? All right. All right, seeing none, would you like to close your bill– resolution?
Wardlaw [00:04:56] I’m closed.
Eaves [00:04:56] Thank you. All right. What are the wishes of the committee? We have a motion do pass. All those in favor say aye. Opposed. The ayes have it. The bill– resolution, excuse me, has passed. We’re going to House resolution 1005.
Wardlaw [00:05:09] Thank you, Mr. Chair. In the last session, we outlawed bariatric surgeries. We were told over the last eight years– I’ve been here 12, and I am the member then enacted the pilot program for bariatric surgeries 12 years ago in the 2011 session. We’ve cut it off. When we went through with the consultants, they let us know that actual bariatric surgeries, if done correctly and done with the right diagnoses, there is a savings of about 35 to 45 percent savings per member, if done correctly. We also heard from Dr. Bledsoe, who is a surgeon at the Heart Hospital, that he can cure diabetes about 60 percent of the time with certain bariatric surgeries. So what we were doing in the past, we had a $3 million cap. We opened it up at midnight on January 1st, and by 12:10 a.m., it was full. So in 10 minutes, we would fill up that $3 million cap. And it was just anybody who thought they wanted bariatric surgery. So what we’ve done with this resolution is we’re taking away that cap, removing it, and putting it in some rules and regs around it that will come around different diagnoses such as diabetes, and there was three or four other diagnoses, some heart disease diagnosis. And we’re saying that those people get preference. Those people go through a stringent program that, that will ensure that they follow the procedures after the surgery. That’s part of the reasons. And, and hopefully we’ll see a savings in years to come with the program. I’ll be happy– they had no opposition to this bill, so I’ll be happy to take any questions.
Eaves [00:06:48] All right, members, any questions? All right. Seeing no questions, would anyone in the audience like to speak for or against this resolution? All right. Seeing none, would you like to close for your resolution? Apparently, he is closed for his resolution.
Wardlaw [00:07:02] I’m closed. I was reading the next one.
Eaves [00:07:03] No worries. We have a motion do pass. All those say all those in favor say aye. Opposed. The ayes have it. Your resolution is passed. And now we’re at House resolution 1006.
Wardlaw [00:07:16] So House Bill 1006– during the last session, I ran a bill that raised the contribution cap to $550. What we learned during listening to the consultant over the last year is we are way behind in what we put in on insurance from the state side. We’re behind on the public school side and we’re behind on the state side. And if you remember, the first resolution I introduced to you was raising that contribution to 300. Well, we raised the state back during the session, so there’s no need to raise it, but we want to remove the cap. That way going forward, as we look at that CPI, that health index CPI I mentioned earlier, we’ll be able to apply that to the state side by coming through council, by coming through the board of directors and not having to actually change statute every year. So that’s all this bill does. It removes the caps, allows the next bill or one of the next bills if it’s to talk about the controls over the budgeting of the cap. That’s all this does. It removes that cap. There’s no opposition this bill, and I am closed.
Eaves [00:08:15] All right. Thank you. Members, any questions? Seeing no questions, anyone in the audience like to speak for or against the resolution? All right. Seeing none, Rep. Wardlaw’s closed. What is the wishes of the committee? We have a motion do pass. All those in favor say aye. Opposed. The ayes have it. House resolution 1007.
Wardlaw [00:08:35] So House bill 1007– thank you, Mr. Chair — sets up the legislative oversight. So one of the things that we’ve probably failed on in the last few years is we haven’t kept a close eye on this program. It’s about three quarters of a billion dollars that we spend through this program, and we haven’t, we haven’t gotten any reports from them other than when they come and ask us for more money. So what this does, it takes a committee and council, renames it to the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Subcommittee. And you know, it calls for a series of reports. It follows the legislative oversight on marijuana and the legislative oversight on on gambling– my mind went blank, lottery. And we use those same report mechanisms, put it in here so that they come to council every month, give the report. As some of my fellow council members said, it’s a little heavy on the front end. We can come back later and relax some of these reports. But in the shape that EBD was in, we think that they should report pretty heavy on the front end until we get it right. So this this bill just sets up the oversight, sets up the committee and sets up the mechanism for them to report to Legislative Council in the years to come. Mr. Chair, I’m closed.
Eaves [00:09:56] All right. Thank you. Members, any questions? All right, seeing none, anyone in the audience like to speak for or against this resolution? Seeing none, Rep. Wardlaw is closed for his bill. What are the wishes of the committee? We have a motion do pass. All those in favor signify by saying aye. Opposed. The ayes have it. That resolution has passed. We’re going to House resolution 1008.
Wardlaw [00:10:16] Thank you, Mr. Chair. So this is probably the largest bill that we have in a package, largest resolution. I keep saying Bill. I’m just used to saying that when I’m down here. When when we did away with the board last session, I stood at the well and said I promised that we’d put representation back on there from the employees and from the retirement. This bill fulfills that promise that was made. So what we did here is we looked at some other states around and we seen how they did it. We saw how they required their members, what they required their members to have as far as competency and jobs and where they’d been and experience. And we set up two sub-boards. We set up a sub-board for public school employees and we set up sub-board for Arkansas state employees. In those sub-boards, the governor will appoint three members that have to have insurance, actuary, or accounting background. We also left two slots for the pro tem and the speaker to appoint. One is an active employee from teachers and active employee from state employees and are retired from each for those to sub-boards. Those two sub-boards will meet monthly. We will pay those people $500 a month. And you think, why would we pay these people? They’re overseeing three quarters of a billion dollars. And to get people that are qualified and get people that want to put their mind in it and do it right, you probably should pay them. So we put in some pay and the other states around us do pay them, by the way. We looked at their pay schedules. We’re not going to pay them per diem. So they’re going to get $500 a month, and they will get mileage to and from Little Rock every month for those meetings. So we’re requiring the sub-boards to meet monthly. Those sub-boards will, as I said, do the day to day functions. They will report to the Board of Finance. The Board of Finance will make the final decision and then send that recommendation to Legislative Council, to the subcommittee that we mentioned earlier. That subcommittee then will either adopt or not those recommendations and they will have the final approval. So we did it that way so that we had controls, controls that I mentioned earlier we’ve never had in the past. Those controls should keep it where we’re not dumping millions and millions of dollars into this program as we go. We want these boards and we want the agency to govern and act and work within the budget they have. We’ve set up where they can get CPI indexes the years go. That way they do have increases. We’ve set it up to where it will be budgeted. We expect them to stay within those budgets and that’s why these controls are in place. Mr. Chair, I am closed, and I’m happy to take any questions on the governing body.
Eaves [00:12:58] Thank you, Representative. Members, any questions? All right. Seeing no questions, is there anyone in the audience who would like to speak for or against this resolution? All right, seeing none, Rep. Wardlaw is closed for his bill. What is the will of the committee? We have a motion do pass. All those in favor signify by saying aye. Opposed. The ayes have it and that resolution is passed. All right. Rep. Wardlaw, House Resolution 1009.
Wardlaw [00:13:23] I got to get my head wrapped around it. Give me a second. So looks like– I should have brought my counsel down here.
Eaves [00:14:02] You want to text your, your help and we can skip to the next one while they come?
Eaves [00:14:09] So, no, I’m good. So 1009 actually sets up and changes the formula in the, in the matrix. So it goes back to that first resolution I passed. This is the second resolution. I’m sorry. I forgot there was two. So when I read it, it really confused me. But it just changes that matrix payment from 161 to 300, Mr. Chairman. I think I’ve already kind of talked about that, so I’m closed and if there are any questions, I’d be happy to answer.
Eaves [00:14:37] Members, any questions. Seeing none, anyone in the audience like to speak for or against this resolution? Seeing none, Rep. Wardlaw, are you closed on this one?
Wardlaw [00:14:47] I’m closed.
Eaves [00:14:48] All right. Members, what’s the will of the committee? We have a motion do pass. All those in favor signify by saying aye. Opposed. The ayes have it.
Wardlaw [00:14:56] So, Mr. Chair, if I can have a little latitude?
Eaves [00:14:57] Resolution 1010.
Wardlaw [00:14:58] Can I have a little latitude first?
Eaves [00:15:00] Yeah.
Wardlaw [00:15:01] So in the first bill, I explained the public school change in the matrix. The first bill was actually the reserve bill. So it’s my fault and I was reading too fast. So what the reserve bill did– I’ll explain it real quick just so everybody has an insight. In the past, EBD has set up the reserves at around 20 percent. When we hired our consultant and they came in, they said the reserves need to be between 12 and 16 percent. Well, we can’t set a reserve account up in a range. So what we did as exec council and council, we adopted that the perfect target range was going to be 14 percent. So then we set up triggers on the bottom and triggers on the top. So the triggers on the bottom increase premiums and take away plan benefits. The triggers on the top actually decrease premiums and give more planned benefits. So it gives those options for the boards to make, to make. Once the board takes those options into account, they still have to come to council to enact them. So any increase in premiums or decrease in premiums or any increase in planned benefits or decrease in plan benefits will still come the Legislative Council for approval. So that was the first bill, and my apologies for not seeing that. I was reading an email from a group and then I was reading bills and got confused. I’m sorry.
Eaves [00:16:20] I have a quick question on that one. You said we can’t establish a range. Is that something that legislatively we have decided we can’t do?
Wardlaw [00:16:27] It was just almost impossible, according to EBD, to govern between a range. And they would like to send triggers. So that’s the reason we set up the triggers on the outside set. So we still use the exact range that the, that the consultants gave us. The range was just our triggers and the center was our optimum.
Eaves [00:16:43] OK, thanks. Now you’re going to present 10– House resolution 1010?
Wardlaw [00:16:46] Yes, sir.
Eaves [00:16:46] Okay, thank you.
Wardlaw [00:16:48] So House resolution 1010’s probably my most proud one. So with the Legislature over the last few years if you look back, some of the biggest problems with the plan was us, the Legislature, the members. We would file bills that would increase our demand that the plan would pay for certain things, and we did that without knowing in good conscience what our bills would cost the system. So when it comes to retirement, we require those bills to go through an actuary. We require the committee to get to see that actuary and we look at that. So we get to see what that cost is today, 10 years from now, 20 years from now and so on. We have not done that with employee benefits, and we should have. You guys remember the insulin bill? I was very supportive of that bill during the legislative process because our people need good, affordable insulin. But we repealed that bill this fall because of the cost that it was going to hit. This single system alone was the reason we repealed it. But when we looked at it, the cost of what it hit other insurance systems was, was very high. So with this resolution, when it passes, it would require the health care benefits to have to have an actuary look and an economic impact statement to every single bill that’s filed that would impact it. So it sets up deadlines, bill deadlines, filing deadlines and so forth for that, for that mechanism. So with that, this puts a little bit of handicaps on ourselves, but I think it does it in a good way and it does it to where we can make good sound decisions. So with that, I’m closed and I appreciate a good motion.
Eaves [00:18:24] All right, thank you. Members, any questions on this resolution? Seeing none, anyone in the audience like to speak for or against this resolution? All right. Seeing none, Rep. Wardlaw has signified he’s closed for his resolution. What is the will of the committee? We have a motion do pass. All those in favor signify by saying aye. Opposed. The ayes have it. Congratulations, you passed all of your resolutions.
Wardlaw [00:18:46] Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Eaves [00:18:47] All right. Members, next up on the agenda is House Resolution 1011. Representative Payton. There will be a handout headed your way shortly. So just give us about 30 seconds, Representative Payton, and we’ll have that on the desks.
Payton [00:19:11] Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members. The handout is simply a two and a half page letter from the attorney that drafted the Texas abortion ban bill that become kind of famous here lately. It gives some of his counterpoints to an email you probably received earlier this week. I’ll give you a minute to look that over, but I’m sure we’re probably going to have some discussion. I’ll be happy to answer questions as they come. But members, I want to talk to you from the heart right now for just a second. I have a problem. I believe, and I know that there are other people that believe the opposite of this, but I believe that ending the life of that child in an abortion is shedding innocent blood. OK. I know that many of you believe that the same as I do, and we may have disagreements on how to try to limit it or regulate it or stop it. But I want you to understand that my heart, it’s just as if there was a burning building down the street, and I knew that there were kids in it, and I want to stop it. OK. And I know many of you all believe the same thing. I’m reminded of a movie I watched called Independence Day, where they were fighting space aliens. And throughout the whole movie, they’re trying to figure out a way to stop the space aliens from taking over Earth. And finally, near the end of the movie, they discover a way to bring down the ship. And they get on, you know, they get on the communicator and they say spread the word and people all over the world start using that method to bring down the ship. Now that’s just a fictional movie, folks. Abortion’s not fiction. It’s happening on a daily basis. It’s happening in Arkansas, and Texas has found a way to stop it. In September, the first month that the Texas bill went into effect, 67 percent decline in abortion, and we don’t have the records for October, November and December. This bill works. It stops abortion. It was fought and challenged and went to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court upheld it, all except for the licensing entity for those people that provide abortions. And that’s still going to be litigated, had no effect on the fact that it stopped abortion now. We– I know the heart of this body has been revealed in acts that we passed in 2019, 2021, even before that. You know, we passed an act in 2019 that if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, Arkansas defaults to no abortion. Again, we passed Act 309, I think it is, in 2021 that limits abortion. So why would I come to you and ask you to do another one? Because those are not saving any lives today. Neither one of those acts have saved one life. Children are still being aborted in Arkansas today, and I was taught on the farm that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. And Texas has shown us that we have a bird in the hand if we want to use it. We can pass this law and and it’ll go into effect almost immediately. And I’m convinced at this point– and I’ll get to the reason why I qualified that in just a minute– I’m convinced at this point that this bill will save lives regardless of whether Roe versus Wade is ever overturned. And if Roe versus Wade gets overturned and one of the previous bills we’ve passed needs to be revisited, I think you all have the heart and the will to do that based on the numbers that passed those previous bills. I mean, it was overwhelming majorities in both chambers that passed those bills. So I come to you today with a resolution during the fiscal session. You’re the Rules Committee, and you get to decide whether your colleagues are going to hear the arguments about this bill. If you pass this resolution from this committee, it goes to the House floor and it demands a two thirds vote of your colleagues before the bill can be introduced. We’re not deciding on whether or not this is a perfect bill in here this morning or this afternoon. We’re deciding whether or not the rest of our colleagues get to consider it. Then it’ll go to the House floor as a resolution. And if they want to stop their ears to go down, la la la la and not hear it, then they don’t have to vote for the resolution. It takes two thirds to hear it. But why would we stop and plug our ears instead of hearing the arguments? I know you got an email, maybe multiple emails. I got e-mails from some of the pregnancy centers that say, Please do something, we want to stop abortion. You know, I’ve got a letter from the guy that drafted the Texas bill. I spent an hour on a Zoom meeting with him. And I’m convinced at this point that this is the right thing to do. You don’t have to take my word for it. If we pass the resolution to hear the bill, the bill will be filed and the bill will go to a committee like every other law we’ve ever considered, and it’ll have to pass that committee with a do pass. It’ll have to go to the House floor and be considered and argued. But, you know, thus far, the public hasn’t had a chance to come before you and give their arguments. The experts, the lawyers– how many of you have talked to a lawyer? How many of you have read the Supreme Court decision? It doesn’t really take that long, I mean, about 30 minutes worth of reading for the Supreme Court decision, a little hard to understand and took it took me 30 minutes. It might take you 15. But the bottom line is, have you talked to lawyers? We are the people’s representatives. And I promise you this topic is a hot topic. It’s important to the people. Everywhere we go, they’re asking us why we haven’t done it yet. And I can’t come down here and sit on my hands through a fiscal session and not hear why we shouldn’t do it. If we go to Health Committee or Judiciary Committee or whatever committee with the bill and those experts come in there and convince me that we shouldn’t do it, I can go home and tell my people why we shouldn’t do it. But at this point, there is nothing I can tell the people back home as to why we didn’t adopt a Texas-style abortion ban in Arkansas. I’m asking you, I’m begging you, allow this resolution to hit the House floor. And then I’m going to try to convince two thirds of our colleagues to allow the bill to be filed. And if it goes to Health Committee, I’ll be sitting there with a open mind. I mean, some of the people who say we shouldn’t do anything right now are people I’ve trusted for years. And you can bet that when I received that email, it got my attention. And in the email, he says he spoke to experts. I want to hear from those experts. I want to hear from attorneys that tell me why we can’t pass this law without affecting the others. We pass laws all the time that have paragraphs in them that say, you know, it’s not changing this. Well, this, this bill that I am asking you to let me file has a paragraph in it that specifically says it’s not going to change 309. It also removes the language in– the language in the Texas bill that survived– that the challenge survive the Supreme Court is not in this bill. That portion of the Texas bill that deals with the licensing entities of abortion providers is not in this bill. And that’s the only part of the injunction that survived. And it’s meaningless. It doesn’t matter whether they have a license or not, if they’re not going to perform abortions, right? Folks, I know you don’t have all the answers. I don’t have all the answers. The process by which we live our lives down here as state representatives is the folks back home have a concern, we bring it up and we file legislation, and we hear from both sides, and we modify the legislation, and we either pass it or we fail it. This resolution says I can file a bill, takes two thirds of our colleagues to pass it. Once that bill is filed, it can be amended when it goes to committee. If BLR tells us there’s something in here that’s going to negatively affect our intentions, we can amend it or we can not pass it. But why would you want to plug your ears and not hear it. Why would you want to reach over there and plug your colleagues’ ears and say they can’t hear it? At least you get to vote on it in here in a minute. The rest of us over there in the House don’t get to vote on it unless you let it out of this committee. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable by having to address this issue during a fiscal session. Folks, I believe there are children dying while I’m sitting right here. Now, how can I not try to do something? How can you not be willing to hear the arguments on both sides? We have seen a 67 percent reduction in abortion in Texas in the month of September. That’s a fact you can’t argue with. Give us a chance. Let’s hear the merits. And I don’t know how this goes, but I assume there’s some people for or against it. Do I get to close in a little while? Thank you. Thank you, committee.
Eaves [00:30:08] Hang on just a second, representative. Members, are there any questions for Representative Payton? All right. Seeing no questions, we do have someone signed up to speak against the bill. We’re on House Resolution 1011. Jerry Cox. Mr. Cox, if you would, just state your name and organization for the record and we’ll let you begin your testimony.
Cox [00:30:36] Yes. Thank you, Mr. Chair. Members of the committee, I’m Jerry Cox. I’m the director of Family Council here in Little Rock. And it, it’s very difficult, as you might imagine, for me to sit here and talk about this bill and what’s being discussed here with additional legislation that pertains to abortion. And so I’m going to do my best to speak about kind of the environment that we’re in, and then I’ll try to answer any questions that you may have regarding specific legislation. First of all, I have said on numerous occasions that I believe this Arkansas General Assembly is the most pro-life General Assembly that has ever been in the history of Arkansas. I really believe you all very well may be the most pro-life legislature in the nation and quite possibly the most pro-life legislature that has ever sat anywhere in the nation. You guys have done amazing work. You passed as strong a law as you could pass this, a year ago, when you passed the bill that– it’s Act 309. That, that bill says that all abortions in Arkansas are illegal except to save the life of the mother. You can’t get any stronger than that bill. And so I would say, well done. You have, I would say, you have done your part. You all have done your part. Now that brings us to where we are right now. I really believe that by this summer, Roe vs. Wade may be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. And I never thought when I started lobbying on pro-life issues 32 years– 33 years ago, that I would ever be able to sit in front of anybody and say, I believe Roe v. Wade is about to fall. But I believe it very well may. And we will know by summer if Roe– if the U.S. Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade in this Dobbs case out of Mississippi, all the good laws that you have passed are going to come to life and they will be in play, including the total ban on abortions. And so rest assured that on that day if that happens, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, all the other pro-abortion groups are going to beat a path right down to the courts, and they are going to do their best to muddy the water and say, well, the Legislature said that abortion was illegal, but no, we got these other laws here that would say otherwise, and they will try to tangle this up in court and prolong it and try to nullify the good work that you have done. I helped with this effort back in December when the bill was proposed to pass the Texas style abortion law. I have spoken at length with the attorney in Texas. He is convinced that it’s a good law and I don’t blame him for being convinced of that. But here’s what I am convinced of at this point. We need to wait until summer, when the Supreme Court issues its ruling before we do any more pro-life legislation. So I’m not saying, as far as you ask me, my opinion, my opinion is that we, we wait until summer to do any more. And people might say, Well, why wait till summer? You all know that the most recently passed bill many times will take precedent over bills that have been passed before it. So the attorneys that I’ve spoken with at the national groups– I was at a meeting on Thursday with a bunch of attorneys here whose opinions I highly respect. And they, they all said, even if you write it into the bill that this will not conflict with any other laws, a shrewd judge could interpret it differently. And I’m afraid that if we do any more abortion related legislation at this time, you run the risk of upending the good laws that you’ve already passed. And I know that’s not your intent. That’s not Representative Payton’s intent. I know that and I highly respect all the– Rep. Bentley and all the other people that have put so much into this. But I think patience and prudence would be the wise course at this time.. Because if you file more bills and pass them, you give the opposition more things to muddy the water with between now and then. And I think that’s serious enough that I came and I sat in this chair because I’ve been deliberating on this really since last fall. And my opinions on it have moved over time as I’ve talked to people that I consider much more knowledgeable than I am on it. And so I would like to make one correction. And I know Rep. Payton did not intend it this way. The U.S. Supreme Court did not uphold the Texas law. They sent it back down to Texas and said, You guys work this out. And so the fate of the Texas law is unknown at this time. But the lawyers that I have spoken with, pro-life attorneys around the country, have said just because Texas stopped abortions with their law doesn’t mean that any other state would have the same results because the courts are different in every state. And the people that I have spoken with here in Arkansas believe in their heart of hearts that not just the Texas law, but any abortion related law you pass right now, is going to be challenged in federal court. It will be enjoined. It will be appealed to the 8th Circuit. And you know what the 8th Circuit is doing? They’ve said, we’re not hearing any more– we’re not dealing with any more abortion laws until when– until after the Mississippi case is decided. So I would, I would submit to you that the likelihood of any law you pass right now stopping abortions is very, very, very slim, maybe almost nil, because of that. And so I think, you know, if you were to ask me, what’s the summation? It’s just, not now. Just don’t do it now. And in June, we may be right back out here and I may be beating the drum and saying, we need a Texas abortion law or we need some other kind of law. I may be doing that, but I’m not doing it right now because there is so much to lose. I’ve dedicated 30 something years to trying to pass pro-life bills out here. I don’t want to throw it away. And that’s what I’m concerned about. And I know y’all are in a bind because people expect you to vote for a Texas type bill. They think it’s a good idea and it sounds really good and you will be misunderstood. Probably, as I’m going to be misunderstood. But that’s just the nature of being a grown up and stepping up and doing what’s right rather than what may be popular. So, Mr. Chair, sorry about going so long. But, but if I didn’t make good sense, I hope somebody will ask me a question to help me clarify what I’m trying to say.
Eaves [00:39:06] All right. Thank you, Mr. Cox. Members, you have any questions of Mr. Cox? Seeing none, thank you.
Cox [00:39:12] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, members of the committee. And I thank you for dealing with this difficult issue.
Eaves [00:39:20] We have another person signed up to speak on the bill. It doesn’t say whether you’re speaking for or against the bill. It doesn’t even say which resolution you’re speaking on, but it looks like Vickie Parker.
Parker [00:39:43] Well, if you couldn’t tell, it’s my first time here, so I didn’t know how to sign up.
Eaves [00:39:47] Are you speaking for or against this resolution?
Parker [00:39:50] I’m speaking for. Yeah.
Eaves [00:39:51] If you would, just state your name for the record and you can begin your testimony– and who you’re with also.
Parker [00:39:55] Vicki Parker and I am with the Options Pregnancy Center, the Arkansas pregnancy centers and our center– our particular centers are in Cabot, Beebe, and Jacksonville.
Eaves [00:40:07] All right, thank you. Go right ahead.
Parker [00:40:08] All right, thank y’all for listening. And you’ve had some testimony before you. Mine will probably be very different. I believe everyone ended up with Mr. Mitchell’s summation and his rebuttal of Family Council’s accusations on the bill and actually put actual legal tenure to it and showed what it actually is and what it actually means. You know, we carry in the state of Arkansas the title being the number one pro-life state in the Union. And that’s something to be very proud of if you have actually stopped abortion. And God knows, y’all have sent a lot of laws over there. They’ve ended up on the desk of the judges, but they’ve been sent. But this is one law that can be sent, and today we can make a difference. Do we have to worry about, is something going to happen where we’re going to be sued or that’s going to open up all these different things that everybody’s so concerned about? Well, that’s coming any way. Look at, look at California. Look at some of the other states. Guttmacher, which you may not know, is the actual research arm for Planned Parenthood. And Guttmacher, I just read on their article this week, said there are 26 states with Texas style bill siting ready to go, and when they send that, abortion will be no longer in half the states, half the states. They’re worried. They’re scared to death you’re going to pass this bill. All we’re asking you to do as pregnancy center directors, we’re asking you to hear it. You know, I said earlier, if you just go– if in, if in your business is back home, someone came and brought a proposal to you that could possibly change the outcome of your business, then the reality is what you would do is you would listen to it because you don’t want to miss a great opportunity, right? So that’s what has been brought to us. Texas stepped out ahead of us. They jumped in with all feet. They took it to the finish line. The, the Supreme Court handed it back to Texas, but the truth is, like they could have probably stopped them right there, couldn’t they? But they didn’t because it’s a really good indication of what really is going to happen. We can walk in fear or we can step out and be bold like we have in the state of Arkansas for all of these years. We can be bold and we can stand up and go, we’re going to make a run for the finish line with this. We’re going to make this thing happen. We’re going to stop abortion. You know, there’s a story about a, a, a starfish. And the story goes, as many of you probably heard, about the child who was walking along the beach and there’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of starfish thrown that’s just washed up on the beach. And this old man walks up to them and this kid keeps throwing them back in, and they’re like, You know, I don’t know why that kid thinks they’re going to save all these starfish. And so he asked the kid, Why are you doing that? You’re not, you can’t save them all. And he said, Well, I can save this one. So could it be that, that we save 67 percent of unborn babies and mommas in the state of Arkansas? Yeah, but it’s going to take a bold bunch of people to do it. It’s going to take warriors. And unfortunately, you guys are on the front line and y’all have done some really bold moves before. You’ve really trusted your gut. Even if you were fearful and like is this the right thing to do? And there’s never, never a wrong time to save the unborn or save a child that’s out there that’s going to fixing to get run over by a car. You would jump out and you would do something. I would, too. Y’all have done it before, and I trust that you’ll do it again. All we’re asking you to do is listen. What’s it going to hurt to hear it and on its merits, you make your decision. And we don’t– and we let what happens in June, what happens in June. But people, I hear people throwing out, but what if, what if. Well, what if we’re not alive tomorrow? It doesn’t keep us from living today. So let’s live it with everything that we have in Arkansas to live it with. And let’s take it across the finish line. I’m asking you to allow this to be heard. I thank every one of you for the service that you do. I would not want to sit in your position for one second. And I know how grueling that can be, but I just got to thank you that you would be willing to listen to this. And I’m praying that you will vote to listen to it on the floor. Thank you.
Eaves [00:45:28] Thank you for that, ma’am. Members, any questions? We do have a question. It says Seat 119. I don’t know who that is at this point. Just one second. Right now, we’re doing– hang on just a second, Representative McKenzie. If, if you’re not a member of the committee, just hold tight for one second. Let me ask the committee members. Are there any questions with this, with this guest? All right. Seeing none, I’m going to go ahead and allow you this question, since you’re not a member of this committee, but generally that’s not the practice of this committee. But go ahead.
McKenzie [00:46:21] Just my question is, since you’re up there, I know that there’s been discussion and confusion with regard to maybe the pregnancy centers wanted funding in exchange. Can you speak to that? Do you all want funding? I know now where you’re standing on this bill here. So where did that come about? I’m, I know I’m confused. I think other members are, too.
Parker [00:46:42] It did not come from us. It did not come from us. We– all we care about, all that we care about is that abortion is overturned in state of Arkansas, that lives are saved and use the tool that’s been given to us right now. God is taking care of us. He will continue to take care of us. State funding could mean state ties that would cause us great trouble and could possibly end some of our pregnancy centers in the long run.
McKenzie [00:47:11] Thank you so much for the opportunity.
Eaves [00:47:15] All right. Thank you, ma’am. Appreciate that. We have another guest signed up to speak. I can’t really make out your name or your organization or whether you’re speaking for or against the bill, but first name is Dana. I’m assuming you are speaking for or against this resolution?
Schwiethale [00:47:41] I’m speaking for. And nobody wants to try that last name. It’s Schweedal.
Eaves [00:47:43] No, not me. OK.
Schwiethale [00:47:44] It’s Danish Schwiethale. I’m with loving choices. I have an office in Rogers and another office in Fayetteville.
Eaves [00:47:50] Okay, go right ahead.
Schwiethale [00:47:51] You’ve heard people talking here about lawyer this and lawyer that and lawyer this and lawyer that. I’m not going to lie to you. I’m not a lawyer, and I’m not going to speak to you about that. I’m boots on the ground. I’m in the center every day with these girls. That’s what we do. We are in their faces every day, listening to their stories and helping save lives of babies. We’re the ones that are seeing the ultrasounds and seeing that heartbeat and knowing that right now I have a nine week, I have a heartbeat. She’s, she can go to have an abortion now. We’re asking you to help us save these babies. I know that there’s talk of Roe versus Wade, and that’s June. But so many babies are going to die between now and June, and Texas has already laid the groundwork for us. So what I’m asking is that you realize that we are the boots on the ground. We are the ones that are in the centers day in and day out in front of these girls talking to them and speaking life and to their lives. And I’m asking you to give this bill a chance, to hear it, to hear what can be done today to save babies today, because that’s what we are here about. I know you’ve heard lots of rumors, because we’ve heard them, that, you know, we’re big bad mean pregnancy centers and if you don’t vote what we want, we’re going to go out and smear your names. That did not come from us. And I want you to know I know that you’re pro-life. You’ve proven yourself over and over and over again. I’m not questioning if you’re pro-life, and if this bill doesn’t go the way we want, we’re not going to go out and say, you’re not pro-life because that’s not what we’re here to do. All I’m here to do is today to save a baby. One baby saved is worth it to us because that’s what we do day in and day out. So that’s what we’re asking from you today.
Eaves [00:49:43] All right. Thank you, ma’am. Members, any questions of this guest? Seeing none, thank you. We have one more signed up. Again, I’m assuming it’s on the same resolution. Wendy Curry. Are you speaking for or against this resolution?
Curry [00:50:01] For.
Eaves [00:50:02] OK and who are you with?
Curry [00:50:03] I’m with Hope Place, Warren. I’m the director.
Eaves [00:50:05] OK. Thank you.
Cox [00:50:06] My testimony is a little bit different. And what I’m going to tell you is I’ve been the rape victim. I’ve been the little girl that was raised in politics with my mom. And when your child comes and tells you, and I can’t imagine the position that I put my family in, but it was out of my control. Right? And so 22 years ago, 23, on November the 13th of this year, I aborted my baby at a place called Hope in Louisiana. And my parents thought it was a quick fix because with my mom’s political job, she would probably get fired or not get her position back, right? And so they thought that was their only option and the only option for me. And so, we went up there and, you know, mom wore a hat, and I mean, it was ridiculous thinking back and looking at what we went through that day, but we thought this was our only option, right? And so we go and we’re met at the car by a guard. He walks us in. We go into the lobby. He buzzes, they buzz us through into the main thing. I fill out paperwork the first day. That was on Tuesday. They went through all the stipulations, and, you know, put the little pro-life manual for counselors and said, Now it’s kind of like what, what doctors do with the HIPAA paper. You know, this is your HIPAA rules, but you don’t have to take it. That’s basically what that lady did. She said, now, here’s you a list of counselors for after. The pro-lifers make us supply this, but you don’t have to take it. It’s totally up to you. Well, in my mind, I knew better than to bring any piece of paper home because of what was going on in my family. I didn’t need to bring that home. I mean, what, what would they say? And so I declined the, the paper. And so, you know, on Thursday, I returned. I paid to murder my baby. I went behind a door where three locks were locked and I panicked. And I told the lady, I can’t do this. And she said, Sweetie, you’re already back here, come on. And I just kept saying, I can’t do this, I can’t do this. But I followed her and they gave me my pink gown as everybody else was wearing and my gray socks. And they herded us in like cattle and they went and they took an ultrasound. Well, I thought I would be able to see my baby on that ultrasound. I asked to see my baby on that ultrasound, and the lady said, No baby, you don’t need to see it. It will only make it harder. And so I asked again, and she said, You don’t want to see this. It’s just a mass. It’s just a blob of tissue. And so I look at our models that are in the center that we’ve used when we talk to our, our abortion minded girls and, and the daddies when they come in and I see the week and the size that my baby was and it was a baby. It was a baby. He was a baby. His name is David. I’ve named him. He’s in heaven waiting on me. And so I got out there, they brought us across the hall. Me and the nurse, we went across the hall and went into the room. And they had me get up on the operation table and for some reason there was a unicorn poster above it on the ceiling. I don’t know why. And they said, focus on the unicorn. It’ll all be over soon. And I tried to get up and I said two more times, I don’t want to do this. Please let me go. And then I was given something and I could hear suction and crunching. I cannot go to the dentist today without being medicated due to the suction sound. I’m sorry. So I’ve been that little girl that thought she didn’t have an option other than abortion. Yesterday, 22 years later, my daddy apologized to me for forcing me to abort my baby because he listened to what I’ve told him and I’ve said, Daddy, please pray. Now do I believe that he’s a believer? Yes. Does he live the life of a believer? He does not. So this was major for my dad to apologize. My mom apologized five years ago because they saw that that they were just uneducated and how I was uneducated. And so places like Hope Place, we give them all the options, knowing that we might not save them all. But when they leave there, they know if they choose to abort, they have a place to come back and talk to people that understand where they’re at. And another thing, I had a horrible infection to where the doctor told me I would never conceive again. God said different. So now I have four children, one in heaven, waiting for me to get there, and three beautiful children waiting on me to get home this evening. So I just wanted to speak to you and just tell you, like, everybody that works at a, at a, a center is a broken individual. They all have stories. We’re not judging them. We’re their cheerleaders. Our center starts working with little girls at age 8 on self-worth. And we follow those same children. If we’re, if they move, we follow them through their adulthood until they get to become a mommy. We’re building relationships. We’re loving on them. We’re their mentors. And that’s, that’s what you need in life. We all looked up to somebody. You think right now, who was your hero? Who did you look up to? Well, I pray that one day a little girl comes back and says, Miss Wendy, I’m pro-life because I watched you. Or Miss Wendy, I chose to keep my baby after hearing your testimony. And I just I want to thank you for what you all do. Y’all would never want to sit in our job position, I’m sure, the boots on the ground, it gets muddy. It gets thick. As I know, being raised in politics, same goes for y’all, too. So thank you for your time.
Eaves [00:57:15] Thank you, members. Any questions? All right. Seeing none, thank you for your testimony. Thank you. All right. No one else signed up to speak for or against the bill or the resolution, rather. Representative Payton, would you like to close for your resolution?
Payton [00:57:35] Thank you, Mr. Chair. So, colleagues, I know it’s been an hour or two. You’re tired. Maybe you’re fed up with dealing with this. I remember in 2019 walking the halls of the House of Representatives and running into more than one person who made the comment, I’m sick and tired of these pro-life bills. We’ve passed a lot of them. I really appreciate Jerry Cox in the years he spent helping to get this legislation across the threshold. And I know he didn’t want to hear that in 2019 or in 2021 when we were hearing that from some of our colleagues, some of our pro-life, pro-life colleagues. Just weary, just tired of another pro-life bill. But you know what never came up? Was that anybody who was worried that it was going to debunk a previous one we passed. This first time I’ve been, I’ve been faced with the idea that somehow we pass this, and unlike all the other pro-life bills we’ve passed in the past, this one’s going to unseat all the others. What do we have to lose? Act 180 of 2019 has not saved one life. It’s been enjoined by the courts. We were told when we were passing it, it’s going to be enjoined by the courts. It’s not going to do any good. And we passed it anyway, so we could pat ourselves on the back and say how pro-life we were. And I really appreciate whoever it was that ranked us number one as pro-life state. I really do. But do you know how many lives Act 309 from 2021 has saved? Zero. What do we have to lose if this bill somehow interferes with one of those two? I don’t know that the Supreme Court is going to overturn Roe versus Wade, do you? Maybe June is going to be like Christmas and they overturn Roe versus Wade. And maybe if we pass this bill, somebody starts an argument about how it somehow affects the previous bills that we passed. How many of y’all are going to serve past June? Far as I know, the next assembly doesn’t convene until January of 2023. If we’ve messed up one of the other bills by passing this one, we can come right– we’re the most pro-life legislature in the nation. And we’ll still be sitting in these seats in June and July and August and September and October. If we screwed something up, and they overturn Roe versus Wade, we can come right back in here and fix it because we passed a bill in this last session that says we can call ourself back into session if we have to. Now, why would we deny ourselves and our colleagues the opportunity to hear this bill on the merits in committee? Allow it to be heard, folks. We have nothing to lose. You know, I was informed this morning that there’s another abortion bill. There’s a resolution to introduce another abortion bill. And I guess somebody wanted me to get worried about that. Because on its face– I skimmed over for a couple of minutes. It bothers me some of the things I think it says. But I have no fear of you all passing that resolution. We’ll hear it in committee. If it’s a bad bill, we’re the most pro-life legislature in the nation. All it takes is those experts to come to committee and convince us, like they have Mr. Cox– and I know he’s pro-life. But I’m entitled to hear what he heard that convinced him of that. Your colleagues are entitled to hear what he heard that convinced him that this is a bad bill. Don’t plug your ears and don’t plug the ears of your colleagues. Let’s hear it. The folks of Arkansas are paying our salaries. And you know how many committees are not meeting down here during the fiscal session? I mean, budget committee’s meeting, of course. But there’s many of our colleagues that are just walking the halls with nothing to do. It’s not like our workload prevents us from taking this up and hearing it. Our workload is very light in a fiscal session unless you’re sitting on the budget committee. And to be honest, the budget hearing’s did all that last month. Everything’s pretty much done. Might be a tweak here and there. We have the EBD bills coming up because there’s some serious business that the people need us to take care of in EBD. There’s some serious business that we have the opportunity to do in the abortion field. If we’re the most pro-life legislature in the nation, then God help this nation if we can’t at least hear this bill. Thank you.
Eaves [01:02:53] All right. Members, Representative Payton is closed for his bill. What are the wishes of the committee? All right. Seeing no motion, the resolution has failed. Rep. Peyton, would you like to present Resolution 1012?
Payton [01:03:09] Absolutely.
Eaves [01:03:14] You’re recognized to present House resolution 1012.
Payton [01:03:18] Thank you, members. This is a resolution to allow Senator Stubblefield to introduce the bill that we were talking about on the present resolution. I know I may stink. I know I may be ugly. Maybe you don’t want me to present the bill, but here’s your opportunity to let Senator Stubblefield present the bill. I’m very disappointed at this time on the previous result. But that doesn’t change the fact that I want this done, and I don’t need my name on it. So I’m asking you to pass the resolution to allow Senator Stubblefield to file the bill.
Eaves [01:04:04] All right. Thank you, Representative Payton. Members, are there any questions? Seeing no questions, we do have Jerry Cox signed up to speak against the House resolution 1012.
Cox [01:04:15] Mr. Chair, I waive all my time on that. I’ve already spoken.
Eaves [01:04:19] Nothing more to add to that?
Cox [01:04:22] Nothing to add.
Eaves [01:04:22] OK. We have no one else signed up to speak for or against this bill. Rep. Payton, would you like to close– excuse me, resolution. Would you like to close for this resolution?
Payton [01:04:31] I’m closed.
Eaves [01:04:31] Representative Payton is closed for this resolution. What are the wishes of the committee? All right, seeing no motion, the resolution has failed. House Resolution 1013. Representative Bentley, you’re recognized to present House Resolution 1013.
Bentley [01:04:54] Thank you, chairman. Thank you, colleagues. I want to thank you all for voting for the bills that I brought forth in 2019 and Act 180. I want to clarify something Rep. Payton said. It’s, it’s not been sued on. It’s sitting right there. It was a bill that we passed it that when Roe versus Wade gets overturned that that abortion, it immediately stops in Arkansas. And so Act 180 is sitting there perfectly clear. So nothing’s going to muddy the waters on Act 180 that we passed because it’s not been sued against. It’s sitting right there ready to go and nothing’s mattering that without– the bill, the resolution I bring before you today is exactly the one that John Payton brought forth because we wanted to have a backup, another chance for you guys to hear how important this is, how important it is to our constituents who are every day asking me, Mary, why are we not stopping abortions in Arkansas? Every day. Today, 10 babies are going to die. And tomorrow, 10 more babies are going to die. And when that Planned Parenthood opens up in Fayetteville, we can double those numbers and then we’ll have 20 babies in Arkansas dying today and 20 babies dying tomorrow. Because as much as we wanted to stop abortion, because of the court system that we have, it’s been stopped by Judge Baker. But this bill, if you allow lawyers to let you hear it, it stops the usual track because it goes to a civil court and Judge Baker can’t enjoin it with the other ones. It’s impossible for because the Supreme Court has ruled that those abortion providers did not have any standing in the case because it’s a civil liability. You can’t bring everybody in the planet before them. So they said there’s no way that you can enjoin this earlier. This bill completely stops abortion. It’s worked in Texas. It’s going to work in Arkansas. You guys have received an email– I know you haven’t had time today to even look at it. Many of you have not, but I’m telling you we can stop abortions in Arkansas if you guys will listen to this bill and hear it. We’ve not been able to stop a one. I think you know that your constituents would want you to have the opportunity to hear this bill and end abortions in Arkansas. We can stop killing babies every day. Every day, 10 more babies are going to die and we can stop it. Mary, I don’t know how you say, but I’m sorry to say that Jerry has been misled. But somehow Jerry Cox has been misled on this. I read this, this– I have read the whole Supreme Court hearing. The whole case was thrown out. They didn’t send it back to Texas to work it out. If you read the report from AP put out, a liberal AP report came out on that bill and it said abortions are ended in Texas for the foreseeable future because the case was thrown out, not for them to take it back to Texas and work it out. The case was thrown out. It was thrown out. The abortion providers had no standing. And Judge Baker can’t because it was a Supreme Court ruling. She can’t stop this bill from going into effect. I’m asking you guys to trust me. I wouldn’t do anything if I thought it was not true what I’m telling you. We would have not brought it forth. But I believe the Supreme Court ruling, if you read it, it threw them all out. So the abortion providers do not have standing. The same thing will happen here. The same thing will happen here. And we can stop babies from getting chopped up in Arkansas. We can actually do something this time will make an effect and not just get another, another ribbon on our pro-life status. I want us to really do something this time. We can do it. I appreciate all of you. And I think our colleagues have the right to hear this bill and to hear both sides. I know everybody is saying the sky is going to fall in. And you’re stopping a constitution– you’re stopping a const– you’re setting a bad precedent by letting civil liability stop a constitutional right. Well, you know what? Nowhere in that constitution is there a right for an abortion. Nowhere. There’s not a right for an abortion in that. That’s why for 43 years we’ve been fighting because we know there’s not a right in the Constitution for an abortion. The sky hasn’t fallen. And Texas has already opened the door of anything that we think negative might happen. It’s not going to close if we don’t pass this bill. It’s still wide open. We’re going to stop abortions here in Arkansas. And we’re going to stop all the Texas abortions we’re doing here now because, you know what? In states surrounding Texas, the rates of abortion have skyrocketed here. Just read the reports. Our numbers here have gone way up because we’re having Texas people coming here to Arkansas to get their abortions. Is that really what we want to be doing? I don’t think that’s what any of you want to do. I appreciate and respect each one of you. And I’m just asking you for your colleagues to be able to hear this bill. And with that, I’ll close. I know as you guys have heard it, both sides, the exact same bill as Rep. Payton’s. I just think our colleagues have a right to hear it. We have a right to go through the regular natural process in a committee meeting with testimony from both sides. Thank you.
Eaves [01:10:02] Thank you, Rep. Bentley. Members, are there any questions for Representative Bentley? All right. Seeing no questions, Mr. Cox, you are also signed up on this resolution. OK. All right. No one else has signed up to speak for or against this bill. Representative Bentley, are you closed for your resolution, rather?
Bentley [01:10:22] I would just say search deep in your heart.
Eaves [01:10:27] All right, thank you. Rep. Bentley. What are the wishes of the committee? Seeing no motion, the resolution has failed. Representative Bentley, did you want to present House resolution 1014?
Bentley [01:10:37] [01:10:37]I think it’s a waste of my time.
Eaves [01:10:40] I take that as a no. We’re going to move down to House Resolution 1015. Representative Wardlaw. All right, we’re going to skip over House resolution– Rep. Wardlaw, you want to present House Resolution 1015?
Wardlaw [01:11:02] Mr. Chair, in light of what we’ve heard from Mr. Jerry Cox, I’ll hold my resolution at this time. I feel like I can agree with him that doing nothing is a proper stance.
Eaves [01:11:13] Okay. All right. Thank you, Representative Wardlaw. Representative Rye, House Resolution 1016. You’re recognized, Representative Rye.
Rye [01:11:41] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Yes, sir, you’re recognized to present your resolution.
Payton [01:11:45] Yes, sir, thank you. What this bill basically is doing, up until now, we have been paying $32 a prisoner for all of our inmates. They’re looking at a plan that will come up to 40, but no one really knows the accuracy of where that’s at. I would like to see, and I know that we don’t have it finished as of yet today, because we need an impact done on this. OK. But I’d like to know how much it’s going to cost to overall pay our local jails what it costs to house a prisoner. I mean, it’s pretty simple. You can say 35 or 40. It may be 47. But I’d like to come back– I know today that I can’t do it because we don’t have the proper figures yet for our, for our impact study. But I’d like to come back and do that, Mr. Chairman, whenever we come up with the figures.
Eaves [01:12:46] All right, thank you, Representative Rye. Members, are there any questions for Representative Rye on this resolution? All right, seeing none. Anyone in the audience liked to– signed up to speak for or against this resolution. All right, seeing none, Rep. Rye, are you closed for your resolution?
Rye [01:13:01] Yes, sir. I’ll come back, Representative Eaves. I’ll come back if you don’t mind. Can I do that?
Eaves [01:13:07] Do you want to go ahead and close for your bill or–
Payton [01:13:10] Once the impact is out and we know accurately how much it’s costing to house prisoners.
Eaves [01:13:17] Yeah, this might be something you want to consider filing in the interim to do the study on that. We’re going to be doing something very similar to what you’re talking about in joint budget to increase that appropriation. So this might be a good interim study.
Payton [01:13:31] OK, sir. But let me ask you this, sir. In the timeframe that we’re here, these two, three or four weeks, will– if I get past today with it and I don’t, will I get a chance to come back and–
Eaves [01:13:45] That’s–
Jean [01:13:45] Not possible.
Eaves [01:13:45] Yeah, yeah. Representative Jean, you are recognized.
Jean [01:13:54] Rep. Rye, what we’re trying to do is we’re hoping that we’re not here four weeks. So I think what we need to do, you probably need to put this in interim study, and the counties and we’ll go ahead and get the $8 beginning July 1st. And if there’s something you want to study that when we’re back in the full session, you’ll have more time, ample time to get the surveys out and study this, what the real cost is, because this is going to vary from county to county. And you’re going have to find a happy medium somewhere between. But I think this would be better served in an interim study, have time to get all the data and information and go ahead and let us pass the $8 for the counties, which will help them beginning July 1st. It’s just a time, time deal. And the governor’s agreed to this. So this was something that will help them, then I think we can get a study down the road.
Rye [01:14:46] Representative Jean, knowing your knowledge of this situation, I accept it fully and will come back later, not in this session, but down the line. And you and I will work together.
Jean [01:14:54] But you can still put in an interim study and get the study on it.
Rye [01:14:58] That’s exactly right. We just need to know, sir, because we need to be paying an accurate figure.
Jean [01:15:01] Appreciate your service.
Rye [01:15:02] Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Eaves [01:15:04] All right. Members, we’re going to go ahead and skip over House resolution 1016. We’re moving to House Resolution 1020. Representative McKenzie, you’re recognized.
McKenzie [01:15:30] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Been here before, and I wish people wouldn’t leave because I’ve got a little something I’d like to say. You know, there’s a verse in the Bible that says, Be angry and sin not. No committee challenges my ability quite like this one. None. When I was here last time, I walked away and I thought about a number of things. This is how I started off. We talked about my rocky beginning. I knew enough, didn’t know much, but I knew enough to know some of the concerns about the power structure, the concentration of power in the Speaker of the House position. I knew enough. I’d watched enough, grew up around it enough to know I didn’t like it. I knew it was giving the people back home the short end of the stick. And before I was– after I was elected, before I came down here, speaking to the Kiwanis Club, that famous Kiwani– I don’t know what ever happened to him, but he got me all kinds of trouble when he stood up to me, when he asked me to explain what committee I was going to be on. And I start talking about the structure. And the more I talked, the more they asked and the more they didn’t like it. And at the very end, he stood up and he said, My question for you is, what are you going to do about it? He pointed at me and said, What are you going to do about it? So I sat there that first day when we discussed the rules. And beforehand my dad, who most of you know, he had, all his life had been– all his life– all his time serving up here in the House. I knew he was frustrated. I’d seen the stuff. But he knew what I was walking into. And he called me, and he said, don’t do it. That is the total opposite of the way he handles his own life. He said, Don’t do it. They will put you on a shelf the way they put me on a shelf. Well, I would rather be on a shelf. I’d rather be in a drawer than sitting here with a bunch of power that does not serve my constituents. I’ll take that shelf any day. Now, I care deeply about this, people. And the people here on this committee, some of you all, when you go up to the well, there’s certain ones I know they’re going to have something of value to say. I respect your opinions. I respect your friendships. I do not respect this process. I have a suspicion– and this goes with this resolution here– I have a suspicion that if I were to go back and look and see how many roll call votes has happened because I have to come to this committee here to get these changes. It’s a speaker select committee. I’m trying to change the speaker concentration of power, but I have to go here. I suspect there haven’t been any roll call votes in this committee. And if so, that’s a shame. Because every other committee I serve on, it’s common. There’s differing of opinion. It serves the constituents. But my experience here, and the experience I watched the folks have come up here, is that too many things are set in stone. And I realize this doesn’t make friends, and I don’t want to be that way. But am I just supposed to come forward one time for that constituent and try to make a change and then go, Oh well. Oh, the times people would come up to me afterward and say, walking by me, I agree with you. But they don’t want to come out front. They don’t want to come out front. Could it be because my dad said they’ll put you on a shelf? We are not serving our constituents with this concentration of power. And I will grant you that many people, if you just post about it and talk about it, it doesn’t get there. But when you– I wonder– before you all vote on this in it– we have the– sitting on our hands– have you all visited with your constituents? Have you come clean with them? This is how it works.
Eaves [01:20:11] Rep. McKenzie, I have honestly no idea what you’re talking about. Are you presenting your resolution?
McKenzie [01:20:15] Yes, sir, I am. This resolution is the same resolution I presented here three months ago. What it does, Resolution H– H.R. 1020. It changes the speaker– excuse me, the speaker select of the chairs and 1020 deals with the 10 standing committees. It also deals with the Joint Budget Committee, House Budget Committee, and it says there will be– look, it follows the Senate rules. They’ll be picked by seniority. That’s what it does, as opposed to right now they are all chair and co-chair chosen by the speaker. So that is what H.R. 1020 does. I presented this. This is not– this is verbatim. The reason why I went into just a little bit more of why I would hope that this would get a little bit more of a hearing, a little bit more of a thought, is because it it affects how we run the show. It affects the voice our constituents have when we take all the power and we put it up in one position. I don’t care how great that person is. All that power is in one position and it is diluting the power to our constituents. And it is changing our focus, our loyalty, and we have seen it play out time and time again as to how it doesn’t work well and doesn’t serve our constituents. And I think we’ve seen it play out in this committee today. So that was my point as far as I’ve already presented this. But I at least, it’s a matter of conviction, and it may be a lonely conviction, but I don’t think it is. I’ll take questions.
Eaves [01:22:08] All right. members, you’ve heard the presentation of this bill. Representative Gray, you’re recognized for a question.
Gray [01:22:13] Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Representative McKenzie, I’m not sure why you’re so mad when you, when you come down to the well unless it’s because of the bills that were hard prior and no motion was made. And I want to be very clear with you. I– no one told me how to vote on those bills. I do not agree with the civil liability of those bills, and I have been very clear in that. So for you to come to the well and or come to that table and almost act like I’m being told how I’m going to vote today, that’s disrespectful. And I disagree with that. My question is this, you say the selection would be made on seniority, is that in your bill? Because I don’t see it. There are no instructions in your bill as to how committee select– committee chair and Vice-Chair will be made.
McKenzie [01:23:04] I apologize. Representative Gray, let me go through this. I didn’t bring my glasses here today. This is the exact same bill that I had BLR draw up that I presented for you before. If it does not, if we have somehow left that out, I assure you, I would be happy to amend that because that is my intention is to follow the Senate rules. And to respond to your comment, I do appreciate, I do know how you’ve stood. I know how– I’ve seen you comment. And so let me clarify, just because every vote is unanimous doesn’t mean it’s not genuine. But I do think perhaps you might agree that if every vote is unanimous, it’s fair enough for some folks to wonder. And the problem I have is the appearance, and that’s where I think it really–
Dalby [01:23:52] Point of order.
McKenzie [01:23:53] –ties your hand when, when everyone is so, and everyone on this committee is a member select committee. I’m answering the question.
Eaves [01:24:00] Representative McKenzie, hang on just a second. Representative Dalby, you have a question?
Dalby [01:24:04] Point of order.
Eaves [01:24:04] A point of order. Let’s hear it.
Dalby [01:24:11] The Representative is not speaking on the bill. And so, point of order, ask her to speak and stay on the bill.
Eaves [01:24:23] All right. Hang on to that though. Just one second. We need to focus on House resolution 1020. Representative Gray, you’re recognized.
Gray [01:24:29] Thank you. And that’s just a follow up and I appreciate your response. To you a follow up, and it seems the one committee that you’re the most upset about is this committee and the select committees. Do you plan to bring a bill for the select committees because this bill actually leaves out the committees that you seem to be so upset about?
McKenzie [01:24:46] Thank you for that question. And I apologize. I don’t want to be upset, but I do have strong feelings and I don’t think that there’s necessarily a time– there’s a time and place to share those strong feelings. Yes, in fact, I do believe we need to have one. The reason why I did not here is because there’s only so many different things I think I can tackle. But I do believe and in fact, I’ll go ahead and share I had– well, I do believe it should be changed. I believe this, this committee is powerful. And as I pointed out, if you want to make any changes to the structure, it goes to the committee that is hand-selected all 100 percent of the members by that structure. And that’s that’s not a good appearance. And so that’s my, yes, you’re right. I did not. It’s certainly on my– and I hope that somebody– I’ll be gone, probably to the applause of many people. I hope somebody does it. I’m not going to stop speaking out about it. I don’t think I’d have stood there the first day and fumbled the way I did if I didn’t feel strongly. Thank you for the question.
Eaves [01:25:53] Thank you. Representative Wardlaw, you’re recognized for a question.
Wardlaw [01:25:57] Thank you, Mr. Speaker– or Mr. Chairman, I gave you a promotion. Representative McKenzie, did you serve in the 2019 session?
McKenzie [01:26:05] Yes, I did.
Wardlaw [01:26:06] So do you remember in that session, the speaker appointed every single committee?
McKenzie [01:26:11] Yes, I did.
Wardlaw [01:26:12] And this membership saw that they didn’t like that power being with one single person, so we changed it back to seniority and congressional district. You remember that?
McKenzie [01:26:20] Yes, I do.
Wardlaw [01:26:21] OK. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Eaves [01:26:24] Thank you, Representative. Representative Ferguson, you’re recognized.
Ferguson [01:26:27] Thank you, Mr. Chair. I agree with Michelle– Rep. Gray. I don’t see that you’re saying seniority determines the chair and vice chair. I guess, do you not have any concerns about that in that maybe people with particular expertise for a committee that don’t have a lot of seniority would never be able to chair or Vice Chair a committee? I mean, you might be overlooking a lot of talent, the people that have not served as long.
McKenzie [01:26:55] I think that’s a fair question. I think there are two actual models that you– I don’t care which one. At this point, I don’t care if we pull them out of a hat. I agree with that with the seniority as one option. The other is that the committees themselves, they could elect their chair. That’s what some states do. I chose for the purposes of this to mirror what our, our Arkansas Senate does. That’s what they do. I watched the process. And you could choose. You could– and of course, it had the, the, the stipulations of only majority party could be a chair. And I agree that you’re not going to get necessarily results that you like. But first of all, all 100 members were sent here by 30,000 people. And I also think– I’ve gone back and looked at the history. I have seen some people appointed to chairs with much less seniority and experience than people ahead of them. So we already have some of that going on. But thank you for the question. There’s a number of options. My goal with this is to avoid what I mentioned was the appearance. You don’t have that appearance if you’re either doing it by seniority, or, like I said, the committees themselves could then appoint the chair as some states do. Thank you for the question.
Eaves [01:28:15] All right. Members, seeing no other questions, does anyone here like to speak for or against this resolution? All right. Rep. McKenzie, would you like to close for your resolution?
McKenzie [01:28:22] I’m closed for this.
Eaves [01:28:24] All right. Members, you’ve heard the presentation of House Resolution 1020. What is the will of the committee? All right, seeing no motion, that resolution has failed. Rep. McKenzie, you are recognized to present House resolution 1021.
McKenzie [01:28:39] Thank you. Same thing for 1021. Same thing I presented previously. Exact same thing and I, I believe– I think my guess is that this goes, what they have changed in here and what the underline that you’re seeing has to do with just stripping out the portion of speakers select and putting it in the everything else we choose is by seniority. And therefore those chairs would be available as selection as all the other committee assignments are. So that is what this does. This deals with Legislative Audit and Legislative Council. And I did not take a moment to respond to Representative Wardlaw, which I realize. So if, if he would like a response, I’d be happy to respond to his last comment.
Eaves [01:29:32] I don’t, I don’t think he’s on that resolution at this point.
McKenzie [01:29:36] Thank you. I– be welcome to take any questions.
Eaves [01:29:38] All right, members. Any questions on this resolution? All right, seeing none, anyone in the audience like to speak for or against this resolution? Seeing none, Rep. McKenzie, would you like to close for that resolution?
McKenzie [01:29:49] Yes. And in my closing, because these resolutions both address the exact same comment, we did make those changes in 2019. I supported them and I recall standing up and actually asking Representative Davis about these other selections, these other committees. And, and I think the answer was at that time, we’re working on these right now. Obviously, everyone has different opinions, and that’s great. And I, frankly, appreciate this discussion we’ve had as opposed to the last time where I talked and nothing. I think the people benefit from these discussions. Open it up. Maybe the people will say, You know what? She’s wrong. I can accept that. So I present these today to continue further discussion, and I hope that as we go through the rest of this year before the new assembly comes back, they may decide they want to make some of these changes with input. I’m closed.
Eaves [01:30:55] All right. Thank you, representative. Members, you’ve heard presentation of the resolution. What’s the will of the committee? All right, seeing no motion, the resolution has failed. Rep. McKenzie, House resolution 1022.
McKenzie [01:31:10] Thank you, Mr. Chair. House Resolution 1022 is a new one. What this calls for is an open, transparent vote for the speaker designate election, which will be held at the end of the fiscal session. Right now, we do this by secret ballot. The only reason I’m allowed to vote for Speaker of the House is because I am the representative for what is currently District 92. I vote in that capacity. I didn’t get a vote before they elected me and I won’t have one when I’m no longer here since I am voting in my capacity as representative, the people who elected me deserve to know how I voted. So all this calls for is an open, transparent vote. That way, the people may or may not like how I vote, they can tell me. The way we have it right now, they will never know. I’d be happy to take any questions.
Eaves [01:32:21] Thank you, Representative. Representative Wardlaw has a question for you. You’re recognized, Rep. Wardlaw.
Wardlaw [01:32:25] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Can you tell me what you think the reason that the vote is a secret ballot now? And Mr. Chairman, I’ll have a follow up behind this.
McKenzie [01:32:36] Well, since I didn’t vote for this secret ballot, I’m only going to speculate on the reason. I suppose there might be two. Number one, it’s always awkward to vote for or against your colleague. And if this were any other thing, homecoming, I think that should be anonymous. The only reason I think this should be public is because I only am able to cast that vote because I’m a representative. The other reason I’ve been told, which I think goes back to these other resolutions, is some people will say, I don’t want it to be open because I’m afraid of repercussions if I vote for the losing side.
Eaves [01:33:19] Rep. Wardlaw, you have a follow up?
Wardlaw [01:33:22] I’m going to think about it for a second, but I probably do. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Eaves [01:33:25] Representative Deborah Ferguson, you’re recognized.
Ferguson [01:33:28] Yeah, I have a question. I guess, for me, I’m grateful that it’s a secret ballot because, don’t you think it helps prevent a lot of pressure from the, the caucuses and the parties to vote in bloc? I mean, I’m grateful that, I’m grateful that the Democratic caucus doesn’t know how I’m voting because I don’t want that pressure for them to vote in bloc. And if it’s, if it’s anonymous, then I can vote how I really feel like who the best person is. Do you, don’t, you don’t think that’s a good reason to keep it?
McKenzie [01:34:04] Well, I think that reason could be applied to every vote we have. There’s several votes I might feel more comfortable if I could do it secret. But I think my constituents deserve to know how I’m voting since I’m casting that vote in the capacity as their representative.
Eaves [01:34:26] Hang on. You’re trying–
Ferguson [01:34:28] Follow up. Yeah, but you know, as you pointed out, the speaker’s race is very different from a regular bill and the repercussions for the caucus in the, in the, in general, I think are, are much , are much greater than just for a regular bill. But I guess you wouldn’t agree with that.
Eaves [01:34:52] Representative Eubanks, you’re recognized.
Eubanks [01:34:55] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Rep. McKenzie, you made the statement that your constituents would not know how you voted. Are you not free to tell them how you voted?
McKenzie [01:35:04] That’s a good point. I am free to tell them. I’m free to tell either speaker or anybody who runs how I voted, but they’ll never know.
Eubanks [01:35:16] Well, I got a– follow up. There’s usually not any doubt in anybody’s mind where I am on on on a particular speaker’s race just because I don’t want to mislead anybody. I want people to know exactly where I stand and I’ll deal with whatever repercussions there are. I actually initial my ballot and take a picture of it so that I can share it with anybody that wants to see it. So.
McKenzie [01:35:43] Well, I think in response to that, I think that’s a good policy, certainly. But just as, as Representative Ferguson pointed out, there is a suspicion and that’s the problem when we do things secret or when we do things when it gives the appearance that’s not good. There’s a suspicion. Some people think that the– think that the Democrats all vote in block along with a certain group of Republicans. Now they have every right to do that. Probably smart. And the Republicans, I think, should. But the thing is, if I am a constituent, maybe I want to know if my representative voted in a block with the Democrats. Now I myself, I myself may decide, I think that’s the better person. But I ought to be accountable for it. And that’s all this is asking is to give them accountability. And yes, I can tell them, but I can tell both people that ran for speaker that I voted for him. I wouldn’t. But we avoid that appearance. And again, if this were homecoming, I’m not voting because I’m a representative for District 92. This, this vote is the only reason why I get to cast that vote.
Eaves [01:36:58] Representative Vaught, you’re recognized.
Vaught [01:37:00] Thank you, Mr. Chair. So I want to go back to what you just said, because I think we can all tell our constituents who we vote for. I don’t like– I mean, you kind of insinuated that we might lie to our constituents and tell them that we might vote for someone that we didn’t vote for, which I don’t appreciate because I’ve been pretty forthcoming with who I vote for and the reason why I vote for them and and so forth and so on. And I’m about as transparent as you can get. Because of my transparency, I even have somebody running against me because I was so transparent about how I was going to vote on something during a special session. So I don’t think it’s right for anyone to come in here and tell us that we might not– that we’re not transparent with our constituents, for one thing, because I think the majority of the people at this table are very, very open with their constituents and tell them how they vote. The rules have been changed once or twice, as Representative Wardlaw said that they were changed. But I think there’s a lot of people– I don’t have a problem with putting my vote on that board. Doesn’t bother me one iota to put my vote on that board because I’m going to support who I’m going to support and I’ve been very transparent about that. But there are people in the chamber who think that it might hurt them and their friendship with one or the other candidate if it’s put on the board. Another thing to think about is the speaker might not want it to be put on the board because he wants it to be where he can pick whoever he wants to be on a committee and not feel like he’s putting people on a committee just because they voted for him. Have you ever thought about that?
McKenzie [01:38:30] Yes. Thank you for the– thank you for the comment and a question. To your first comment, I believe I’m as transparent as can be. The most transparent I would submit is an open vote. That would be the most transparent. And I think to, to, to say to somebody, because you advocate for an open vote and you don’t trust a secret ballot that you’re– that I am somehow impugning somebody’s character, I think that goes against the fundamentals of what we believe we want in a democracy and our representative form of government. I don’t think I’m– I’m not challenging anybody here and saying, I think one of you is lying. I’m saying we avoid the appearance 100 percent if it’s up there. And with regard to hurting people’s feelings, I acknowledge that. It’s awkward. But nobody made us run for this job. Nobody. And sometimes we have to take some hard votes and hard decisions. And I think we, plenty of times, we have to vote and speak against folks’ bills. But I believe we all try to make them understand that we differed on this, does not impact our relationship.
Eaves [01:39:43] Representative Vaught, you’re recognized.
Vaught [01:39:45] Thank you, Mr. Chair. So my follow up would be, you talk about constituents asking you to do this. I’ve been here– this will be the beginning of my eighth year. I’ve never had one constituent asked me who I voted for for speaker or how we vote for speaker or nothing. They trust me to vote for the correct person to sit in that chair and to run our chamber. But not one time in my eight years, not one time have I had anybody in my district ask me who I voted for, how we vote for them or any of those kind of things. So it’s odd to me that I’ve in eight years had no one bring this to me, and this is something so big and so– give me a word– pressing. Thank you, Representative Dalby. Pressing from your district.
McKenzie [01:40:34] I appreciate that question, that comment. And you know what? That’s true. But you know what I’ve also found is? People don’t know until you tell them. And I would invite you or anybody else here. I’d be happy– and I think it would be great for the people. Let’s go, let’s go out and visit with people and let– let’s show how it’s done. Let them ask the questions. Because I’ve spoken to group after group after group after group, and what I have found every time is the people come after me and said, you know, we didn’t know that what was going on. I don’t like it. That’s what I found. But I could be wrong. And in fairness, I think it’s important that it get both sides, both sides of any view, of any position. And I think it would be wonderful. I would be happy to go to any group and any member of this committee wants to come and present their side, that’s the way it should be. But I think in fairness, this is somewhat inside baseball. But when people hear about it, they realize, this impacts me. But I could be wrong, and that’s why I would– I would be happy to visit. And like I said, you and I could go and speak to people and let them make up their minds. That’d be great. Thank you.
Eaves [01:41:45] Thank you, representative. Members, any other questions? All right, seeing no other questions, is there anyone in the audience signed up to speak for or would like to speak for or against this resolution? All right. Seeing none, Representative McKenzie, would you like to close for this resolution?
McKenzie [01:42:00] I would. And this was hard, but I tell you, I think this is probably the best discussion we’ve had about, I think– I realize differing opinions. But I hope that we can always speak our mind, speak with conviction, be friends afterward. So thank you for the time. I’m closed.
Eaves [01:42:22] Thank you. And what are the wishes of the committee?
Jean [01:42:24] Motion.
Eaves [01:42:25] Representative Jean, let’s hear your motion.
Jean [01:42:28] I have a motion to table this for further study. I think there was some pretty good dialogue. And personally, I’ve always been in favor of putting the board where every member of the House of Representatives vote for it. But it needs to be on the board from the floor of the caucus of the whole. But let’s have time to read your bill and see if there’s a consensus. So that’s my motion, to table.
Eaves [01:42:54] Members, that is a proper motion. Not debatable. All those in favor of that motion say aye. Opposed. The ayes have it. That bill will be tabled. That’s the last item on the agenda. But before we go, Rep. McKenzie, I just wanted to address something you said and defend the members of this committee. These members can vote however they want to vote. There’s no one up here telling them how to vote, more than any other committee. There have been times in the past session where I may have had a feeling one way or the other about a bill, so I try to convince them to vote the way that I feel. That’s no different from any other committee. So I’m offended on some of your comments about the members of this committee because we deal with some very sensitive subjects. We deal with some very uncomfortable subjects and they do the best they can and they are free to vote however they want to vote. So I just want to make that abundantly clear. All right, members, that’s all we have on the agenda. We are adjourned.