2005 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 e-mailing, calling, and contacting your legislators on some of the critical issues we faced.
Third, Arkansans are fortunate to have some fine Christian men and women representing them as senators and representatives 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 Families First Foundation, Family Council, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Eagle Forum, American Family Association, and Right to Life. We didn’t work all the bills of interest to us at the same level – we gave priority to different issues, but in most instances 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 of all of them).
We had some big wins in this issue. There were a total of seven measures to expand gambling in Arkansas introduced in this legislative session; several involved a state lottery and casino gambling. All but two of those failed. The two that were approved include only charitable bingo and additional machine gambling at the state’s two racetracks, not lottery or casino gambling.
Legislators have referred a proposed constitutional amendment that, if approved, will allow charitable organizations to offer bingo and conduct raffles. It will not permit a commercial-type bingo operation to run the games under the guise of being a charity.
Under the other bill that passed, the two racetracks can offer machine-type gambling that represents an expansion of the machine gambling they already conduct, the so-called “Instant Racing” machines. However, the tracks can only increase their operations, if they receive approval from the voters in the city or county where the tracks or located.
Now, let me discuss the victories. Due to our efforts and those of so many of you who helped us, Arkansas voters in the 2006 general election will not be voting on constitutional amendments referred by the legislature to establish a state lottery or casino gambling.
Let me put all of this in perspective. Only eight states do not have a lottery. Over half the states now have casinos. Many states continue to expand not only the types of gambling they allow, but also the number of venues where gambling is conducted. Every state surrounding Arkansas (with the exception of Mississippi, which has 30 casinos) has a state lottery, and most of them have casino gambling as well as other types of gambling.
Arkansas has no state lottery. We have no casino gambling. And we have not increased the sites where gambling is offered. All in all, I’d say we have a lot to be thankful for. I thank God for His help and that of so many of you. And I thank Him for allowing us to take the lead in this issue over the past two decades. It’s not a perfect record, but I would not trade it for any other state’s experience.
By far, the most important issue in this area was the Entertainment District Bill, or what I referred to as the “Mardi Gras” Bill. This bill would have allowed a city council of any town in a wet county to designate an area as an entertainment district where public drinking would have been permitted. The bill would have put no restrictions on the size of the district, or on the hours alcohol could be served.
Public intoxication, underage drinking, DWI’s, and frustrated law enforcement efforts would have dramatically increased, if this bill had become law. The bill passed both chambers of the legislature, but Governor Huckabee vetoed the bill. We worked hard with others and managed to secure enough votes in the House of Representatives to sustain the veto.
We headed off a potential bill that would have permitted a local option election to be called to allow serving of alcoholic drinks in restaurants. The bill would have required a much lower threshold of registered voters’ signatures to call the election.
We helped other groups in their attempts to pass another partial-birth abortion ban and a bill to prevent cohabitating adults having sexual relations from serving as adoptive or foster parents. These both failed, but will be tried again in the next session.