Hutchinson supports hate crime bill in State of the State address
Gov. Asa Hutchinson asked the Arkansas legislature to approve a bill that would add increased sentencing to hate crimes as part of his State of the State address on Tuesday in the Capitol.
Hutchinson, giving his seventh State of the State, read letters from constituents in support of passing legislation with consequences for hate crimes.
One letter, from Jimmy D. Ward of Conway, said that lawmakers need to enact a bill to protect people from crimes based on their identity saying it would demonstrate that Arkansas is no place for racism.
Hutchinson also read a letter from IBM in support of hate crime legislation.
“The time to act is now,” the letter stated.
Arkansas is one of three states without hate crime legislation.
“Let's not be the last to enact it but let's lead,” Hutchinson said about a hate crime bill that he wants to protect people equally regardless of their race.
The governor also called for continued work to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
“And now is not the time to withdraw from the battle,” Hutchinson said.
The emergency rules now in place are set to expire Feb. 27. Hutchinson asked the legislators to lengthen the deadline.
“If you do not act these measures will end,” Hutchinson told lawmakers.
Those measures set to expire include telemedicine rules, educational waivers and immunity liability for business and health care workers.
Hutchinson asked that lawmakers allow appropriations from the federal government to be dispersed to support the quick distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations.
He described the need to act against the virus as the first responsibility of the state government.
The governor also addressed the recent events in Washington, D.C., condemning the insurrection at the Capitol.
“They attacked the foundations of our democracy,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson voiced his support for each person involved in the riot to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
One Arkansan, Richard Barnett, was identified as the man sitting at Speaker Nancy Pelosi's desk during the riot.
“It is okay to be passionate, but we must not let passion cloud our common sense,” Hutchinson said, calling for unity amid a time of dissent. “And when the election is over we need to come together."
Hutchinson said he wants to support police officers and ensure that they have fully funded departments as well as increasing forms of oversight and accountability for officers.
Some other takeaways from the address:
- Arkansas has an unallocated surplus of $200 million.
- The state added 2,200 jobs during the past year.
- There are 53,000 more Arkansans employed now than in January 2015, the governor said.
- He said the state needs to expand high-speed internet access throughout the state and set aside $30 million in his proposed budget for that initiative.
“The state of our state finances is strong,” Hutchinson said. “And I have never been more proud of Arkansans.”