Arkansas enters into time of transitions
With the 2014 campaigns and elections now behind us, the focus of state government shifts to transition. I have begun meeting with Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson to talk about both the work of being governor and the operations of this office. The departments within my office have prepared transition documents to help the incoming administration prepare for the duties and services provided by this governor’s office. I anticipate that this will be a smooth transition from the 45th to the 46th Arkansas governor.
Just because transition is a priority, that does not mean that citizen services will stop between now and January. Although a governor’s staff dwindles in the final months of a term, we will still have people here to carry out the duties of the office. However, because of certain state laws, some services are limited in these final, post-election months.
The most noticeable difference will be with appointments to state boards and commissions. Over the years, I’ve appointed thousands of Arkansans to serve on more than 300 boards and commissions that oversee and regulate much of our government. But, a law passed in the 1980s prevents the vast majority of these appointments from being made during the final months of an outgoing governor’s term. Between the November 4 election and my departure in January, I will be filling only vacancies that arise and making a handful of other appointments.
My office is also currently receiving more inquiries about pardons and other forms of clemency. During my time in office, I have issued hundreds of pardons to people who have served their time, completed all terms of their sentences, and shown themselves to be good citizens after paying their debt to society for their mistakes. In only a few circumstances have I ever commuted the sentence of someone currently in prison, and in nearly all those instances, a shortened sentence did not result in an immediate release.
While I have received an increase in requests for pardons and commutations, Arkansas law prevents me from granting any last-minute requests even if I wanted to. There is a process prescribed in the law for any such application, and it is one that takes many months. Any application for clemency or pardons submitted now will not reach the governor’s desk until well into the next administration.
I am also obligated to propose a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2016, even though I won’t be in office when the final budget is decided upon during the 2015 session. In fact, I will propose two possible budgets, which will be presented to the Legislature and discussed in detail here next week. As with any budget, there will be tough decisions facing the Hutchinson administration and the 90th General Assembly.
I have spoken for months of my gratitude to the people of Arkansas for making it possible for me to serve as governor, and you will hear more from Ginger and me on this subject as I prepare to leave office in January. For now, we will all witness one of the greatest parts of our democracy, the peaceful transition of power after an election.