An Arkansas lawmaker told the “Todd Starnes Show” on Tuesday that he is set to file a lawsuit against the state’s health department and its growing ability to influence perpetual coronavirus lockdown orders in the state.
Rep. Dan Sullivan, a Republican state representative and Senator-elect, said that the state has been going through lockdowns in one form or another since March, which he said seemed responsible at the time.
“Everyone was concerned,” he told the show. He said Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, was not as drastic in his orders as other states, but Hutchinson’s emergency declaration was extended multiple times.
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Todd Starnes, the host of the program, asked, “Any end in sight?”
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“No,” Sullivan said. “As a matter of fact, our department of health has said that they’ll end it when they think it’s right and we have a vaccine. And there are some people in Arkansas and legislators—and me—that think it’s time to loosen the grip.”
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Sullivan said Arkansas is a friendly state and the governor has been effective in the role. But he said he has been surprised that the state’s legislature hasn’t been put up on the bench, but instead “put in the stands.”
“We’re not told, ‘Sit down, wait and I’ll call you in when I need you.’ We’re told to go sit on the sidelines and just watch the game,” he said.
KATV reported that a group of Republican lawmakers are suing the Arkansas Department of Health Director Jose Romero, who took the seat in early August, over some of the directives that require face masks and capacity limitations at restaurants. The news site said that the orders should be null and void because there was no vote by lawmakers.
The station reported that the department’s policy is not to comment on possible litigation.
Sullivan said the lawsuit, in part, brings attention to the fact that the health department has essentially usurped legislators and has too much influence over these orders.
“And I think that that’s just not constitutionally correct,” he said.
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He told Starnes that the lawsuit can be broken down into two parts. He said the first part is focused on the balance of power.
“There’s a place for the legislature in the discussion of all the edicts and directives that are coming down from the department of health,” he said.
He said the second part of the lawsuit challenges the governor’s office, which he said does not have the authority to “proclaim endless states of emergency.”
“At some point, the legislature has to be involved in that,” he said.