On April 2, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced in an ABC interview that he is running for president as a Republican in 2024. A spokesperson for Hutchinson’s campaign said he would officially declare his candidacy during an April 26 event in Bentonville.
Here's quick but not comprehensive takes on Hutchinson's two terms as governor, with links to more information on how he led the state during the pandemic and backed the technology sector in Arkansas to how he handled controversial LGBTQ+ legislation, his takes on gun rights, immigration, former President Donald Trump, and more.
Hutchinson led the state through the Covid-19 pandemic by hosting daily briefings, supporting some mask and gathering restrictions and encouraging Arkansans to get vaccinated. But he held off on shutting down businesses to the extent that other states did, and did not issue a shelter-in-place edict.
On Jan 18, 2021, Hutchinson was vaccinated in public, he said, to send the message that the shot was a safe and effective way to curb the novel coronavirus.
The governor also said there would be no mandate for schoolchildren to get covid vaccines. "The Twitter-verse went crazy," Hutchinson said after an advisory committee to the CDC recommended covid vaccines be added to the immunizations required for schools.
The governor had already talked to state Department of Health advisers about vaccinating youngsters, he said.
"We have not had enough experience with them yet" to impose them on young, growing children, he said of the newly developed vaccines.
"It's not going to happen," Hutchinson said of requiring covid immunization to attend public school. "These are decisions parents should make."
Hutchinson's Computer Science Initiative made Arkansas the first in which every high school and charter school offers at least one computer-science course. He also backed other efforts he said would make the state a technology and innovation hub.
He presented findings of a December 2022 report with the more specific goal of making Arkansas a hub for the future of space travel, electric vehicles and drone technology. “Arkansas has always been a leader in transportation and mobility from our incredible logistics companies to our work in the electric vehicle space,” he said then. “To the movement of goods across the globe, Arkansas not only is good at making things, we are good at moving things and we want to stay in the forefront.”
Gov. Hutchinson signs trio of tax reform bills
Hutchinson signed into law tax cuts for both individuals and corporations, as well as various tax reforms.
Arkansas governor signs bill keeping Medicaid expansion
In 2018, he signed into law legislation to continue the state's Medicaid expansion, which imposed a work requirement on thousands of participants.
The expansion involved using federal and state funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents. More than 285,000 people were on the program, which was created as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.
On April 23, 2021, Hutchinson vetoed legislation that would prohibit local police from enforcing federal gun laws, saying the measure would jeopardize law enforcement and the public. The Republican governor rejected the measure sent to him by the majority-GOP Legislature that would have imposed criminal fines on state and local officers for assisting with enforcing federal firearms restrictions. The bill's backers said such restrictions infringed on the Second Amendment.
Hutchinson, in March 2021, signed into law a measure easing the state's restrictions on the use of deadly force in self-defense.
The Republican governor signed the measure that removes the duty to retreat before deadly force can be used, despite past concerns he'd raised about changing the state's self-defense law.
The governor's decision on Senate Bill 24 came on the final day for him to act on the bill. If he had taken no action on the legislation, it would have become law. A veto would have taken a simple majority of the legislature to override.
On March 22, 2017, Hutchinson signed into law a bill to allow Arkansans with concealed-carry permits to take firearms onto public college campuses and many other public places, including into the state Capitol, if they get up to eight hours of training. "This bill in my view reflects the will of the General Assembly and is constitutional and will balance public safety and the Second Amendment," Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson signed into law a bill that would ban transgender women athletes from participating on girls’ and women’s sports teams on March 25, 2021. Similar bills have been filed in more than 20 states, and Arkansas was the second to make one the law; Mississippi was the first.
Hutchinson announced in April 2021 that he had vetoed a bill banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth. The Republican said then that he believed House Bill 1570 interfered with the relationship between doctors and patients.
Hutchinson, on March 26, 2021 signed into law legislation allowing doctors to refuse to treat someone because of religious or moral objections, a move opponents have said will give providers broad powers to turn away LGBTQ patients and others. The measure says health care workers and institutions have the right to not participate in non-emergency treatments that violate their conscience.
Hutchinson opposes proposed rule that would give preference to union construction contracts
A steering committee created by Hutchinson recommended providing $85 million in federal covid recovery funds to the Arkansas Ready for Business program, which provided grants to businesses.
In early 2022, Biden signed an executive order that requires Project Labor Agreements for federal construction projects. This action will require federal construction contracts of $35 million or more to have a government-mandated project labor agreement. Hutchinson, along with 18 other governors, submitted a letter to the Biden administration to spell out their opposition to a proposed federal rule the governor said gave preference to union construction contracts.
Hutchinson signed legislation in April 2021 allowing immigrants with federal work permits to receive occupational and professional licenses in Arkansas.
House Bill 1735 was the latest in a string of workforce measures passed with bipartisan support in the state Legislature that addressed immigrants and recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
Hutchinson said in September 2021 that he was one of 26 Republican governors who signed a letter to President Joe Biden asking to meet with him in hopes of ending what Hutchinson described as a national security crisis created by six months of ineffective border enforcement.
The letter came as the U.S. government began deporting Haitian migrants camped under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.
"We have got to change policies, so we are not simply catching and releasing those into our society because that simply incentivizes everybody to come," Hutchinson said then.
TAKE ON TRUMP
President Donald Trump’s phone conversation with the president of Ukraine “was an unwise conversation” and “needs to be looked at more,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on September 27, 2019.
“The allegations raised should be taken seriously. The president should have wide latitude in conversations with global leaders, but we need to probe into that,” Hutchinson said, referring to questions raised by the July 25 conversation between Trump and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Hutchinson has both praised and criticized Trump, who has announced he will run for president for a third time in 2024.
ABOUT RACE, SEXISM
On May 4, 2021, then-Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill into law that prohibits state agencies from teaching employees, contractors or others to believe "divisive concepts,” which include anything that says the U.S. is fundamentally racist or sexist.
In 2018, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he was proud to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "on his own day" as that Monday marked the first time the state did not commemorate the civil-rights leader alongside confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Hutchinson signed into a law a measure that raised the minimum for teacher salaries in the state by $4,000 over four years.
The law raised the minimum teacher salary districts must pay to $36,000 by the 2022-2023 school year. Current Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders introduced a raise of $50,000 with her recently-signed Arkansas LEARNS Act.
Hutchinson in March 2022 signed into law two bills that opened the door for a more than $11,000 increase for state police troopers' starting salaries and create a one-time stipend for several thousands of local and state law enforcement officers.
Hutchinson wants to reorganize state government, have fewer agencies
In 2018, Hutchinson announced a plan to reduce the number of state agencies that report to his office by more than half.
At the time, more than 40 agencies reported directly to the governor’s office.
“[This] will result in greater efficiency, greater service to our citizens of this state and a more effective and responsive government that the people of Arkansas expect,” the Republican governor said of the restructuring at the time.
Hutchinson backed stronger ethics rules for lawmakers, after a court case involved his nephew. The legislation he supported to that effect was proposed by Senate leaders in 2018. "If a legislative member is charged federally, then it's appropriate to call for the resignation," he said.
Hutchinson to sign alcohol delivery bill
In 2021, Hutchinson signed legislation that would allow retail liquor stores, microbrewery restaurants and small breweries to deliver alcoholic beverages to the private residence of a consumer at least 21 years old in a wet county during legal operating hours.
Delivery of alcoholic beverages to residences was originally authorized by an Alcoholic Beverage Control Division emergency rule change, which was possible because of the governor's declaration of the covid-19 public health emergency.
Bill signed for disabled vets
Hutchinson signed Senate Bill 397 to create an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission resident disabled veterans license that includes a lifetime combination hunting and fishing license, a lifetime Arkansas duck stamp and an Arkansas trout stamp. "It's one way to recognize and honor the service of disabled veterans in this state," he said.
Arkansas governor signs law changing rules for cyclists at red lights, stop signs
Bicyclists will be able to treat stop signs as yields and red lights as stop signs under a bill signed into law in 2019 by Hutchinson, a change supporters said would make cyclists safer while also improving traffic flow.