House of Representatives

August 11, 2022

 

Shepherd I invite the members, staff, press, and guests in the galleries to stand and be led in prayer by the House chaplain, Dr. Rex Horne, and remain standing for the Pledge of Allegiance to be led by Representative Lane Jean. 

 

Horne Let’s pray. Father, thank you for a new day and for the opportunities that this day holds. Thank you for friendships. Thank you for those who serve from all over the state. Lord, I would pray today for those whose terms are being completed in this session most likely and, and they move on to other things. And Lord, we just thank you for men and women who take their time, who put themselves forward to serve the public good and the public interest. We pray for those who will return in January that you’ll be with them as they think about business that’s yet unfinished and what is best for the citizens of Arkansas. Bless them, guide them. And, Lord, for all of us we pray that we might be faithful in the race that’s set before us, that we may run it with patience, that we may recognize that all of life is a stewardship. And in the words of the great pastor, Dr. E.B. Hill, who reminded us often, everything we have above nothing you gave it to us and we’re grateful. In Jesus name, amen.  

 

Unidentified [Pledge of Allegiance]

 

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

 

Jean Leave for Representative Jett. 

 

Shepherd Is leave granted for Representative Jett? So noted. Representative Allen, for what purpose? 

 

Allen Leave for Representative Ferguson. 

 

Shepherd Is leave granted for Representative Ken Ferguson? So noted. Representative Love, for what purpose? 

 

Love Leave. 

 

Shepherd You’re recognized. 

 

Love Leave for Representative Murdock. 

 

Shepherd Is leave granted for Representative Murdock? Representative Frederick Love moves we dispense with the reading of the previous day’s journal. Without objection, so ordered. Are there reports from select committees? Are there reports from standing committees? Is there any unfinished business? Are there any executive communications? Representative Crawford, for what purpose? 

 

Crawford Personal privilege. 

 

Shepherd You’re recognized for a point of personal privilege. 

 

Crawford Good morning, friends. I would like to invite General Berry and Representative Pilkington to come up here with me, please. Good morning. We are indebted to our law enforcement in Arkansas every day. And I know today that Johnson County, they are watching online. On Saturday, July 30, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department went to investigate a possible theft and to serve a felony warrant. While deputies were trying to speak to the female resident, she fired one, one round from inside the trailer, nearly striking the head of a deputy. Other law enforcement arrived and a perimeter was established. During this time, the suspect fired another round and struck Lieutenant Brent Scott, my nephew. Brent said, I heard the shot. There was no doubt I had been hit because of the burning pain in my hips and how my body jerked. Another deputy, Jeremy Bennett, grabbed a ballistic shield and ran toward Brent. He led the team that covered his retreat. This kind of courage is our law enforcement. After inspecting Lieutenant Scott’s bullet proof vest, he had also been hit in the chest. Praise God, the vest worked. There is only a scratch and bruising close to his heart. The shot to his hip went through the left groin and lodged in the right femur. The bullet could have caused life altering damage had it hit just a fraction in a different direction. Upon examination, the doctors said removing the bullet could cause more damage than leaving it. Now, Brent has an imperishable badge of honor. Two days after being shot, Lieutenant Brent Scott walked into the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office reporting for duty. He was given a temporary desk job until the doctors released him to go back into the field. Brent will return to the job he loves. Lieutenant Scott’s motto is ‘the world is a better place because I’m here.’ And to that, we say thank you. Thank you. 

 

Shepherd The morning hour has ended. Mr. Clerk, please read Senate Bill 1. 

 

Clerk Senate Bill 1 by Representative Jean. To reduce Arkansas income taxes, to adopt federal law on depreciation and expensing of property, to create an income tax credit for certain taxpayers and to declare an emergency. 

 

Shepherd Representative Jean, you’re recognized to explain the bill. 

 

Jean Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Colleagues, this is the identical bill that Representative Jett had yesterday, House Bill 1002. This is Senate Bill 1, Senator Dismang. It’s been pretty well vetted. Any questions? Appreciate a good vote. 

 

Shepherd Representative Jean has explained the bill. Would anyone like to speak against the bill? Would anyone like to speak for the bill? Representative Jean is closed for the bill. The question before the House is the passage of Senate Bill 1. Prepare the machine, Mr. Clerk. You’re voting on the bill and the emergency clause. Has everyone voted? Has everyone voted? Cast up the ballot, Mr. Clerk. By a vote of 79 yeas, 14 nays and 0 present, the bill and emergency clause are passed. Members, I’m going to go back. I forgot to make some introductions when we got started this morning. In the West Gallery, we have as the guest of Representative Howard Beatty, Christian and Gabrielle Summers, who are the nephews of Senator Gilmore. And then in the North Gallery as the guest of Representative Lundstrum, we have Kara Dowers, regional vice president Primerica and board member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes; Elizabeth Woning, pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California, co-founder of the Changed Movement; Jessica Owens and Philip and Sherri Blunk, founders and directors of Love Unity Ministries and Arkansas Awakening. Representative Ray, for what purpose? 

 

ray Mr. Speaker, earlier I neglected to request leave for Representative McCollum. I would like to do so. 

 

Shepherd Is leave granted for Representative McCollum? So noted. Members, we’re going to move to the yellow budget calendar. Mr. Clerk, please read Senate Bill 2. 

 

Clerk Senate Bill 2. 

 

Shepherd Senator Jean, you’re recognized to explain the bill. 

 

Jean Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Colleagues, this comes from Senator Irvin. It was– I guess we had about a 30 or 40 minute debate on it in Budget a couple of days ago. All this does is provide the school safety grant. It’s going to park $50 million out of last year’s surplus. The Task Force for School Safety has not completed its work. There will be a recommendation in October. The Department of Education and the Governor will review it and can make any changes to it. So we don’t know the whole plan yet, but we will know it sometime after October. This is a grant. So a grant means that people can apply or not apply. And will $50 million do it? No. But there will be more money coming next session to provide security for our schools. This was pretty well vetted in Joint Budget, but I’ll take any questions right now if there are any. Seeing none, need a good vote on the bill and emergency clause. Mr. Speaker, have the clerk read the bill for the third time. 

 

Chairman Mr. Clerk, read the bill for the third time. 

 

Clerk Senate Bill 2. 

 

Chairman Representative Jean has presented the bill. Would anyone like to speak against the bill? For the bill? Representative Jean is closed for the bill. The question before the House is the passage of Senate bill 2. Prepare the machine, Mr. Clerk. You’re voting on the bill and the emergency clause. Has everyone voted? Cast up the ballot, Mr. Clerk. With 94 yeas, 0 nays and 0 present, the bill and the emergency clause has passed. Members, we’re going to take a brief recess, see what the Senate’s doing, and hopefully it’ll just be a few minutes here and we’ll be back in session. Hopefully. We’re in recess. 

 

[Recess] 

 

Chairman The House will come to order. Members, having completed the items on the governor’s call, we have handed out a supplemental calendar. Mr. Clerk, read House Resolution 1001. 

 

Clerk House Resolution 1001 by Representative Shepherd to provide the sine die adjournment of the 3rd Extraordinary Session of the 93rd General Assembly of the State of Arkansas. 

 

Chairman Speaker Shepherd, you’re recognized to present the resolution. 

 

Shepherd Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Members, I bring to you today House Resolution 1001. This is the resolution that I filed earlier this week to provide for the sine die adjournment of the 3rd Extraordinary Session. And just as a, kind of a refresher on how we’ve handled this and why I filed this, previously, maybe in both previous special sessions, but I know at least in one other, when there was discussion about would we extend the session or otherwise, in order to try to provide some structure to this process, in the past we filed joint resolutions. But instead we filed an individual resolution on the House end. I think the Senate has a similar resolution. I know that there are other resolutions on the calendar to extend the session. And, you know, my view on that would be that if there’s enough support to extend the session, then there would be enough support to defeat this resolution. But it stands to reason that we would take up the resolution first, providing for the adjournment. And certainly it’s my hope we pass the resolution. But if that fails, then we would move on to consider the other resolutions that have been filed. 

 

Chairman Speaker Shepherd has presented the resolution. Would anyone like to speak against the resolution? Representative Love, you’re recognized to speak against the resolution. 

 

Love Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Good morning, colleagues. I take this very seriously to rise once the speaker gives a resolution. But I take it very seriously that we have some unfinished business here. And that’s to make sure that our public education system is strong and going well. As you know, through the, through the years, teacher pay has been an issue. We still have yet to address it. Our teachers are getting poached and it’s in our face. Colleagues, we must deal with this issue and we must deal with it now. Once again, I do take it very seriously to come and speak against the Speaker’s resolution, and he knows that I have yet to do that in my 12 years being with him. But this is something that’s serious, and this is something that must be addressed now. I would ask that you vote against this resolution. Thank you. 

 

Chairman Representative Love has spoke against the resolution. Would anyone like to speak for the resolution? Against the resolution? Representative McCollough, you’re recognized to speak against the resolution. 

 

McCollough Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I echo what Representative Love said about speaking against the Speaker’s resolution. There aren’t many issues that I would come down here for to vote and ask you to vote against adjournment in a special session. But we’re here knowing we completed the actions put forth by the governor to call for this legislative session. But I’m here to say it’s not enough. I’m speaking against the motion today because I believe we’ve got urgent business we need to address, and that is to teacher and support staff increases. We’ve passed funds for our schools to fortify their doors, secure their campuses and more, but we’ve chosen not to fund our educators and staff who work inside those very buildings. It’s our job to make sure our children have the best education our state can afford. Other people– often people think that because they’ve attended school, they know what it’s like to be a teacher. They can imagine what it’s like, but they cannot know what it’s like in today’s world. Reading, writing, arithmetic is still there. But there are many challenges. Mental health, hunger, phone addiction, kids who must grow up earlier, the pandemic and, God forbid, fear of shootings. The teachers I know are passionate about what they teach, preparing students for the world when they leave after graduating, and they are happiest when they’re in their classroom doing those things. But most do not want to delve into politics and urge us and try to convince us that they need more from us. But we seem to be at that point. My purpose here today is merely to talk about priorities. I believe education is the key to success and the promise of Arkansas. It always has been and it always will be. Our educators are the key to making sure our students learn, dream, and are safe. That has to be a priority for us today and every day. We’ve lagged behind other states for far too long. And I’m not blaming anyone today. I know that no one in here is against teachers. Most of you have children who have had beloved teachers who have taught them and made them realize their worth and intelligence. I’m simply asking you to be for teachers today. Make them and their profession a priority, and it will follow that our students will benefit as well as our state. I also know that all staff at schools are important. As a teacher, you would be wise early on in your career to get to know the people in maintenance, custodians, the administrative assistants in the office, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and more. They keep the schools running. They provide another layer to see and hear things others don’t, and they care about our students. And we must care for them also. Educators and school support staff should be paid a professional living wage, and we should not wait even one more year to lead our region and nation. I don’t want to gavel out as school is about to start and go another year without addressing this issue. We have the funds and a sustainable plan. We just need the votes. I’m asking for a no vote to adjourn so we can take up teacher and staff pay in the special session and make it our number one priority. Thank you. 

 

Chairman Representative McCollough has spoke against the resolution. Would anyone like to speak for the resolution? Against the resolution? Representative Tollett, you’re recognized to speak against the resolution. 

 

Tollett I wasn’t planning on coming down here. I just want to point out a couple of things. One of the things is when I became a legislator, I was told, let processes play out. In other words, let the process of adequacy play out, let whatever process take place, play out before we make appropriations. Yeah, we just voted pretty much unanimously to approve $50 million for school safety that’s not going to go to every school without letting the process play out, which means that we can do what we want to do. In saying that, we can approve funding out of a surplus to pay for the first round– and I understand it’s not, there’s not a sustainable plan in place yet from the adequacy committee– but to pay for the first round of teacher raises and set our teacher salaries higher or at a competitive rate at least of the states that are around us. We’ve fallen behind. You don’t have to look at the adequacy report to see that the other state starting salaries are higher than Arkansas. Whether we do it now or we wait, I hope that this body will make the commitment to not just give teachers raises, but to put teacher salaries at a competitive level with the states that are around us. Because this state borders a lot of other states. And for those schools that sit on the border, we are losing teachers across state lines every single day. We have over a thousand teachers that we need right now. So vote however you’re going to vote. I’m sure nothing I’ve said or will be said from this well will change anybody’s mind, but I hope that that will be taken into consideration as we move forward. Thank you. 

 

Chairman Representative Tollett has spoken against the resolution. Would anyone like to speak for the resolution? Against the resolution? Speaker Shepherd, would you like to close for your resolution? 

 

Chairman Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Members, again, just a simple resolution to adjourn. If there’s support to extend, to extend the session, then, then there should be the votes to vote down this resolution. I would just make a couple of points. Long before anybody this summer mentioned teacher raises, before the governor ever proposed anything, our education committees were already starting the work on educational adequacy, which includes teacher pay. And it’s unfortunate that just a year ago, in 2021– somebody can correct me if I’m wrong– we passed the largest percentage increase in educational funding in the past 15 years. And we’ve increased that funding every year, at least in the last number of years. And so, I know that there’s, there’s obviously more to be done, and the adequacy study is ongoing. I respect everybody’s decision as they decide how they vote on this resolution. As for me, I would appreciate a good vote. Thank you. 

 

Chairman Speaker Shepherd is closed for the resolution. The question before the House is the passage of House Resolution 1001. All in favor say aye. Opposed nay. Ayes have it. I see five hands. Prepare the machine, Mr. Clerk. Has everyone voted? Cast up the ballot, Mr. Clerk. 61 yays, 33 nays and 0 present. The resolution has passed. 

 

Shepherd Members, we’re about to adjourn sine die. After that, Representative Wing has a point of personal privilege, but we’ll do that after adjournment. With the passage of House Resolution 1001, we are adjourned. Representative Love, for what purpose? 

 

Love I was, I was afraid you weren’t going to recognize me, Mr. Speaker. Point of personal privilege. I could do it after the–

 

Shepherd The Parliamentarian tells me we need to go ahead and adjourn, and then we’ll recognize your point of personal privilege. 

 

Love All right. Thank you. 

 

Shepherd All right. Where was I? With the passage of House Resolution 1001, we are adjourned sine die.