Lawmakers remain vigilant against SB535

Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Senator Dave Wallace and Representative Dan Sullivan at the state capitol at meeting concerning dual judicial districts in Craighead County. (Photo provided/Nan Snider)

Craighead County Eastern District patrons attended House Judiciary Committee meetings in Little Rock again last week to oppose SB 535 regarding operations at the Lake City courthouse.

The bill was soundly defeated in Judiciary Committee meeting on March 21, but threats of lawsuits and bill repeal and resubmission continued to circulate. The bill was again placed on the committee agenda for Tuesday, March 28, but sponsor Sen. John Cooper was not in attendance to present it. With only a few days remaining of the legislative session the bill was listed again for Thursday, March 30, but again was not presented.

Several opponents of the bill's passage voiced their pleasure for the bill's staunch defeat during this session.

"The battle in the House Judiciary committee was won by a well thought out battle plan," Senator Dave Wallace said. "Representative Dan Sullivan and I spoke with every member on the House Judiciary committee before the first session even started and continued to work with them right through to the end."

Sen. Wallace previously served one term as State Representative himself.

"It was equally important that we had a heavy turnout of our Eastern District and Buffalo Island patrons," Wallace said. "I was proud of our people that day, and the committee took note of the support we had to keep the Lake City courthouse open. They also noticed the lack of support from opponents. It really helped that County Judge Ed Hill and the Eastern District mayors opposed the bill. Our presentations during committee opposing the bill were short and to the point, while Sen. Cooper's seemed to meander."

"Craighead County citizens took the opportunity to voice their concerns and legislators believed this was a local issue," Representative Dan Sullivan said. "We strive for harmony and unity. There are still issues of concern, however with the passage of HB1743 many of these concerns will be resolved. We all hope our county officials can work together to serve the citizens of Craighead County."

"The Lake City courthouse has provided good service for many years and we want it to continue," Craighead County Judge Ed Hill said. "As public servants we are here to provide a service to the people. It appeared that they were trying to fix something that was not broken."

"Six Craighead County mayors went to Little Rock to oppose the bill," said Lake City Mayor Jon Milligan. "I am thankful for all the elected officials for standing up and serving the people they represent, and their hometowns and their county. Problems can be handled at the local level. At the end of the day we must all work together to keep our county the best in Arkansas, and we can't do that with division."

"I think the Eastern District showed we can work together to better ourselves," said Black Oak Mayor Eddie Dunigan. "We came together to defeat a strong movement that was meant to harm us. People responded to the call in many ways, with phone calls, contact with house members, calls to the governor, emails, Facebook and trips to Little Rock. By a unified effort the citizens proved that we can accomplish our goals when we work together. I am proud of the efforts of Rep. Dan Sullivan and Sen. Dave Wallace. They fought hard for us. Too many people to thank personally, but it made me proud to see us all work and win."

"I was so pleased with the turnout of everyone, from all directions," said Monette Mayor Chub Qualls. "We were well represented. The show of support was very encouraging, and the Judicial Committee took notice of that when they made their decision."

"The Lake City courthouse has served all citizens of Craighead County and I believe it has been a great asset for the county," said Lesia Couch. "I served the citizens of Craighead County for 16 years. Even though I am not there now, I will continue to fight for the courthouse. SB535 could have possibly closed the courthouse and I feel it would have been a great loss to the whole county."

"SB535 was an ill-conceived idea," said Lake City Councilman Danny Dunigan. "There was never a need to change a law that has worked for over a hundred years, just because people cannot get along. This was a local problem that needs a local solution. The defeat of this bill shows the local people that they still have a voice in state government. I am so proud of the people of the Eastern District, the contacts, phone calls, and emails. These were heard loud and clear. Rep. Sullivan, Sen. Wallace, as well as many others, worked hard to help get this bill defeated. It is now time to seek out the sources of this type legislation and unite to place strong candidates in our county government and state government that will represent all of the people and not just a power hungry special interest group."

"I am amazed at the support we have received from the Quorum Court, the citizens of Craighead County and people at the state capitol," said Quorum Court JP Terry Couch. "Not a day passed that I did not get a call of encouragement from someone voicing their concerns for us. Many who said they are praying for us, and that especially meant so much. This is not a divisive issue, and can be handled at the local level."

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