From the governor’s office
LITTLE ROCK — At his weekly news briefing Thursday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the reestablishment of the Women’s Commission, a cost-of-living salary increase for state employees, and funding for Arkansas’s schools for the Blind and Deaf. He also updated information about COVID-19 in Arkansas.
Arkansas Commission on the Status of Women
With 2023 marking the 50th year since the 1973 Women’s Commission in Arkansas, Governor Hutchinson announced he will reinstate the commission and has appointed his Chief of Staff, Alison Williams, as chair.
“In my administration, women are an essential part of my leadership team,” Governor Hutchinson said. “I have relied upon women in leadership positions to bring success to my administration.”
Arkansas has had four commissions that focus on women, starting with the one Governor Orval Faubus created in 1964 to focus on the social, political, and economic status of women.
Governor Rockefeller established the next commission to focus on state employment laws and differences in legal treatment of men and women.
In 1973, Governor Dale Bumpers reinstated the commission to find ways to enlarge the role of women in economic, political, and social institutions.
In 1975, Governor David Pryor instituted the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women to focus, in part, on Title IX and the Equal Rights Amendment. This committee did not file a report.
Governor Hutchinson and the leadership of the General Assembly will appoint 14 members to the commission. The Commission’s work will include the study and analysis of:
- The participation of Arkansas woman in the state’s labor force.
- The participation of Arkansas women in entrepreneurial pursuits and in emerging and high-demand career paths such as STEM.
- Barriers to entry into the labor force.
Ms. Williams, the Governor’s chief of staff since 2016, introduced the newly appointed
commissioners, who will submit their report to the Governor by December 1.
Funding for the Arkansas School for the Deaf and Blind
The Governor announced he will disburse $6 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Funding (GEER) for the Arkansas School for the Deaf and Arkansas School for the Blind; $2 million will pay for the replacement of water lines and the power grid across both campuses The schools currently maintain their own power grids. This project is scheduled to be done by the fall.
The other $4 million will pay for the construction of a new health services building to serve both campuses. This facility will house services for wellness, audiology,
ophthalmology/optometry, and mental health. This project is scheduled to be completed by September 2023.
Cost of living adjustment for state employees
The Governor announced a 2 percent cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) in pay for state employees and state agencies. The Classification and Compensation Act allows the Governor to award up to 2% each fiscal year.
“I have never awarded this particular COLA increase,” Governor Hutchinson said. “The last award was in 2012. I see this as absolutely necessary in light of the inflationary pressures that we are all experiencing.”
This 2% increase is effective on February 6 and will show up in the February 25 paychecks.
Active cases in Arkansas had decreased by more than half from 33,000 to 13,000. There were 1,149 new cases in the past 24 hours, and 45 more deaths.
Governor Hutchinson presented the breakdown of deaths to COVID-19 in the last month. In the past month, there have been 619 deaths including 467 patients who were older than 65.
Vaccinations increased by 4,019 doses.
Hospitalizations decreased by 73, and the number of patients on ventilators decreased by 13.
The Governor announced he will be moving to weekly COVID-19 updates after the hospitalizations dropped below 1,000.