HOT SPRINGS — State Senator Alan Clark questioned the need for a special legislative session during his speech to the Garland County Tea Party this week.
Clark, R-District 13, told the Tea Party at its weekly meeting that since there is already money available, the special legislative session on tax policy and school safety grant funding that must starting next week is not necessary.
The Legislative Assembly will decide whether $50 million of the state’s $1.6 billion budget surplus will fund grants supporting the recommendations of the Arkansas School Safety Commission.
“There’s already money there,” Clark said. “It’s being done as a show so the Governor and the Legislature can say we’re putting this money here. Chances are $50 million won’t be hit because there’s going to be a lot of qualifications that say you have to use the money the federal government has already put in. School safety is hugely important, but we don’t need to have a special session to address it.
Clark said most special sessions are unnecessary.
“You shouldn’t have a special session without a clear reason,” he said. “It should be absolutely, specifically, that’s why we have to have a special session. Emergencies arise for things that happen. There is no urgency. I’m not for a special session. I’m going kicking and screaming, but I made it clear we didn’t need a special session.”
The Legislative Assembly will consider accelerating phased reductions in top tax rates for individuals and corporations. The cuts are expected to be fully implemented by 2025, but the legislature will consider making them retroactive to early this year.
Clark said the accelerated schedule could be considered when the regular session meets in January.
“These tax cuts are already in the law,” he told the Tea Party. “We’re not talking about passing new tax cuts. It’s more about show business.”
Clark said the federal government could claw back pandemic relief funds if the legislature accelerates tax cuts. The American Rescue Plan Act prohibited states from cutting taxes if they accepted the bill’s tax stimulus funds. Arkansas was part of a 13-state coalition that won a federal court judgment in November barring the US Treasury Department from enforcing the restriction.
“We’re talking about the federal government getting half of it back if we speed up the tax cuts instead of just letting them happen as they’re going to happen,” Clark said, referring to the budget surplus of the United States. State. “The idea has been floated to put this money aside in case the authorities take it back. I think it’s a very bad idea.
“It’s because we want to present that image that we’re doing tax cuts. The legislature doesn’t want to present that image. We can do tax cuts in January. The new governor doesn’t want to present that image, then you can determine who wants to present the image of the tax cuts.”
Clark said the legislature may need to address language in Arkansas’ Human Life Protection Act regarding exceptions for the life of a pregnant woman. The 2019 law took effect when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, reversing the 1973 precedent that prevented states from banning abortion.
Performing the procedure except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency is now a felony in Arkansas punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
“I am against abortion except in cases where the life of the mother is in danger,” Clark told the Tea Party. “I’ve been told our law isn’t as clear on this in some cases as it should be. We need to fix this.”
He said that because they have been used to justify an inordinate number of abortions, the rape and incest exceptions are problematic.
“The thing is, it was used as a huge loophole,” he said. “It’s a fact. That’s why so many people have gone from accepting the case of rape and incest to oblivion. It’s not that we don’t care about rape and incest. It gives us such a big loophole that in almost every abortion in the United States that loophole was used.”
Clark said allegations of rape and incest made to justify abortions should be followed up by authorities.
“If this is resolved, it has to be resolved with issues of filing, filing, prosecution, because none of those things are happening,” he said. “It’s just that there’s a rape. We want an abortion. The people of Arkansas won’t stand to keep this going.”
Also at the meeting, Clark declined to discuss his recent breach of Senate ethics in the presence of The Sentinel-Record.
“Not with the newspaper here,” Clark said when asked to explain the Senate ethics committee’s findings that he broke Senate rules by asking another senator to sign his name on the sign-up sheet for per diem reimbursement at a June 3 meeting at the Capitol Clark was not present.
“I’d be happy to talk to you all about it, because I have a lot to say that I would like you to hear. But I told the newspaper everything I wanted them to hear. Everything I say other than “I did” and “I’m sorry” sound like sour grapes. In time, it will be shown to be what it is, and it may not be so long. It can be a lot faster than anyone thinks.”
Clark told the newspaper last month that the ethics committee ignored more egregious violations and said the complaint was filed to harm him politically. Garland County Sen. Bill Sample, R-District 14, asked the Senate to forward the ethics committee file on Clark to the Pulaski County District Attorney’s Office.