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Resolution to lift firms' covid-19 restrictions sent to Quorum Court

by Mike Jones | February 23, 2021 at 7:46 a.m.
Customers line up Tuesday Feb. 16, 2021, to patronize the drive-through at Chick-fil-A in Bentonville. Go to nwaonline.com/210217Daily/ to see more photos. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

BENTONVILLE -- Benton County's Committee of the Whole on Feb. 18 voted 11-3 to send a resolution supporting lifting covid-19 restrictions on businesses to the Quorum Court. The resolution isn't a done deal.

Justice of the Peace Carrie Perrien Smith, the resolution sponsor, will need to bring it back with language changes before it faces a vote.

Committee of the Whole chairman Kurt Moore suggested Smith get with county attorney George Spence to work on an updated draft justices of the peace can review before the Feb. 25 quorum court meeting.

Smith said she wanted to get feedback from other justices at the meeting. The resolution was listed as a discussion item on the agenda.

"My purpose is to rally my fellow county legislators to tell Governor Hutchinson that we trust businesses to decide what is right for their employees and their customers," Smith said Monday. "Hopefully, the local city councils will hear the message loud and clear, too. If enough county legislators spoke up for our business community, it would give our state legislators more courage to stand up for our business community, too."

Smith, who said she's a longtime advocate for small business, noted the pandemic has been going on for 11 months and customers and employers have learned the precautions they need to take to protect themselves. Also, the vaccine rollout is underway and a significant part of the population has tested positive for covid-19, she said.

At the end of Smith's resolution were four sections including one requesting Gov. Asa Hutchinson "immediately lift all restrictions on privately owned businesses, including limited capacity and reduced operating hours, to ensure a competitive, diverse and free marketplace in Arkansas.

Another section requested the state Legislature to "immediately pass legislation that removes all restrictions on privately owned businesses, including limited capacity and reduced operating hours, and to pass legislation to prevent future restrictions on privately owned businesses to ensure a competitive, diverse and free marketplace in Arkansas."

The wording "all restrictions" and "immediately pass" drew concern from a few justices of the peace.

The resolution acknowledged the need to allow businesses to operate in a way that would meet the needs of their business, employees and customers without the burden of covid-19 restrictions. The resolution also mentioned appreciation and recognition of the work, commitment and innovation of the business community to modify practices and increase options helping their customers stay healthy.

Smith also said she wasn't implying a business shouldn't continue to allow employees to work from home or put in place covid-19 protection measures.


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