Editor’s note: This editorial expresses the views of the Log Cabin Democrat editorial board, which is composed of Frank Leto, Jeanette Anderton and Alex Kienlen.
This originally appeared in the Log Cabin Democrat February 13.
Our View: Focus on actual problems, not partisan, petty proposals
While Arkansas residents are grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic problems it brought with it, the state Legislature is wasting time and resources on proposals that don’t solve actual problems.
The novel coronavirus is unquestionably the most monumental health care crisis we have faced in our lifetime. As of Friday, the state’s death toll had climbed to 5,212.
While big box retailers and Amazon have thrived in the pandemic, small businesses across the state struggle to keep the doors open. Unemployed and underemployed people are frantically looking for ways to manage their budgets enough so they don’t have to choose between food or heat.
There hasn’t been a strong enough marketing campaign dedicated to educating people on the safety and importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and those who want the vaccine are struggling to set appointments to get one.
One would think any health care bills proposed by the 93rd General Assembly would be focused on COVID-19. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
The Arkansas Senate on Wednesday approved a measure that would allow health care workers and institutions to refuse non-emergency treatments for patients because of their religious or moral beliefs.
Critics say it would allow medical providers to use religious, moral or philosophical beliefs to deny care to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients.
“(It) is a blatantly discriminatory attempt to strip LGBTQ people of basic rights,” Eric Reece, the Arkansas state manager for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “Health care should be available to all who need it, not withheld by providers because of hate and fear.”
The Log Cabin Democrat agrees. The response from the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Kim Hammer, was vague and unconvincing that this bill will help address actual problems.
“This bill is about elective things, things you can take time to find a provider who’s willing to offer the service rather than a force a provider who doesn’t believe in doing it,” Hammer told the Associated Press.
While most opponents of the bill believe it targets the LGBTQ community, Democratic Sen. Clarke Tucker said it is written so broadly that it could allow a patient to be denied care because of their political affiliation.
The majority-Republican Senate voted 27-6 in favor of the bill, which now heads to the House. We urge the House to reject it.
The Arkansas House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 2 rejected the so-called “Stand Your Ground” legislation that would have removed the state’s duty to retreat before using deadly force against an attacker.
“The truth is, we’re moving the needle slightly in Arkansas to allow someone to defend themselves if they find themselves in a dangerous situation and they have to use lethal force to survive,” the bill’s House sponsor Republican Rep. Aaron Pilkington told the committee.
However, opponents said the bill was unneeded, noting that state law already allows someone to use deadly force without retreating in certain circumstances.
Camden Mayor Julian Lott spoke against the measure, saying: “Stand Your Ground laws provide the perfect opportunity to increase gun violence incidents and harm minority groups.”
The Log Cabin Democrat commends the voices of reason in the House Judiciary Committee for doing so after listening to three hours of impassioned testimony.
Likewise, we were glad to see two proposed measures on limiting how race and slavery is taught in schools rejected by an Arkansas House panel.
However, we reiterate that the time spent on these items should instead be spent focusing on legislation that would address the very real problems Arkansans face.
Legislators need to stop wasting time and taxpayer money on solely political issues that don’t solve problems or help their constituents.