LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Two Arkansas legislators are looking to foster discussions among lawmakers about race relations.

Republican Sen. Jim Hendren of Sulphur Springs and Democratic Sen. Joyce Elliott of Little Rock proposed creating a race relations subcommittee last month, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. The proposal was turned down by state representatives on the Arkansas Legislative Council, the Legislature’s main governing body when lawmakers are not in session.

The representatives who were against the proposal said the current legislative committees and subcommittees can handle race relations issues. They also said the proposed subcommittee duplicates the mission of the Arkansas Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, which aims to advance civil rights in the state.

“Part of what we are doing is waiting to see how our colleagues feel about it, whether or not they are going to support it,” Hendren said. “But at the end of the day I do think that we will find a way to continue this discussion one way or the other.”

Hendren said he and Elliott have discussed options and received suggestions from lawmakers on ways to create “a venue or vehicle for us to have these discussions, and we’re looking at those.”

Churches could help in fostering discussions about race relations in the state, Elliott said.

“Why not every other Sunday churches meet together in one church across lines? The black and white church (could) do something together because you cannot get to know people unless you occupy space with them, just like we are here talking to each other,” she said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang, a Republican from Searcy, said Hendren and Elliott will likely succeed in creating a group that addresses race relations, because they’re “very passionate about moving forward with some type of official organization.”


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com