Must fight legislative over-reach

In an age where "power to the people" has become a rallying cry for democracy, the ongoing erosion of individual rights and liberties is a pressing concern. Whether it's in our bedrooms or our classrooms, our religious practices or our health care, it's time for Arkansans to stand up and say "no more." No means no.

We must regain control from over-reaching legislation that seeks to strip us of our power to govern ourselves.

Our state motto of Regnat Populus--a Latin phrase meaning "we, the people, rule our lives"--should be the guiding principle for a just Arkansas. Arkansans, not politicians or powerful special-interest groups, should have the final say in the fundamental aspects of our lives. This includes the right to bodily autonomy, privacy, free speech, and the ability to raise our families and educate our children as we see fit.

This principle that the people have the power to govern themselves must extend to local communities, quorum courts, and city halls. The intrusion of politics and bureaucracy into these areas is a dangerous trend that must be reversed.

The parade of horrible bills proposed in this legislative session represent a threat to this ideal of self-governance. It is crucial that we recognize these measures for what they are: thinly veiled attempts to consolidate power and control, often at the expense of marginalized communities.

To combat these encroachments in the final weeks of the 2023 legislative session, we must take action. It is essential that we engage with our elected representatives, making our concerns known through calls, emails, letters, and visits. By utilizing these resources, we can effectively communicate our demands and hold our representatives accountable.

By challenging the legislation that threatens our self-governance, we can uphold the values of tolerance, inclusivity, and fairness that truly embody the spirit of Regnat Populus. Together, we must fight for the preservation of our individual rights and the collective power to shape our society as a reflection of its diverse and cherished people.

When contacting your elected officials, it is crucial to articulate specific asks. First and foremost, denounce the laundry list of policies and legislation that infringe upon our liberties. These may include restrictive voting measures, attacks on free speech and racial equality, invasive restroom policing, or measures that limit access to health care. By addressing these issues head-on, we make it clear that we will not tolerate the erosion of our rights.

Next, call for positive actions that support and protect our freedom. Encourage the adoption of policies that promote equal access to education, advance racial justice, privacy, free speech, and access to affordable health care as well as other civil liberties and civil rights. By emphasizing the importance of these fundamental rights, we can steer the conversation toward constructive solutions that benefit all citizens.

And most importantly, it is vital that we stay informed and engaged with our communities. Attend local governmental meetings, join local civic groups, and participate in discussions that shape the future of our neighborhoods. Encouraging others to join the fight against over-reach will amplify our collective voice and create a united front against those who seek to take away our power.

As the adage goes, "United we stand, divided we fall." If we come together as a community, we can effectively counter the efforts of politicians who wish to strip away our power.

The principle of Regnat Populus reminds us that our strength lies in our unity and shared purpose. Let us reaffirm our commitment to safeguarding our rights, protecting our freedoms, and ensuring that we, the people, remain the true governing force in our society.

By standing together and taking decisive action, we can ensure that the power remains in our hands, and that our democracy continues to flourish for generations to come.

Holly Dickson is executive director of ACLU of Arkansas.