On Wednesday of this week, almost 700 bills passed by the General Assembly earlier this year will take effect. Unless a new Act contains an emergency clause making it immediately effective when signed by the Governor, then each new law will become effective 91 days after the session adjourned.

There are a few very important things that can happen during those 91 days. One possibility is that citizens have 90 days to file a petition to try to block new laws from taking effect. This year, there is a group gathering signatures to get a referendum on the November 2020 ballot to stop Act 579, which is set to expand the scope of practice of optometry in Arkansas, allowing optometrists to perform some eye surgeries that only ophthalmologists can now perform.

Another way a new law might be stopped from becoming effective at day 92 involves the legal system. A series of laws passed to further restrict abortions in our state have been challenged in court, and a ruling from the court could block the laws from taking effect this week.

An article in last Sunday’s Arkansas Democrat Gazette outlined a number of the new laws, many of which I’ve previously mentioned in this space, including Act 641, which will require our public elementary schools to provide at least 40 minutes of recess every school day. Studies support the benefits of unstructured playtime, which also helps social development and improves physical fitness.

Another law impacting public schools is Act 557, which prohibits the spanking of intellectually disabled, non-ambulatory, nonverbal or autistic students.

Jacob’s Law, which I sponsored, also goes into effect this week. Law enforcement will now be able to charge ATV, tractor and other agricultural equipment drivers with driving while intoxicated, although the law is clear that private property cannot be entered by law enforcement without probably cause.

If you have any questions about a particular law or its effective date, please let me know.

This week is also the centennial of a historic Arkansas House chamber vote that ratified the 19th Amendment to allow women’s suffrage. A special session was called on July 28, 1919 by then Governor Charles Brough, who encouraged the House chamber to ratify the Susan B. Anthony Amendment because it was “of paramount national importance to the people of our country, and is a proper recognition of the patriotic activities and useful devotion to the cause of liberty and democracy of our womanhood.”

With a vote of 74–15 in the House and 29-2 in the Senate, Arkansas was the twelfth state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. Newspaper reports at the time documented that women filled the Arkansas capitol carrying yellow banners reading, “Votes for Women.” Arkansas was the second state in the South to ratify the 19th amendment. Texas was the first when it ratified on June 23, 1919.

Demands for suffrage had been made in Arkansas dating back to the Constitutional Convention of 1868. That attempt and many others to allow women to vote failed in the Arkansas legislature over the course of the next 49 years.

Then in February 1917, Rep. John Riggs introduced legislation to allow women to vote in Arkansas primaries. Despite testimony on the House floor “(t)hat nothing would be gained by giving women access to the ballot”, the House voted 71-19 in favor of the measure. The bill later passed the Senate with a vote 17-15. Arkansas was the first state in the South to allow women in vote in primary elections.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson created the Arkansas Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemoration Committee to lead the state’s remembrance of women receiving the right to vote. You can check out the committee’s work on history and upcoming celebrations at arkansasheritage.com . And if you haven’t already, be sure to follow #ARGirlsLead on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where you will find stories from the women who serve in the House and encouragement for more Arkansas girls to seek leadership roles.

The devastating impact of Georgia-Pacific’s recent announcement continues to be felt throughout southeast Arkansas. Last week, about 50 interested people gathered in Hamburg to consider how that city can best be positioned to lead in the face of this adversity. Representatives from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission came at the request of Mayor Dane Weindorf and plans were outlined for future action. The meeting was lively and very encouraging.

State Sen. Eddie Cheatham and I are always happy to help set up meetings with representatives from state agencies, so let us know if we can assist this way.

Thank you for the privilege of serving District 9 and southeast Arkansas. I’d love to visit with your group or just hear from you. Email me at leanne.burch@arkansashouse.org, message me on Facebook @BurchforArkansas, or leave a phone message at 870-460-0773. I look forward to hearing from you.

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