State tourism official warns of economic damage from "bathroom bill' | Arkansas Blog

Friday, November 3, 2017

State tourism official warns of economic damage from "bathroom bill'

Posted By on Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 9:50 AM

click to enlarge JOE DAVID RICE
  • JOE DAVID RICE
John Lovett of the Times-Record in Fort Smith reports on remarks this week by top state tourism officials and a warning about the damaging impact on tourism should Arkansas adopt a so-called bathroom bill that prevents transgender people from using restrooms that match their gender identity.

Such a bill passed in North Carolina, with calamitous consequences. Sen. Linda Collins-Smith failed with such a bill in the Arkansas legislature in 2017, but the idea is being studied in the interim for possible re-introduction.

That's not a good idea, said Joe David Rice, retiring state tourism director, who was joined in the appearance  by Jim Dailey, who's been chosen to succeed Rice. A bathroom bill could harm the state's image and hurt the $350 million annual tourism business, Rice said.

Speaking to members of the Van Buren Advertising & Promotion Commission and other local leaders Thursday at the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce, Rice said the bill from state Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, R-Pocahontas, “can really undo a lot of hard work done by thousands of folks.”

“We’ve had some political issues coming up in the Legislature that have threatened to harm everything we’ve done for the last 30 years,” Rice said of what he called “the bathroom bill.” “We have spent literally millions of dollars trying to establish a positive image of Arkansas out there. People think that Arkansas is a good place to come and that bathroom bill could jeopardize all of that.”
Dailey also spoke, though not quite so directly on the bathroom bill. However, he was appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who opposed Collins-Smith's bill.

Dailey, who was mayor of Little Rock for 14 years, will carry on the torch as tourism director at the beginning of 2018. Dailey said it is important for people to develop relationships with legislators and let them know the specifics of what tourism means to Arkansas.

“So when issues come up, whether it’s the bathroom bill or whether it’s one that threatens other aspects of tourism initiatives in Arkansas, they’ll know who you are and they will hopefully respond favorably at that time,” Dailey said.

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