By John R. Schirmer
The recently recessed session of the Arkansas Legislature was “interesting and contentious,” according to Sen. Larry Teague of Nashville.
Legislators dealt with a number of issues before going into recess April 28. They did not adjourn sine die as they usually do but said they will return in the fall to review numbers from the 2020 census and work on possible redistricting.
Teague said the Legislature passed two transgender bills. Members also passed “seven or eight bills” about voting, according to Teague, and “at least two or more on abortion. I got lots of calls, lots of email on those issues.”
Teague said he “didn’t see any voting problems in Arkansas” in the November 2020 General Election. As a result, “I didn’t vote for any of the voting bills.”
Teague voted in favor of the “Arkansas Sovereignty” bill requiring local police to ignore federal gun laws.
He also voted in favor of anti-abortion legislation. “Ultimately, some of the votes were about my legacy,” Teague said. “I’m pro-gun and pro-life.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson “had a hard session,” Teague said. “I voted with him twice and didn’t vote with him twice.”
Teague said several of the bills which the legislature passed likely will wind up in court, including “abortion, a couple of voting bills, the gun bills. They may go to federal court.”
Despite the session’s contentious nature, legislators passed the state’s budget, approved money to raise the starting pay for Arkansas teachers, passed a modified hate crimes bill and upgraded computer science requirements in the state’s schools.
“We got some stuff done,” Teague said.
When lawmakers return in the fall to deal with redistricting, they will likely discuss cutting the state’s income tax, Teague said. “I have concerns about the income tax cuts. I’m not opposed to tax cuts. One issue we have is that our sales tax is too high. If we lower income taxes, that will put more pressure on the sales tax. Cities and counties survive on the sales tax. It will be hard to deal with taxes.”
Teague returned to Little Rock Friday, May 21, for a meeting of the Legislative Council which “runs the legislature during the off-season. We heard about the bridge” at Memphis, which is closed after cracks were found in the structure.
Re-opening the bridge “will be convoluted before it’s over. We’ll see if the feds pay for it,” Teague said.