When lawmakers focus on “owning the libs” or rather, punishing the so-called radical left, their policy quickly deteriorates. After ten full weeks, it’s time they focus on helping, not hurting Arkansans. Listen, watch, or read on for the rundown.

Good news first, thanks to the House State Agencies Committee

Sarah Sanders tries to take down big tech, but it’s not about the kids 

Governor Sanders, in an echo of her former boss, is geared up to take down big tech. Her policy proposal would require parental consent for children to access social media sites or require proof of digital identification to confirm one’s age. Once again, it’s framed as a child-protection and parental-empowerment bill, complete with shallow rhetoric we’ve come to expect from her administration. Here’s some context: 

  • It likely won’t be enforceable. If passed, the bill may not be enforceable due to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, a federal law that preempts state attempts to add additional requirements to social media companies.
  • It won’t fix the problems it’s meant to address. Internet safety and teen mental health are two interconnected and complex issues that require complex solutions in order to be effective. This bill does not address these issues.

Financial institutions got “woke” and the legislature gets revenge 

HB1307 prohibits the state from investing in financial businesses with progressive investment standards. The bill will have an expensive impact on the state’s retirement accounts, jeopardizing the livelihoods of Arkansas firefighters, police, and teachers — just so lawmakers can punish companies too liberal for the legislature’s taste. It’s another example how Arleg’s “own the libs” obsession distracts lawmakers from solving real problems in the state.

The bill is part of a national push to retaliate against financial institutions for supporting ESG standards. ESG stands for environmental, social, and governance practices, which are the standards financial institutions use to determine investments. Recently, many large companies have taken progressive stances on social issues and are increasingly public about these stances. Texas banned investment with certain financial institutions in 2021 and the move cost the state between $300 million and $504 million.

Arleg is posed to effect the same outcome for our public retirement accounts, which are also tied up in some of the world’s most well known financial institutions. If HB1307 becomes law, Arkansas will be forced to withdraw funds from banned accounts and place them with smaller companies that do not adhere to ESG standards. Smaller companies, however, charge higher fees and rates, costing states like Texas millions of dollars in lost revenue. The move is neither good banking nor good policy. It’s punitive, and either retirees or taxpayers will be punished for the legislature’s anti-woke posturing. 

Arleg’s obsession with owning the libs is going to cost us. Literally.

Bill would allow faith-based groups, businesses and individuals to sue the state 

HB1615 would allow private businesses and organizations, like Christian foster care and adoption groups, to sue the state of Arkansas for nearly any reason — so long as the state “burdens” or attempts to burden a group’s beliefs.

The bill’s sponsors want Christian entities with certain state licenses and accreditations to be able to deny services to those who don’t uphold their traditional family values. In other words these state-licensed groups wish to discriminate against those with whom the groups disagree and not face any consequences from the state. Sponsors then want these groups, businesses, and individuals to be able to sue the state if the state penalizes groups for discriminatory practices.

For example, this bill would allow a faith-based adoption organization to legally deny gay couples service. If the state revokes the group’s license because the group denied a gay couple child placement, the group can sue the state per HB1615. But Arkansas maintains state sovereign immunity via a provision in which a state cannot be sued in federal and state court without its consent. HB1615 carves out a private, religious discrimination path from the sovereign immunity statute.

The proposed legislation is problematic, as it allows private beliefs to trump the state’s responsibility to fair and equitable practices, as well as the state’s own sovereign immunity.

Library book ban passes but DeAnn Vaught surprises

The House passed Sen. Dan Sullivan’s SB81, which would subject public school employees to criminal prosecution under obscenity laws for any books, ebooks, and educational resources in their library.

But Rep. DeAnn Vaught was a bright spot during the bill’s dim discussion on the House floor. The lone representative to vocalize disapproval of the bill, Vaught made compelling and rational arguments regarding the proposal’s blatant overreach. The General Assembly should not be passing state laws to address a few bad actors at the local level, Vaught said.

“When will we stop with the message that all superintendents, teachers, and now librarians have intentions to harm our children? That could not be further from the truth… We cannot regulate everything in the lives of Arkansans. We have to stop with the government overreach,” said Vaught.

It’s rare these days to see a Republican legislator stand with the principles of small government and local control; we’re pleased that Vaught surprised us on this account. But more so, we’re thrilled to see a member of the Arkansas legislature stop with “owning the libs” and focus on preventing unnecessary and burdensome legislation.

More owning of libs, bureaucratic ballooning, and problematic policy

Neither here nor there: dirty dog fight in the Arkansas House

This has nothing to do about Arleg owning the libs! Instead, the House supermajority turned on itself this week all because of a proposed dog breed policy. Things got heated among members, but the next day one of the bill’s sponsors apologized.