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Arkansas Senate and House Minority Leaders Announce Legislative Goals and Respond to Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders's Inaugural Addresses

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Democratic Party of Arkansas
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Arkansas Senate and House Minority Leaders

LITTLE ROCK -- On Wednesday morning, Senate Minority Leader Greg Leding (State Senate, District 30 - Fayetteville) and House Minority Leader Tippi McCullough (State House, District 70 - Little Rock) announced their policy goals for the 2023 legislative session.

“Arkansas made history with the inauguration of Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the first woman to hold that office. We welcome her calls for a 2023 legislative session that brings necessary focus to our state’s public schools, foster care, criminal justice system, healthcare, and tax rates,” said Senator Greg Leding. “We agree with her that answers to these issues require ‘bigger,’ ‘bolder,’ and ‘better’ ideas than what we have seen in the past. We’re committed to working with her and our Republican colleagues where we can. As Democrats, we’re united in our own bold vision for Arkansas: to create a healthier, safer, fairer, brighter future for all Arkansans.”

“We don’t yet know the details of Governor Sanders’s proposed education reforms. Yesterday, the Governor shared her core approach to improving our public education, and we agree: The road to a brighter future in Arkansas starts with raising our worst-in-the-South teacher pay and expanding access to Pre-K,” said Representative Tippi McCullough. “However, we cannot do these things if we keep pushing the same regressive, failed approach to cutting taxes. Phasing out the income tax isn’t a solution, and it will only keep us from achieving meaningful progress.”

Senate and House Democrats vowed to fight against unproven voucher programs, which Governor Sanders reaffirmed her support for in yesterday’s speech to a joint session of both Senate and House legislators. Democrats—and many Republicans—believe Arkansas can’t improve our public education if it pulls unregulated dollars from our school districts, which is exactly what these voucher programs will do.

Democrats in both chambers are ready to answer other calls for people-focused policies Governor Sanders implored legislators to pass yesterday. In the coming weeks of this 94th General Assembly, Democrats are ready to:

  • Raise teacher salaries
  • Fully-fund education opportunities
  • Decriminalize marijuana and expunge non-violent possession charges to match newly-established federal guidelines 
  • Expand healthcare for women and all Arkansans 
  • Pass criminal justice reforms to keep Arkansans safe without committing the state to hundreds of millions in new spending

“During the next several weeks, we as Democrats will be united. We will put the needs of hardworking Arkansans first and not let issues crafted only to distract and divide us get in the way of our work,” said Senator Leding. 

“Democrats are ready to work with our Republican colleagues on these issues. But we couldn’t ignore the difference in tone between the Governor’s two speeches yesterday,” said McCullough. “First in her address to the legislature she mentioned reforms to the foster care and adoption system and Pre-K expansion, then she left those out of her public address. She didn’t mention Critical Race Theory in her speech to lawmakers—and, by the way, Critical Race Theory is a college-level course that isn’t taught in any public K-12 school—but she mentioned it a number of times in her remarks on the Capitol steps. We’re ready to work with her—but we want to know which governor will come to the table to talk.

Representative McCullough concluded the press conference, adding: “It’s important that we remember that both the governor and lawmakers are public servants elected to serve Arkansas. We’ve all had enough politics and games, and the campaigns are over. It’s time we get to work.”