LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – State lawmakers wrapped up the special legislative session Thursday afternoon after working four long days on bills this week.
Less than a week ago, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced this special session and told us her three priorities: tax cuts, streamlining state government and making changes to the Freedom of Information Act.
As of Thursday, she signed three bills into law that align with those missions.
“After my signature today, we will have permanently shaved $250 million off of annual income taxes and $58 million off annual corporate taxes,” Sanders said in a press conference.
On the tax cut note, State Representative Vivian Flowers (D-Pine Bluff) said that she has concerns for some state-funded programs in Arkansas, including the LEARNS Act. She said she would like to know for certain there is enough money allocated to meet the needs of those programs before providing tax relief.
“Anytime we have a tax increase, especially that benefits the highest earners, our most vulnerable pay the price- in a state where we’re fifth in the nation for poverty, there is no reason we should do that and not spend the revenue on making our state better.”
Other lawmakers also opposed the Freedom of Information Act revisions proposed by Governor Sanders. We saw a few bills filed this week seeking to make those changes, though it was the third one that finally passed, which focuses mainly on the governor’s safety.
“We saw a way different bill materialized, which is still too broad,” Flowers said.
Sanders, on the other hand, told us she is still pleased with the bill, despite the changes.
“I think you always go as big as you can and look for those changes you know will make governing more effective, more efficient,” she said. “The job is to work with our guys in the legislature. We don’t get to dictate the rules of the game all by ourselves from the executive branch, we are very happy what came of it.”
The third priority was also met with some pushback, though passed easily through the legislature.
“We defended individual liberty by banning Covid vaccine mandates for government employees and publishing the risks pertaining to the shot,” Sanders said.
Flowers argued that this was a political vote and unnecessary.
“I wish that when we took that vote today, people were asked to remember what it felt like when we were in fear and we were praying for a vaccine,” Flowers said. “It was President Trump who released the resources and partnered with pharm companies to come up with a vaccine.”
When asked if there is a chance there would ever be an effort to file another bill – in another special session or in the next regular session – where she tries to get everything else passed when it comes to FOIA that ended up being eliminated from her original bill, Governor Sanders says nothing is off the table.