Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy 4th of July! - Independence Day 2015

Boot Berryism is an outreach of the ARRA News Service which is a national news service and offered the following July 4th greetings.

Bill Smith, Editor, ARRA News Service and Boot Berryism contributing authors Thank You for reading and sharing our articles, commentaries and cartoons.

We join you in celebrating our nation's 239th Independence Day Celebration. God Bless America, our modern say Patriots and our armed service men and women.

Below are couple of former favorite Independence Day Editorial Cartoons joined by two new cutting edge cartoons and few brief words. Enjoy!

"Hey Grandpa, What Are We Celebrating" by AF Branco (2012)
In spite of all the destructive policies inflicted on us by Obama
and the democrats over this past year, try and have a happy
4th of July. - A.F.Branco (2015)

What Really Threatens Our Liberty? Big Government!
by Glenn Foden (2015)
"We Hold These Truths" by William Warren (2011)
The Fourth of July is a day that is usually a time when families get together for sunshine hot dogs, fun, and fireworks. Every American regardless of race, gender, income, and political party celebrates the day that the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, spurring the start of the American Revolution. Like many other national holidays, the meaning can often be lost in the festivities. And so it is up to each of us to, in the words of Jefferson, "Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty."

The American system of government, with the Founding Father's emphasis on "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," has inspired almost every country in the world to rise up and take control of their own destiny. Constitutional Republics have spread throughout Europe, and just this year fellow freedom fighters as far away as Iran and as near to us as Honduras are standing up for their own independence much like our Founding Fathers did more than two centuries ago.

This is America's lasting legacy. Before 1776, only two Constitutional Republics even attempted to bring any form of freedom and liberty to mankind: The Greek and Roman Empires. But the people of these great nations became apathetic, not realizing, as John F. Kennedy wisely warned, "Complacency is the jailer of freedom."

So, while the Fourth of July has become a day of festivities (celebrating if nothing else, a day by the pool or at the beach), what Americans really are observing is the fact that a relative handful of courageous citizens lit a flame of liberty and installed a form of government that has governed over unprecedented prosperity and individual liberty. And even today, "the glow from that fire can truly light the world." [Americans for Limited Government (2009).]

Tags: 2015, 4th of July, July 4, ARRA News Service, Boot Berryism, Bill Smith, Independence Day, editorial cartoons, Tony Branco, William Warren, Glenn Foden, America's Birthday, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Is This The Future Of Healthcare In Arkansas?

Advance Arkansas Institute (AAI):

Will Arkansas Establish a State O'Care Exchange? "According to Watchdog.org, state exchange bureaucrats billed taxpayers $1.37 million for an 8 hour promotional web stream featuring a gyrating Richard Simmons. You can check out Simmons’s appearance here. The choreography alone should be enough of an argument against setting up a state exchange!"

Gov's Office: Arkansas "Moving Towards" State Exchange, But Nothing Final Yet
"Arkansas is in the process of establishing a state exchange, but a final decision won’t be made until after the Health Care Reform Legislative Task Force makes its recommendations, a spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday. J.R. Davis, Hutchinson’s spokesman, told The Arkansas Project: There’s no deadline set or time that says…we’re going to be a state exchange on this date or that we’re even going to be one."

More Arkansas Hospital Workers Fired Due To Obamacare
"On the same day that Obamacare won a big victory in the Supreme Court, Arkansas health care workers found out they were being fired due to Obamacare."
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AAI is a nonprofit research & educational organization committed to advancing policy based on free markets, individual liberty, & limited government.

Tags: Arkansas, Future of Healthcare, Arkansas Advance Institute, The Arkansas Project, Articles To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Issues Statement in Response to Legislature On Gay Marriage

LITTLE ROCK - Governor Asa Hutchinson issued the following response to statements released by the Arkansas House and Senate earlier today involving the recent ruling from the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage and how it applies to Arkansans:“In response to the statements issued today by the House and Senate Republican Caucuses, I am grateful for their continued efforts to assure the religious freedom protection of pastors, churches and religious institutions as a result of last week’s Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage. I share their concern and frustration with the Supreme Court’s decision which is contrary to the expressed will of the Arkansas voter.   It is important to note that it affects government action only. It has no bearing on private individuals or institutions. The ability of pastors, churches, and private individuals to follow their own convictions on marriage is protected under the First Amendment and has not been affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling. In terms of further legislative action, I am not aware of any legislation that would protect county clerks from the requirements of the ruling.

“I am committed to ensuring the rights of pastors, religious institutions, and private individuals to exercise their freedom of conscience. It is my view that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed earlier this year accomplishes this purpose. Regardless, it is very important that our church leaders who have convictions on the definition of marriage understand that I will work every day to protect their right of conscience and freedoms under the 1st Amendment.  There will be many future challenges as a result of the Supreme Court decision.  I will continue to determine what legislative action is needed to address the myriad of legal issues that will result from the ruling and also what legislation is needed to protect the churches, pastors and religious institutions who cannot follow the dictates of the Court.”

Tags: Asa Hutchinson, Governor, Arkansas, Statement, Gay Marriage To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Governor Asa Hutchinson Appoints Dean, Williamson and Chambers to the Arkansas Board of Education

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson has appointed Charisse Dean, Brett Williamson and Susan Chambers to serve on the Arkansas Board of Education.

Member Name:  Charisse Dean
Expiration Date:  6/30/22
City – District:  Little Rock, 2
Qualification:  2nd Congressional District
Replaced:  Samuel Ledbetter

Charisse Dean has served on the Governor’s Council for Common Core Review. She has four children in the Little Rock School District (Mabelvale Middle School, Parkview High School, and Williams Traditional Magnet School) and has served on the Family Council Action Committee. Dean is currently the project coordinator for the Family Council and lives in Little Rock.

Member Name:  Brett Williamson
Expiration Date:  6/30/22
City – District:  El Dorado, 4
Qualification:  4th Congressional District
Replaced:  Alice Mahony

Brett Williamson currently serves on The Murphy Foundation Board, which provides scholarships for colleges, universities and trade schools to students in El Dorado and Union County. He has three children – two in college and one in the El Dorado School District. He is part of the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Union County, El Dorado Fifty for the Future and El Dorado Works. Williamson is currently the general manager for Murphy Offices, LLC and lives in El Dorado.

Member Name:  Susan Chambers
Expiration Date:  6/30/21
City – District:  Fayetteville, 3
Qualification:  3rd Congressional District
Replaced:  Kim Davis

Susan Chambers, who will be replacing Mr. Kim Davis, who announced his resignation at the last Board of Education meeting, has served on the board for Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and William Jewel College. She has been named Fortune Magazine’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business,” Forbes Magazine’s “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Business” and Fortune Magazine’s “Top Ten Chief Human Resource Officer’s (CHRO).” Chambers is currently the Executive Vice President of Global People, CHRO for Walmart, a position that extends past the traditional role of human resources and allows her to work on education and workforce issues, as they seek to attract and train 21st century employees. Chambers lives in Bella Vista.

Tags: appointments, Arkansas Board of Education, Governor, Asa Hutchinson To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Hill Announces 2nd Golden Fleece Winner

Image credit: Shutterstock
WASHINGTON, D.C. - This week, Congressman French Hill (AR-02) announced the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) as the second recipient of the newly reestablished Golden Fleece Award.

A recent SSA Office of Inspect General audit found that over a ten-year period, nearly four million beneficiaries of SSA disability programs were provided an estimated $16.8 billion in overpayments. Earlier this week Congressman Hill sent Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the SSA, a letter congratulating her agency on “winning” the award.

The following is the full text of the letter:

I am writing to congratulate the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) for receiving the reestablished Golden Fleece Award!  The Golden Fleece Award, first implemented by Senator William Proxmire, highlights wasteful government spending by our Nation’s federal agencies.

An audit released by the Office of Inspector General this month found that over a ten year period, nearly 4 million beneficiaries of SSA disability programs were provided with an estimated $16.8 billion in overpayments. The audit notes that SSA assessed overpayments for nearly half of the 1,532 sampled beneficiaries. The reasons for overpayment included issuing payments following a death of the beneficiary, issuing payments to prisoners or fugitive felons, medical improvement of the beneficiary, or increased work activity of the beneficiary.

At a time when our Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program is facing a significant funding shortfall, it is essential that we ensure these precious taxpayer funds are going to help eligible individuals who are truly in need of these benefits. Under current law, the SSDI trust fund will be depleted by 2016, resulting in a 20 percent cut to benefits. Of course, like you, I do not want to see a sudden reduction in these important SSDI benefits that many individuals with disabilities rely on. That is why it is so critical to ensure that these dollars are not wasted on those who are no longer disabled or have returned to work and are no longer eligible to receive these benefits

I am committed to eradicating this type of inefficient and ineffective spending and today’s Golden Fleece highlights the mismanagement of these essential taxpayer dollars. I invite your immediate attention to this issue, and please keep me apprised of your efforts at improvement.

Tags: U.S. Representative, French Hill, 2nd Golden Fleece Winner, Social Security Administration, Social Security Disability Insurance, SSDI, $16.Billion in overpayments To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Governor Asa Hutchinson Announces Appointments

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson today announced the following appointments:

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Jason Carter, North Little Rock, as State Judge Advocate for the Arkansas National Guard.  Appointment expires at the Will of the Governor.

Steele Kelly, Plummerville, to the Arkansas Suicide Prevention Council. Appointment expires June 4, 2019.

Tanya Phillips, North Little Rock, to the Arkansas Suicide Prevention Council. Appointment expires June 4, 2019.

Cindi Blackwood, Little Rock, to the Arkansas Suicide Prevention Council. Appointment expires June 4, 2019.

Angie Waliski, Sherwood, to the Arkansas Suicide Prevention Council. Appointment expires June 4, 2019.

Jan Sims, El Dorado, to the Arkansas Suicide Prevention Council. Appointment expires June 4, 2019.

Reverend David Gill, Little Rock, to the Arkansas Suicide Prevention Council. Appointment expires June 4, 2019.

Steven Blackwood, Little Rock, to the Arkansas Suicide Prevention Council. Appointment expires June 4, 2019.

Bruce Trimble, Sherwood, to the Arkansas Suicide Prevention Council. Appointment expires June 4, 2019.

Daniel Oxford, Gravette, to the Arkansas Suicide Prevention Council. Appointment expires June 4, 2019.

Christopher Epperson, Little Rock, to the Arkansas Suicide Prevention Council. Appointment expires June 4, 2019.

Tabitha Breshears, Batesville, to the Arkansas Suicide Prevention Council. Appointment expires June 4, 2019.

Jamie Burr, Fayetteville, to the Nutrient Water Quality Trading Advisory Panel. Appointment expires June 8, 2017.

Heath Ward, Springdale, to the Nutrient Water Quality Trading Advisory Panel. Appointment expires June 8, 2017.

Dr. Delia Haak, Gentry, to the Nutrient Water Quality Trading Advisory Panel. Appointment expires June 8, 2017.

Evan Teague, Little Rock, to the Nutrient Water Quality Trading Advisory Panel. Appointment expires June 8, 2017.

Rick Rodenroth, Fouke, to the Nutrient Water Quality Trading Advisory Panel. Appointment expires June 8, 2017.

Larry Lloyd, Fayetteville, to the Nutrient Water Quality Trading Advisory Panel. Appointment expires June 8, 2017.

Jimmy Mardis, Rogers, to the Nutrient Water Quality Trading Advisory Panel. Appointment expires June 8, 2017.

Roy Caldwell, Hartman, to the Criminal Detention Facility Review Committee, Judicial District 5. Appointment expires January 14, 2019. Replaces Joe Hoing.

Gerald Sturdevant, Texarkana, to the Criminal Detention Facility Review Committee, Judicial District 8 South. Appointment expires January 14, 2019. Replaces Frank Turk.

Billy Cotten, Dewitt, to the Criminal Detention Facility Review Committee, Judicial District 11 East. Appointment expires January 14, 2019. Reappointment.

Matthew Soto, White Hall, to the Criminal Detention Facility Review Committee, Judicial District 11 West. Appointment expires January 14, 2019. Replaces William Webb.

Donna Watson, Fort Smith, to the Criminal Detention Facility Review Committee, Judicial District 12. Appointment expires January 14, 2019. Replaces Thomas Brock.

Daniel Heflin, Rison, to the Criminal Detention Facility Review Committee, Judicial District 13. Appointment expires January 14, 2019. 

Linda House, Ponca, to the Criminal Detention Facility Review Committee, Judicial District 14. Appointment expires January 14, 2019. Reappointment.

Michael Hammonds, Magazine, to the Criminal Detention Facility Review Committee, Judicial District 15. Appointment expires January 14, 2019. Replaces Ronald Stell.

James Cureington, Viola, to the Criminal Detention Facility Review Committee, Judicial District 16. Appointment expires January 14, 2019. Replaces Jerry Smith.

Mack Hollis, Russellville, to the Arkansas Outdoor Recreation Grants Advisory Committee. Appointment expires January 7, 2019. Replaces Alan Swaim.

Judge Jeffrey Arey, Haskell, to the Arkansas Outdoor Recreation Grants Advisory Committee. Appointment expires January 7, 2019. Replaces Judge Keith Neely.

Josh Barger, Quitman, to the Arkansas Outdoor Recreation Grants Advisory Committee. Appointment expires January 7, 2019. Replaces Danny Bone.

Stephen Arrison, Hot Springs, to the Arkansas Outdoor Recreation Grants Advisory Committee. Appointment expires January 7, 2019. Replaces Joseph Dabney.

Warren Allen, Texarkana, to the Arkansas Alternative Energy Commission. Appointment expires at the Will of the Governor. Replaces Mickel Lolley.

Jim Holub, North Little Rock, to the Arkansas Fire Protection Licensing Board. Appointment expires April 1, 2020. Reappointment.

Ronald Rispoli, Russellville, to the Arkansas Fire Protection Licensing Board. Appointment expires April 1, 2020. Replaces Vernon McTeer.

Russell Carlisle, Fort Smith, to the Arkansas Fire Protection Licensing Board. Appointment expires April 1, 2020. Reappointment.

Thomas Jenkins, Rogers, to the Firefighter Benefit Review Panel. Appointment expires May 6, 2019.

Kevin Miller, Jonesboro, to the Firefighter Benefit Review Panel. Appointment expires June 8, 2019. 

Rusty McClain, Wynne, to the Firefighter Benefit Review Panel. Appointment expires May 6, 2019.

Joseph Cunningham, West Helena, to the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Board. Appointment expires January 14, 2019. Reappointment.

Judge David Talley, Magnolia, to the Arkansas Public Defender Commission. Appointment expires July 1, 2016. Replaces Larry Chandler.

Brianna Fields, Springdale, to the Legislative Arkansas Blue Ribbon Committee on Local 911 Systems. Appointment expires January 1, 2017.

Remica Gray, Texarkana, to the Arkansas Arts Advisory Council. Appointment expires June 30, 2016. Replaces Cindy Hale.

Rick Grace, Springdale, to the Arkansas Board of Examiners in Counseling. Appointment expires December 1, 2017. Replaces Mary Bradley.

Sharon Hoehn, Bella Vista, to the Arkansas Psychology Board. Appointment expires December 31, 2018. Replaces Harmon Seawel.

Dr. Robert Smalling, Warren, to the State Board of Optometry. Appointment expires April 26, 2020. Reappointment.

Brian Hester, Farmington, to the Arkansas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board. Appointment expires January 15, 2018. Replaces Rick Mahan.

Bill Booker, Little Rock, to the Arkansas Cemetery Board.  Appointment expires January 15, 2019.  Reappointment.

Mark Oyler, Rogers, to the Arkansas Board of Hearing Instrument Dispensers.  Appointment expires July 31, 2017.  Replaces David Oyler.

Rick McClure, Malvern, to the College of the Ouachitas Board of Trustees.  Appointment expires July 1, 2017.  Replaces Ron Holt.

Honorable David Greenbaum, Little Rock, as a Special Workers’ Compensation Commissioner. Replaces Dale Douthit.

Honorable Milton Fine II, Little Rock, as a Special Workers’ Compensation Commissioner. Replaces Dale Douthit.

Honorable Eric Wells, Paris, as a Special Workers’ Compensation Commissioner. Replaces Dale Douthit.

Curtis Ahrens, Stuttgart, as a Justice of the Peace of the Arkansas County Quorum Court District 9. Appointment expires December 31, 2016. Replaces Justice Kirk Meins.

Mary Lou Slinkard, Gravette, as a Justice of the Peace of the Benton County Quorum Court District 11. Appointment expires December 31, 2016. Replaces Justice Steve Curry.

Bryan Tilley, Heber Springs, as a Special Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Arkansas. CV-15-111; Shelter Mutual Insurance Company v. Michael Goodner. Replaces Justice Josephine Linker Hart.

Ronald A. Williams, Springdale, as a Special Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Arkansas. CV-15-111; Shelter Mutual Insurance Company v. Michael Goodner. Replaces Justice Courtney Goodson.

Kevin R. Holmes, Van Buren, as a Special Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Arkansas. CV-15-111; Shelter Mutual Insurance Company v. Michael Goodner. Replaces Justice Robin Wynne.

Emily Sneddon, Little Rock, as a Special Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Arkansas. CV-14-1018, Sheryl Sue Norris v. Ashley N. Davis. Replaces Justice Robin Wynne.

Robert Shafer, Little Rock, as a Special Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Arkansas. CV-15-156; George Brumley v. Arkansas Department of Human Services. Replaces Justice Robin Wynne.

Michael Ryburn, Little Rock, as a Special Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Arkansas. CV-15-65; Desoto Gathering Company, LLC v. Faulkner County Circuit Court. Replaces Justice Paul Danielson.

Michael O’Quinn, Little Rock, as a Special Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Arkansas. CR-14-818; John Chad Griffin v. State of Arkansas. Replaces Justice Paul Danielson.

Tommy Fowler Jr., Jonesboro, as a Special Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Arkansas. CV-14-533; Don Davis v. Cheryl Davis. Replaces Justice Paul Danielson.  

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

Boozman Bulletin: Protecting Government Data

The massive breach of Office of Personnel Management (OPM) systems may have been the most devastating cyber-attack in our nation’s history – information on up to 18 million federal employees compromised. The OPM incident follows several across government and is only the latest example of the federal government’s inability to protect itself from cybersecurity threats. Last year, there were 67,168 cyber incidents targeting federal agencies – an increase of 1,100 percent since 2006.

The government spends approximately $82 billion annually on information technology. Given the cost of these projects and their impact on our economy and national security, I organized a hearing of the Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee to conduct oversight of this growing problem.

During the hearing I heard testimony from OPM director Katherine Archuleta, who passed the buck when it came to accepting responsibility, and refused to reveal how many Americans may have been compromised by the breach. There was no accountability or urgency to prevent another attack from happening in the future.
As I told Neil Cavuto following the hearing, the government is doing a “sloppy, shoddy job” of  protecting data.


We need to do more to prevent cyberattacks and have timely responses ready when breaches such as the one at OPM occur. The Senate Intelligence Committee has approved bipartisan legislation that aims to thwart attacks and modernize our defenses. I voted to move this bill forward this month, but Senate Democrats blocked our efforts. We all need to be committed to protecting our country against cyberattacks. Bringing this bill to the floor will help prevent future breaches of government data. I will continue to work with the Majority Leader to bring this bill up for a vote in the Senate.

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

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Arkansas House Republican Caucus Reaffirms Sanctity of Traditional Marriage

LITTLE ROCK, Ark – Just a few days ago, the Supreme Court of the United States held that there is a constitutional requirement for every State in the Union to license and recognize same-sex marriages. We feel obliged to make our opinions known: namely, that the Supreme Court’s decision is mistaken and dangerous – as a matter of policy, as a matter of law, and as a matter of respect for our Constitution’s function and structure. The Arkansas House of Representatives Republican Caucus stands united in disagreement with the 5-4 United States Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

By this ruling, the Supreme Court denied the will of the majority of Arkansans and the Arkansas Constitution. Amendment 83 affirmed that the citizens of the State of Arkansas believe marriage is between a man and a woman.

The Supreme Court has now intruded on States’ powers and further attempted to redefine an institution that God created and only He can change.

Today, we stand firm on our Republican Party Platform which states:
“Bigotry has no place in our state. We denounce those persons, organizations, publications and movements which practice or promote racism, hate actions, or religious intolerance.“

“We believe all Americans should have equal opportunity to succeed regardless of race, national origin, gender, or creed and be granted no special preference based on these criteria.”

“We support the traditional definition of marriage as a God-ordained, legal and moral commitment between a man and a woman. We believe that marriage is the foundational unit of a healthy society. We believe in the sanctity of marriage and the integrity of this institution should be defended, protected, strengthened and nurtured at all levels of government.”

“We affirm our support for Amendment 83 of the Arkansas Constitution as overwhelmingly passed by the people in 2004.”
We refuse to simply shrug our shoulders and abandon basic principles that have guided our country successfully the past 239 years. We will work with other conservative leaders in our state and across the nation, strengthen bonds of unity, and explore all available options. That certainly includes increased legislative protections of our First Amendment freedoms to exercise religion. We pledge today, that as elected representatives of the people of the State of Arkansas, members of the House Republican Caucus will continue our work to protect the traditional views and values of everyday Arkansans.
Tags: Arkansas House, Republican Caucus, Reaffirms, Sanctity of Traditional Marriage,  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Governor Asa Hutchinson Issues Statement on Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

LITTLE ROCK – Yesterday, Governor Asa Hutchinson released the statement below following the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage: ,
"Today the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision requires the State of Arkansas to recognize same-sex marriage. This decision goes against the expressed view of Arkansans and my personal beliefs and convictions. While my personal convictions will not change, as Governor I recognize the responsibility of the state to follow the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court. As a result of this ruling, I will direct all state agencies to comply with the decision.

“It is also important to note that the Supreme Court decision is directed at the states to allow and recognize marriage between two people of the same sex. It is not a directive for churches or pastors to recognize same-sex marriage. The decision for churches, pastors and individuals is a choice that should be left to the convictions of conscience."


Tags: Governor, Asa Hutchinson, Statement, Supreme Court decision, Same-sex, marriage, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Rutledge Comments on U.S. Supreme Court King v. Burwell Decision

Little Rock – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today released a statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in King v. Burwell. The Supreme Court upheld a provision of the Affordable Care Act, affirming that 6.4 million people can continue to receive subsidies that allow them to purchase health care plans. “Today’s ruling is disappointing because the Supreme Court failed to read the plain text of the law and instead ruled to allow the Obama Administration to further implement a preferred policy and rewrite the law instead of what the law actually states – a practice that has become all too common from this Administration. The Court’s decision threatens the foundation upon which this country was built – that only Congress has the power to write and enact laws. As Attorney General, I will continue to fight to defend the rule of law and to protect Arkansans.”
Tags: Arkansas, Attorney General, Leslie Rutledge, Supreme Court decision, King v. Burwell To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

WOTUS Has Far-reaching Effects for Arkansans

by U.S. Sen. John Boozman: The Obama Administration has made it clear once again that they will continue to interfere in the lives of everyday Arkansans. The “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule imposed by the EPA gives Washington control of almost all water in Arkansas. Our farmers and ranchers have reason to be concerned of this EPA overreach.

This power grab truly threatens private landowners' ability to use their own property and I will not let this stand.

The United States House of Representatives passed legislation calling on the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw WOTUS in a bipartisan manner.

Now, I’m leading the fight in the Senate to pass legislation preventing this overreach by the Obama Administration and the EPA. We’ve already gotten this bill through at the committee level. Next step is full Senate consideration and I am committed to working with my colleagues to make that happen. And both the House and the Senate are committed to withholding funds the EPA needs to implement this power grab.

I am working hard to represent your voice in Washington and I want to continue to fight for our Conservative principles.

You can be sure I will continue to be your advocate on this important issue as well as the many other issues slated for debate in the coming months.

Tags: U.S. Senator, John Boozman, Arkansas. WOTUS, waters of the United States, EPA rule, takes control, Arkansas waters To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Boozman, Hill, Hutchinson Statements on the King v. Burwell Decision

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) today released the following statement on the Supreme Court’s decision in the King v. Burwell case:"Arkansans continue to grapple with the multitude of problems that Obamacare has brought on. From lost coverage to higher out of pocket costs, to fewer choices for patients and more bureaucratic control of the healthcare system, this law has let the American people down. The Court’s ruling doesn’t change that. In fact, Justice Scalia pointedly noted in the dissent that the Court went to great interpretive lengths to protect the law.

"It is up to Congress to replace this program with market-based solutions that will bring the changes that Obamacare, and all it’s broken promises, simply cannot deliver. I will continue to work with my colleagues to repeal and replace this failed program and give the American people real reform that puts them back in charge of their healthcare decisions."

WASHINGTON - Today, following the Supreme Court’s decision on King v. Burwell, Congressman French Hill (AR-02) released the below statement:“Today’s decision is disappointing, but it doesn’t change the fact that the President’s healthcare law is bad policy that is increasing costs and reducing patient choice for millions of Americans. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate to pass real, patient-centered healthcare reform that is both affordable and consumer friendly.”LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson released the statement below following the Supreme Court’s ruling in King v. Burwell:“I am surprised at the lengths to which this court will go in an effort to stretch statutory interpretation to uphold the Affordable Care Act. The decision is disappointing. For now, the court’s decision maintains the status quo. In terms of what this means for Arkansas, we will continue our work with the task force to find innovative solutions for Medicaid and healthcare reform. I am convinced now more than ever that we need to proceed with caution to measure the costs to the taxpayers and the reliability of the outcome as we consider the potential of a state exchange.”
Tags: Supreme Court, decsion, King V. Burwell, Obamacare, Arkansas, U.S. Senator John Boozman, Rep. French Hill, AR-02, Governor, Asa Hutchinson To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Bipartisan Water Supply Cost Savings Act Introduced in Senate to Help Address Rural Communities' Water Infrastructure Funding Crisis

Washington, DC - Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced the bipartisan ''Water Supply Cost Savings Act,'' or ''Savings Act,'' legislation to provide small communities across the nation with critical information on the use of water wells and water well systems to deliver high quality, affordable drinking water.

The bipartisan Savings Act (S. 1642) was greeted with enthusiastic support from the water supply industry, including the Water Systems Council, the Water Quality Association and the National Groundwater Association.

"We are extremely grateful to Senator Boozman, Senator Tester and Senator Cardin for advancing legislation that will assist thousands of small communities in delivering high quality, affordable drinking water to millions of Americans," said Margaret Martens, Executive Director of the Water Systems Council. "The bipartisan Water Supply Cost Savings Act will ensure that USDA and EPA provide those charged with delivering drinking water in rural America with critical information on the use of wells and well systems.

"Wells are a reliable, cost-effective way for budget challenged communities to provide safe drinking water for their residents. The Water Supply Cost Savings Act is a win for rural America and the American taxpayer. The Savings Act is aimed at reducing the costs to federal, state, and local governments in providing quality drinking water to millions of Americans living in rural and isolated communities by promoting cost-effective community well water systems."

To assist small communities with their consideration of drinking water technology needs, the Savings Act establishes a Drinking Water Technology Clearinghouse where the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Secretary of Agriculture will disseminate information on cost-effective, innovative, and alternative drinking water delivery systems, including systems that are supported by wells.

"Many Arkansans rely on water wells to provide safe, affordable, and reliable drinking water. For small, isolated communities, these wells can save money and make life better. This bill will encourage agencies to support this low-cost solution by providing technical support. The bill also encourages small communities to consider water wells as one of the supply options when new water systems are built," Boozman said.

"Access to clean drinking water is critical for the health of every rural community and in many cases well systems are the most cost-effective way to deliver it to the tap," Tester said. "This bill will help raise awareness about all the water infrastructure options that are available to local communities so they can provide safe and reliable water to families, small businesses, and family farms and ranches in rural America."

"Wherever you live, all Americans deserve access to safe and clean drinking water. Having modern and reliable water infrastructure protects public health, conserves natural resources, saves energy and creates jobs," said Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "This legislation helps remove some of the technical and financial barriers to clean water that rural communities face while improving quality of life."

The most recent EPA Water Drinking Needs Survey reflects a shortfall of $64 billion in drinking water infrastructure funding. The Water Supply Cost Savings Act, S. 1642 would update existing EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs to provide cost-saving information about innovative and alternate drinking water delivery systems including those supported by wells. The legislation also requires that alternative drinking water supplies such as individual, shared and community wells be considered in applications for federal funding for drinking water systems serving 500 or fewer people.

Buzz Mills, president of Billings, Montana-based 2M and a member of the WSC board, noted that, "As one of the largest wholesale distributors of equipment for the water well industry that was originally founded in Montana, we are very proud of Senator Tester's leadership on the bipartisan Savings Act. Not only will this legislation help rural America and other small community systems afford to meet critical their water needs, it will also support domestic manufacturing and jobs."

The Water Systems Council is the only national, nonprofit organization solely focused on household wells and small water well systems. WSC is committed to ensuring that Americans who get their water from household private wells have safe, reliable drinking water and to protecting our nation's groundwater resources.

For more information, visit watersystemscouncil.org.

Tags: bi-partisan, Water Supply Cost Savings Act, rural Communities, water infrastructure,  U.S. Senators, John Boozman (R-AR), Jon Tester (D-MT). Ben Cardin (D-MD) To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

State Police: Transparency? What Transparency?

by Caleb Taylor, The Arkansas Project: Arkansas State Police (ASP) officials recently took a break from trying to undercut constitutional rights in Arkansas to work on a secondary objective: namely, to try to make their agency much less transparent to the public.

The problem centers around a federal law, now more than two decades old, entitled the Drivers Privacy Protection Act — which has, apparently, just now become a huge priority of the ASP.

From the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
Citing a federal law that has been on the books for 21 years, the Arkansas State Police began earlier this month withholding nearly all personal information from vehicle crash reports available to the public.

The agency contends the 1994 Drivers Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits personal information from motor vehicle reports from being made public, also covers police crash reports.

New reporting software makes it reasonable for the department to begin complying with the law, spokesman Bill Sadler said. Before, manually redacting the information on thousands of crash reports was too much of an administrative burden.

The new policy means the only personal information available on state police crash reports are the names and hometowns of fatalities. All other information, including the names of other drivers and passengers, is withheld.
'This change is an attack on open government. The information being withheld might sound boring to some, but here's the bottom line: this policy change by the ASP will make it harder for the media and the public to get information from their government. For instance, let’s say a male legislator is leaving a Little Rock hotel parking lot with a female passenger who's not his wife, and they get involved in a two-car wreck. If the legislator isn’t at fault in the wreck and charged with some kind of traffic violation or crime, because of this ASP policy change the public will never be able to find out the details.'

Here’s what Bowen Law Prof. Robert Steinbuch, Arkansas’ foremost FOIA expert, had to say about the ASP’s decision:
It's remarkable that the police assert that they only now discovered how to comply with a twenty-year-old law that they believe restricts the Arkansas FOIA. They could have called me, and I would have told them that all they need to redact a document is a magic marker. Those existed twenty years ago, last time I checked. In any event, the federal law doesn’t apply to police records. So, the police can save a lot of headache and comply with Arkansas’s FOIA without new or old redaction technology.According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, M. Keith Wren recently filed a lawsuit against the ASP, protesting the policy change. I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last we’ll hear about this egregious anti-transparency action by the ASP.
Tags: The Arkansas Project, Caleb Taylor, Arkansas State Police, What Transparency, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Trojan Horse Amendment Gives Arkansas Legislators A Pension Boost

by David Ferguson, Conduit for Action:  Issue No. 3, approved last November, may go down in history as the most deceptive amendment ever made to the Arkansas constitution. The amendment was proposed by Representative Warwick Sabin (D) of Little Rock and Senator Jon Woods (R) of Springdale, as House Joint Resolution 1009. Sabin and Woods have been criticized by conservatives and liberals alike.

To the public, the ballot title of the amendment promised ethics reform, but the “reform” protected big lobbyists and continued the practice of big lobbyists opening the feed trough to legislators.  The amendment was a Trojan horse to pass changes that were unlikely to have been approved on their own.

Criticism of Sabin and Woods and of their Issue No. 3 has focused on three subjects:
  • Term limits. The “ethics” proposal was used as a Trojan horse to weaken term limits. Wood’s long title ends with:  “ESTABLISHING TERM LIMITS FOR MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY”. Who could be against that?  But the truth was that the proposal weakened term limits that had already been established. It increased the years a state legislator may serve and more than doubled the time a legislator may remain in the House or Senate without having to seek a different office.
  • Salary Commission. A “Citizen’s Commission” was established to set legislative salaries and salaries of other officers. Previously legislator salary adjustments were limited to a cost of living adjustment. Two surprises to the public have been: (1) The self-serving method for appointing the Citizens Commission. The appointments are made by the very officials who want higher salaries; and (2) the wide latitude given to the commission to set salaries. No limits applied to the initial increases, and up to 15% changes are allowed in subsequent years. This change allowed legislators to get a 148% salary increase in 2015.
  • Ethics exceptions. The ethics portion of the amendment promised to restrict the practice of legislators receiving food and drink from lobbyists, however, it did not get legislators out of the lobbyist feed trough as many voters thought. While it imposes some restrictions, the feed trough is still open because of an exception for group events. During the legislative session free food and drink was available daily. The big lobbyists became more powerful and more influential because it is they who can afford to wine and dine groups of legislators.
If that was not enough, there are other surprises in the deceptive amendment. Here is one that has drawn little or no attention. Under Issue No. 3, legislators will receive a higher pension and more legislators will qualify for pensions.

Issue No. 3 and pensions.

How does Issue No. 3 increase legislative retirement? The primary factors for retirement under the Arkansas Public Employee’s Retirement System are: length of service, the person’s average salary for three years, and a multiplier. Issue No. 3 enhanced legislative retirement by increasing both the length of service allowed and increasing legislative salaries.

Legislative salary as a factor in pensions

woods_jTo understand the impact of the salary change you need to look no further than cosponsor Senator Jon Woods. On February 2, 2015, Senator Woods filed his Statement of Financial Interest for 2014. His form shows only one source of income of more than $12,500. This was his legislative salary. (Link to Sen. Woods’ filing)  For 2014 his legislative salary was $15,869.  As a result of his amendment to the constitution his legislative salary increased to $39,400.  Therefore, his amendment resulted in his primary source of income increasing by 148%.

The new salary of $39,000 is just a starting point.  Under Issue No. 3 salaries may be changed by as much as 15% per year.
Length of Service as a factor in pensions

Legislators vest in the Arkansas Public Employee’s Retirement System after being in office for 10 years. If a legislator serves for less than 10 years the legislator receives ZERO retirement benefits, unless he or she can combine that legislative service with other state service.

Under the old term limits restriction many legislators never qualified for a retirement benefit since most needed to be elected as both a state Representative and a state Senator to gain the ten years of service.[i] The new longer term limits makes it possible to meet and exceed the 10-year requirement while serving in only one house of the legislature.
The new term limits under Issue No. 3 allows a person to serve in the legislature for 16 years and you do not have to run for both House and Senate offices to accumulate the 16 years.(Since two-year terms do not count in the Senate against term limits, it is now possible for some state Senators to serve as much as 22 years in the Senate before being termed out.)

Not only will more legislators qualify for legislative retirement, the longer service will enhance their retirement benefits.
Retirement comparison example

How does Issue No. 3 affect retirement? Here is a conservative example.  For this example let’s assume the legislator only has 10 years of service and was first elected after 2005 which means the legislator will contribute 5% of his or her salary toward retirement. At a final average salary of $15,869 you might expect a monthly retirement of about $216 per month.  At $39,400 it increases to $536.

These rough estimates are for comparison purpose only.  Actual retirement could be much higher.  First, this example is based on the minimum of 10 years. Under the new term limits a legislator could serve 16 years (or in the case of only Senate service as much as 18 to 22 years).Second, the 2015 legislative salary of $39,400 is just a starting place.  Legislative salaries may be changed by as much as 15% each year.

If you would like to do your own estimates, here is a link to the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System’s benefit calculator.

Legislative retirement won’t make you rich, but it is a nice perk. For someone, like cosponsor Senator Woods, whose primary source of income in 2014 was a legislative salary of $15,869 the retirement enhancement is significant.

Summary

Voters saw Issue No. 3 as ethics reform. What they got was:
  • Legislators continuing to receive free food and drink from lobbyists;
  • Weaker term-limits;
  • Higher legislative salaries; and
  • Higher legislative retirement and the ability of more legislators to qualify for retirement.
[i] Because 2-year terms in the Senate did not count for term limits, a few senators were able to serve 10 or 12 years in the Senate and vest in the retirement system.

Tags: Arkansas, Legislative pension boost, Trojan horse amendment, 2014 election, Amendment 3, the facts, Conduit for Commerce, David Ferguson To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.