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Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders opens term with executive orders to freeze government hiring, curb ‘political indoctrination’

by Will Langhorne | January 10, 2023 at 5:52 p.m.
The Honorable John Dan Kemp, Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, left, swears Sarah Huckabee Sanders into office with her husband, Bryan, on the floor of the Arkansas House of Representatives on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023.

Newly sworn-in Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a series of executive orders Tuesday, including efforts aimed at freezing new government hiring, halting new government regulation and “preventing the political indoctrination of Arkansas school children.”

[UPDATE: Touting ‘bold’ conservative reform, Sanders signs 7 executive orders on first day as governor »]

The executive orders, which Sanders signed just hours after taking her oath of office, were titled:

An executive order to institute an immediate hiring and promotion freeze 

An executive order to reduce government rules and regulations

An executive order to limit government overreach, reduce bureaucracy and review previous executive orders

An executive order to protect taxpayers and reduce waste in the Department of Commerce Division of Workforce Services Unemployment Insurance Program

An executive order to prohibit indoctrination and Critical Race Theory in schools

An executive order to protect state information and communications technology from the influence of the adversarial foreign governments

An executive order to respect the Latino community by eliminating culturally insensitive words from official use in government

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch »]

Sanders was sworn in as the state’s 47th governor Tuesday morning in the state House Chamber, along with other legislators. She succeeds term-limited Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who served in the role since 2015.

After taking her oath of office, Sanders addressed a joint session of the Legislature. She said it was an "absolute honor" to stand before lawmakers as the first female governor of Arkansas.

During her speech, Sanders touched on priorities for the coming legislative session including tax cuts, improving literacy and expanding the state's prison system.

By reducing taxes, Sanders said Arkansas could "give the people of Arkansas the pay raise they deserve."

"Let's not surrender the competition for jobs to other states," she said. "Let's cut taxes and bring jobs right here to Arkansas."

[Keep up with the latest from the Arkansas Legislature »]

Sanders urged lawmakers to send her legislation that "improves literacy and gives students real world skills they need to succeed in the workplace."

Sanders said her administration would take a tough stance on crime and support prison expansions.

"Any government that tolerates rampant crime has failed," she told lawmakers. "We will build a prison space we need to keep our citizens safe. And we will put more of our greatest cops on the street. We will shut down the crime wave that has plagued our cities."

Sanders said she would also support legislation to improve foster care, increase teacher pay and back free speech and the right to bear arms.

She promised to veto bills "without hesitation" that would "grow government at the expense of freedom."

By noon, the Capitol lawn was crowded with scores of spectators who had come to hear the newly sworn-in governor deliver her inaugural address. The entrance of the state building was flanked by dozens of American and State of Arkansas flags and a red and blue carpet was unfurled on its front steps.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch »]

Sanders emerged from the Capitol with her family to fanfare from marching bands. A C-130 piloted by Arkansas National Guard members buzzed the grounds before Sanders gave her address.

She described herself as a “bold conservative reformer” and said she was assembling a “a team of young visionary leaders from across Arkansas and the nation.” She promised spectators she would be “Arkansas’ education governor.”

She reiterated priorities for the coming legislative session including increasing teacher pay and providing more choice to parents over schooling for their children.

Sanders said her administration would focus on “ending the crime wave plaguing cities.”

While she said would support expansion of the state’s prison system, she also called for  mental health services and workforce programs.

Sanders noted she was the youngest governor serving in the nation and the first governor’s daughter to become governor.

Sanders, who served nearly two years as White House press secretary, won the governor's election last year after focusing heavily on national issues and her time working for former President Donald Trump. But she's mostly avoided weighing in on the former president since the election and has said she wants to focus her attention on Arkansas.

Sanders will become the most well-known former Trump official in elected office. Her father, Mike Huckabee, served as Arkansas' governor for more than a decade.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch »]

Arkansas lawmakers convened on Monday for the start of the annual legislative session. Sanders has said her top priority is education reform legislation that she says will include a focus on improving literacy, pay raises for teachers, school safety measures and some form of using public money to pay for private schooling or homeschooling. She has also said she'd support legislation similar to a law in Florida that forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

Other items on Sanders' legislative agenda include a push for cutting the state's income tax and public safety measures. She takes office with the state sitting on more than $2 billion in reserves and with Republicans in the Legislature having expanded their supermajority in the November election.

Sanders is succeeding Asa Hutchinson, who is leaving office after eight years due to term limits. Hutchinson, a Republican, is considering running for president. He has said Trump winning the GOP nomination again would be the "worst scenario" for his party.

— The Associated Press and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Remington Miller contributed to this story. 

  photo  Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks after taking the oath of the office on the steps of the Arkansas Capitol Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, in Little Rock, Ark. (AP/Will Newton)


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