ARKANSAS, USA — Just over a week after Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders was sworn into office, she had signed 10 executive orders covering a wide range of topics from the banning of critical race theory education, TikTok, and the use of Latinx terminology, to the enactment of a state-wide hiring freeze.
The orders have been released quickly, and while some of them promise immediate improvement in the quality of life for many Arkansans, some have sparked concerns about acceptance across the state.
In her first five weeks in office, Gov. Sanders signed 17 executive orders,
Executive Order 1
Order to execute an immediate hiring and promotion freeze:
The first executive order signed by Gov. Sanders institutes a "moratorium on hiring and promotion," effectively putting a stop to "all ongoing hiring processes that have not yet resulted in a formal offer of employment."
It is worth noting that the hiring freeze does not apply to the Arkansas Department of Corrections, and the Department of Public Safety.
Other notable exceptions to the promotion and hiring freeze are members of the Arkansas Legislature, Justices of the Supreme Court, any Judicial branch of the state, or offices of the Governor.
The freeze will remain "in full force and effect until amended or rescinded by further executive orders."
Executive Order 2
Order to reduce government rules and regulations:
The second order intends to prevent "unnecessary rules and regulations that burden businesses." To that end, the order requires "all state departments, agencies, and offices to seek approval from the Governor" when proposing any new rule, or adjusting any existing regulation.
This order would ban any department from appearing before legislative committees in regards to any rulemaking procedure without the Governor's permission.
It is yet to be seen how this order will play out, and how efficiently state bodies will be able to file regular legislation.
Executive Order 3:
Order to limit government overreach, reduce bureaucracy and review previous executive orders:
Despite its broad titling, the Governor's third executive order simply directs the Arkansas Inspector General to "conduct a complete and exhaustive review of all previously issued executive orders."
The review is due 90 days after the order's signing (Apr. 10, 2023), and is required to include a list of what every executive order ever enacted covers, as well as the date they were issued, whether or not they are still in effect, and how they "impact the rights and liberties of Arkansans."
Executive Order 4:
Order to protect taxpayers and reduce waste in the department of commerce division of workforce services unemployment insurance program:
This executive order intends to "implement measures to enhance the integrity of the Unemployment Insurance Program," claiming that tens of millions of dollars have been spent on "improper unemployment benefits."
To that end, this order will demand the cross-checking of incarceration and death records when Arkansans apply for unemployment. It also requires taking a closer look at out-of-state applicants.
Executive Order 5:
Order to prohibit indoctrination and critical race theory in schools:
This hot-topic executive order refers to critical race theory education as discriminatory "indoctrination" that is opposite to "traditional American values."
It claims that teaching critical race theory allows children to take part in "resurrecting segregationist values, which America has fought so hard to reject."
Critical race theory discussion began in the 1980s and centers around the topic of the unavoidable racial bias throughout U.S. society, and at times specifically inside the U.S. government.
This discussion has led to many lawmakers across the U.S. banning the teaching of the subject.
Executive Order 6:
Order to protect state information and communications technology from the influence of the adversarial foreign governments:
Centering around the prohibition of the social-media app TikTok, this executive order states particular concern about the Chinese app developer's "significant ties to the Chinese Communist Party."
Furthermore, it refers to an "economic, political, and military competition" between China and the United States as background for the decision.
It also quotes an investigation by the U.S. Department of Commerce into "certain transactions involving Chinese persons and entities," that may pose a risk to national security.
Executive Order 7:
Order to respect the Latino community by eliminating culturally insensitive words from official use in government:
Another controversial order effectively bans the use of 'Latinx' terminology in any official state document, stating that "one can no more easily remove gender from Spanish than one can remove vowels and verbs from English."
The order came to the shock and dismay of many who do not identify as either strictly male or female within the Latinx community—a percentage identified in the executive order itself to be at least %3.
It refers to the use of Latinx as "culturally insensitive," as well as inappropriate ethically.
Executive Order 8:
Order to prioritize L.E.A.R.N.S. (Literacy, Empowerment, Accountability, Readiness, Networking, and School Safety):
Executive order 23-08 seeks to improve education for young children, stating that %35 of Arkansas third graders read at grade level.
It says that "every student deserves access to effective teachers," and to that end, it plans to conduct a "kindergarten-readiness analysis" that will include a list of every child younger than five enrolled in an early education program and an "analysis of the gaps between what is currently offered and what parents and families seek."
Through various avenues, the executive order also aims to encourage the adoption of "high-quality instructional materials" for struggling students, review educator training to "decrease time-to-hire," and attract more experienced educators.
The order also provides funding for a review to ensure schools and districts implement school safety laws that cover shooter drills and safety plans.
Executive Order 9:
Order to repeal COVID-19 executive orders:
Order 23-09 repeals five previous executive orders enacted by Asa Hutchinson when the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, covering emergency aid for Arkansas residents.
The acts created and funded the Arkansas Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act Steering Committee, the Medical Advisory Committee, the COVID-19 Testing Advisory Group, COVID-19 Technical Advisory Board, and the COVID-19 Winter Task Force.
Executive order 10:
Order to limit government overreach, reduce red tape, and improve education:
Gov. Sander's tenth executive order aims to change the way school districts apply for government funding and financial planning.
In order to do that, the order commands the Department of Education Secretary to develop a "unified system that streamlines applications."
Prior to the release of that unified system, the order requests that a review be conducted to identify unnecessary state laws and processes.
The final part of executive order 23-10 requests the establishment of a system with which school districts can submit feedback to the Department of Education.
Executive Order 11:
Order concerning the implementation of emergency support functions:
Executive Order 23-11 commands the Director of the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management, (AJ Gary at the time of writing) to "direct the emergency and/or disaster operations" across Arkansas by performing several tasks, including the creation of the Arkansas Emergency Management Plan, a comprehensive system designed to assess and address emergencies.
Executive Order 12:
Order to provide funding from the governor's disaster response and recovery fund:
Like the previous executive order, 23-12 centers around the Director of the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management, but in this case, it is granting Director Gary's department $42,000 to be used "at the discretion of the Director to defray both program and administrative costs."
Executive Order 13:
Order to establish the Natural State Initiative:
Executive Order 23-13 begins by stating that "Arkansas, the Natural State, is home to some of the most beautiful natural resources in the world," and thereby organizes the creation of the Natural State Initiative Advisory Council to promote nature-based tourism across the state.
It also appoints the First Gentleman of Arkansas, Bryan Sanders as the chairman of the advisory council, notably on a "volunteer basis with no compensation for his duties."
The council will be responsible for:
- Coordinating with the Arkansas Department of Commerce, the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism, the governor's team, and the Department of Finance and Administration to promote tourism and outdoor business growth
- Conduct a review of the taxes, and regulations around outdoor recreation in order to improve tourism.
Executive Order 14:
Order to Repeal Executive Order 21-08 that established the Arkansas American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 Steering Committee, and Executive Order 21-19 that established the governor's Infrastructure Planning Advisory Committee:
Executive Order 23-14 begins by repealing the executive order that created the Arkansas American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Steering Committee, which allocated the funds used to alleviate state-wide issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The order goes on to repeal Executive Order 21-19 which established the Governor's Infrastructure Planning Advisory Committee.
Notably, the order commands that any ARPA or IPAC funds "shall not be distributed to any entity" without permission from Gov. Sanders' office.
Executive Order 15:
Order to provide funding ... from the governor's disaster response and recovery fund:
Executive Order 23-15 provided $250,000 in emergency funding to the Director of the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management, AJ Gary to be used "at the discretion of the director ... to defray both program and administrative costs."
Executive Order 16:
Order to create the governor's workforce cabinet and the chief workforce officer:
Executive Order 23-16 established Gov. Sanders' cabinet, made up of various secretaries, covering the departments of commerce, corrections, education, human services, veterans affairs, and finally, labor and licensing.
These secretaries will "collaborate under the direction of the chief workforce officer," —another position that this executive order creates— in order to serve, and inform Gov. Sanders.
Executive Order 17:
Order to Prevent human trafficking and to protect the children and youth of Arkansas:
Executive Order 23-17 seeks to "develop an integrated approach to address human trafficking," offer further support to victims, and "prosecute the criminals to the fullest extent of the law."
In order to achieve this goal, the Department of Human Services will be tasked with:
- Evaluating current state policies and procedures centered around human trafficking prevention
- Evaluate practices nationwide that combat human trafficking
- Work with local law enforcement, the attorney general, judges, probation officers, advocacy centers, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- Develop a system that is capable of:
- Identifying victims of human trafficking
- Providing specialized services to victims
- Identifying missing youth who are at risk of human trafficking
Six months after the order was signed, the Department of Human Services secretary will have to present to Gov. Sanders:
- A screening tool that can identify, and provide resources to victims
- Human trafficking training, and educational materials provided to local school districts
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