March 8, 2022
Secretary [Roll call]
Griffin Everyone please stand, including those in the gallery. Senator Bledsoe is going to lead us in prayer.
Bledsoe In name of Jesus, and we just thank you for the blessings of this day and especially, Father, for the blessing of good health. And, Father, as we go from this place, I ask that you would put a hedge of thorns and a wall of protection around each member and their family, each staff member and their family, and that that hedge would include, Father, a desire to get even closer to you. And, Father, we thank you for the opportunity and the privilege of serving in this great place. Be with our governor and all of his staff. And we just again praise you and thank you for all you’ve done for us. In the name of Jesus, amen.
[Pledge of Allegiance]
Griffin Any announcements? Anything at the desk?
Secretary Yes, sir. Dear Mr. President, this is to inform you that on March 7, 2022, I reviewed and approved the following measures from the fiscal session of the 93rd General Assembly: Senate Bill 41 Act 152, Senate Bill 89 Act 153, Senate Bill 90 Act 154, Senate Bill 91 Act 155, Senate Bill 92 Act 156, Senate Bill 93 Act 157, Senate Bill 94 Act 158, Senate Bill 95 Act 159, Senate Bill 96 Act 160, Senate Bill 97 Act 161, Senate Bill 98 Act 162, Senate Bill 99 Act 163, Senate Bill 100 Act 164. Senate Bill 7 Act 165, Senate Bill 13 Act 166, Senate Bill 15 Act 167, Senate Bill 16 Act 168, Senate Bill 17 Act 169, Senate Bill 18 Act 170, Senate Bill 20 Act 171, Senate Bill 24 Act 172, Senate Bill 26 Act 173, Senate Bill 33 Act 174, Senate Bill 35 Act 175, Senate Bill 38 Act 176, Senate Bill 43 Act 177, Senate Bill 46 Act 178, Senate Bill 47 Act 179, Senate Bill 48 Act 180, Senate Bill 49 Act 181, Senate Bill 59 Act 182, Senate Bill 60 Act 183, Senate Bill 61 Act 184, Senate Bill 62 Act 185, Senate Bill 66 Act 186, Senate Bill 102 Act 187, Senate Bill 104 Act 188, Senate Bill 105 Act 189.
Griffin File it. Any other items? Move to the business agenda. Senator Irvin. Senator Irvin is not here. We’ll pass over that. Senator Ballinger. OK. Senator Hickey is going to run HCR 1002. Senator Hickey.
Hickey Yes, members. What this is is this was passed out of Rules yesterday. This is joint rules for the House and Senate, which is going to governing– govern when EBD bills can be filed. The best I remember, they have to be filed by the– I think, the 15th day, 15th day of the session. They’ll match up with like the retirement. There is a, there is a way that we could get around that if like two thirds of the membership were to allow it. However, what that’s going to do is allow those bills to be filed, and then also, if we need an actuary, they’ll be able to look at that to see what the cost is going to be on that program. We’d appreciate a good vote on this.
Griffin Any questions?
Secretary House Concurrent Resolution 1002 by Rep. Dotson and Senator Irvin to amend the joint rules of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the 93rd General Assembly.
Griffin All those in favor say aye. Opposed. Ayes have it. The resolution is adopted. Return to the House. Senator Ballinger.
Secretary Senate Resolution 36 by Senator Ballinger to strongly urge the president of the United States to support policies and measures to ensure the United States long term energy affordability, security, leadership.
[break in the video]
Ballinger But we finished really strong and I hate to kind of feel like we’re, we’re going out on a negative note, but to some extent we are. You know, we are all going home and our people right now are facing the very real possibility of paying $5 a gallon in the very near future for gasoline. And that’s if, that’s if we don’t cut off Russian oil. And we’re in a position as a country right now where maybe the best thing to do morally and right to try to help the Ukrainians is to cut off Russian oil, is for Europe and the United States not to buy any more of it. But if we were to do that, then we’re talking about really squeezing further our people, our citizens. I think that right now, real close to it, it’s about $5 a gallon for diesel here. I saw a picture where it’s like $9 a gallon in some places in California for diesel. Your people and my people are already hurting with inflation. They’re already suffering, especially folks on a fixed income. But really, everybody are faced with either buying less or dipping into their savings or doing something to be able to, to buy food and pay for energy. They’re already suffering under that, that heavy hand, and now diesel is going up to $5 a gallon and more. And so what is that going to do to all the rest of the goods that are being shipped? And we were talking a little bit this morning, and I’ve been racking my head like, What can we do about it? Like, how can we affect the price of gas? How can we help with, with inflation? And there’s very little that we can do. And obviously, this resolution doesn’t really do anything, but it is the thing that we can do. We can beg the administration. Honestly, what we can do is beg the admin– because there, there isn’t even anything the president can do right now to fix that. But, but what the president can do is start policies that will fix it months and years from now. You know, the result of what we have now– obviously, there’s a lot of market factors and so forth that go into it. But also, it’s a result of making bad decisions a year ago that, that is resulting from this. And so if as a country, we’re going to be strong and we’re going to be, be successful, one, is our people are not going to pay, you know, extraordinary prices for energy, and they’re not going to pay extraordinary prices for goods. But, but also we need to be able to be independent enough that if we have bad guys throughout the world that we can cut them off and quit paying and funding their bad acts. And honestly, that’s where we’re at today, but we’re in such a position that we really can’t do that. So unless one of y’all have a solution other than the resolution to fixing this, then I’m, I’m all ears, but otherwise the best thing we do is pass a resolution, urge the president to, to go back and open up off-sea drilling, open up pipelines, do everything we can to get the energy to the people so that we aren’t looking at gas prices at $10 a gallon at some point in the future. And frankly, it could be enough that it would cripple our economy. I’d be happy to answer any questions.
Griffin Any questions? Senator Clark.
Ballinger Appreciate a good vote.
Griffin All those in favor say aye. Opposed. Ayes have it. Resolution is adopted. SR 36 is adopted. Okay, we’re going to the budget calendar. There are three bills and they will be handled individually.
Secretary House Bill 1034 by Joint Budget an Act for the Department of Corrections Division of Correction Appropriation for the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
Griffin Senator Dismang.
Dismang Happy to take any questions.
Griffin Questions? Any objection to rolling the vote? Yes, sir.
Clark Thank you, Governor. My comments are going to be directed entirely on the expansion of the Calico Rock prison. It’s been a little bit of an educational process for me. Obviously, this is ADC budget as a whole. The Calico Rock expansion was a House amendment to a budget bill. And I’m a little frustrated because that amendment never made it to the Senate floor. It’s nobody’s fault. That’s just how the process works, so I learned. But I’m not on Budget where the amendment came out of. I’m not in the House where the amendment went. And I know this will be funded eventually through ALC, which I’m not on either. So this is really my only opportunity to offer any comments on, on the prison expansion, and I think it’s very important to, to do so. I wanted to to speak against the amendment because of what I’m about to say, but also because I really wanted to give Senator Fulfer an opportunity to cast a no vote during his career. But I was thinking about this issue and I came up with an analogy and no analogy is perfect. But, but an analogy that I came up with was, let’s say that an issue came up and we were faced with the question of whether we had to raise a couple of hundred million dollars in taxes, raise revenue in order to meet a real need. And I was thinking about it, and I know for certain that if that came up, that we would scour the budget to try to find that $200 million before we raise taxes. And so my thought is, why can we not have the same scrutiny for incarcerating Arkansans that we do– or that we would for spending Arkansans’ taxpayer dollars? Now, obviously, in our 16,000 some odd ADC beds, there are a lot of people who have committed dangerous crimes, and they they belong there. But I wonder whether we could come up with 498 beds out of the 16,000 beds that we have now. You know how many Brooks Hatlen’s do we have in prison right now? If you’ve seen Shawshank Redemption, you know what I’m talking about. But if you haven’t, how many people are over 70 who are no danger to society, who were just housing in the Arkansas Department of Corrections? I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve asked ADC. They’re looking into it, and they’ll get back to me. How many there are terminally ill? I don’t know. And how many there are there– how many are there because of an addiction or because of a mental health issue or because of poverty? I don’t know the answers to those questions, and you may not like it. But I also wonder– there’s no way to know for sure– but I believe there are hundreds of people who are there for a crime related to marijuana. And whether you like it or not, I think there’s a pretty decent chance the people of Arkansas are going to say in November that recreational marijuana is legal in Arkansas. But yet, we have hundreds of folks in the Arkansas Department of Corrections who are there because of marijuana. Now I know it’s not an apples to apples comparison, because some of the beds I’m talking about may be different than some of the beds they’re wanting to build at Calico Rock. And I also know we have a real problem in our county jails right now. But really, the main point that I want to make, and I’ll explain what I mean, but the main point I want to make is that we cannot build our way out of this problem. We can only legislate our way out of this problem. And let me just explain what I mean a little bit. One point is, let’s say we have these 498 beds online tomorrow. Will that solve this problem? No, and nobody will tell you that it will. Not your sheriffs, not the Department of Corrections, nobody. Those bills would be filled immediately and we’d be right back where we are. And the reason is because our prison population right now grows at 1.5 percent per year. Our state’s population is growing at about 0.35 percent per year, which means that our prison population is growing at four times the rate of our state population. So we cannot build our way out of this problem. And I’ll give another example. Since 1983, and this is on a proportional basis, our prison population has gone up 311 percent. Out of our region, which includes Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama, our combined incarceration rate between jail and prison is second out of that region. It’s seventh in the country and it’s higher than any other democracy in the world. Now, I absolutely do not believe that our people have gotten 300 percent more dangerous since 1983. Nor do I believe that our people are the second most dangerous in the region, the seventh most dangerous in the country, or more dangerous than any other democracy in the world. The reason we have those rates is because of the laws that we have on the books. And I’m not talking about us only, as in the current legislature. These are policies that have been set going back 40 and 50 years. And by the way, none of this is directed at the Department of Corrections. I have the utmost respect for Secretary Graves and Lindsey Wallace, and they’re faithfully executing the laws that we pass. If I was secretary of corrections, I’d probably be proposing the same thing, because he’s charged with administering the laws that are on the books. But my point is we have to take a look at these laws. I think it’s important to mention in this conversation– it’s been discussed before– but in Arkansas, the population of folks who are black is about 16 percent. And yet black Arkansans comprise 37 percent of our jail population, and 41 percent of our prison population. Now I know no one in here has ever passed the law with the intent of incarcerating more black Arkansans than non-black Arkansans. But that is the result of the laws that are on the books, and we know that. So if we just create 500 new prison beds, we’re just perpetuating more of that. And it’s not just a matter of race. I want to read these numbers because I think they really make an impression, or they did on me. Since 1980, the number of women in jail has increased 1,456 percent, and the number of women in prison has increased 1,231 one percent. In 1970, there were 43 women in jail. In 2015, that number was over 1,300. In 1978, there were 98 women in prison. And in 2017, that number was over 1,400. Now have women gotten that much more dangerous since the 1970s? Obviously not, but our laws have changed. Now we’ve made some progress, which I do want to salute. In 2015, we had Act 895. In 2017, we had Act 423. We’ve had a lot of work in juvenile justice reform, which Senator Irvin has has done a lot of work for. And I applaud that leadership. Seven or eight years ago, our incarceration growth rate was 3 percent. Now it’s 1.5 percent. So we are making progress, but we have a lot more work to do. The hypothetical that I raised at the beginning of my remarks about spending a couple of hundred million dollars, that really is not a hypothetical. Because in this scenario, if this is funded eventually through ALC, we will spend $75 million constructing the prison. And it’s about $25,000 a year to house someone in the type of beds that we’re creating with this expansion. For 498 beds, that’s about $13 million a year. So over the next decade, we will spend a couple of hundred million dollars to incarcerate 498 Arkansans. And my question is whether that’s the best use of that money, particularly when you think about the other costs. On top of that, after someone gets out, which most do, they’re five times as likely to be unemployed. They’re much, much more likely to have a major health issue. And so there are other burdens on society besides– and to families, obviously– besides just the cost to incarcerate someone. Just one more point before I wrap up. But, but this question of who do we incarcerate and for how long, these are very important questions. And we can be smarter about how we answer those questions. And the point I want to emphasize is smarter does not mean weaker. It does not mean weaker. For one thing, we need to be very prudent with how we spend taxpayer dollars. And incarcerating folks is just about the most expensive thing we do. For another thing, these people that I’m referring to, those with mental health issues, those with addictions, those in poverty. We’re just taking better care of them if we address those issues, the underlying issues rather than just incarcerating someone. If someone commits a serious or dangerous crime, they ought to be incarcerated. But if we’re smarter about how we approach this, we actually can improve public safety. And I’ll just explain that. If we treat the underlying issue, then the person is much less likely to commit an additional crime in the future, much less likely. And we also free up beds for people who have committed dangerous crimes and deserve to be there. So if we’re smarter about this, then we can save taxpayer dollars, take better care of our people and improve public safety all at the same time. So that’s what I’m asking. Now I’m going to vote for this bill. That’s why I’m speaking on it, because it’s the Department of Corrections budget as a whole. But I guess I’m speaking, number one, to the members on ALC, and I would encourage you to vote against the expansion of Calico Rock when that issue comes before ALC. But my second request is for whoever comes back to the next session, let’s, let’s sit down and really work on this because we’re just kicking the can down the road with this prison expansion. We are not solving the problem, and no one will tell you that we are. We cannot build our way out of this problem. We can only legislate our way out of, out of this problem. And it’s hard work, and we can only do it together. So those are my remarks. Thank you, Governor.
Griffin Senator Johnson speaking in favor. And then we’ve got Senator Clark, Senator Elliott, then Senator Leding. Senator Johnson.
M Johnson Thank you, Mr. President. I don’t like to follow my friend, Senator Tucker. He always has great reasoning, and he’s, he’s a caring person and my friend. But I don’t know if we can build our way out of this situation or not. And believe me, the statistics that he quoted really are troublesome to me because, yes, I think people have gotten worse. I think all of us, all races, all sexes have gotten worse. I think women are more violent than they used to be. I think society is more violent than it used to be. About 30 years ago and I’m not– don’t hold me to that date. We had a sheriff in Pulaski county named Randy Johnson. Good guy. And the community came together and we expanded, built the new Pulaski County Jail. And when it opened, the crime rate in this community dropped precipitously. And I called him up and I said, Is that just due to the jail? He said, he said yes, Mark. He said that’s, that’s because all the professional criminals that have been out on the street we didn’t have room for, they’re locked up now. Now our lieutenant governor has spoken to me about an issue where perpetrators, and my sheriff in Faulkner County corroborated this when I spoke to him earlier this week or last week, he said, Yes, when we arrest someone, the first thing they ask is, is this federal or state charges? Because they know that if it’s federal, they’re going to– if they’re sentenced, they’re going to spend 85 percent of their sentence in prison if they’re convicted. If, if it’s a state situation, they know that if it get 20 years, they may be out in two years, three years, 18 months, depending on how bad the crowding situation is. Now I agree with Senator Tucker. We need to do things to rehabilitate people, and there’s some great programs. And we need to touch their hearts. But we also have to remember the admonition of Senator Pitsch’s constituent many years ago, Judge Parker up in Fort Smith, who said it is not the threat of punishment that is a deterrent to crime. It’s the certainty of punishment that’s a deterrent to crime. And that’s where we are right now as a society. Now we’ve got people that are just incorrigible criminals and they need to be locked up and to protect the rest of us, to protect the law abiding citizens. Those of you that live out in the state, I know you talk to your constituents about, you know, they say, Well, you know, I don’t know if I’d go to Little Rock, I don’t feel safe if I’m in Little Rock. That bothers me that people from around the state wouldn’t feel safe in our capital city. When I was a kid, I would wander downtown all by myself, go to places, go to movies, go get a hamburger at the Walgreens at Capitol and Main. And I felt perfectly safe and my parents felt that way. That is not where we are right now as a society. And that saddens me. Now, are 498 new beds in Calico Rock going to solve this problem? No, but it’ll help. And most importantly, it’ll stop us from putting an unfunded mandate on our counties to have to take care of state prisoners, people who have already been convicted and should be in the Department of Correction because that’s our responsibility. So I appreciate the governor coming forward with this partial solution. We all know it’s not a full solution. But let’s take the burden off our locals, let them lock up the misdemeanors, people that are awaiting trial. And when someone is convicted, to the greatest extent we can, let’s get them in the Department of Corrections and then start looking at our parole system. And I’m not blaming a parole board. They’re good people. Certainly not blaming Secretary Graves. He’s doing the best he can in a difficult situation. But systemically, the problem falls on us. And you can guarantee we’re going to be back here in January having to deal with it. So first, I want to thank our lieutenant governor for bringing this issue to my attention, especially the fact that we have a revolving door parole system. The good people, let’s get them rehabilitated. I believe that everyone has a soul and that we can reach their hearts and they can become good people. We’ve seen it so many times. But we also have those that sadly we have to lock them up just to protect our children, our families and the general public. Thank you, Mr. President, madam President.
Irvin Senator Elliott, I have Senator Elliott, then Senator Clark, then Senator Leding. Senator Elliott, you’re recognized.
Elliott Thank you, Madam Chair. And members, I guess the thing that seems most important to me– a lot of what Senator Clark said, I totally agree with. I was a part of a task force where we did a long study with CSG and the Pew Charitable Trust. And they had worked with several states, much like Arkansas, like Texas and Georgia, and then some very much not like Arkansas, like New Jersey. And they had found a way through careful study to do something about their overcrowded prison situations. And what I always like to bring to this kind of conversation is is not to be too simplistic about, we just lock them up because they are bad people that just have to be locked up. That is– that has a ring of truth that I think is given far more credence than it deserves. But it definitely deserves a lot of credence, because there are some bad people. A long time ago when there was a book that was really– when I say a long time ago, I’d say maybe about 25 years or so– there is a book that was really an important lesson on how to change things systemically. The title of that book was The Shape of the River, and that’s kind of where we find ourselves now. What’s the shape of the river when it comes to prisons right now? And the shape obviously is it’s overcrowded. And about 10 years later, that was the– and that book was was highly touted and really informed a lot of people because the river– and some of you know about this metaphor. The kids keep coming down the river drowned. And people kept going, What is wrong with this river? Why are all these people in this river not able to swim and save themselves? So that was the shape of the river. And about 10 years later, we got a little bit smarter, and a second person wrote a book called, The Source of the River, which is where I think we ought to be. And the idea behind the source of the river was, Why is this happening? What’s the source of all these people being in jail, other than the simplicity of just simply saying they committed crimes? Why did they commit crimes? Why did committing a crime, you could argue in many cases, even end up with somebody being in jail for an extraordinarily long amount of time? So I would posit to you that we need to be looking at the source of the river and not be so quick to say because somebody made a mistake that we should use taxpayers money, locking them up for years and years and years unless they are, of course, those really dangerous people that deserve to be locked up. I think we are a little too facile with assuming that just because Joyce Elliott did something that was against the law, that our laws are even just. Because some of you know, you’ve had to sit through our discussion and my offering this bill for three sessions in a row about racial impact statements. We have yet to get that passed through the House and to the good grace and the good common sense I think of this Senate, we finally passed in here. It did not pass in the House despite our trying. All it means is, kind of like Clarke was suggesting, let’s stop and take a look at what we are doing. Is it possible that we have so many people in jail because the policies we have that we have assumed that the shape of the river is the only thing we should take a look at? So my major reason, though, is talk– as to say to the public what this bill actually does, this budget bill. We are not actually in this budget bill today, as was alluded to by Senate Clark– Senator Tucker, we are not in this bill suggesting that there is going to be the money there without further oversight. Because what I want the public to understand when this bill passes today, if you’re the person– and it, and it seems like– feels like it’s been most of Arkansas– if you’re the person who’s been contacting me about, Can we not do something better than the knee jerk– quote, unquote, those are their words– reaction of locking people up. Can we not do anything better? You’re going to see this bill passed and you think it’s over. Please understand, members of the public, there is a second step to this before this money is spent. It will have to be voted on by the Legislative Council. This is where you need to be in contact, not just with me or two or three others. This is where you need to be in contact with your senators on Legislative Council to have that final say and have some final influence about whether or not we spend this money and how much we spend. I want the public to be really clear about that, because I don’t want you to leave here dejected and saying that we just passed some money that we’re going to spend right now on prisons. That second step where we’re going to be a lot more careful is what you need to be thinking about. That’s both for your House member and your Senate member. And once we do this, I think the time will come when we will take some time, I hope, and look at the source and not just be concerned about the shape. Because I guarantee you right now if you have a vehicle and the shape of your vehicle is not what it should be, you’re going to go try to find the source and you’re going to fix the source. God knows we should be able to do that for our own people.
Griffin Senator Clark. Then Senator Leding, then Senator Wallace.
Clark I appreciate– I appreciated the remarks of Senator– the other Senator Clark, Senator Tucker. And I truly appreciated those remarks, Senator Tucker, because I agree with almost all of them. And I would probably only slightly agree with anything that you said. As the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, we had a meeting just a couple of weeks before this session and we had two subjects on the agenda. One was whether folks were getting adequate opportunity to be represented by a public defender, which under our constitution is a very serious question. And the other was about reimbursements to county jails for state prisoners and how that, and how the back of state prisoners in county jails was affecting them. We heard testimony, and you can go back and watch that testimony that we have 2,300 state prisoners in county jails continually. I don’t know how that compares to 10 years ago, exactly, but it’s very similar to what it was when when I came into the state Senate. It’s a problem we’ve never solved. I don’t know how that compares in 1992 to ’96, when I was on the Garland County Quorum Court, and that was a huge problem for us having those prisoners in our jail when we were stacking people in the floor and we would get in trouble for having our jail overcrowded. But it’s very similar. And so while I have seen the good that the Garland– that the drug courts have done in Garland County. And I want to expand them as rapidly as we can. I’ve seen the good that the juvenile justice reform has done. And I saw the things that we’ve tried to do under my predecessors. The fact is we have 2,300 state prisoners in county jails. That’s a fact. Because I haven’t been crusading for prison beds. We just had a meeting and found out that that was a problem, should have already known it was a problem. But the sheriffs also testified that crime was growing at an alarming rate, that serious crime was growing at alarming rate, that gangs were growing and that one of the reasons, not the only reason, but one of the major reasons they felt like that crime was growing in their areas, in your areas, and that people, your constituents, are being hurt and becoming victims, were that they can’t keep people in jail because they have state prisoners in their jails and are overcrowded because of state prisoners. They have to let people go as soon as they arrest them unless it’s extremely serious and sometimes even when it’s serious. Not to mention the fact that we’re releasing people at the state prison early all the time. And I agree with Senator Tucker. There are people that if he and I sat down, we would probably say, Well, let’s let these go. And one of our next Judiciary Committee meetings is going to be on that subject. So, Senator Tucker, I invite you to come join me on the Judiciary Committee because this is, this is a topic that I think we really need to look at seriously. I remember years ago, my first visit to New York City, I was on a tour and they pointed– this is no longer the case, by the way– but they pointed at this, this tall building that was a jail, multistory building. It was a jail and that it was empty under Mayor Giuliani because of the things that they had done as crime deterrence that they had actually lowered crime and in lowering crime lowered the number of people in jail. And so I believe that it can be done. I don’t know how to do it. And we heard, we also heard testimony in this Judiciary Committee meeting that there was a task force years ago and that we did part of what the task force recommended, but we didn’t do the other part. I didn’t– you know, I was out selling building material and flooring during that, you know, while they were running that task force. I wasn’t in the state Senate, and so I asked them to bring us that information because we need to, we need to search for the solution. So I’m very serious when I say, I agree with you. We shouldn’t have more people, but we do. And because we do, we’re letting, we’re putting people back out on the streets now. And so the governor and I have never talked about this problem, but I very much appreciate the fact that he has attempted a Band-Aid at least until we get something else done. And I think it’s the right thing to do. I think that– I appreciate– Senator Tucker got to preach grace and I have to preach holiness. They both go together. The, the– is everything– almost everything he said was right. We’ve got to do all those things. We’ve got people that shouldn’t be there. We shouldn’t have so many people. But in the meantime, we’re letting real criminals back out on the street and they’re committing real crime against our citizens. And so we’ve got to make haste to do the things you talked about while at the same time this Band-Aid of some extra beds needs to be done to keep take some of this load off of our county jails. Thank you.
Griffin Senator Leding to speak against.
Leding Thank you. And I’m going to skip a lot of what I was going to say, just not to repeat some of my colleagues. But no other country incarcerates more people than the United States. There are 2,068,800 Americans behind bars. China is number two with just 1.69 million. We talk a lot about China in this room, and yet we incarcerate more people than they do. And when you think about the gap in our populations, that makes that number all the more staggering. We’re number one in the number of people in prison, and we’re number one when it comes to our incarceration rate. China and Iran don’t even crack the top 50. Russia’s incarceration rate is only good for 22nd place. We incarcerate people at a rate of 200– sorry, 629 per capita. Nobody can compete with us when it comes to putting people in prison to the point that one out of every five people in the world in prison is in prison in the United States of America. We have 20 percent of the world’s prison population. And when you look at the states that are driving some of those numbers, we’re near the top. Only Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma had higher incarceration rates than we do. It’s not something to be proud of. And as Senator Tucker said, I don’t think it’s because Arkansans are naturally more violent or more dangerous. It is just because of the policies that we have put in place. We know that we can reduce our prison population. There was a study done just about in 2019– it might be the same one that Senator Elliott referenced– but they looked at the prison populations in every state in 2019 compared to the populations when those states hit their peak population. Some of them hit their peak back in the 90s, some in the early 2000s. We hit our peak prison population in 2017. And from 2017 to 2019, we were able to reduce our prison population by just under 2 percent. But only six states did worse than that. And you’re thinking, well, it was just a two year gap, we didn’t have that much time. Missouri hit their peak population in 2017, and by 2019 they had reduced their prison population by over 20 percent. Oklahoma, remember, they were higher than us with their incarceration rate, they hit their peak in 2016. And in those three years, they were able to reduce their prison population by 14 percent. We know how to reduce our prison population. We’ve done it through policies like a couple of years ago, thanks to the leadership of Senator Irvin, we banned life without parole here in Arkansas. And one quick story to tie into that, you know, I have been to the Calico Rock Prison. It’s one of the few that I’ve visited. I absolutely encourage you to tour a prison in the state if you haven’t. But I’ve also been to the women’s unit at Newport at the invitation of a friend, and she wasn’t allowed back with the prisoners. So it was just me and a guard and we’re going through, and at one point we’re outside, and I can see some construction beyond the perimeter. And so I ask the guards like, Well, what are they building right there? It was a marijuana cultivation facility. And I thought they were joking, but they were literally about to build a medical marijuana cultivation facility right next to a prison. And now that facility is not there, and we can say that there aren’t that many people in prison strictly because of marijuana possession charges, but how many people end up in the system because of some minor marijuana possession charge. I think there are a lot of things that we can reevaluate and change policies to help reduce populations. By the way, the woman that invited me to that prison had been an inmate there. She was sentenced to life without parole as a juvenile. She was told by many people, including the warden, that she would die in prison. But again, thanks to the bill that Senator Irvin passed in 2017, she was able to walk out a free woman that year. She now advocates on behalf of other incarcerated Arkansans. She holds a management position at a billion dollar company in this state, and I got to go to her wedding last summer. So we know how to reduce our prison population, effectively save taxpayer money, to improve lives and to do it without committing ourselves to hundreds of million dollars in ongoing expense. Thank you.
Griffin Senator Wallace to speak in favor.
Wallace You know, members, there’s been some good points made today. We do need to do a better job with our mental health issues with our prisoners and with those that are looking at going to prison. But you know who we’ve not talked about today. We’ve not talked about the victims of the crimes that geot committed by these folks that need to be in prison. My small hometown, my small towns, when they call me don’t talk about prison beds. They talk about individuals that have stolen and have robbed that are habitual criminals. 10, 20, 30 cases, and there’s no room to put these individuals. Our citizens deserve the right to not be afraid to walk out their door and to walk through their downtowns. Our fellow citizens deserve the right to not have to lock down their property every night to worry about somebody coming in and stealing their tools or equipment, breaking into even chains. Our fellow citizens deserve to be protected. And that’s not what we’re talking about. And if I have the ability to put 498 of these individuals that are habitual criminals into prison and let them think about what they did wrong, I want to vote for this and I am going to vote for this. Thank you.
Griffin Anyone else? So he was in favor. Anyone against? For? The senator’s recognized.
Fulfer I’ll make this speech as short as my tenure here in the Senate so that we can all go home. I do want to say this and I appreciate Senator Tucker’s offer for me to vote against something in this session. If we have a special session, I’ll see if you have a bill in committee that I can vote against. So let me say this. Washington County has had a tremendous issue with our county jail. Recently, we had an officer that was killed in Pea Ridge, Officer Apple. The person that allegedly killed him has not had their trial date yet, but they had been released from the Washington County Jail, just the Washington County Jail, eight times in three years. And the word hypothetical was brought up earlier, and that’s when something that’s hypothetical turns into a reality. There are some people that do need to be in our county jails. There’s also people that I think could go through rehabilitation. I think this isn’t an ‘or’ situation, I think it’s a ‘both and’. And I think we need a two pronged approach to this. The preamble of the Constitution mandates five things of people who are elected to office and that run our government, whether it’s federal, state or local. And in order to form a more perfect union, one of the things that we are required to do is to ensure the domestic tranquility. And that can’t happen if we don’t have a system where people end up paying a price for the things that they do. That’s not to say that everyone there is deserving of, of the sentence that they’ve had. We need to have a two pronged approach for that. And we do that in order to form a more perfect union. And we also want to ensure that our children– it talks about our posterity– will enjoy the blessings of liberty. And that’s the only way that those things happen. And I do, I do encourage everyone to support this, and I hope we’ll also look for other opportunities in the future as well to help those who can benefit from alternative programs.
Griffin Thank you, Senator. Senator Chesterfield, then we’ll go to Senator Irvin.
Chesterfield Mr. Chair, ladies and gentlemen of the Senate, I had been extremely reluctant about even speaking on this issue because I know I’m a no vote. However, I do believe that we ought to establish justice as we go forward with whatever it is we do. It is amazing to me that in this great country of ours, we have not found a way to deal with the mental illnesses that are so prevalent in our children and in our adults. It is amazing to me that we insist that we need more cages for the individuals in our society. I will not be supporting this or anything else that talks about building more cages for human beings. And that’s what prison is. But I will also fight for the rights of people to be free in their homes from violence. I think we can do both. I would urge a no vote. Thank you.
Griffin Senator Irvin in favor.
Irvin Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Senate. I won’t prolong this, but I do want to talk about some of the efforts that are ongoing that have been created. One of those was a task force to really look at the fines and the fees that people that are incarcerated and what they have incurred and their ability or inability to pay those fines and fees. So we started a task force with legislation, and Senator Tucker, Senator Ballinger, myself, Representative Robin Lundstrum, we are working diligently on that issue. And I think it’s important for us to state the policies that are ongoing and the efforts that this body has continued to make. I appreciate the comments from my colleagues about the juvenile justice reform issues and the policies that we’ve put forward, and I just want to speak quickly about that this session. You, as a body, supported increasing our reimbursement to the counties for our juvenile probation officers. That’s a huge big deal. It had not been raised since 1989, and the turnover in those juvenile probation officers has been tremendous. And y’all, those are the folks that are on the front lines working with our juveniles that are in a terrible situation, perhaps. And they’re trying to get them back on course. That goes to our recidivism rate. It keeps our juveniles out of prison. It’s incredibly important that we support those juvenile probation officers and those juvenile judges and the juvenile courts and the efforts that we are doing through the juvenile justice reform and the risk assessments that are ongoing with not only those offenders, but also their families. So you all, we as a body have done a lot, but there is a lot still to do. As Senator Clark talked about, as Senator Tucker talked about, as Senator Leding talked about. I just wanted to be able to say for the benefit of the people that are listening to us today, I’m thankful for this dialog on this very important issue. I know everybody wants to vote, but I’m really thankful that we’re having this conversation because we do need to do both. Like Senator Fulfer said, we can do both things. But it is important to maintain the safety of our citizens. It is important to remember the victims. And I would be remiss if I didn’t say my good friend, Rebecca Petty. Representative Rebecca Perry was a victim because of what happened to her daughter. But she engaged on excellent policy for the issue that Senator Leding spoke about. And I’m just so proud of her. I’m proud of her advocacy on both sides of this issue, and I think she’s an example of how we all need to go forward and deal with this policy when it comes to our prisons, incarceration and the victims aspect of it. Thank you, and I’d appreciate a good vote for the bill this time.
Griffin Senator Dismang.
Dismang Senator, I just want to remind you that, again, we are voting on the entire appropriation. There’s a lot of other components in that and to, you know, Senator Tucker’s point, you know, there was a time for us to really debate this, and we debated some things in amendments over in Joint Budget that were actually defeated, you know, by various means. Maybe splitting the vote between the chambers, that did not happen on this particular amendment. The thing I’d remind you is that this is an appropriation only. There is no funding. The funding will have to come later whenever ALC meets, and we would actually have to vote to release funds for this construction project if we do move forward with it. But again, this is just an appropriation only for that amongst many other items. But that’s just one small component of this particular bill. And with that, I’d appreciate a good vote.
Griffin Any objection to rolling the vote? Please call the roll.
Secretary Ballinger, Ballinger, yes. Beckham, yes. Bledsoe, yes. Caldwell, yes. Chesterfield, no. Clark, yes. Davis, yes. Dismang, yes. Elliott, no. English, yes. Flippo, yes. Flowers, Flowers. Fulfer, yes. Garner, Garner. Gilmore, yes. Hammer, yes. Hendren, yes. Hester, yes. Hickey, yes. Hill yes. Ingram, yes. Irvin, yes. Blake Johnson, yes. Mark Johnson, yes. Leding, no. Pitsch, yes. Rapert, yes. Rice, yes. Sample, yes. Sturch, yes. Stubblefield, yes. Sullivan, yes. Teague, Teaug. Tucker, yes. Wallace, yes.
Dismang Anyone wish to vote or change their vote. Senator Davis, aye. Oh, Senator Garner is aye. Anybody else? Cast up the ballot. 30 yeas, 3 nays. The bill is passed. Return to the House. Senator Dismang.
Secretary House Bill 1117 by Representative Jean to amend the revenue stabilization law, to create funds and to make transfers to and from funds and fund accounts.
Griffin Senator Dismang.
Dismang Mirrors the RSA that we passed out yesterday. Appreciate a good vote.
Griffin The senator is closed. Any objection to rolling the vote? Please roll the vote. [Roll call] Anyone wish to change their vote? Cast up the ballot. 35 yeas, 0 nays. The bill is passed, emergency clause is adopted. Return to the House. Senator Dismang.
Secretary House Bill 1055 by Joint Budget an Act for the Arkansas Tech University appropriation for the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
Dismang Members, I appreciate a good vote
Griffin Any questions? Objection to rolling the vote? Please roll the vote. [Roll call] Anyone wish to change their vote? Cast up the ballot. 35 yeas, 0 nays. The bill has passed. Emergency clause is adopted. Return to the House. Real quickly, Senator Irvin, you want to recognize someone? Then I’ll go to Senator Sturch.
Irvin Thank you, members, it’s my distinct honor and pleasure to introduce to you our doctor of the day, Dr. Shannon Swift. She’s internal medicine pediatrics from Heber Springs, Arkansas. And our nurse is Brenda Hewitt. As always, we’re so grateful to have you guys with us today. Thank you for what you do for serving the people of rural Arkansas and providing excellent quality health care. We appreciate you. Thank you.
Griffin Thank you. Senator Sturch.
Sturch Mr. President, can I be recognized for a motion, please, sir?
Griffin You’re recognized.
Sturch Members, the Rules Committee of the Senate met yesterday to review all the appointments. You were given a folder packet last week. The Rules Committee moves that we would approve all those appointments with the exception of one, Mr. Travis Center for the State Plant Board. We’re going to review that at a later date at another meeting. But all the rest of the appointments are moved for your consideration to be approved today. I move that we confirm all appointments.
Griffin Any questions? All those in favor say aye. Opposed. Ayes have it. Motion’s carried. All are approved except for the one mentioned. Senator Hickey, you wish to be recognized.
Hickey Yes, sir. Yes, sir, thank you. At this time, I’d like for Senator Flippo and Senator Chesterfield to come down here with me. Members, we’ve had a great session. However, we have a lot of members leaving. We have nine members that are not going to be back with us even before the election. So the amount of knowledge that we’re about to lose here is unimaginable, what they bring, the things they’ve taught us. And at the very least, we just want to recognize them today and give them a plaque. And as we always do, we allow them to stand at the well. It may not be our last meeting, but it is our last scheduled one with this fiscal session. So we allow them to stand at the well as their last time and to give a few words. So at this point, we’re going to do it. The first one is going to be Senator Fulfer. And you say, well, Senator Fulfer gets a plaque just like everybody else? And, you know, I thought about that and, you know, that’s really– we’re going to start off by saying this. I asked him a minute ago, I said, how many days has it been since you’ve been sworn in? He said 14. But the importance of that is this. He’s here 14 days, but his vote is just as important as the last one that we will hear today. And that’s, it’s the same as the president pro tem, majority leader, minority leader and every other member down here. And this, this body that is just such a– it’s just so unique that that’s the way it is. And it truly is an appointment. It truly is an appointment by God. So if you would, Senator Fulfer, if you’ll start us off, you can come down here and say a few words.
Griffin You get time commensurate with how long you’ve been in the chamber. You get, you get 14 seconds.
Fulfer Well, I didn’t have anything prepared for this. It’s been an honor to get to know everyone that’s here. My kids had a great time. They think dad’s important all of a sudden, and so I’m going to be bringing them back. It really has been an honor to meet the staff and thank you all for everything that you do as well. And it really has been an honor. And I remember going to my high school prom before I had hit puberty, and I’m just happy to be here just like I was at the dance that night, so.
Hickey Since we get so many of these, we’re going to start rolling them a little bit. Senator Pitsch, if you would, you come up next? Senator Pitsch has served four years, four years in the Senate, four years in the House, for eight years of total service in the Legislature. And he’s looking to stay with us. He’s running for another office.
Pitsch I’m kind of like Senator Fulfer. I don’t have anything planned. I do think it’s very important to say the relationships that have been built, many of you in the House first and now down here. Those are what you carry with you for life. I mean, several of us sat on the same front row, as I look over here in the House, and here we are sitting in the Senate together. I think it’s very important to say thank you to these fine folks. They have been a very special part of being down here, and I thank you for that. Lieutenant Governor, you’ve been in the well ever since I stepped in here, so it’ll be different with you gone and me gone. So let’s see where it goes. Thank you very much. I appreciate all the relationships I had with each and every one of you.
Hickey Senator Garner, I don’t think he could be with us today. But Senator Gardner has actually served six years in the Senate. Senator Hendren. He also couldn’t be here today. But Senator Hendren, he served 10 years in the Senate, 6 years in the House, 16 years total service. And he also served as president pro tem of this body. Senator Ingram. Senator Ingram is our minority leader, also has become a great friend of mine. He’s been here 10 years in the Senate, 4 years in the House for a total of 14 years, and I know his family has, has been involved for many, many years.
Ingram Yes, thank you. Some would say probably too long. You know, I walked onto this floor as a– in 1963. I was eight years old, and this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a senator like my father. And I’ve had the great honor and pleasure to know so many Arkansans in this body that have made such a difference in the lives of our, our, our people. You know, I think back of Bob Harvey. Bob Harvey was in the House first and then was in the Senate, and he was single, never married, a very dapper man, owned farmlands up at Newport, Arkansas. But when Bob Harvey was in the House in 1945, he was one of the original sponsors of the Revenue Stabilization Act. And to look back and know and meet somebody like Bob Harvey and think about how brilliant those folks were with the Revenue Stabilization Act. As we’ve all said many times, if our country had a Revenue Stabilization Act in Washington, we’d be far better off than what we have. But Max House sat there, where Joyce Elliott was. The first woman ever elected to the Arkansas Senate, Dorothy Allen from Brinkley. Her husband had served for 20 years, and she, she was elected after he passed away. I mean, there’s so many great memories of this place. And obviously being here, I sit in the same seat my dad did, my brother did, and serving is a great– we share these great experiences together. And I think the thing that I want to say before I leave is I’ve seen the arc of this thing change so much in how we approach legislation in this body. And it has become partisan. And it has– Washington is creeped in here, obviously. But I want to say, don’t forget the journey. Don’t forget this great journey that we’ve all gone on together, that the ones that will remain will continue on. I think in these times it is so difficult to keep that journey and the people that you cross and meet during your time of service. I think that’s the important takeaway at the end of the day. You know, last night I mentioned, you know, I probably– most of this group in here, I would have not had the honor of knowing or meeting if it wasn’t for serving in the Senate. When we’re out on the campaign, we meet remarkable people doing remarkable things in communities because they love their community, not because they are Democrat or Republican, because they want to make their community better. So the one thing that I would say and leave you with is, don’t forget the journey. Don’t get caught up in winning at all cost. Realize that there is a greater good out here. There is– there are people, and people are going to make mistakes, people are going to do great things. But enjoy that and embrace that. And I think if we can do that, then our state is the better for it. So thank you very much.
Hickey Next one we have is Senator Rapert. Senator Rapert has actually served 12 years in the Senate. He’s chaired our Insurance and Commerce Committee and here recently our State Agency committee. He’s also running for another office. And if you would, Senator Rapert, if you’d come down. He’s also give me my nickname, Tricky Hickey on his little social media, which doesn’t really bother me. What we got to realize down here is that sometimes we may not get along, and that’s OK because it’s not about us. And it’s about how we do the business of the state. So, Senator Rapert. Thank you, sir.
Rapert Thank you, Senator Hickey. Well, you know, we all know that at some point we come to this time in our journey down here. And Senator Ingram is right to enjoy the journey. I grew up in a very modest home in northeast Arkansas in Randolph County. And I learned to work hard and play hard. But we also legislate hard. And we’ve done that down there. And Senator Hickey’s right. We get down here and we get involved, very passionate about things. But I’ll tell you that when I first ran for office, the first office I ever ran for was the state Senate. I’d never run for any other political office at any other time. And I was fortunate at that time to win a large seven county district. I actually was instructed later, Senator Sturch, it was actually partial of eight. There was a little farm ground in Pulaski County where nobody lived. And so it was my honor to get to know people and to serve them, and I’ve tried to do that to the best of my ability. But I will tell you that having been elected four times to this position, we know how important it is that we serve honorably. I’ve poured myself into my district as I know many of you have. I know about the phone calls you get late at night, about the emails. And now with all of our social media, we get messages from everywhere. And we do our best to tend to people’s needs. And what I know about this great state is whether we serve in the state Senate or not, we still love the people of this state. And for me, I just heard Senator Chesterfield say– that’s right, we got to visit the other day. My daughters grew up getting to see women carry themselves honorably in this body. And one of them actually has ended up being my friend, Senator Chesterfield. And those little girls were seven and nine when I got here, Senator Elliott. And now I’ve got one about to get married and one in college as well. And I better quit talking about them or I’ll tear up. But they’ve grown up. This has been part of their life, coming down here, standing on the floor, seeing you with your families and your husbands and your children. And it’s really been a part of who we are. And so regardless of whether we’ve been here one term or four terms, we always take a part of the Arkansas Senate with us. And I will tell you, as Senator Hickey said, and any others that we’ve had here, when we get through these battles and we fight, it’s important to find a way to hug each other and shake your hands and move on. And we understand that what we do down here has an effect upon people’s life. So as I end my comments for you today, as we say, we work hard, we play hard, we legislate hard. But I think of an Irish proverb. There are good ships and there are wood ships, ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships, and may they always be. Thank you for letting me serve with you. It’s truly been an honor.
Hickey OK, the next one, Senator Teague. Senator Teague could not be with us. Senator Teague, also a friend of mine, he actually is, as y’all all know, he’s term limited. That’s the reason we’re doing this today. He actually somehow give me his district, so I’m having to put up with that right now, the way he’s going around talking about me and things. But Senator Teague has been in the Senate for 14 years, 6 years in the House. So Senator Teague has actually been down here for 20 years. Next one is Senator Elliott. Senator Elliott, if you’d come on down. Senator Elliott, I always liked the way the media refers to her as the liberal lion, I think, is what I what I hear.
Elliott And he he is not wrong.
Hickey Maybe they’re not wrong. But I will have to say this. As you know, this body is– could probably be called somewhat conservative. And what I would have to say about Senator Elliott is this, you know, she’s all of our friends. And we may disagree at every level, but there’s not a person in here that cannot go and hug her neck. And we love her for that and we’re going to miss her.
Elliott All right, thank you, Jimmy– Senator Hickey. I always wondered how I would feel when I come to this point. Let me tell you, it’s not sad at all because I do know it was such a privilege to do this for all of these years. And I’ve done what I came to do my dead level best. And I was thinking about what this really feels like and what it means to really be here. I don’t have these great words of wisdom, but I refer you to Don Quixote. And most of the time, this great book written by Cervantes, people talk about Don Quixote almost in a pejorative way because he was always tilting at windmills, things that were impossible. Why do you even try? And from that great book and the great play musical Man of La Mancha, we got the song The Impossible Dream. And that is what I think we need to kind of think about.People use the impossible dream– looking at you, Mr. Brummett, who have often said, Joyce Elliott just tilts at windmills. I think what am I supposed to do if I don’t work at those things that are impossible, that people say that are impossible? We lose our imagination to work hard at the impossible dreams, to reach for the unreachable star. Compromise is OK. But oftentimes, I’ve been accused of saying it’s the lazy way of doing policy. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. But what I mean is we ought to reach for collaboration because that’s where we get the impossible dreams realized. And so I would ask you not to make fun of Don Quixote, because to do so, you’re likely making fun of one of your former colleagues who just thought it’s OK to reach for the impossible dream, because the dream is about the work. And whenever John Brummett or somebody else accuses somebody like me of tilting at windmills, just please remind them that’s where you find the good in us if we have the courage and we have the will to keep tilting until the dream is realized. It’s been an honor serving with you. Keep doing the work.
Hickey I was just informed that I didn’t, didn’t talk about Joyce’s years of service, so I’m going to do that. She actually was in the, in the Senate for 14 years, 6 in the House, for 20 total years. So I didn’t want to miss that. Last one today is Senator Bledsoe. Senator Bledsoe, she’s been in the Senate for 14 years, 6 years in the House, also for 20 years of doing service down here. What I’d like to say about Senator Bledsoe is this, what a lot of you all don’t know and sometimes whenever I get that temper that so many of you all give me a hard time about, I’ll call Senator Bledsoe and she actually helps calm me and try to get me back on a path. So she’s been a great inspiration to me, and to say I’ll miss her will be an understatement.
Bledsoe I just want to say today that 20 years went by fast. And I am so grateful to the people in my district for continuing to send me to the Capitol for those 20 years because had they not, I would not have been able to know all of you. And it’s been such an honor to serve with you, and I am just looking forward to all the things that you’re going to accomplish from this point on. I know it’s going to be great. I’ll be reading the newspaper and I’ll be saying, you know, I served with those people. So thank you so much and God bless.
Hickey Members, that’s a tough one. If you would, give all these members another hand from the bottom of your heart. All right, members, also I’ve asked Senator Ingram, Senator Flippo, to join me here for the last. We also have someone else that’s leaving. The lieutenant governor, this will be his last session unless we have another one officially to serve. And I’ll have to say this. Whenever we first come in, I guess you could say our personalities maybe didn’t quite line up together. Senator Ingram and I had actually talked about doing a bill together to do away with that position. Seriously did.
Griffin It’s not too late.
Hickey I got the floor, sir. Yes, Senator Flippo, I think could have gathered our votes for us. But what I’ve learned is this, he’s actually has become a great friend of mine. And that’s what I found out in life is sometimes the people that you don’t think, you know, that you’re going to line up with as close as you should, they become your best friends. And that’s the way it is with this gentleman here. You know, there’s an old saying about herding cats. You all are not cats. You’re more like Tasmanian devils. And the job, the job that he has done, although I don’t know how many gavels we’ve had to buy here at the Senate that he’s broke trying to do that, he’s done an extremely great job. And we wish him all the best from now on. And we tried to do something and I’d guess you’d have to say Covid got us a little bit in the beginning, but we do have one on the way. Didn’t get here. But we’ve got– I got him a crystal gavel that’s coming. So whenever he’s sitting at home at the table with his wife at the dinner table, hopefully he won’t– he’ll remember that and won’t break that one. So if you’d come on down, we get your picture. If you all would, please give him a hand.
Griffin Thank you all. Appreciate it. I’m going to step away for the pro tem part and I’ll be right back. Thank y’all.
Hickey OK, members, very importantly, right now, our procedure has been that the last day of the fiscal session that we, that we elect our President Pro Tem for the next General Assembly. So it will be for the 94th General Assembly. So at this time, I’d like to open up the floor for nominations for the pro tem designee of the 94th General Assembly.
Flippo Thank you, Mr. President. Members, I’d like to nominate Senator Bart Hester to serve as the pro tem designee for the 94th General Assembly. And I’d also like to move that we cease with nomination.
Hickey Are there any other nominations? Hearing none, you all heard the motion. All in favor of that, please say aye. Any opposed? Senator Hester, congratulations and we welcome you–
Hester Well, thank you, Senator Hickey. And members, seriously, thank you so much. I was, as I was hearing everybody talk recently, you know, over the last few minutes, they were saying things that I had planned to say today. And, and I think it’s because I was going to say things that, that matter, you know, because you all were saying things that truly mattered to you. It was 10 years ago this month that the people of Senate District 1 thought it was appropriate to send me down here. And now I get to stand here with– I had a daughter that was nine years old. She is now 19. She drove in from Ouachita to see me this morning. It makes her daddy’s heart happy as some of you guys have talked about, that she grew up here and it, it mattered. But as you can imagine, I’ve been doing some thinking over the last few days and I’ve thought back about some of the leaders that we’ve had since I’ve been here. And Senator Michael Lamoureux, Senator Jonathan Dismang, Senator Jim Hendren, Senator Jimmy Hickey and how each one of them were uniquely qualified for the time that they were served. And I’d like to take just a moment here to thank Jimmy Hickey for being tough enough to handle the very tough issues that we’ve had over the last few years, and I can’t imagine anyone that would have wanted that job two years ago. Thank you, Jimmy Hickey. But we all recognize the challenges that we’ve had over the last couple of years that were no doing of any of our own– right, from redistricting to COVID to governor to everything else that we did, that we dealt with. But certainly Jimmy Hickey was the right man for the job to lead us through a difficult, difficult time. And we don’t know what the challenge is going to be in the next two years, but we do know this, we’ll have a new lieutenant governor, we’ll have a new governor, approximately a third of this body will turn over, approximately a third of the House will turn over. And I don’t know necessarily what that means for us, but change is going to come. And I hope that I’m uniquely qualified to unify our body, bring new members in, have us all work together, and at the end of the day, when the session closes at the end of the 94th General Assembly, we can all walk out of here with our heads held high because of the way we conducted our business, the way that we treated each other. And we walk out here, we’re going to be proud to be Arkansas state senators. Thank you.
Griffin Senator Flippo.
Flippo Thank you, Mr. President. Senator Hester, it hasn’t escaped me that you’re also a little short on the gray hairs, and I am uniquely qualified to help you in your pursuit of those in the 94th General Assembly. Members, I’d also like to introduce the incoming Senate Majority Leader and Majority Whip. Senator Blake Johnson will be our incoming majority leader. Senator Ricky Hill will be the incoming majority whip. And if you’ll please join me in a moment, in a moment of silence. They’re going to need it. And seriously, though, with that, I’d like to ask leave for Miss Benita Iverson to come in.
Griffin She’s got some beef stew back there. And the other day it was like curry chicken or something, which was unbelievable.
Flippo So members, you know, who doesn’t love Benita? And so I remember there’s a sign in my parents nursing home that used to say, you know, your mother doesn’t work here, pick after yourself. And I wish sometimes we had that sign here because Benita is always going behind to make sure that we have, we have a chamber that looks like it belongs to the Senate, a quiet room that looks like it’s a Senate quiet room. And not only that, but she brings in phenomenal home cooked meals. And she even goes so far as to go out of pocket to stop in and buy meals for members. Most of you all don’t know that. It’s the kind of person she is. So Benita had a little car trouble that came to some of our’s attention. Some of our colleagues, Senator Hill, myself and a few others, and so we decided that we would like to do something to help you out with that. And Benita, I cannot say this is a rarity in this chamber, but when I started looking around and asking members, Republican, Democrats, if they had anything, they could help with, the seas parted and the checkbooks opened, the wallets opened because you are loved. You are appreciated and you are respected. So with that, we hope this helps, and we love you and we appreciate you.
Iverson Thank you all so much. Thank you all so much. And I cook because I love cooking and that’s what I used to do and cater and I just love cooking. And I hope y’all enjoy it and I love each and every one of you. Thank you so much.
Griffin Senator Hickey.
Hickey OK, members, I’d also– as we always do, but really we mean it, we want to thank our staff for everything they’ve done for this fiscal session. Senator Dismang, as your budget chair, he pushed so hard, he almost wore me out. So truthfully, this was one of those sessions that was– we pushed everything through. Late nights were worked. And if you would please tell them thank you right now. As a reminder, members, we’re going to have a signing for the law enforcement stipend bill today. I know a lot of times we don’t go to those. I think it would be good if we do because we would sure like to show the law, law enforcement how much we appreciate them. I understand it’s a stipend, but it’s more than that. It’s about, it’s about what they do for us and how they protect us. So if you all can make that, I would appreciate it. Mr. President, the intentions are is that the way we had passed the resolution is the speaker of the House and myself can sign a proclamation for us to sine die and our intentions are to do that for next Tuesday so that we will sine die Tuesday, March 18, at noon. That’s kind of contingent upon, of course, if we, we’re not expecting any vetoes. But that is at the governor’s prerogative. However, because of pushing and everything, we do want to give us a little bit of time just to make sure that we didn’t have any errors. Our staff will be looking over everything that we’ve done. So that is the intention. So with that, that’s all I have.
Griffin Tuesday is the 15th. 15th correct?
Hickey Is that what I said?
Griffin I’m just making sure we’re on the same page. Tuesday, the 15th.
Hickey If it’s the 15th, I apologize. I wrote the 18th down. It is the 15th.
Griffin You won’t have to be here. It’ll just happen. And so for now, the Senate is adjourned.