Arkansas House Speaker Commends Legislature For Progress Despite Pandemic
Although the Arkansas General Assembly didn’t meet last week because of severe winter weather, House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, still commends the amount of progress that the legislature made this week.
While he says the amount of bills that have been filed is down compared to other sessions, he expects those numbers to pick up despite some members contracting the coronavirus earlier in the session.
"Even in the midst of working in the House where we have 100 members on the floor every single day, we’ve been very fortunate," Shepherd said. "A number of our members are falling into those categories from an age perspective being over 70 or 65, and they’re taking steps to obtain the vaccination. I feel like we’re only going to be in a better position as we move forward."
Shepherd says there’s only three committee rooms that are able to follow social distancing protocols, which is why some committees will have to switch meeting times next week. According to Shepherd, 567 bills have been filed in the House and 401 bills have been filed in the Senate so far.
"Public Health and Public Transportation are alternating time slots. That’s something that I anticipated from the outset that we may have to do some juggling of our committee times and rooms," Shepherd said. "But that’s just the nature of the fact that we only have three committe rooms that are sufficient to provide the social distancing that we’re trying to provide our members with. But, I am really pleased with the work we’ve done, I feel like we’ve worked efficiently."
Shepherd says while some members have tested positive, the House has been fortunate to have minimum spread of the coronavirus. With members following safety procedures to maintain a healthy environment, Shepherd says he expects the session to continue making progress in the amount of bills being filed.