Arkansas Citizens First Congress, a progressive lobbying group, recently released their annual report, the “Community Guide to the 2011 Legislative Session.” The report will tell you how your representative voted on the issues listed as a priority by ACFC. The group organized bills into seven categories: agriculture, civil rights, economic justice, education reform, environment, government and election reform, and public health. The outcomes are about what you’d expect. Legislators voting with the ACFC the most often were Kathy Webb, John Walker, Greg Leding and Fred Love (all Democrats) on the House side; David Johnson, Sue Madison, Joyce Elliott and Randy Laverty on the Senate side (again, all Ds). The reports authors say the overall scores for each legislator show a contentious and highly partisan group of lawmakers. Despite the toxic political climate, they argue the session didn’t turn out too bad for progressives.
Many of our members were concerned that this legislative session would be tough given the anti-government, anti-immigrant, anti-union and anti-environment campaigns that dominated the November elections, but the results were much more moderate. Key issues like prison reform made progress while the most egregious tax, environmental and immigration bills were defeated. We had some tough losses to be sure, but Arkansas’ overall record is in high contrast to many other states. The Governor and legislative leaders like Speaker Moore deserve a lot of credit for producing a record of moderate policy change in a polarized political environment.