In addition to vote suppression, the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee today covered topics from daylight savings time to the Marshall Islands.
Rep. Johnny Rye (R-Trumann) failed to get a motion for his bill to make daylight savings time permanent in Arkansas should federal law require it. State law already encourages this if all adjoining states take such action. None has. There was the standard round of arguments about kids waiting for school buses in the dark versus the danger of women getting off work after sundown in the winter.
Rep. Clint Penzo (R-Springdale) explained but didn’t ask for a vote on his bill to allow Marshall Islanders to be certified law enforcement officers in Arkansas. A substantial number of Marshallese live legally in Northwest Arkansas under a compact with the U.S. Penzo was accompanied by a Marshall islander who works for the Benton County sheriff’s office.
An unmentioned background wrinkle: Democratic Rep. Megan Godfrey of Springdale filed a nearly identical bill the same day Penzo filed his bill to allow non-immigrants in the country legally (Marshallese) to be law enforcement officers.
Admirers of Godfrey suspect that Penzo, joined by Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Springdale), sponsored legislation of their own to prevent Godfrey from scoring points in a district where she’s been elected twice despite area Republican leanings. Republicans have been known to do this before — co-opted ideas or otherwise hampered efforts by effective Democrats (Rep. Clarke Tucker, who’s now a senator, was one such victim four years ago).
Lundstrum’s emergence as a champion of the Marshallese was notable. She voted against sending federal COVID relief money to the Northwest Arkansas Council for more coronavirus tracing, testing and other outreach to the Marshallese community, which has been ravaged by COVID-19.
Republican Rep. Keith Slape is a sponsor of both the Penzo and Godfrey bills.
Penzo said he’d begun working on the issue in September. I’ve asked Godfrey by email about her work on the legislation. In news accounts, she said she was working to find additional sponsors before moving the legislation. She has noted that citizens of the islands may serve in the military under the agreement with the U.S., but not in law enforcement.
UPDATE: Godfrey responds:
I’m glad there’s additional interest on this important issue, and I look forward to working together to get it done. Several of my Republican colleagues have requested to be added as cosponsors, including Rep. Penzo, and I’m happy to include them. I look forward to presenting my bill on Wednesday with testimony from Marshallese leaders and law enforcement, and I feel confident that we can move this collaborative bill forward with bipartisan support.