Hester says reforms on Arkansas Senate's agenda

Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, promised education, prison and tax reforms during his tenure as president pro tem in his first speech to the state senate on Monday.

"Not one of us in this room are OK with a third of our students reading at grade level," Hester said. "No one in this room is OK with violent, repeat offenders walking our streets. No one in this room is OK with our county jails being over capacity. No one in this room wants to pay any more taxes than they currently have to pay. So today, we officially begin the debate with how we are going to overcome these challenges this session."

Hester officially took the reigns from Jimmy Hickey on Monday. He praised Hickey for his tenure. The state has $3 billion in savings and the Senate has options because of Hickey, Hester said.

The Senate has 13 new members this session.

The House of Representatives reelected Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, who has served as speaker since 2018. He joked that he was thankful he was accepted on "the first ballot and not the 15th."

Shepherd said that twenty-one members of the House are 40 years old or younger, while others have served for over a decade.

"The span of generations and experience in this body can serve Arkansas well if we listen to one another without judgment and with a genuine search for one another's perspective," he said.

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