To all Friends of Arkansas History:
The Hutchinson Administration has prepared draft legislation for consideration in the current Special which would completely strip the Arkansas History Commission of its authority. The legislation would transfer the History Commission from the Department of Parks & Tourism to the Department of Arkansas Heritage. So far, so good. But, the devil is in the details.
In governmental jargon, the proposal is a “Type 2” transfer—meaning that the Commission will not only be transferred but that the Commissioners will lose all powers to hire and fire the AHC director, develop budgets, issue rules and regulations, and deciding on the physical location of the History Commission. All powers would be transferred to the director of the Heritage Department, Stacy Hurst—who has absolutely no background in history and archives. The Commission could not even meet without being convened by Hurst.
The adoption of this legislation would enable a single person, Hurst, to determine where to house the History Commission. Her original plan was to move the History Commission to the old Balch Automobile building on Cantrell Road at the foot of Chester Street. Moving the History Commission’s location might be a good idea, but the decision should be carefully thought out since archival collections must be stored in the proper environmental conditions.
Even the name of the Arkansas History Commission would be changed, despite the fact that it has operated for more than a century under that name.
The proposed legislation would also adversely impact the Arkansas Black History Commission—which is a component of the AHC.
There is no compelling reason to adopt this legislation—especially in a hurried 3-day special session. Arkansas History deserves better!
There is no time to waste as the bill will probably be considered this week—possibly tomorrow. I urge everyone to contact both the governor and your local legislators. You can find your legislator and contact information at www.arkleg.state.ar.us. It is too late to send snail mail, so emails and phone calls are necessary. You can call your State Representative at 501-682-6211 and Senators can be called at 501-682-6107. You can leave a message. Unfortunately, we do not have a bill number, so refer to the Governor’s Efficiency Bill.
Please ask your legislators to delay considering this issue until a regular session. Do it now!
EMAIL FROM AHC CHAIRMAN:
Hello all, it appears there may be hope of delaying the move of the History Commission to the Dept. of Arkansas Heritage after all. Apparently several legislators are concerned about the size and scope of the legislation and other commissions included in the governor’s “efficiency” bill. The legislation doesn’t have a number yet but is likely to be heard in State Agencies committee which meets Thursday. Since the House Speaker’s name is on the draft bill I’ve seen, I’m assuming it will first go to the House committee which meets at 11:30 on Thursday in room 151. You can find your legislator and their contact information at www.arkleg.state.ar.us You will also be able to tell when the bill gets introduced, when it will be considered, and who serves on each committee. You can also call the state switchboard at 501-682-3000 and ask to speak to your House or Senate member. If they aren’t available, you can leave a message. It works best if you have the bill number, which we should know soon.
Here are the arguments I plan to make:
1. The History Commission has a 100 year history and this is a significant change to make in a short special session.
2. There is no urgency in making this change and the history, archival, genealogical, etc. communities have had no opportunity for input.
3. The History Commission members are unpaid volunteers with considerable experience and expertise. State government pays millions for consultants and the History Commission has experts who work for free on both the History Commission and the Black History Commission.
4. We need a new facility but making decisions about a new facility should include the views of people who know the particular requirements of an archival facility. The draft legislation proposed would leave that decision solely in the hands of the DAH director.
5. The name proposed, the History Division of DAH, doesn’t speak to our function as the state archives.
I think the first two points are most important at this point but added the last three because I think they are important. The strategy right now is to delay this transfer and related governance issues to a regular session when interested parties and organizations can provide feedback.
Thanks for your concern. Please feel free to share this email.
Mary Dillard, Chair, Arkansas History Commission