Gov. Asa Hutchinson has notified the Senate of two vetoes:
* MASS PICKETING: Sen. Trent Garner’s so-called “mass picketing” bill (SB 550) broadened the latitude for police to make arrests of demonstrators who might slow traffic or be perceived to be intimidating someone in a private residence. It was one of a wave of anti-demonstration bills nationwide by Republican legislators.
Hutchinson said existing law provides multiple means to cope with people whose demonstrations block traffic or access to homes and businesses. He said the bill was “overbroad, vague and will have the effect of restricting free speech and the right to assemble.” From the letter:
I’ve asked Garner for a comment, but don’t expect one. It passed the Senate with a bare 18 votes over a number of objections. It got only 58 votes in the House. Both votes are enough in either case for an override, but override votes have other dynamics and are not necessarily merely carbon copies of legislative votes. Rep. Kim Hammer couldn’t muster an override for a bill of his that the governor vetoed on a state employee job survey procedure.
* PANIC BUTTON: He vetoed Sen. Larry Teague’s SB 446, an $850,000 appropriation to pay for panic button alert systems in public schools. The systems are authorized by law at the choice of the school district. Hutchinson said the idea was presented for funding in 2016 as a pilot project by the Education Department and then used money from the attorney general’s office in the current fiscal year.
Hutchinson said “it is now up to the local school districts to choose whether to pay for the panic button alert systems.”
He’s now vetoed four bills, including Hammer’s and Sen. Scott Flippo’s bill to prevent ABC agents from enforcing anti-gambling law.
UPDATE: The ACLU of Arkansas cheered the governor’s veto (something the governor probably could have done without.)
“Governor Hutchinson did the right thing by vetoing this unconstitutional anti-protest bill,” said ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Rita Sklar. “We’re also grateful to the many Arkansans who joined us in speaking out against this heavy-handed attempt to restrict the freedom of assembly and criminalize constitutionally-protected speech. This proposal to prosecute people who take to the streets to speak their minds is part of a dangerous trend that the ACLU will fight at every turn. The General Assembly should let this veto stand.”