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OPINION: Some weeks better than others when making state laws

by Maylon Rice | March 24, 2021 at 5:25 a.m.

Even as the pandemic seems to be subsiding -- at least until we get more shots in the arms of Arkansas -- just hearing from lawmakers is still a very important part of the legislative process.

Once, prior to the pandemic, there were occasional "legislative forums" held in various venues to meet and greet those who have been down in Little Rock enacting laws upon the rest of us here back home.

These were usually pretty tame affairs. Oh, once in a while some frustrations of both the public and the lawmakers themselves might surface but, all in all, these were, to me, a bellwether on how things were going down in Little Rock.

Today, with very few such Legislative forums ongoing, we have to pay more attention to Facebook posts, Instagram accounts and, oh, my, that confusing feed of Twitter.

Many of the voters out there in the mainstream -- just will not do it.

And of that I am sad, truly sad.

Now most, if not all, the state Representatives and even the state Senators I know, do a decent job at reposting their week's activities.

Many in the House and Senate find the time to often reach out with their take on how things are progressing down in Little Rock during the General Assembly.

One of the newer members, state Rep. Megan Godfrey, D-Springdale, who is now in her second term, has proved to be one of the most effective, glib and well-read by many as a Facebook contributor.

Other area state representatives, especially Rep. Charlene Fite, R-Van Buren, District 80, and Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Elm Springs, District 87, also do a good job with their social media.

For those outside of Godfrey's tiny Springdale district (tiny only in land area, not in population) here is a sampling of her chatty, yet informative recent post in early March.

"I am so excited about two bills that passed the House Education Committee yesterday: HB1451 would allow for bilingual and dual immersion programs in schools, and HB1594 would allow DACA recipients to be licensed as teachers," Godfrey wrote in a Friday posting on Facebook.

"It was truly a team effort. Lots of great bipartisan co-sponsors joined Sen. Tucker and me on HB1451, including Reps. Cozart, Evans, Vaught and Womack, and Sens. Hester, Eads, Sturch, Elliott and Davis. Rep. Vaught and Sen. Eads took the lead on HB1594 and I was honored to join them as a co-sponsor."

"In committee, Rep. Lowery asked a good clarifying question, and Rep. Fite spoke in favor of the bill, sharing her own experience as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher and her support of dual immersion. Members of the public made a huge difference with their moving and thoughtful testimony in favor of both bills.

"There's been a lot of discussion lately about how this has been a hard and sometimes hurtful session. And that's true," she wrote.

"But sometimes, against the odds, the process works, and these bills are a good example of why we can never give up hope."

"Every member of the House Education Committee was gracious enough to meet with me about my bill, even if they had questions or wanted additional time to look over the details. And the committee discussion was constructive and focused on helping people"

"Now, we have two bills moving forward that will help empower Arkansans, help meet critical needs, and make the state a more inclusive and welcoming place."

"Politics is hard. And sometimes it hurts. But there are people from both parties who persistently try to make it work. I'm grateful for them. Because when it works, all Arkansans benefit. Adelante!"

Good words, good words, indeed, from Rep. Godfrey.

-- Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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