All bills passed during the 2019 session of the Arkansas General Assembly have been signed into law. Gov. Asa Hutchinson did not veto any bills this year. He signed the final pieces of legislation Wednesday afternoon alongside several lawmakers.
A formal adjournment is set to take place next Wednesday when lawmakers return to the Capitol for Sine Die. In some previous years, that has been when senators and representatives have had to consider whether to attempt to override gubernatorial vetoes, something that won’t be necessary this time.
Among the bills signed Wednesday were three that had been sponsored by Rep. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff. HB1708 was designed to help end child marriage in Arkansas by moving up the minimum age and adding a parental consent. HB1928 is intended to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act by allowing the recording of audio during public meetings. And HB1965 creates the Delta Music Commission and Delta Music Trail to celebrate performers from that region of the state and to spur tourism and cultural enrichment.
After the signing ceremony, Hutchinson spoke with KUAR News about the pieces of legislation sent to him this year by lawmakers.
GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON: "There are 1,091 bills that came to my desk as a result of the 92nd General Assembly, and I have reviewed them and I’ve signed them into law. I only have five days in which to review, approve or disapprove, and so we got through the final batch today and I think it was a very successful session. That’s a lot of bills, a lot of laws, and I'm very proud of the session in terms of what we were able to accomplish this time."
MICHAEL HIBBLEN: "No vetoes…"
HUTCHINSON: "No, which is unusual. This is actually my first session without any vetoes. And some of them, there were language issues or I had some concerns, but you have to use the veto sparingly and work in good faith with the co-equal branch of government. There’s a couple that we might have to go back and remedy, but I didn’t believe that there would be a problem there in carrying out the legislation, and so we worked with them and I think they’re by and large good bills and I was pleased that I didn’t have to veto any bills this session."
HIBBLEN: "Briefly, what were the biggest challenges that you managed to get through?"
HUTCHINSON: Well, of course you look back at this session and one of my priorities was a transportation bill, a highway funding bill. But as we entered the session there was not any specific plan to accomplish that. We hadn’t reached a consensus, but I made it a priority and through the course of the session we were able to outline a plan that we can have a very robust, aggressive, historic highway funding plan and we built a consensus for it. So that was probably one of the biggest challenges just because it’s a very heavy lift, it’s a historic plan and we came together and arrived at a lot of unity around that. The second big challenge probably was the transformation of state government just because of the massive complexity of it. And it took us really until the last few days of the session to get that through the final hurdles. It wasn’t that it was that controversial or that people had objections to it, it was just hugely complex. And so that was a challenge, but we got that done as well. But there were other surprises during the session that we were able to address which was the National Cancer Institute designation for UAMS. That was a high priority, but it was going to take $10 million a year in order to accomplish that goal and to provide state funding for it. And we were able to include that in our budget, provide that priority for us, and that was really a hallmark of the session as well."
HIBBLEN: "And you had a few fun bills, the ones with the musical heritage of Arkansas."
HUTCHINSON: "Well we did, not just the musical heritage trail that we established, put some funding behind and encourage artistic works behind that, but we also did the two new monuments for our national Capitol, which is Daisy Gatson Bates and Johnny Cash. Both were remembering our civil rights history and our musical history and those were fun. There was a good debate that we had because we have so many iconic figures that come out of Arkansas, but to arrive at a consensus when we haven’t been able to do that in the past I think is remarkable for this session as well. So all in all, a good session, glad it’s over, but we’ll have some time to reflect on these 1,091 bills, but I think upon reflection we’ll see a lot of good things that happened and a foundation for future growth in our state."
A spokesman for the Democratic Party of Arkansas, Jacob Kauffman, says party leadership will offer their thoughts on the session after next week’s formal adjournment.