2003 Session

Second, Arkansas churches, pastors, and countless Christians must be graciously acknowledged. You and many others prayed for our work, supported us financially, and responded to our requests to get involved by calling and contacting your legislators on some of the critical issues.
Third, Arkansans are fortunate to have some fine Christian men and women representing them at the state capitol. Space here doesn’t permit me to give you details of all the ways in which so many of these people served you admirably. However, I think you know who those legislators are, and I would encourage you to thank them.
Lastly, we here at the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council had the good fortune of working with and alongside some other fine groups. Those are American Family Association’s Arkansas Affiliate, Arkansas Right to Life, Eagle Forum of Arkansas, Families First Foundation, Family Council, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. We didn’t work all the bills of interest to us at the same level — we gave priority to different issues, but in the final analysis we came together to be an effective team.
The following is a list of some of the key legislative issues with which we dealt (there were several other matters with which we were involved, but space limitations here don’t allow a complete review).
We defeated Senate Bill 504 (SB504) and House Bill 2329 (HB2329) — These duplicate bills were designed to allow the two Arkansas racetracks, Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs and Southland Greyhound Park in West Memphis, to offer casino-style gambling. The proponents of these bills said that they represented only an extension of the gambling that the tracks already offered. That was not true; the bills would have allowed the installation of thousands of video poker machines and other electronic gambling games, all of which are just different versions of slot machines. I can’t recalla tougher legislative fight in all my years of lobbying. The tracks hired an army of lobbyists, a veritable who’s who of lobbyists, and spent a fortune in pushing these bills. This win was truly exceptional and incredibly gratifying. It shows what can be done when God’s people pull together on a serious issue and make a difference.
We defeated House Joint Resolution 1017 (HJR1017) — HJR1017 was an effort to refer a constitutional amendment to establish a state lottery to the voters of Arkansas in the next general election. The significance of this victory can only be fully appreciated when one considers how gambling, particularly state lotteries, is proliferating in America. Only ten states now have no lottery. Last November, the voters in Tennessee approved a lottery for their state, and from all reports it appears that the Oklahoma legislature is on the verge of referring a lottery to its voters.
We defeated House Bill 2838 (HB2838), a bill to legalize charitable bingo and raffles. That type of gambling doesn’t present the kind of harm that casino and lottery gambling do, but it is still gambling and it is still contrary to the Arkansas constitution.
We defeated House Bill 1728 (HB1728), a bill that would have gutted our local option election laws by allowing two cities, Jonesboro and Conway, and eventually every other dry city in Arkansas, to have a local option election called, not by the people as the law now provides, but by the city councils. The election would determine whether restaurants could serve mixed drinks. The proponents of the law tried to frame the issue as the right to have “a glass of wine with pasta at an upscale restaurant,” but the real issue was bars all over town. The current local option election law works well and doesn’t need to be overhauled; fortunately, most legislators agreed with us.
We defeated House Bill 1321 (HB1321) — The ostensible reason for the bill was to allow patients suffering terminal illnesses and other difficult medical conditions to smoke marijuana. These kinds of bills are actually designed to desensitize our culture to marijuana and to mainstream the growing and use of the drug. The research we discovered proved that there are more effective and less harmful ways to deliver THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, than the smoking of marijuana.
We were instrumental in adding a critically important exemptiont; in the law passed that makes pastors mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect. If the pastor’s only knowledge of the abuse or neglect is a result of the perpetrator divulging the information to the pastor in an effort to be rehabilitated and restored, then the pastor is not required to report the abuse or neglect to authorities, although he should take immediate steps to protect the child or children at risk, if the situation is current. This will allow the position of trust between pastors and church members to be maintained.
The following are issues in which we helped other groups who took the lead:
We assisted some of the other groups in passing a ban on human cloning, in defeating a “hate crimes” bill, in adopting a measure to protect children from pornography, and in passing a bill to increase revenue to fund adoption services.