Gov. Asa Hutchinson reiterated his opposition to a bill that would place limits on transgender individuals’ use of bathrooms Thursday, saying the bill is unnecessary.
Senate Bill 346 is a shell bill filed by Sens. Greg Standridge, R-Russellville, and Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, that states only that it is “concerning gender identify and bathroom privileges.” A shell bill includes only a vague description of a bill with the details to be added later.
A North Carolina law requiring individuals to use the bathrooms that conform to the gender listed on their birth certificate led to a backlash among some in the corporate and entertainment community. PayPal and Deutsche Bank cancelled plans to add jobs in the state, and the NBA and NCAA cancelled sporting events.
“We don’t need that in Arkansas, and if there’s a North Carolina-type bill, then I want the Legislature not to pass it,” Hutchinson said during a press conference.
Hutchinson said the bathroom bill is not needed. When the Obama administration released a guidance saying schools should let students use bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their gender identity, Hutchinson told school districts to disregard the guidance. But a federal judge in Texas last year blocked the Obama administration from enforcing it, and new Attorney General Jeff Sessions has suspended it indefinitely.
“All of the Washington effort to set those minutiae and guidelines for these issues of delicacy and privacy in our schools, that’s off the charts, has been revoked and changed from a Washington perspective,” Hutchinson said. “I don’t think we in Arkansas, one, have a problem that cannot be addressed at the local school district level. We don’t have a problem. There’s not any problem from Washington, and I don’t think that we need to be dictating those very sensitive matters that are handled in our schools.”
Hutchinson made his comments after signing into law Act 182 by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, and Rep. DeAnn Vaught, R-Horatio, which allows female state employees from various state agencies to take up to four weeks of paid maternity leave after a birth or adoption by drawing from a bank of unused sick leave donated by other state employees. The law combines all state agency leave banks into one that will be administered by the Office of Personnel Management.
Elsewhere at the Capitol, members of the Arkansas House of Representatives voted for a bill allowing victims of ethics violations by judges and justices to sue them.
House Bill 1007 by Rep. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, would remove judicial immunity when the plaintiff is the victim of an adverse decision that was made as a result of a bribe. The bill passed 89-0 with 1 voting present.
In other business, House members:
– Voted 81-0 for House Bill 1532 by Rep. Justin Boyd, R-Fort Smith, which would require new political parties to nominate candidates via convention by noon on the date of the primary elections. New political parties are any party that must collect signatures and file a petition to attain a spot on the ballot as a result of earning less than 3% of the vote in previous presidential or gubernatorial elections. Current law, successfully challenged in court, required third parties to nominate candidates by the end of the filing period for Republican and Democratic candidates.
– Voted 85-0 for HB 1402 by Boyd, which states that if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reschedules a marijuana-derived substance and approves marketing the substance as a prescription medication, the director of the Department of Health shall consider the rescheduling.
– Voted 83-1 for HB 1451 by Rep. Trevor Drown, R-Dover, which would prohibit current members of the the United States military or the Arkansas National Guard from being a qualifying patient or designated caregiver under the Medical Marijuana Amendment.
– Voted 80-1 for HB 1507 by Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock, which would allow the collecting of fees and fines by the agencies responsible for regulating medical marijuana – the Medical Marijuana Commission, the Department of Health, and DFA’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.
– Voted 81-1 for HB 1519, which would shift the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission to the Department of Finance and Administration. The five-member commission, which determines licensure qualifications for cultivation facilities and dispensaries, was created by the amendment as an independent body, but in practice it receives staff support from DFA.
– Voted 32-56 against House Joint Resolution 1022 by Rep. Rick Beck, R-Center Ridge, which called for a convention of the states under Article V of the Constitution. Delegates would vote on authorizing the states to nullify and repeal federal statutes, executive orders, judicial decisions, and regulatory decisions if they muster a three-fifths vote of state legislatures.