NewsEvents

Attorney General Rutledge Introduces AR Voices: Combating Cancel Culture and Protecting Freedom of Speech

Says, ‘Cancel culture cannot become the norm, especially when our freedom of speech in rural America is in jeopardy’

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today introduced legislation called AR Voices: Combating Cancel Culture and Protecting Freedom of Speech. This new legislation would make social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and others liable for damages when unfairly censoring or banning someone. The bill states that if these websites do not act in “good faith” they will have violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA) and can be held accountable by the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office.

“Cancel culture cannot become the norm in Arkansas, especially when our Freedom of Speech in rural America is in jeopardy,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This legislation would allow everyone, no matter the circumstances to have an equal and fair opportunity to post online and if a social media giant does not comply, the company can be held accountable.”

AR Voices: Combating Cancel Culture and Protecting Freedom of Speech is aimed at protecting Arkansans from being unfairly subjected to the unilateral judgments of big tech companies to censor their free expression of ideas and freedom of speech on online platforms.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gives websites the ability to regulate content from users on their platforms, so long as they act in good faith. The original intent of Section 230 was to empower parents to restrict their children’s access to objectionable or inappropriate online material and to ensure vigorous enforcement of Federal criminal laws to deter and punish trafficking in obscenity, stalking and harassment online. Unfortunately, many platforms have expanded beyond the original intent of the law and try to use it as a shield from liability for banning ideas or speech in which they simply do not agree. This bill would allow Arkansas to hold social media giants accountable if they unfairly censor, delete or label speech, including religious or political language.

In Arkansas, each violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act could result in injunctions and civil penalties of up to $10,000.

The lead sponsors are Senator Ricky Hill, District 29, and Representative Brian Evans, District 43.

Rutledge: Potential Skyrocketing Energy Costs during Severe Weather Must be Investigated by Public Service Commission

‘Arkansas consumers must not face exorbitant utilities bills’

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge submitted a letter to the Arkansas Public Service Commission urging it to investigate the cost of power and natural gas incurred by the State’s electric and natural gas utilities during the recent severe winter storms. As the representative of Arkansas consumers, Rutledge is anticipating customer bills will skyrocket in the coming weeks because utility companies paid high prices to third parties in order to meet energy needs during the severe weather.

“Arkansas consumers must not face exorbitant utilities bills when the service provider resorted to purchasing energy at excessive prices in spot markets,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Not only do I want to ensure Arkansans do not face skyrocketing bills at no fault of their own, I want to ensure our friends and family are protected and safe if winter weather strikes again.”

On Tuesday, Rutledge announced an investigation was opened into Liberty Utilities to review its preparation and actions which resulted in a catastrophic failure of water to customers in Pine Bluff. Prior to this announcement, Rutledge worked with the Pine Bluff Mayor, leadership at Jefferson Memorial, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Saracen Casino and Simmons Bank to immediately address the emergency.

Rutledge’s Statement on the Public Service Commission’s Investigation into Liberty Utilities Winter Weather Response

‘My office has opened an investigation into the preparation and actions by Liberty Utilities’

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued a statement today following the Arkansas Public Service Commission’s announcement of an investigation into Liberty Utilities for its response to the winter weather damage to the community water supply of Pine Bluff.

“My office has opened an investigation into the preparation and actions by Liberty Utilities which ultimately resulted in a catastrophic failure to protect its customers in Pine Bluff, and to determine whether the company should have done more to protect Jefferson Regional Medical Center, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, residents and essential businesses,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I applaud the Public Service Commission’s decision to also open an investigation into the failure by Liberty Utilities to restore water service to Pine Bluff residents in a reasonable and timely manner.”

Rutledge Responds to Biden Administration’s Request that Supreme Court Cancel Oral Arguments Concerning Arkansas Works

‘This is a politically motivated stunt designed to avoid a Supreme Court decision upholding a program that encourages personal responsibility’

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed a response to the Biden administration’s motion asking the Supreme Court to cancel oral arguments in Arkansas’s and New Hampshire’s cases concerning Medicaid work requirements while the Biden administration considers ending those requirements. The Biden administration’s request would vacate the lower court’s opinion in this case and leave the future of work requirements unclear.

“Today’s political decision by President Biden’s administration is an attempt by the federal government to end our work requirement that was intended to specifically fit the needs of the Natural State,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This is a politically motivated stunt designed to avoid a Supreme Court decision upholding a program that encourages personal responsibility while still providing healthcare coverage for those seeking gainful employment.”

Arkansas Works is a pilot Medicaid expansion program designed to encourage able-bodied Arkansans, without dependents, to transition into the workforce and build a stronger, more resilient connection with their communities.

The case is Arkansas v. Gresham, No. 20-38.

Attorney General Rutledge Proposes The GIRLS Act

Rutledge introduces ‘Gender Integrity Reinforcement Legislation for Sports Act’

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today proposed legislation to ensure equity in women’s sports in the State. The draft legislation is titled “The GIRLS Act” (Gender Integrity Reinforcement Legislation for Sports Act) and seeks to protect access to athletic opportunities for girls and women in K-12 and post-secondary institutions. If passed, it would ensure fair competition by limiting girls’ sports to girls and women’s sports to women in as evidenced by an original birth certificate.

“As a mom of a two-and-a-half year old girl, and having grown up playing a number of sports, I know first-hand the benefit that sports has on developing self-discipline, confidence, teamwork and leadership,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This proposed legislation would make sure that young women in Arkansas can compete on a level playing field—no matter what sport they choose.”

During his first days in office, President Biden signed Executive Order 13988, entitled Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation. By signing this executive action, the Biden Administration signaled that it intends to require schools to allow biological boys who self-identify as girls onto girls’ sports teams.

By creating protected space for girls and women’s sports, the legislation proposed by Rutledge’s office provides opportunities for girls and women to demonstrate their skill, strength and athletic abilities while also providing them with opportunities to obtain recognition, accolades, college scholarships and the many other long-term benefits that flow from athletic achievement.

The proposed bill allows anyone who, as a result of a violation of the legislation, is deprived of athletic opportunities or suffers any other harm to seek a court order stopping the violation along with damages and attorney’s fees in a lawsuit against any Arkansas school that violates the legislation.

The lead sponsors of the bill are Senator Missy Irvin of Mountain View and Representative DeAnn Vaught of Horatio.

Attorney General Rutledge Joins Multistate Coalition Urging Biden Administration to Arrest and Remove Unlawful Immigrants Convicted of Sex Crimes

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge joined a multistate coalition of attorneys general urging President Biden, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Johnson to reverse the Biden Administration’s last-minute cancellation of Operation Talon. Operation Talon is a nationwide ICE operation that focuses on removing illegally present convicted sex offenders from the United States.

“We must protect Arkansans and Americans by continuing with Operation Talon and taking illegal sex offenders off our streets,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Our letter urges President Biden to reverse his cancellation of Operation Talon which played a critical role in combating human trafficking and protecting innocent lives in America.”

The letter argues that canceling Operation Talon could embolden sexual predators who seek to enter the United States illegally and exacerbate issues of sexual assault and trafficking in the immigrant community.

The letter states, “According to data collected by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, during the period from October 2014 to May 2018, ICE arrested 19,752 illegal aliens with criminal convictions for whom the most serious prior conviction was a conviction for a sex-related offense.”

Protesting the cancellation of Operation Talon, the letter says, “The cancellation of this program effectively broadcasts to the world that the United States is now a sanctuary jurisdiction for sexual predators. This message creates a perverse incentive for foreign sexual predators to seek to enter the United States illegally and assault more victims, both in the process of unlawful migration and after they arrive. It will also broadcast the message to other criminal aliens who have committed less heinous offenses that any kind of robust enforcement against them is extremely unlikely.”

The letter also details how human trafficking and sexual assault are endemic issues in the immigrant and migrant communities, especially at the border. The letter, citing the Polaris Project, continues, “the overwhelming majority of victims of sex and/or labor trafficking in the United States were foreign nationals, not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. For cases in which citizenship status was known, 77.5 percent of trafficking victims (4,601 out of 5,939) were not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.”

In addition to Arkansas, state attorneys general from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia also signed on to the letter.

March
10
Wednesday

Vaping Education Webcast

This one-hour presentation is for those who educate or serve youth ages 12-18 and will include e-cigarette health risks, how to avoid vaping devices and stories of those negatively impacted by e-cigarettes.

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 10:00 AMVIEW 
March
17
Wednesday

Cyber Safety Education Series

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This one-hour training for educators and students third grade and up will discuss how to set limits and provide key tips on how and when to unplug from social media.

Read more about internet safety.

 10:00 AMVIEW 
May
6
Thursday

FOIA webcast

Arkansas Freedom of Information Act
10 a.m. to noon

The webcast, which is free and open to the public, will include FOIA Made Simple presentations by attorneys in the Attorney General’s office detailing responsibilities and rights covered under the act that relate to public meetings and documents.

Two hours of CLE and CLEST credit have been approved.

Order copies of the 2020 handbook.

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 10:00 AMVIEW 
July
22
Thursday

Never Forgotten

8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Benton Event Center
REGISTER

Never Forgotten eventThis is a special gathering for families and the Arkansas law enforcement community to raise awareness of the issues surrounding missing persons and to recognize Arkansas’s missing. As part of this important event, there will be a morning session for families followed by a luncheon to recognize Arkansas’s missing. Additionally, the event will include all-day training sessions for law enforcement.

For more information, contact Rachel Ellis at 501-682-3645 or rachel.ellis@arkansasag.gov.

Order copies of the Missing Adult Resource Guide online.

Never Forgotten Arkansas Takes Action artwork

 8:30 AMVIEW 
November
16
Tuesday

Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit

Rogers Convention Center

The Arkansas Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit is a free training for law enforcement officers, medical professionals, pharmacists and educators. Members of the public may also participate to hear from experts regarding prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment.

In addition to the Attorney General’s Office, the Summit is sponsored by the Arkansas Board of Pharmacy, Arkansas Division of Behavioral Health Services, Arkansas State Board of Nursing, Arkansas State Police, Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, Office of the State Drug Director, Rotary Clubs of Arkansas, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Arkansas State Medical Board, University of Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock MidSouth School of Social Work.

Registration and an agenda will be released closer to the event. For questions, contact Rachel Ellis at 501-682-3645 or rachel.ellis@arkansasag.gov.

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