Arkansas is one of three states that has no laws regarding hate crimes on its books, but a new bill recently introduced by the state’s legislature will hopefully change that.
ABC News reports that Arkansas’ Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson was joined by the state’s attorney general and over two dozen legislators in revealing a proposed bill that would add harsher penalties to crimes committed due to a person’s race, gender or sexuality. Such crimes would result in the perpetrator receiving a 20 percent increase in jail time and/or fines. “We need to say clearly that Arkansas will not tolerate violence against anyone because of their race, their religion or who they are,” Hutchinson said at a news conference at the state Capitol.
During the conference there were signs behind Hutchinson displaying the logos of businesses who back the legislation. Multiple business owners expressed that the bill was necessary to make the state appealing towards a more diverse group of workers.
“Arkansas needs to be open for business and growth and that includes protecting the individuals who need it the most,” Randy Zook, president of the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce, told ABC News.
Arkansas currently joins South Carolina and Wyoming as the only three states in the nation without hate crime legislation. Earlier this month, Georgia became the latest state to finally pass a hate crime bill.
Previous efforts to pass a hate crime bill in the state had faltered due to push back over the inclusion of sexual orientation which, sadly, is Republican af. Notably, this bill has the full backing of both parties in the Republican-led state legislature. Last year, Hutchinson indicated he was open towards passing a hate crime following a mass shooting at a Texas Walmart that is being tried as a hate crime.