Rep. Jay Richardson, D-Fort Smith, is running for a fourth term to represent Arkansas House District 49, which covers most of north Fort Smith, including much of downtown Fort Smith and the growing riverfront area.
Richardson, a business developer with Centuria Ventures, was first elected in 2018 and sworn into office Jan. 1, 2019.
In his Tuesday (Oct. 3) re-election press release, Richardson cited the passage of Act 537 as one of his “notable” achievements as a legislator. Richardson was an advocate for and supporter of the Act. The legislation was passed in the 2023 General Assembly and requires public employers to provide mental health counseling to police officers and firefighters who have experienced traumatic events on duty. The law provides up to 12 specialized trauma counseling sessions annually.
“As a proud Arkansan, it has always been my mission to be the bridge between both sides of the aisle. It’s not about party lines; it’s about the people,” Richardson said in a statement. “Act 537 is just one example of what we can achieve when we prioritize the needs of Arkansans over party politics.”
Richardson, who is among a small number of Democrats in the Arkansas House of Representatives, said his goal is to work with all House members, especially when it comes to legislation supporting small businesses.
“My goal has always been to represent everyone in District 49, regardless of their political affiliation. I want to be the voice of collaboration in the midst of division, fostering unity among Democrats and Republicans alike,” he said.
Richardson was recently part of a broad bi-partisan group during the Sept. 11-13 special legislative session that rejected deep changes in Arkansas’ Freedom of Information Act requested by Gov. Sarah Sanders.
Gov. Sanders initially asked for a bill that would change FOIA provisions by including the federal exemption that would significantly limit the information available about the deliberations of officials at state agencies, recommendations about policy, and other governance matters. The bill eventually approved in both chambers includes only the security provisions and a retroactivity clause that makes the exemptions retroactive to June 1, 2022. The previous bills had the retroactive provision at Jan. 1, 2022. Richardson voted against the bill.
Because he was first elected prior to 2020, Richardson is eligible to serve eight terms in the House. Voters passed Issue 2 in November 2020 which imposed term limits of 12 consecutive years for state legislators with the opportunity to return after a four-year break. State legislators elected in November 2020 or already in office would be allowed to serve the previous term limit of 16 years.