An attempt to override Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto of legislation that would have refunded fines on businesses for violating COVID-19 safety measures failed on Tuesday.
Hutchinson, who vetoed the legislation Monday, had said he would veto such legislation before it was passed.
The House voted 39-40 Tuesday in favor of the override, falling short of the 51 votes it needed. The Senate had voted 19-13 in favor of overriding the veto.
The bill called for the Alcohol Beverage Control division to refund about $38,000 to bars and restaurants. Supporters of the legislation say the fines were unfair to small businesses and that the Legislature should have had more say in the rules established related to the pandemic.
Speaking about the veto during his news conference Tuesday, Hutchinson said the bill violated the separation of powers, adding that it is the Legislature’s place to decide laws and the Executive branch’s place to enforce those laws. He said refunding the fines would be counterproductive.
“The only message sent by this bill is that the rule of law does not matter,” Hutchinson wrote to leaders of the Legislature regarding the veto. “It is an affront to those citizens who diligently followed health and safety directives to protect themselves and their fellow Arkansans.”
Hutchinson on Tuesday also signed into law a bill that expands the Legislature’s power to terminate an emergency declaration, and last week he allowed a bill preventing businesses from being penalized for customers not following virus rules to become law without his signature.