Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Wednesday he plans to allow congressional redistricting bills that would trisect Pulaski County to pass into law without his signature. Hutchinson also said he plans to allow bills that would exempt employees from federal or employer covid-19 vaccination mandates to pass without signing them.
The announcement, which Hutchinson made during his weekly briefing at the state Capitol, comes despite objections that the plans would remove thousands of Black people in the state’s most populous county from the 2nd District.
Proponents of the bills, Senate Bill 743 by Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, and House Bill 1982 by Rep. Nelda Speaks, R-Mountain Home, tout that it keeps each district close to the ideal population. Arkansas' population grew to 3,011,524 according to 2020 census numbers, so lawmakers said they aimed to keep the number of constituents for each U.S. representative as close to 752,881 as possible.
The other two bills, House Bill 1977 by Rep. Joshua Bryant, R-Rogers, and Senate Bill 739, require employers that mandate vaccinations to provide an exemption process for workers, including requiring them to produce a negative antigen test once a week or proof of immunity including the presence of antibodies twice a year.
“These bills are unnecessary and the debate on these bills have been harmful to our goal of increasing vaccination rates in Arkansas,” Hutchinson said.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson will provide his weekly media update at 1:30 p.m.
Hutchinson will discuss the coronavirus pandemic in Arkansas, as well as other "topics of the day," according to a news release by the governor's office.
Watch the live video here.