State Senator Terry Rice and State Representative Marcus Richmond were among the legislators who joined in the lawsuit filed against Dr. Jose Romero, Secretary of Health.
The civil case is being spearheaded by State Representative and Senator-Elect Dan Sullivan. Additional legislators include Senators Bob Ballinger, Alan Clark, Gary Stubblefield, and Kim Hammer, and Representatives Mary Bentley, Steven Meeks, Josh Miller, John Payton, Laurie Rushing, Brandt Smith, Richard Womack, Harlan Breaux, Bruce Cozart, Justin Gonzalez and Nelda Speaks.
“I and 10 other State Representatives co-signed onto this lawsuit,” stated Richmond. “I did not take adding my name lightly. After much consideration I felt that if I intended to represent the will of our district then there was no other choice. I cannot stand by and watch government agencies be weaponized to force people to do self harm to their economic well-being. The government cure has become more harmful to the vast majority of Arkansans than the disease. Efforts by me and my colleagues have fallen on deaf ears. Unfortunately it seems the length of this pandemic may very well be directly linked to the availability of federal dollars. We will have to wait to see what results we may achieve and must not have imaginary expectations. Government incestuous relationships run deep. However, I cannot just stand by and hope for things to get better as my friends and neighbors suffer more and more loss.”
The lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday, September 3, states that directives such as the requirement of face masks are “outside the scope of delegated power.” Additionally, that their rights and status as legislators were infringed by “administrative actions of the Director of the Arkansas Department of Health.” The petition is seeking to have all 43 directives deemed invalid.
The effects ripple far beyond that of the alleged unconstitutional actions, businesses such as restaurants, who cannot open at full capacity and infringements on human rights. Lawmakers and supporters gathered on Thursday in a rally to “Reopen Arkansas,” calling for the withdrawal of the mandates and emergency declaration.
Governor Asa Hutchinson issued a response during his press conference stating the actions he’s taken during the pandemic were based on what’s been approved by the General Assembly. He added, “I think it goes without saying that this is really not an attack on the Department of Health, but it is an attack on the broad executive authority that I, as governor, have acted under during this emergency.”
Hutchinson went on to add “. . . I don’t know any of them (members of the General Assembly) who are as qualified in public health matters as our epidemiologist and our public health leaders at the Department of Health.”
Hutchinson defended his response on failing to call a special session: “That is not how to act quickly during an emergency…When people are dying, you don’t need delay, you need quick action.”
The governor stated that legislators hold the power to end the state of emergency if they choose to do so.
Sullivan responded, “we can gather signatures for and pass (with 51%) a concurrent resolution. However he (the governor) can veto the CR. I believe he would veto without blinking an eye.”
Lastly, the governor stated the legislators should disclose every donor who has contributed to the lawsuit for full transparency. Sullivan stated that he is not tied to the financial side of the lawsuit, and that it is being funded by private citizens. “I do know they (Reopen AR and Northeast AR Tea Party) capped donations at $10k and turned down several donations.”
The governor was clear, he disagrees with the lawsuit. However for Sullivan and his constituents this is about those whom they were elected to represent.
View the petition in its entirety –HERE–