Hutchin­son ‘not a fan’ of re­leas­ing voter data

Gover­nor an­swers stu­dents’ ques­tions

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BRIAN FANNEY

Gov. Asa Hutchin­son told a group of high school stu­dents Mon­day that the state should not have pro­vided any data to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s vot­ing com­mis­sion.

“I am not a fan of pro­vid­ing any data to the com­mis­sion in Wash­ing­ton,” Hutchin­son said in re­sponse to a stu­dent’s ques­tion.

“Even though it is pub­licly avail­able in­for­ma­tion and any­one can get it — all you have to do is file a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion [Act] re­quest to get the in­for­ma­tion — I just don’t want to fa­cil­i­tate the pro­vid­ing of that in­for­ma­tion to a fed­eral data­base. I don’t think that’s help­ful for us.”

Hutchin­son made the com­ment dur­ing a con­vo­ca­tion for Arkansas Gover­nor’s School stu­dents at Hendrix Col­lege.

Later in the day, Chris Pow­ell, a spokesman for Sec­re­tary of State Mark Martin, re­sponded: “The gover­nor over­sees many agen­cies that rou­tinely share in­for­ma­tion with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. The Elec­tions Divi­sion of the Sec­re­tary of State’s Of­fice is not one of those agen­cies un­der his author­ity.

“Sec­re­tary Martin com­plied with the law as he is

re­quired to do. Sec­re­tary Martin did not write the law that makes this in­for­ma­tion public. Fur­ther­more, Arkansas has a voice on the bi­par­ti­san Pres­i­den­tial Com­mis­sion on Elec­tion In­tegrity thanks to Sec­re­tary Martin, who nom­i­nated a Demo­crat to serve on the body, and he stands be­hind their ef­forts.”

Af­ter the gover­nor fin­ished a speech urg­ing the Gover­nor’s School stu­dents to choose public ser­vice as a ca­reer, he asked if they had any ques­tions. At least 20 jumped up from their au­di­to­rium seats and stood in front of mi­cro­phones on both sides of the room.

The stu­dents pressed the gover­nor on the death penalty, en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­icy, Trump’s lead­er­ship, the sep­a­ra­tion be­tween church and state, the gover­nor’s com­puter sci­ence ini­tia­tive and do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism.

They ap­plauded the gover­nor as he re­sponded, though the re­ac­tion to some ques­tions — such the one about vot­ing data — elicited louder ap­plause than oth­ers.

Dur­ing his speech, Hutchin­son re­ferred to a meet­ing with Trump in which he chal­lenged the pres­i­dent on trade pol­icy.

“When­ever the gover­nor asks a ques­tion of the pres­i­dent, you also want to make a point,” he said. “My point to him: ‘Mr. Pres­i­dent, you’re talk­ing about trade and be­ing tough on trade and be­ing Amer­ica first. Just re­mem­ber Arkansas is a global player.’”

One stu­dent asked why the gover­nor would spend time and re­sources im­ple­ment­ing a law pro­vid­ing birth cer­tifi­cates nam­ing only one par­ent of a child con­ceived via ar­ti­fi­cial in­sem­i­na­tion to same-sex cou­ples. The U.S. Supreme Court in June de­clared that Arkansas’ birth cer­tifi­cate law, as it ap­plies to same-sex cou­ples, vi­o­lates the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

“We re­ally were seek­ing more guid­ance from the courts as to how to han­dle birth cer­tifi­cate is­sues and ul­ti­mately the Supreme Court … said we’ve got to do it dif­fer­ently,” Hutchin­son said.

He noted the state has changed its pol­icy so it would is­sue new doc­u­ments nam­ing both par­ents, and he said the Leg­is­la­ture might have to change the state law.

An­other stu­dent asked what Arkansas could do to de­fend against do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism.

“My first ex­pe­ri­ence in ter­ror­ism was not at Home­land Se­cu­rity af­ter 9/ 11. My first ex­pe­ri­ence with ter­ror­ism was in the ’80s when I was a United States at­tor­ney and we went af­ter some right-wing neo-Nazi groups in north­ern Arkansas,” Hutchin­son said. “You al­ways have to look at free speech vs. cross­ing the line into crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity, but it needs to be met force­fully and agres­sively.”

A third stu­dent asked about the sep­a­ra­tion be­tween church and state and the Ten Com­mand­ments mon­u­ment that was in­stalled on the Capi­tol grounds last month and de­stroyed within 24 hours.

“I think the im­por­tant thing is we have to rec­og­nize that spir­i­tu­al­ity, true val­ues — they’re not go­ing to hap­pen be­cause we put the mon­u­ment up,” he said. “They’re go­ing to hap­pen be­cause we have val­ues that are in faith, that is brought through our com­mu­nity, through our fam­i­lies and per­son­ally.”

He went on to say that the Ten Com­mand­ments are present in mul­ti­ple re­li­gions and that the com­mand­ments have a unique role in the for­ma­tion of the coun­try.

“I think that’s the rea­son Sen. [ Ja­son] Rapert from Conway sup­ported that and spon­sored [leg­is­la­tion al­low­ing the mon­u­ment’s in­stal­la­tion],” Hutchin­son said.

“I’m not a fan of putting a ton more mon­u­ments out there, but that was a de­ci­sion made and I think there’s cer­tainly a unique place in our his­tory for that.”

An­other stu­dent asked about health care.

Hutchin­son said he wanted to keep the cov­er­age for the 300,000 Arkansans us­ing the Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion com­po­nent of the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act.

“We need to be able to con­tinue that for them,” he said.

Af­ter an­swer­ing ques­tions for 40 min­utes, Hutchin­son told a reporter he had no doubt that the stu­dents had the drive and in­ter­est to serve in gov­ern­ment.

“It’s al­ways ex­cit­ing to be here and to see their level of en­gage­ment in state and na­tional af­fairs, so that’s en­cour­ag­ing for me as a po­lit­i­cal leader,” he said. “And, ob­vi­ously, when you have that level of in­ter­est, there’s go­ing to be a nat­u­ral grav­i­ta­tion to­ward public ser­vice by many of those in this room.

“Clearly, it’s an im­pres­sive group of stu­dents that are go­ing to be able to con­trib­ute for many decades to come.”

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/BEN­JAMIN KRAIN

Gov. Asa Hutchin­son takes ques­tions dur­ing a visit Mon­day to speak to stu­dents at Arkansas Gover­nor’s School be­ing held at Hendrix Col­lege in Conway.

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