The modern state governor seems to be one in nearly perpetual motion, eager fly to other states and nations to pitch businesses on the merits of Home. And so it is in Arkansas, where Governor Asa Hutchinson is en route to becoming the most mobile governor in state history.
Right now, Governor Hutchinson is wrapping up a six-day swing through China. On Thursday, the governor announced had signed a memorandum of understanding with Suzhou Tianyuan Garments Company. As part of the deal, Tianyuan will create 400 jobs and invest $20 million in Little Rock. The governor hoped to persuade his hosts to loosen China’s barriers to rice and poultry imports from the United States.
This comes a little more than three months after Hutchinson’s trip to London and Berlin to meet with aerospace companies and open a new state economic development office in Germany. Last year, Hutchinson made four trips for economic development in travels that spanned Asia, Europe and Cuba.
In 2015, Hutchinson and his wife accepted a total of more than $73,000 in travel costs for 21 trips the governor and/or first lady took that were paid for by outside groups. This was an uptick from Hutchinson’s predecessor, Mike Beebe, who with his wife received more than $36,000 in travel and airfare in 2014, his last year in office.
Improving communication technologies have increasingly allowed Hutchinson to stay on the road and in the loop. Staying in charge, though, has been a different matter.
The Arkansas Constitution lays out that the lieutenant governor (currently Tim Griffin) assumes power of governor when the governor is out of state. Traditionally, being out of state had been lumped with other instances rendering a governor “unable to lead:” cases of impeachment, removal from office, resignation, inability to discharge the powers and duties of the office, and death.
Technologies such as in-flight teleconferencing, however, allow the modern governor to govern remotely like never before. This is part of the impetus behind a proposed amendment in the November general election ballot to allow the governor to remain in power when traveling outside the state of Arkansas.
The Public Policy Center at the University of Arkansas System of Agriculture has produced a primer.
Recently Stacy McCullough, assistant director of the community and economic development unit at the extension service, further discussed the proposal with AETN’s Steve Barnes.