An article published in Arkansas Times earlier this month details the failures of the Arkansas state legislature, calling them the, “worst legislature ever.” Author Ernest Dumas details the legislation that leads him to this prognosis by chronicling the anti-poor, anti-woman and anti-people efforts that this legislative session has brought about.
On a more positive note, if Arkansans direct their attention to a few of our freshman Democratic female legislators, they will understand this session has not been completely devoid of positive legislation. They will also see the kind of candidates that will be available in 2020, despite Arkansas’ right-leaning political habits.
While State Sen. Bob Ballinger (R) has tried to undo the minimum wage that a majority of Arkansans approved overwhelmingly, State Rep. Denise Garner (D) of Fayetteville’s District 84 has been working hard for her constituency, even those who couldn’t vote for her. She worked with Henry Foster, an 11-year-old, to achieve his dream of making the alligator gar the state prehistoric fish. Sure, it might be considered a small victory, but getting young people engaged with the legislative process is a huge accomplishment.
That’s not all either. Garner has proposed three pieces of gun legislation to undo her radical predecessor former Rep. Charlie Collins’ (R) work in the legislature. The first, which should be incredibly notable to UA students, would allow universities to opt in or out of campus carry policies. This piece of legislaiton merely returns the choice to university officials, allowing for more local control. It’s a no-brainer to pass Garner’s bill and give more autonomy to the institutions themselves rather than more power to the state.
The next bill by Garner would mandate universal background checks, and the third piece of proposed legislation would merely require gun owners to holster their guns in public. These simple pieces of gun legislation might not go anywhere this session, but changing the narrative from repeatedly attempting to pass “stand your ground” legislation to common-sense gun legislation is a huge victory in itself.
As a gun owner, Garner’s unique perspective is invaluable in crossing the aisle and assuring legislators from the other side of the aisle take these pieces of legislation seriously.
Meanwhile, State Rep. Megan Godfrey (D) of District 89 used her power this session to address the state shortage of nurses by sponsoring a bill to allow Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients to receive their nursing license in Arkansas. This bill opens up opportunities for those who have been living in our state for years without the same privileges. It passed unanimously in the Arkansas House and will now become law.
This is an amazing accomplishment in a state legislature that is passing bills to cut aid to “sanctuary cities” and allows local law enforcement to ask anyone their immigration status. Still, Godfrey is standing against all odds to get things done.
Rep. Nicole Clowney (D) of District 86 is combatting attacks on health care by proposing and helping to pass House Bill 1299, also known as House Bill 1299, which would provide paid sick leave to firefighters who get cancer because of hazardous working conditions.
Firefighters were forced to choose between going back to work to provide for their families after getting diagnosed with cancer, or staying home and being burdened by their bills, medical and otherwise. With the passing of Clowney’s bill, the state will now allocate money to firefighters who are on leave during times of illness.
It is also important to note that Clowney is fighting for domestic violence victims even if her male, Republican colleagues are unsupportive, with both of her bills to combat this problem failing in one of the houses of the legislature. Failing in the Arkansas Senate, she passed a bill through the Arkansas House to allow domestic violence victims to break their leases.
Her colleagues in the House voted down another bill of hers, which would take guns from those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, despite it being a felony for them to even have one in the first place.
It is important to focus on what the female democrats in Northwest Arkansas are doing for the women, and Arkansans in general, that their male, Republican counterparts are leaving on the back burner. They are proposing legislation that just makes sense for most people, and it should pass no matter which party commands the legislature.
If there was a majority of representatives like Garner, Godfrey, and Clowney, it is clear that our legislature would fare much better than being deemed the worst yet by blogs like the Arkansas Times.
Female Democrats are getting the job done in Arkansans, and come November, Arkansans can only dream that there are even more constituent-minded, compassion-centered candidates on the ballot.