Joint Budget Special Language subcommittee

March 2, 2022

 

Cavenaugh Members, we’re going to take up B1 first, HB 1079. And Mildred, it is your turn. 

 

Staff Good afternoon, members– or good morning. Kind of confused right now. Thank you for attending. This is going to be, from my understanding, our last meeting of Special Language. We have two items on the agenda. The first is HB 1079 Department of Health. This is an amendment by Senator Sullivan. It’s on page 1 in your packet. It adds Special Language to the Department of House operating bill, requiring the refund of fines to certain businesses and makes the language effective upon passage and approval. 

 

Cavenaugh Thank you. Senator Sullivan, you’re recognized to present your amendment. 

 

Sullivan Thank you, Madam Chair. Several weeks, maybe a month ago, I contacted the Department of Health and asked them if they would voluntarily return the fines that resulted during the pandemic. They declined to do so. You know, I think when we make an error in government, the first thing we need to do is acknowledge that we made the error. And if we can, make it right. I just believe that the decisions to collect the fines were done sincerely with good intentions, expecting the lockdowns and the masks and other provisions– we expected those to work, or some did. We were just wrong. And I think two weeks ago, Dr. Romero testified as such in committee, admitting that the lockdowns and the masks and other attempts we made just did not have the intended effect on slowing the spread, social distancing included. Again, it was all done sincerely, but it was just not effective in stopping the spread. I was in a fast food line the other day and gave the young man $10 on a $9 bill, and the young man gave me back $1. And I– you know, he didn’t run and ask his manager. He just knew the right thing to do was to return the money. And I think the right thing to do here is for the government, the state, to return that money. We deal frequently with people not trusting government. We also deal frequently with underpayments and overpayments. And we just expect people to do the right thing, citizens to do the right thing. And lastly, we wonder why people distrust the government. This is why. We’ve taken their money. We’ve admitted we were wrong. But we’re going to keep the money. I’d ask the state and the Department of Health to please return the people’s money, admit we were wrong, and then do the right thing. This is an opportunity to do the right thing. Madam Chair, I spoke with some folks the other day that told me there were some unintended consequences in the language of this, of this bill. The problem in the language was not related to returning the fines, but related to how the language spoke. We don’t have time to go through that and change the language and bring it back up. So at this time, I’ll withdraw the bill. 

 

Cavenaugh OK, thank you, Senator Sullivan. 

 

Sullivan Thank you. 

 

Cavenaugh With that, members, we’re going to move on. We’re passing over item number 2, SB 45. We’re going to move into SB 67. Mildred. Yeah, we skipped– we’re pulling that. We’re going to pull 45. OK. With that, we’re going to take up item number 3, SB 67. And to hear this, we have an amendment and a handout, so we’re going to need the suspension of the rules. All in favor say aye. OK, Mildred. 

 

Staff Thank you, Madam Chair, we’re on item 3. This is an amendment to Department of Commerce’s operating bill. It adds a new section of Special Language for the department, adding stipulations for their foreign offices. This is an amendment by Senator Ballinger. 

 

Cavenaugh Senator Ballinger. Would you like to come and present your amendment? You going to present it from–

 

Ballinger I’ll present it from here, if that’s OK. 

 

Cavenaugh you’re recognized, Senator Ballinger. 

 

Ballinger Thank you, Madam Chair. Just so, so you guys know the amendment– the reason why we had to amend it is because of the governor’s letter that made an amendment to some of the same sections. So anyway, that’s what this amendment does is just incorporate that. And then it also makes it clear that what we’re talking about is a physical lease rather than, rather than any consulting or anything else. In short, and I know that, I’m sure Senator Hester waxed eloquently on Monday. So I don’t want to, don’t want to cover too much more, but we’re in a situation where there’s not a whole lot that we can do when it comes to foreign policy, when it comes to the genocide that is being committed on the Uyghurs in China and then all sorts of other human rights violations, not to mention that they are really becoming, to some extent, our adversary on the national stage. Having said all, all that, you know, I realize that, you know, we’re the state of Arkansas, we’re focused on that. And one of the things that we’ve kind of been arguing about for a while is, is the office that was in China and the language that provides for funding for an office in China and whether or not we should prohibit that. And so that’s what this amendment would do is it makes it where we cannot have a physical office located in the nation of China. 

 

Cavenaugh Representative Jean, you’re recognized for a question. 

 

Jean Thank you, Madam Chair. This is for Senator Ballinger. We don’t, we don’t have an office in there right now, but this will prohibit us from ever putting in there, is that what the Special Language does?

 

Cavenaugh Sorry about that, senator. 

 

Ballinger Yeah, that’s right. The answer’s yes.

 

Jean OK. 

 

Cavenaugh Whoever is sitting in Senator Flowers’ seat, you’re recognized. 

 

Dismang Thank you. If we could, could we have someone from Commerce come up? Just to take a quick question. 

 

Cavenaugh Please recognize yourself for the record. 

 

Preston Thank you, Madam Chair. Mike Preston, Secretary of Commerce, Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. 

 

Hudson Jim Hudson, Chief of Staff, Department of Commerce, General Counsel, AEDC. 

 

Dismang Thank you. And just real quick, I mean, just to reiterate, we currently do not have an office in China. Is that correct? 

 

Preston That’s correct. 

 

Dismang OK. And then would you make any comments about any intention you may or may not have in relation to a possible office in China? 

 

Preston We don’t have any intentions to do anything further. I think the Special Language that this committee adopted and passed out earlier in this week that the governor provided addressed the concerns expressed by members previously about our foreign offices and our operations and really strengthens around what the offices can and can’t do and I think gives that level of clarity. So we don’t see a need for this amendment. 

 

Cavenaugh Your follow up. 

 

Dismang And so just to be clear, you will not– or would you mind– you will not be opening an office in China. 

 

Preston We will not be opening an office in China. 

 

Dismang Thank you. 

 

Ballinger Madam Chair. 

 

Cavenaugh Yes. 

 

Ballinger I would like pull down my amendment 

 

Cavenaugh You’re recognized to pull your amendment. 

 

Ballinger Yeah, I just pulled down my amendment. We don’t need to hear it. 

 

Cavenaugh OK, thank you. 

 

Ballinger Thank you. 

 

Cavenaugh With that, members, that’s really all the business that we have. Thank you all for coming. So, the following amendments are released from Special budget back to Joint– Special Language back the Joint Budget: SB 64, SB 45, SB 67 and SB 64. With that, we’re adjourned.