Despite several versions of on-line petitions and even a harsh rebuke from the chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson will not issue a “veto” this session. Plain and simple, Hutchinson does not have to veto any bill sailing toward his desk in these frantic hours left in the 90th General Assembly.
Are all these bills sound, good, needed legislation? Why no. Are any of these bills going to set back Arkansas? That depends upon whom you ask. Are any of these new laws going to be challenged it court? Absolutely they may be.
But let’s make it pretty clear, this “Bold New Day in Arkansas” comes with some new direction and legislative muscle of a new GOP governor unafraid to flex it. The absence of a “veto” at least under these current Legislative circumstances looks pretty safe with just single numbered days to go ending the 90th General Assembly.
Hutchinson, to his credit, did let one bill become law without this signature – a symbolic, yet important perk of being the state’s chief executive. A Governor doesn’t have to veto a law, unless he really doesn’t want to deal with the aftermath it may cause, or the bill is an illegal act. When there is a bill you like, as a Conservative Republican, but can’t really condone as governor, you can just let that little bill become law without your signature.
Social media is filled with folks touting on-line petitions to have the Governor veto HB 1228, the “Conscience Protection Act” bill opposed by the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender community in Arkansas (and nationally) by those who support expanding LGBT rights.
Hutchinson, unless this bill is amended from its present form, says he won’t veto it. Hutchinson said he “supports the latest version” of the bill, HB 1228, stating it is “important that we balance religious freedom privileges” but adding that workplaces have to be “free from discrimination.” Hutchinson said at a press briefing. “I think it’s a bill that puts a higher emphasis on religious freedom.”
This past week, after trotting out Hutchinson’s new choice to run the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, a Floridian named Mike Preston, HB1 228, gained some press traction. Several high-profile and out-of-state business executives said they would not come to Arkansas if this bill becomes law. Some in the GOP see this as a “hollow threat,” noting it is easy for others to say no and tell us what to do from California or New York.
Walmart Stores may be the exception. Corporate Walmart has said it doesn’t like the direction of the bill. But Walmart has come late with its criticism of the bill. And Walmart has done little to halt the bill in its lobbying efforts which are stout down in Little Rock.
Another legislative gem that has the Arkansas arms of the American Civil Liberties Union talking about lawsuit, is SB 939 – the 10 Commandments Bill. It seeks to place a monument to the 10 Commandments on the Capitol grounds. Again, Hutchinson, knowing the cost of the manufacture, installation and engraving of the monument will be done with private funds, will likely not veto this bill.
The only bill that may imperil Hutchinson’s record of “no vetoes” in this session is the tricky little slip of legislation by Rep. Dan Douglas, R-Bentonville. Douglas’ bill was aimed at poking back at California for restrictions on buying eggs from states who do not give laying hens a larger cage space. In retaliation, Douglas wants to ban California wine from the state.
But just you watch. Douglas’ bill will face some tougher times in the Upper Chamber to survive. It’s likely that Gov. Hutchinson will not be faced with a decision on Douglas’ bill, no matter how much many Arkansans dislike California and its hair-brained policies, rules and regulations.