Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Members of Arkansas Delegation Announce $2.3 Million in Grants to Fight Crime and Protect Law Enforcement Officers

WASHINGTON -  U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton, along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman today announced that Arkansas local law enforcement agencies will receive $2.3 million in federal grants from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program to purchase law enforcement equipment and supplies.

“These grants are an important investment in our state that will allow our law enforcement officers to better protect themselves, keep Arkansas communities safe and reduce crime and violence,”   Boozman said.

“Arkansas's law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe. These grants will allow them to be better equipped to protect our communities,” Cotton said.

“The effectiveness of our local law enforcement declines and the safety of our officers is threatened when access to critical equipment is limited; these grants will help ensure access to the supplies and training that Arkansas officers need to keep our neighborhoods safe," Crawford said.

“Police officers provide the often underappreciated service of keeping their communities safe. This is never an easy job, and I am glad our local police departments are receiving this grant, which will improve their ability to protect themselves, as well as the people they serve,” Hill said.

“Every day, our first responders selflessly serve to keep our communities safe. I applaud this grant funding, which will go a long way toward providing for the necessary equipment to protect them as they do so,” Womack said.

“Our law enforcement officers require the best equipment to do their jobs. These grants awards allow them to do their jobs and protect the citizens of Arkansas,” Westerman said.

The following recipients will receive funding:

• State of Arkansas: The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, Office of Intergovernmental Services will receive $1,948,090 to support multi-jurisdictional task force programs, law enforcement programs, prosecution and court programs and prevention and education programs. It will provide assistance to state and local law enforcement units to improve their effectiveness in controlling and deterring crime, including multi-jurisdictional drug task forces. The goal of the program is to provide assistance in arrest and prosecution by making the criminal files, laboratory evidence, and legal research available to the prosecutor before the trial begins.

• Mississippi County: Mississippi County and the City of Blytheville and will receive $18,316 to purchase new supplies and equipment for law enforcement operations.

• Saline County: The county will receive $12,038 to purchase a police patrol vehicle for the County Sheriff’s Office in order to support community based policing initiatives.

• Conway: The City of Conway and Faulkner County will receive $21,484 to purchase law enforcement equipment.

• El Dorado: The City of Eldorado will receive $17,049 to update its law enforcement technology supplies and equipment for use in crime prevention and criminal investigations at the El Dorado Police Department and the Union County Sheriff’s Department.

• Fayetteville: The City of Fayetteville, City of Springdale and Washington County will receive $72,774 to purchase equipment, supplies and training for enforcement agencies.

• Hot Springs: The Garland County Sheriff’s office will receive $19,612 to purchase law enforcement Tasers and holsters.

• Jonesboro: The City of Jonesboro and Craighead County will receive $27,675 to purchase equipment for law enforcement agencies.

• North Little Rock: The City of North Little Rock will receive $43,831 to purchase law enforcement equipment.

• Pine Bluff: The City of Pine Bluff and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office will receive $53,968 to support law enforcement training initiatives.

• Rogers: The City of Rogers and Benton County will receive $29,950 to purchase supplies, equipment and new technology for law enforcement.

• West Memphis: The City of West Memphis and Crittenden County will receive $61,399 to purchase law enforcement equipment and provide officer training to support law enforcement initiatives.

The Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program was created by the Department of Justice in 2004 to give federal state, and local governments the tools to prevent and combat crime and keep their communities safe. Since its inception, JAG has provided grants to local justice programs for technical assistance, training, personnel, equipment, supplies, support, and information sharing.

Tags: I.S Delegation, grants, To Fight Crime, Protect Law Enforcement To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Governor Hutchinson and ADHE Director Powell Announce Draft Plan for Arkansas Higher Education

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson joined Dr. Brett Powell, Director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE), today to announce the “Closing the Gap 2020: A Master Plan for Arkansas Higher Education.” This draft plan focuses on six key points, including: (1) Closing the educational attainment gap; (2) Improving college readiness of students; (3) Reducing remedial education enrollments; (4) Concentrating efforts on adults and underserved populations; (5) Improving college affordability through reduced time to degree and institutional efficiencies; and (6) Directing state resources toward achievement of these goals.

This objective and draft of proposed goals, which can be found HERE, provides a starting point to determine and address challenging yet achievable goals for improving Arkansas’s higher education. A final master plan will be released at the end of October.

Governor Hutchinson issued the following statement:
“If you look at the data, adults in Arkansas who don’t get any education beyond high school don’t get ahead. If we hope to grow our economy, attract jobs and businesses and improve the quality of life in our state, we have to address this. I’m pleased that Dr. Powell has set some ambitious goals to bridge the educational attainment gap in Arkansas, and I know he’ll work together with our higher education institutions to determine the best way to meet those goals.”
Dr. Powell issued the following statement:“Our long-term objective is to achieve a significantly higher post-secondary attainment rate in Arkansas by 2025. To do that, we must improve college graduation rates, increase the enrollment of adult students dramatically, reach the underserved students and improve college affordability. It’s a tall order, but it’s essential to move Arkansas forward.”​
Tags: Governor, Asa Hutchinson, Dr. Brett Powell, Director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, objective, draft of proposed goals To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Monday, August 31, 2015

A Push for Government Accountability At The Veterans Administration

Intro note by Rep French Hill, (R-AR-2) Most importantly, this bill helps veterans. It also gives the taxpayer a level of comfort that their money will be used effectively and protects the reputation of the hundreds of thousands of honest and decent people at VA who excel at their job and work tirelessly to care for our veterans. Make no mistake about it, the majority of people who work at VA fit that description.

The veterans of Central Arkansas are fortunate to have one of the top facilities in the entire country in our state. The Eugene J. Towbin Healthcare Center, more commonly known as Fort Roots, is populated by some of the hardest working, innovative, and dedicated employees VA has to offer.

The mental health care our local veterans receive from Fort Roots has received national attention for its innovation. The management, doctors, and rank-and-file employees work tirelessly to give veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury a chance for rehabilitation.

The Federal Government Fails at Accountability by Congressman French Hill

As a former executive in private business, I know firsthand the true value of accountability in the workplace. The success of any operation—whether it is in the private sector or in government—is dependent upon the employees and management being held to the highest standards for ethics, excellence, and customer service.

While the private sector excels at this, the federal government often fails miserably. And, there is seemingly no federal agency less committed to accountability than the one charged with providing care and benefits to our veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) continues to make headlines for negligence, data manipulation, corruption, and failure to carry out its overall mission. Last year, with the help of substantial whistleblower testimony, congressional oversight and the VA Office of the Inspector General (VAOIG) revealed that 110 VA facilities were using “secret wait lists” to manipulate wait times for veterans seeking care from the VA healthcare system. Per the VAOIG, in Phoenix alone, the use of “secret wait lists” contributed to the deaths of 40 veterans.

The new VA hospital in Denver is more than $1 billion over budget. The $1.73 billion price tag that rests on the taxpayers’ shoulders is more than five times the original cost estimate. Earlier this year in Little Rock, we were exposed to a less disturbing, but equally perplexing, construction management failure when it was revealed VA spent $8 million to install solar panels that it never connected and then removed for a parking deck that was planned prior to the panels’ installation.

Despite these damning revelations, it took VA over a year to fire a single employee in connection with the “secret wait lists,” and there has been virtually no accountability for these major construction blunders.

You would be hard pressed to find an executive in the private sector who wouldn’t immediately identify and remove the employees responsible for such incompetence and mismanagement. Any company that would fail to do so would quickly lose the confidence of its investors and customers and go out of business.

In July 2014, in response to the major healthcare scandal, Congress passed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act (VA Choice Act). The VA Choice Act gave VA the explicit authority to send veterans out of the VA system to receive healthcare if they are unable to secure an appointment at a VA medical facility within 30 days or reside more than 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility.

This monumental reform bill provided VA $10 billion to cover the costs of the increased access to non-VA care and a multitude of other additional resources needed to provide timely access to healthcare. This past July, a year after the VA Choice Act was signed into law, VA officials returned to Congress to request $3 billion to cover a funding shortfall for the VA healthcare system. This is just inexcusable.

If a lack of funding were the issue, then VA’s failures would have ended a long time ago. Since this President took office six years ago, VA’s funding levels have increased roughly $70 billion.

While the budget at VA has skyrocketed, accountability has not, and the status quo at VA remains an embarrassing breach of the taxpayers trust, and more disastrously a breach of the veterans trust.

However, Congress is offering up a bipartisan solution this problem.

At the end of July, a bill that I cosponsored, H.R. 1994, the VA Accountability Act of 2015, passed the House. This bill is supported by all of the major Veterans Services Organizations and is designed for one purpose; to protect veterans from the bureaucrats who do not have their best interest at heart.

H.R. 1994 gives the VA Secretary the ability to fire or demote any employee based on performance and misconduct. If the President signs this bill into law, there will no longer be any excuse for the pervasive lack of accountability that has spread throughout this 330,000 person department.

Most importantly, this bill helps veterans. It also gives the taxpayer a level of comfort that their money will be used effectively and protects the reputation of the hundreds of thousands of honest and decent people at VA who excel at their job and work tirelessly to care for our veterans. Make no mistake about it, the majority of people who work at VA fit that description.

The veterans of Central Arkansas are fortunate to have one of the top facilities in the entire country in our state. The Eugene J. Towbin Healthcare Center, more commonly known as Fort Roots, is populated by some of the hardest working, innovative, and dedicated employees VA has to offer.

The mental health care our local veterans receive from Fort Roots has received national attention for its innovation. The management, doctors, and rank-and-file employees work tirelessly to give veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury a chance for rehabilitation.

Sadly, a large number of VA facilities don’t operate the same way as Fort Roots, and the mismanagement from Washington, D.C., and across the country has stunned veterans, Congress, and taxpayers.

Although, in order to ensure the proper care of our Nation’s heroes, Congress fulfilled VA’s request for the additional $3 billion, we did so through the transfer of interagency funds, which added no additional cost to taxpayers and instituted necessary reforms and additional congressional oversight of the VA’s budget. Congress has laid the groundwork at VA for a seismic cultural shift whereby any budget increases will be accompanied by equivalent increases in accountability standards.

It is now on the President and VA Secretary Bob McDonald to use every tool at their disposal to create an environment where all employees adhere to one simple mission: caring for veterans. All eyes are on them, watching and expecting to see change and concrete results.

Tags: Rep French Hill, R-AR-2. Government Accountability, The Veterans Administration, VA Secretary, Bob McDonald To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Members of the Arkansas Delegation Announce $8.5 Million in FAA Grants for Airport Improvements

WASHINGTON  - U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton, along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman today announced that 13 Arkansas airports will receive $8.5 million from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to support facility upgrades and expansions.

"Airports are important to growth and development in Arkansas communities.  Investments to our infrastructure will better serve the economic needs of our state and facilitate commerce and job creation,” members said.
The airports receiving funding are as follows:
Batesville: Batesville Regional Airport will receive $438, 971 to extend its taxiways to provide more aircraft parking.

Bentonville: Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport will receive $3,498,120 to expand the apron by 11,000 square yards to meet FAA design standards.

Bentonville: Bentonville Municipal/Louise M Thaden Field Airport will receive $91,064 to remove obstructions in a runway.

Crossett: Z M Jack Stell Field will receive $187,677 to rehabilitate the runway and install navigation aids.

Hot Springs: Memorial Field will receive $38,000 to study options to improve an airport runway.

Little Rock: Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport will receive $720,000 to update its master plan to show current and future needs of the airport.

North Little Rock: North Little Rock Municipal Airport will receive $647,146 to install a new taxiway lighting system.

Marshall: Searcy County Airport will receive $175,860 to rehabilitate the apron.

Mount Ida: Bearce Airport will receive $292,000 to install perimeter fencing and remove obstructions in the runway.

Osceola: Osceola Municipal Airport will receive $157,500 to update the facility’s master plan and address future development needs.

Piggott: Piggott Municipal Airport will receive $90,900 to improve runway safety to be in compliance with FAA design standards.

Rogers: Rogers Municipal-Carter Field will receive $1,975,201 to rehabilitate the apron.

West Memphis: West Memphis Municipal Airport will receive $249,236 to update its master plan to reflect current and future needs of the airport. 

Tags: IArkansas Delegation, FAA Grants Airport Improvements To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Taxing Food To Pay For Obamacare Medicaid Expansion?

by Conduit for Action:  The discussion now taking place in the state of >Utah will soon be the discussion in Arkansas! How to pay for the state share of Obamacare Medicaid Expansion? In Arkansas this Obamacare program is currently called the “Private Option.”

6629120915_556a318093_b The Salt Lake Tribune says the Utah Hospital Association has proposed bringing back the tax on food in order to pay Utah’s share of Medicaid Expansion. Like Arkansas, Utah recently cut its sales tax rate on food. Although Greg Bell the CEO of the Utah Hospital Association says there has not been receptivity to the idea, the Tribune says some Utah legislators are floating the idea.

Utah is trying to come up with an estimated $78 million to pay Utah’s share of a Medicaid expansion covering 126,500 people.  Arkansas has a much larger program than Utah, covering approximately 250,000 people. (Medicaid Expansion primarily serves able bodied working age adults with no children and about 40% of the eligible enrollees do not work at all.)  A group of Utah legislators called the “Gang of Six” have a different funding proposal. They are "trying to get providers like the doctors and hospitals to agree to bear most of the costs of the expanded coverage.” It would be ironic if Arkansas followed this approach, because Arkansas Obamacare supporters were able to drum up support by claiming Medicaid Expansion would save hospitals. – a claim that appears unsubstantiated, other than to show the program provides additional revenue to hospitals.

The Utah hospitals see Obamacare Medicaid Expansion as such a good deal for them that they are already willing to pay $25 million of the $78 million cost.

Bell, who was Herbert’s lieutenant governor, said the hospitals have agreed to pay $25 million of the cost, but there are concerns about what happens if enrollment in the program — and the costs associated with it — are higher than expected.

“We would rather it be a dollar amount and then have a safety valve that it expands 15 percent, but once it’s greater than 15 or 20 percent, then you have to, ‘Come and let us reason together,’ and decide, are we going to keep doing this or scale it back?” Bell said.[i]
When Arkansas gets to the funding stage, do you think Arkansas taxpayers will be on the losing end of the business deal?

Finding a way to fund Medicaid Expansion is likely to produce many ideas, painful ideas.  Maybe even some wild-eyed ideas like the letter to the editor in Utah that proposed funding the program by imposing a gun registration fees and requiring gun owners to have insurance, which would also be taxed .[ii] The question is: What crazy ideas will come up in Arkansas.

Arkansas’ governor and legislature appear to be on the verge of tweaking and continuing Obamacare Medicaid Expansion. Before the legislature passes a law to continue Medicaid Expansion, don’t you think they should tell us what services they are going to cut or what taxes they will raise to support the liberal big government program?

[i] http://www.sltrib.com/news/2888322-155/taxing-food-one-option-being-floated

[ii] http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/2860509-155/letter-charge-gun-fees-to-cover

Tags: Conduit for Action, Arkansas, Taxing Food, to pay for, Obamacare Medical Expansion To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Army Saves Arkansas Taxpayers $87 Million

by Caleb Taylor, The Arkansas Project: The federal government actually did Arkansas state taxpayers a favor this week — when it decided not to award Lockheed Martin a federal contract to build Joint Light Tactical Vehicles in Camden.

From the Associated Press:
"Arkansas officials expressed disappointment Tuesday that a military vehicle assembly contract they had hoped to lure with an $87 million incentive package is going to another state.

"The Army announced that it is awarding the contract for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle to Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Corp. The contract is valued at $6.75 billion. Lockheed Martin was among three companies competing for the project, which it intended to build at its Camden facility in southern Arkansas. Indiana-based AM General also competed for the project.

"The Arkansas Legislature in May approved issuing bonds if Lockheed won the project. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he believed lawmakers did the right thing by approving the incentive package he proposed.'There is no doubt that we were competitive in terms of price, our workforce is second to none, and I remain very grateful for Lockheed Martin’s investment and confidence in our Camden facility,'the Republican governor said in a statement. That investment will pay off in the long term.

"State officials have said the project would have brought 600 new jobs to Arkansas. It would have been the second time the state issued bonds under a 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment aimed at helping land major economic deals. Lawmakers two years ago approved $125 million in bonds for a steel mill under construction in east Arkansas."
As we’ve noted previously, state officials claimed this “economic development” project would bring 600 new jobs to the Camden area. If you divide the project cost of $87 million by the estimated 600 new jobs, that gives us a price tag of $145,000 in taxpayer dollars per new job from the project.

After the legislature almost unanimously passed a bill to give an $87 million handout to Lockheed Martin if our state’s plant was awarded the contract, we then found out that Lockheed Martin was going to build the project in Camden irrespective of whether they got the $87 million in state taxpayer dollars or not.

In other words, it was never really explained why Arkansas needed to give a major corporation like Lockheed Martin millions of dollars of taxpayer money. Luckily, taxpayers won’t be on the hook for the project, as the Army gave Wisconsin’s Oshkosh Corporation the contract.

Tags: crony capitalism, Lockheed Martin, United States Army, arkansas, taxpayers, saved $87 million, Caleb Taylor, The Arkansas Project  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Governor Orders Flags at Half-Staff in Memory of Vietnam Vet & MIA Major Dale W. Richardson

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson has issued a proclamation ordering the United States flag and the flag of the State of Arkansas to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Saturday, August 29, 2015. Flags are to be lowered as a tribute to the memory of Major Dale W. Richardson and as an expression of public sorrow.

Major Dale W. Richardson was born on May 5, 1941 in Stone County, Arkansas. He was killed in action on May 2, 1970, while flying a mission over South Vietnam on a UH-1H helicopter. Major Richardson joined the United States Army in 1961 and worked on secret defense contingency plans at the height of the Cold War. He made the ultimate sacrifice three days before his 29th birthday and was listed as MIA with two others until their remains were found together near the crash site and identified in January 2015.

Governor Hutchinson released the following statement:

“The United States flag and the Arkansas flag will be lowered to half-staff tomorrow in memory of Major Dale W. Richardson, whose courage and sacrifice honor us all. I extend my deepest sympathy to Major Richardson’s family and loved ones as he is finally laid to rest on American soil. We join together to remember him and to commemorate his bravery, his service and his sacrifice for our state and for this great nation.”Click HERE for the full proclamation

Tags: Flags, half-mast, Vietnam Vet, MIA, Major Dale Richardson To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Governor Hutchinson's Weekly Column: Big Business in the Outdoors

LITTLE ROCK - Governor Hutchinson's weekly radio address can be found HERE. Text Follows:

Some folks say Arkansas is a football state, or a Razorback state. In Northeast Arkansas, they may say we’re a Red Wolves state. During the winter, we may be a basketball state.

But you know what Arkansas ALWAYS is? We are always an outdoors state. We are always a hunting and fishing state.

I was reminded of that again last Sunday at the weigh-in for the Forrest Wood Cup, a bass-fishing tournament on Lake Ouachita named for Arkansas’s own outdoors legend, Forrest Wood of Flippin. By inventing Ranger Boats, Forrest changed fishing in Arkansas and helped change the economy of this state.

You could see the result last weekend. The tournament is a BIG event. It has been called the Super Bowl of bass fishing. But judging by the enthusiasm I saw at the weigh-in, that may be giving the Super Bowl a little too much credit.

Consider these numbers from this terrific four-day event:

• Total attendance was 63,408, including an overflow crowd in the arena for the final weigh-in.

• Visitors came from at least 39 states and three countries.

• The final-day show was sold out, with 146 exhibitors filling the Hot Springs Convention Center.

• This was the fourth Forrest Wood Cup held in Hot Springs — a record for any city — and no doubt it won’t be the last.

All told, the tournament could have a direct economic impact of $6 million on the Hot Springs area. Once the dollars make their way through the economy, it could add up to an impact of between $20 million and $30 million.

Fishing is big business. But if you live in Arkansas, you already knew that. Besides our people, our greatest resources are our natural resources. We are a wonderland for outdoorsmen, for hikers and bikers, for anyone who wants to enjoy God’s awe-inspiring handiwork.

We often market Arkansas as a great place to live and work, a great place to start a business — and that it is — but don’t forget that we’re also a great place to play.

The folks in Hot Springs understand. Their city remains the No. 1 tourism destination in the state because of its natural attractions and events. So far this calendar year, hospitality tax collections are up 7 percent in the Spa City — and that bodes well for all of Arkansas.

Tourism is the No. 2 industry in Arkansas, and events like the Forrest Wood Cup have a very positive impact on the economy of our state. Whether it’s a bass fishing tournament in Hot Springs; the Bikes, Blues and Barbecue weekend in Fayetteville; or the blues festival in Helena, Arkansas’s special events attract visitors from all over the world.

And once we get ’em here, once they see everything that Arkansas has to offer, they come back. Again and again.

Tags: IArkansas, Governor Hutchinson, weekly column, Big Business, in the Outdoors To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Sen. Boozman & Rep Hill Statements on Injunction Against EPA’s WOTUS Rule

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) today praised U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson in North Dakota for granting a preliminary injunction requested by Arkansas and twelve other states against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule.

“This injunction comes just in time as the EPA’s overreaching rule was slated to go into effect today. Thankfully, Judge Erickson recognized that this mandate goes well beyond the scope of the Clean Water Act and its implementation carries ‘the risk of irreparable harm to the states.’

This is an important first step in the legal battle and I commend Attorney General Rutledge for her leadership in this case. I know she is committed to seeing this fight through to the end. Our Congressional delegation is as well. While the legal battles continue, my colleagues and I are pursuing legislative fixes to the mess the EPA has created.

During my agriculture tour last week, Arkansans regularly spoke of the devastating effects WOTUS would have on their personal property rights. They see this as yet another abuse of executive authority by President Obama. Arkansans don’t need bureaucrats in Washington telling them how to use their land. We can do this best by protecting the role of states, local communities and private citizens to be a part of the process, instead of giving all power to Washington.”


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman French Hill (AR-2) released the following statement after the U.S. District Court of North Dakota granted a preliminary injunction against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, which was scheduled to go into effect this week:

“This Administration has consistently exceeded its authority and ignored input from relevant stakeholders when making crucial decisions affecting the American people and our economy. In the case of the WOTUS rule, our state and local communities know best how to regulate and manage our natural resources. Judge Erickson’s injunction is an important first step in stopping this regulatory overreach from causing major economic harm to farmers and ranchers in Arkansas and across America.”

Tags: U.S., Senator, John Boozman, Rep. French Hill, injuction, EPA WOTUS Rule To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Boozman Bulletin: Arkansas Agriculture Tour

by Sen, John Boozman: Arkansas Agriculture Tour

Agribusiness is critical to Arkansas. One out of every six jobs in Arkansas is tied to the industry making it aleading economic engine in our state. To be serious about job creation in Arkansas, we must be in tune with the needs of the agriculture economy and our rural communities. Washington’s decisions on agriculture policy dramatically impact our state’s economy. As a member of Congress, I'm committed to staying in touch with the needs of our farmers, ranchers, processors and foresters.

That’s why I conduct an annual Agriculture Tour. Last week I traveled across the state meeting with family farmers, facility managers, agriculture researchers and others who make their living growing, processing and securing our supply of food and fiber.

This year’s tour was extremely beneficial as there are a lot of important issues facing the agriculture community that Arkansas producers were eager to discuss including the farm bill, the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, school nutrition and country of origin labeling (COOL).
Above left: Joe Thrash gave me a tour of his Perry County farm. Recent flooding impacted Thrash's soybean farm. Above right: I ate lunch with students at Wooster Elementary School in Greenbrier. The Senate Ag Committee will debate the reauthorization of child nutrition programs next month. I talked with school administrators about the importance of child nutrition programs like the national school lunch program, my bill to reform the summer meal program and the challenges the school's program faces. 

Read more about my Ag Tour: 
Talk Business -  Sen. Boozman: Agriculture, Iran, Highways On Minds Of Residents
Ag Watch Network - Boozman Fights Rural Hunger on Annual Ag Tour
Log Cabin Democrat - Boozman addresses Country of Origin Labeling during Faulkner County agricultural tour
Pine Bluff Commercial - Grady Lions Club Catfish Supper attracts crowd

Tags: U.S., Senator, John Boozman, Arkansas, Agriculture, tour To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Arkansas Gets $15 Million Federal Grant For New Veterans Home

Deteriorating Veterans Home, Little Rock, AR
Congressman French Hill (R-AR-2): Arkansas will receive a $15 million grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs to help fund construction of a new veterans home in North Little Rock, U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton, both R-Ark., and U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, announced Wednesday.

“This grant will help construct a new, state-of-the-art facility for our aging veterans,” Cotton said in a news release. “Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line in defense of our freedom. They deserve the very best care, no matter their stage in life.”

Boozman said, “Ensuring that Arkansas veterans receive the care they have earned is an important investment in our state. I remain committed to making sure our nation keeps its promise to our veterans for their service and sacrifice.”

Hill said, “Central Arkansas is home to many aging veterans that need constant and specialized care. I encourage the completion of this project in a quick and efficient manner so we can improve our ability to provide our veterans with the health-care services they need and deserve.”

A groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the planned $24 million Central Arkansas Veterans Home was held July 29. The home is expected to open in late 2016 or early 2017.

The 96-bed home will replace the Arkansas Veterans Home in Little Rock, which fell into disrepair before being closed in November 2012.

When the new home opens, Arkansas will again have two state veterans homes. The other is in Fayetteville and houses about 112 people.

Tags: New Veterans Home, North Little Rock, AR, Federal grant, Arkansas Delegation, Arkansas, Department of Veterans Affairs, Old Veterans Home To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Economic Freedom—When to say “enough”?

Governor Hutchinson believes it is more beneficial to Arkansans over a ten year period to retain 220,000 to 250,000 able-bodied non-working Arkansans from ages 20 to 65 on welfare for each of those ten years. We respectfully disagree.

by Brenda Vassaur Taylor, Conduit for Commerce:
Welfare StateThis week Governor Asa Hutchinson put forth his “Seven Elements[i] on why the Arkansas legislature should continue to expand Medicaid under his “newly” designed seven conservative tweaks. But as a fiscal conservative, should we continue Medicaid expansion? The answer is a resounding “No!” We encourage our legislators to stop now. Arkansas has had all the Obamacare Medicaid expansion free money it can afford?” Make no mistake, this optional program that our Governor is promoting IS Obamacare for the state!

If you think we are just holding firm to a worn out position, let the Governor’s own numbers speak for us.

Three Points by the Numbers!
  • The benefits to Medicaid expansion in Arkansas are behind us.
  • HCIP endangers Medicaid for our most venerable and helpless while supporting others.
  • Continuing to expand Medicaid is clearly a policy which fails to pass our CFC Economic Freedom Filter test.
***
First: The benefits to Medicaid expansion in Arkansas are behind us.
The key to the Governor’s argument to support the continuation of Medicaid to one-third of the Arkansas population[ii] appears to be found in the last line of his chart used in his speech titled Impact of Arkansas Health Care Independence Program (HCIP) on State Spending. [iii]

According to the Governor’s own numbers, he projects a $911.5 million net overall benefit to the Arkansas economy over a period from 2014 through 2023. We note the following taken from his chart as the most compelling points in assessing his program:
During 2014-2016:
  • Arkansas receives 44% of the total 10 year benefits and pays 1% of the total 10 year costs while the Federal government pays $3.2 billion.
During 2017-2020:
  • Arkansas receives 47% of the total 10 year benefits and pays 39% of the total 10 year costs while the Federal government pays $6.96 billion.
During 2021-2023:
  • Arkansas receives 9% of the total 10 year benefits and pays 60% of the total 10 year costs while the Federal government pays $6.15 billion.
The above summary may be helpful. But specific details from the Governor’s Chart are better understood when examining specific numbers as referenced below:
10 Years Total Benefits to AR (Net Impact of AR HCIP) Total Direct Costs to AR (State Required Match plus Admin Costs) Benefit to AR Exceeding Direct Costs Cost to Fed Govt (Influx of Federal Funds)
Dollars Percent Dollars Percent Dollars Dollars
2014-2016 403 Million 44% 7 Million 1% 396 Million 3.2 Billion
2017-2020 429 Million 47% -452 Million 39% -23 Million 6.96 Billion
2021-2023 79 Million 9% -692 Million 60% -613 Million 6.15 Billion
Totals 911 Million 100% -1.151 Billion 100% -240 Million 16.33 Billion

It is obvious from an examination of these numbers that benefits received during years 2014-2016 are irrelevant to the issues at hand.

The only relevant information when deciding whether to continue to expand Medicaid is—“What do the benefits and costs to Arkansas look like after 2016?” During the last three years of those noted by our governor, these numbers show benefits after 2020 of $79 million to our state while costing us $692 million.

Others may want to argue that when considering the benefits, we must also include the savings gained to Arkansas by our reducing payments for the vulnerable and more-needy in our state under traditional Medicaid; the savings from uncompensated care; and the added tax revenue from the premium fees charged insurance companies (which are actually paid by the taxpayers as well since the non-profit insurance companies are guaranteed a 20% profit on the gross revenues). But those claimed off-setting figures in no way mitigate the clear trend downward as we struggle to support one million people on the government life-boat.

From the Governor’s own numbers, years 2017 forward chart an undeniably dangerous fiscal future for Arkansas (as well as for our Federal government.) Clearly the benefits to this program are behind us.

Second: HCIP endangers Medicaid for our most vulnerable and helpless while supporting others.

From the column of totals from the Governor’s full chart referenced above, we observe the following:
  1. HCIP takes $666 million away from the historically vulnerable and needy under traditional Medicaid to pay $1.15 billion in state money for 250,000 able-bodied adults who work less than full-time and have no dependent children;
  2. It saves money given to hospitals for uncompensated care in the amount of $362 million (a system the Governor stated had been dismantled under HCIP);
  3. Collects $378 million in new taxes from insurance companies (being 2.5% of the total premiums paid to the insurance companies by the state) which means the state will have paid insurance companies $15.12 billion over that 10 year period);
  4. Cost the Federal Government $16.4 billion over the same 10 years to support this welfare expansion. (Note that 15.12 Billion of this goes to insurance companies.)
Third: A policy which continue to expand Medicaid does not pass the CFC Economic Freedom Filter test.

Conduit for Commerce is not supportive of the Governor’s position to continue Medicaid expansion due to three simple facts regarding his proposal:
  • It grows state and federal government—which have already proven to be inefficient and ineffective when exercising control over our health care, a vital piece to our economic freedom (with examples too numerous to mention);
  • It adds to government dependency by adding/maintaining at least 250,000 able-bodied adults to the Medicaid welfare rolls, most of whom do not work full-time and are mostly without dependent children, while simultaneously taking away needed dollars from Arkansas’ needy and vulnerable (the poor, children 19 and under, disabled, and elderly—on our state’s traditional Medicaid);
  • It spends money we do not have—costs to our Federal government–$16.4 billion over 10 years. Currently the federal government is in excess of 18 trillion dollars in debt. This money therefore will come either from additional taxes on all Federal taxpayers or will be borrowed from our potential enemies.
Conclusion:
PLATE - THREE -3Governor Hutchinson believes it is more beneficial to Arkansans over a ten year period to retain 220,000 to 250,000 able-bodied non-working Arkansans from ages 20 to 65 on welfare for each of those ten years. We respectfully disagree.

Using Governor Hutchinson’s own numbers, Arkansas should not pursue the continuation of Medicaid expansion after 2016. To do otherwise will solidly entrench at least 250,000 able-bodied Arkansans into a welfare system they will have every reason to expect must continue….no matter how unsustainable by the taxpayers of Arkansas.

It is our belief that this continued policy of Obamacare Medicaid expansion will permanently move us away from our hopes of returning to a Land of Opportunity and permanently crown us: “Arkansas–the Welfare State.”

[i] See attachment –Governor Asa Hutchinson handouts to his speech August 19, 2015 regarding HCIP
[ii] Arkansas has a total population of 3 million people with one million now enrolled on Medicaid since the 2014 HCIP expansion according to numbers of enrollment reported by DHS.
[iii] See attachment -Governor Asa Hutchinson handouts to his speech August 19, 2015 — HCIP

Tags: Arkansas, Economic Freedom When to say enough, Conduit for Commerce, Brenda Vassaur Taylor,Obamacare medical expansion, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Governor Hutchinson Selects Howard Brill as Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (left) and Howard Brill
LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson has appointed Howard Brill as the next Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, following the retirement of Jim Hannah, effective on September 1. Hannah’s current term is set to expire at the end of 2016.

Governor Hutchinson issued the following statement:
“Howard Brill has the respect of the Arkansas bar, the judges and the legal community in general. Because of his fine mind and reputation, he has the capability of bringing the court together and elevating the court in everything it does. I have known Professor Brill for more than three decades, and he is the one that lawyers seeking guidance call. He’s the one that judges seeking wise counsel call. He’s a legal scholar, he’s respected nationally and internationally, and he’s a great communicator. That’s a good combination for the court.”
Brill currently works at the University of Arkansas’s School of Law. He has been at the School of Law since 1975 and is the first Vincent Foster Professor of Legal Ethics & Professional Responsibility. Brill teaches professional responsibility, remedies, civil procedure and domestic relations, as well as special topics courses on “Baseball and the Law” and Arkansas Constitutional Law.

Professor Brill graduated from Duke University in 1965 and taught English language and African literature as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sokoto, Northern Nigeria. In 1970, Brill earned his J.D. from the University of Florida Law School, where he was the editor-in-chief of the Florida Law Review, and later earned an LL.M. from the University of Illinois in 1979. He has taught at the Universities of Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, in addition to practicing with a small firm in Rock Island, Illinois. In connection with the School of Law's summer programs, Brill has taught in Cambridge, England, and St. Petersburg, Russia. Additionally, Professor Brill has taught comparative Constitutional Law and Legal Ethics at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania.

His publications include The Law of Damages in Arkansas (6th edition) and Arkansas Professional and Judicial Ethics (8th edition). He served on former Governor Bill Clinton's Commission on Ethics and former Governor Jim Guy Tucker's Ethics Task Force. Along with other court and bar association committees, Brill has served on the Professional Ethics & Grievances Committee of the Arkansas Bar and the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. He prepares advisory ethical opinions for attorneys and judges and has served as a Special Associate Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court on several occasions.

From 1995 to 2010, Professor Brill served as the University of Arkansas’s Faculty Athletics Representative to the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference. Brill served as the interim dean of the School of Law during the 2005-2006 academic year. He is the faculty adviser to the University of Arkansas Christian Legal Society.

Howard Brill and his wife Katherine have three children, Christian, Elizabeth and Andrew.

Tags: Arkansas, Governor, Asa Hutchinson, Howard Brill, Chief Justice, Arkansas Supreme Court To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hill Announces HUD Waste Latest Golden Fleece Award Winner

Washington, D.C. - This week, Congressman French Hill (AR-02) announced his fourth winner of the Golden Fleece “dishonor” award to Sec. Julian Casto, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

This month, Hill is giving the Golden Fleece award to HUD for wasting $104.4 million to support thousands of over-income families in public housing units throughout the United States.

Hill noted an Inspector General report that showed while families over the income threshold held inexpensive public housing for decades, eligible low-income families remained on public housing waiting lists.

In one case that was investigated, a four-person household in New York receiving an annual salary of nearly $500,000 — over seven times the amount of the low-income threshold — lives in taxpayer-subsidized public housing, while over 300,000 families sit on the waiting list.

“It just doesn’t pass the common sense smell test that Arkansans are good at understanding,” Hill said. “HUD’s policy is once again showing an insensitivity to the people who really need their assistance to get back on their feet and have a safe place for their family.”

Hill said he expects there will be hearings on the matter when Congress returns this fall. Until then, he hopes the Golden Fleece award will draw attention to the matter.

hill said, “I hope the Golden Fleece is another way to call for change in their existing policy.”

Tags: U.S. Representative, French Hill, Golden Fleece Winner, Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, wasting $104.4 million, over-income families, public housing, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Arkansas Obamacare – Federal Dollars You Owe To China

by Conduit for Action: On Wednesday (8/19/2015) in Little Rock a 7-Point Plan was proposed for Arkansas to keep Obamacare Medicaid Expansion (currently called “Private Option). The Obamacare program was++ touted as bringing between $1.4 billion to $1.7 billion a year into Arkansas’ economy.

That is especially good news if you are a big insurance company that gets a cut of the Obamacare money.

Before you start counting your federal money, please remember the money from the federal government comes from you the taxpayer. Well it used to be that way, but due to the size of the debt you now also pass the debt on to future generations. Congratulations we also get to pay interest on the debt.

The national debt is an outrageous $18.3 trillion. The country that holds the biggest portion of the U.S. debt is the Communist nation of China.

Yet, when Arkansas adopts federal programs in order to grab money from the federal government, we don’t care about the U.S. debt. When California grabs the big federal money they don’t care about the federal debt either. Same with Michigan, Illinois, New York, etc.

Tags: Arkansas, Obamacare, medicaid expansion, debt, interest, to China, Conduit for Congress To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.