Governor Huckabee May Not Have Political Mandate to Move Legislative Agenda

January 4, 2004 -- Posted 5:00 p.m. CDT

Jonesboro, AR -- Governor Huckabee is hinting at his 2005 agenda, and some are questioning whether he has the mandate to get his proposals accomplished.

The Arkansas General Assembly will return to the State Capitol on Monday to tackle the critical issues facing the Natural State. Governor Huckabee will likely headline 2005 with an emphasis on a 3 "H" agenda: highways, higher education, and health. The governor wants to see more construction on state and U.S. highways. When it comes to higher education, Huckabee is proposing a formula for funding colleges and universities, and after losing more than 100 pounds, he wants more support for his Health Arkansas Program, which could include a ban on smoking in restaurants.

"I don't believe he's got a mandate," said State Representative Chris Thyer of Jonesboro. "Frankly, I don't think the legislature is focused on any of the 3. I think the legislature is focused, and rightfully so, focused on education, particularly K-12 facilities."

On December 9, 2004, State Senator Shane Broadway, speaking at A.S.U., painted a rosy picture of the current funding fiasco.

"We can do it all, begin the facilities funding without having to raise state revenue," said Broadway.

Thyer believes those comments are more optimistic than realistic.

"I think that Senator Broadway and Bisby's plan is at some level disingenuous to say that it can't be done without a tax increase," said Thyer.

It's not only legislators who are crafting their goals in the new year. Reverend Steve Jacobson of Friendly Hope Baptist Church in Jonesboro is calling for a reversal of the now infamous Act 1813. Some believe this piece of legislation led the way for the approval of 2 new private clubs in Jonesboro.

"One of the spokesman for the last permit said what he hoped to do was to create a little Beale Street in downtown Jonesboro and this is in the middle of a dry county, and we've told the governor that and he said what needs to happen is that we need to close that loophole." said Jacobson.

"Let's give it a few years to see if it's working and then if it's not working after a few years then maybe revisit it, but at this point it's too early to tell if it's even working," said Thyer.

There are other proposals that may come up in this legislative session. They include: a bill that would require a minor to have written parental consent before having an abortion. There is also talk of legalizing BINGO, and anti-meth legislation may come up that would make stores keep cold medication behind the counters. Of those 3, Thyer believes the bottom 2 will face an uphill battle in the legislature.