The following is a transcript of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's radio column for the weekend of May 20, 2016:
We all learn from history and that includes Arkansas history.
In 1911, the Arkansas Legislature met for the first time in the new State Capitol. The building was still unfinished, but it was “finished enough” for legislators to meet for a general session.
During the session, Arkansas’s 22nd Governor, George Donaghey, proposed three bills that would help with the final completion of the Capitol Building. Two of his bills easily passed through the legislature. The third, however, was filibustered to death on the last day of the regular session.
The gavel came down at noon on May 13, 1911, signaling the end of the general session. Only 30 minutes later, Governor Donaghey issued a call for a special session – marking the third special session in Arkansas history since the adoption of the 1874 Constitution.
Five items were on the special session’s legislative agenda, including bills to help fund the completion of the Capitol. Although the building was not fully finished until four years later, Governor Donaghey was pleased everyone had worked together and had gotten the job done.
Now, more than 100 years later, the Arkansas State Capitol continues to house the daily operations of state government. It’s seen quite a few special session since the days of Governor Donaghey. And this week, it saw another as the 90th General Assembly gathered for their third special session.
We’ve taken on a number of items, but our main objective is to address Arkansas’s highway funding needs. We need to ensure that our state has adequate funding for our highways, roads and infrastructure.
Back in January, I outlined a five-year highway plan that would fund our current roadway needs and support future highway projects in Arkansas – all without raising taxes. My plan calls for the use of existing revenue and surplus funds for our highways while still allowing Arkansans to enjoy savings at the pump. A little extra pocket change can go a long way.
Today, the “Arkansas Highway Improvement Plan of 2016” will continue through the various committees of the legislature. Some characterize the plan as a short-term fix, but I do not view it as a one-time solution. It’s a plan to meet our federal funding match for the next five years or more. There’s always the option of doing something different down the road, debating our options and looking for long-term solutions. But for right now, we’re off to a good start.
In President Ronald Reagan’s first Inaugural Address, he said, quote “We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow. And let there be no misunderstanding – we are going to begin to act, beginning today” end-quote.
This weekend, the legislators will continue working and preparing for the special session activities on Monday. They will look for ways to achieve greater government efficiencies, protect our Worker’s Compensation program, lighten the workload for our foster care caseworkers and resolve challenges facing our state’s schools.
As governor, I am proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, and I applaud our legislators for diligently working to find solutions to our state’s most pressing issues. Keep up the good work, and keep “paving the way” for Arkansas’s future.
After all, we’re making history – and it’s a story we’ll all be able to tell.