ARKANSAS (KNWA/FOX24) — Right now is an important time in the political science of Arkansas. Lawmakers from all corners of the state are starting to file bills they want to see passed when the legislative session starts in January.
“There’s so much that happens in the legislative session,” said Misty Orpin, Executive Director of Common Ground Arkansas.
Common Ground Arkansas is a nonprofit that focuses on equipping voters around the state so they can participate in elections and in policies that happen in our state government.
Janine Parry is a political science professor at the University of Arkansas. She said that Arkansas has what’s called a citizen legislature, also known as an amateur legislature, which meets every two years.
“We actually are in what we call a regular session, which is odd-numbered springs, and that goes back to the Constitution of 1874,” she said.
Parry said the legislature meets in the even-numbered years for about a month to make budget adjustments.
The session lasts from January through April. Orpin said a lot happens in that time period.
“They’re gonna file thousands of bills and that doesn’t mean that they’re going to get passed into laws,” she said.
Now is the time that legislatures can file bills early. As of Monday, 12 bills had been filed, ranging from health reform to tax credits for new farmers to public safety.
“That’s a cornerstone of what the incoming governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has talked a lot about is public safety,” she said. “So the first bills were about sentencing reform and parole reform.”
Parry said now is an interesting time in Arkansas politics when you consider the state’s history.
“We’re basically back to where we were in the 1990s in terms of how lopsided the party distribution is,” she said.
Except now, Republicans have the supermajority, which Parry said can lead to divisions with how the party moves forward.
“The really socially conservative Republicans might run up against the more economic and practical Republicans because when you get to an umbrella or a team that big, you see some sort of fissures,” she said.
Both Parry and Orpin said now is the time for people to stay plugged into state politics.
“The truth is that most public policy in most states including Arkansas is about to happen right now,” said Parry.
“It is so important to hold our state leaders accountable because so much is delegated to the state that impacts our everyday lives,” said Orpin.
The legislative session starts on Jan. 9.
Common Ground Arkansas has resources on its website to stay on top of bills that have been filed. Click here to learn more.