Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday (Feb. 17) said he has reestablished a Women’s commission, with his Chief of Staff Alison Williams serving as commission chair. Williams said the commission’s first meeting will be Feb. 22 with a final report issued by Dec. 1.
The governor and leadership of the General Assembly will appoint 14 members to the commission.
Work by the Arkansas Commission on the Status of Women will include the study and analysis of the participation of Arkansas woman in the state’s labor force, participation of Arkansas women in entrepreneurial pursuits and in emerging and high-demand career paths, and barriers to entry into the labor force.
“In my administration, women are an essential part of my leadership team. I have relied upon women in leadership positions to bring success to my administration,” Gov. Hutchinson said in a statement.
According to the Governor’s office, the state has had four commissions focused on women. Gov. Orval Faubus created a commission in 1964 to focus on the social, political, and economic status of women. Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller established the next commission to focus on state employment laws and differences in legal treatment of men and women. In 1973, Gov. Dale Bumpers reinstated the commission to find ways to enlarge the role of women in economic, political, and social institutions.
Also on Thursday, Gov. Hutchinson announced a $6 million investment in the Arkansas School for the Deaf and Blind, and a 2% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) pay raise for employees in the state’s executive branch.
Of the $6 million to the school, $2 million will pay for the replacement of water lines and the power grid across both campuses, and $4 million will pay for the construction of a new health services building to serve both campuses. This facility will house services for wellness, audiology, ophthalmology/optometry, and mental health. The work is scheduled to be completed by September 2023.
The 2% increase is effective Feb. 6 and will show up in the Feb. 25 paychecks.
“I have never awarded this particular COLA increase,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “The last award was in 2012. I see this as absolutely necessary in light of the inflationary pressures that we are all experiencing.”