Sarah Sanders sworn in as 47th governor: ‘Turning point in the history of Arkansas’
Sarah Huckabee Sanders was sworn in as Arkansas’ 47th – and first female – governor on Tuesday (Jan. 10) at the state capitol in Little Rock. She is the first child of a former Arkansas governor (Mike Huckabee) to be elected to the post.
In succeeding Gov. Asa Hutchinson, she is the first back-to-back Republican governor in the state since Reconstruction.
Sanders, 40, the youngest governor in the nation, was greeted enthusiastically by a Joint Session of the Arkansas General Assembly, which is prepared to deliver a host of legislative victories for the new governor. Republicans control more than 80% of both chambers.
In her speech following her swearing-in, Sanders reaffirmed the principles she intends to uphold as governor and touched on several overarching themes of her legislative agenda.
“Let’s honor a timeless principle,” she said. “Government exists not to rule the people, but to serve the people.”
“As we gather in these storied chambers at the dawn of a new day, a turning point in the history of Arkansas will usher in a new era of good jobs, great schools, safer streets and stronger families. The people of Arkansas, in their vast wisdom, have entrusted a new generation to lead. This is our moment. This is our opportunity. And you and I are the leaders who the people have chosen to get the job done.”
Sanders said she would sign legislation to expand pre-K, improve literacy, develop real world skills for students as they enter the workplace, and offer higher pay for teachers. Her most thunderous applause came for her dedication to expanding school choice and parents’ rights.
Sanders said she would sign legislation that improved adoption and foster care for kids, supported free speech and the right to bear arms, but she would oppose any measure that “grows government” or “limits freedom.” In her speech, she noted government’s first responsibility was to secure the lives and property of citizens. She promised to be aggressive in addressing crime and punishment in Arkansas.
“As of today, Arkansas will tolerate crime no longer,” she said. “We will shut down the crime wave that has plagued our cities.”
In other joint session business, former Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge was sworn in as Lt. Governor. She becomes the first female to hold that post. Former Lt. Governor Tim Griffin was sworn in as Attorney General.
Former Treasurer of State Dennis Milligan was sworn in as Auditor of State and former State Rep. Mark Lowery was sworn in as Treasurer of State. Additionally, Secretary of State John Thurston and Commissioner of State Lands Tommy Land, both of whom were re-elected in November, were also officially sworn into office for their second terms. All seven constitutional officers are Republicans.
Also in attendance at Sanders’ speech were former U.S. Senator and Governor David Pryor and his wife, Barbara; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and his wife, Janet; former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and his wife, Susan; and U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton.
UPDATE: Sanders broke news in her inaugural speech to the public. She said she would sign a series of executive orders in the afternoon as her first official duties.
One order would review all existing executive orders. She charged the Inspector General with providing a full report within 90 days.
A second executive order she signed requires permission from the Governor’s office to fill vacant positions in state government – replacement positions or newly budgeted ones. There are some exceptions, including positions funded by the federal government and state positions dealing with the Departments of Corrections or Public Safety.
Another executive order would not allow state agencies to propose rules unless granted an exemption from the chief executive’s office. The directive also requires a repeal of two rules for every one rule presented for rulemaking to a legislative committee of the General Assembly.
Additionally, she signed an order requesting her Secretary of Commerce to review for waste, fraud or abuse improper unemployment benefits, which she suggested could be more than $53 million based on a U.S. Department of Labor estimate. Arkansas disbursed more than $3.4 billion in unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of her executive orders would require Sanders’ Secretary of Education to review items to ensure they “educate, not indoctrinate students.” This order bans Critical Race Theory in classroom teaching. She charged the education secretary to make sure all employees, contractors, guest speakers and lecturers are “in compliance with Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
“Teachers and school administrators should teach students how to think — not what to think,” the order states. “The Secretary shall ensure that no school employee or student shall be required to attend trainings or orientations based on prohibited indoctrination or CRT.”
Another order calls for a 60-day review of state agencies to complete a review of materials and applications that could be subject to cybersecurity risks for state property, singling out China as a “foreign adversary that presents serious challenges to our values, our security, and our economy.” She wants the information and communications systems of state entities to determine which devices and programs should be uninstalled or disconnected from state hardware, including TikTok, which former Gov. Asa Hutchinson already banned.
One other executive order would prohibit the use of culturally insensitive words for official state government business, namely the word “Latinx.” Her order asks for a 60-day review of all state offices, departments, and agencies to revise existing written materials by replacing the terms “Latinx,” “latinx,” “Latinxs,” or “latinxs” with “Hispanic,” “Hispanics,” “Latino,” “Latinos,” “Latina,” or “Latinas.”