Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advancing School Choice in Arkansas

“The most callused aspect of the current education monopoly in Arkansas is that it willingly and deliberately forces children--except those whose parents have wealth--to attend bad schools. And it does so with financial resources taken from parents already struggling financially and at the expense of their ability to choose a better school for their sons and daughters.” ~ Policy Foundation report,1 September 1998

by Greg Kaza, Arkansas Policy Network: (December 2012) The policy climate has shifted dramatically in Arkansas, with Republicans winning control of the state Senate and state House for the first time since Reconstruction. The stage is set for a serious policy debate around another question2 advanced by the Policy Foundation since a 1998 report: “How to advance school choice in Arkansas?’  Education policy in this new environment should focus on providing children with the opportunity to learn in a safe, functional school environment.

The Market for School Choice in Arkansas

The of education reform has advanced in Arkansas since Policy Foundation analysts Allyson Tucker and Donna Watson authored their 1996 study recommending charter schools. The charter law was expanded in 1999, 2005, 2007, and 2011, and 8,500 students attended 21 open-enrollment and 14 district-conversion Arkansas charters3 in 2011.4 Charter students are only one segment of the market for school choice in Arkansas, an overlooked topic in the education reform debate.

Charter students are the smallest segment of this niche Arkansas education market. The Policy Foundation identifies these market segments as follows:
  • Charter school students                                             8,500
  • Public school choice students                                 15,6825
  • Homeschooled students                                          16,3036
  • Private school students                                             19,3757
  • Total (2011)                                                                 59,860
The market has expanded to every region of Arkansas, and serves more than one in 10 students at the K-12 level.

The market for school choice expands if students in failing K-12 districts or schools are included. The Policy Foundation published four annual reports (2004-08) that issued letter grades to every Arkansas K-12 public school district based on student performance on national standardized tests. Some districts in these reports were issued failing (‘F’) grades. The state Department of Education issued a report in 2011 that found half the failing schools in Arkansas were in Little Rock, the state’s largest public school district.8 The state report, required by PA 35 of 2003 (2nd extraordinary session) was compiled by researchers at the Univ. of Arkansas. PA 35 creates a public school choice option for students in schools that receive an “in need of immediate improvement” rating for two consecutive years.

Private School Choice in Other States

Twenty-one (21) states and the District of Columbia have school choice programs serving parents and guardians who wish to enroll their children in private schools.9 But Arkansas does not have any private school programs two decades after Wisconsin launched a program in Milwaukee in 1990-91.

Types of school choice programs include educational savings accounts, individual tax credits and deductions, tax credit scholarships, and vouchers.

Educational savings accounts
Arizona’s program allows “parents of children with disabilities to withdraw their children from public district or charter schools and receive a portion of their public funding deposited into an education savings account,” according to the nonprofit Friedman Foundation. Parents can use their accounts “to pay for private school tuition, virtual education programs, private tutoring, or future college expenses.”

Individual tax credits
North Carolina’s program allows “parents of special needs children to claim a tax credit of up to $6,000 for educational expenses that include private school tuition, therapy, and tutoring,” the Friedman Foundation reports. “It is estimated that up to five percent of qualified students will take advantage of the” tax credit, saving taxpayers “up to $10 million and districts up to $4 million per year” within five years.

Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota also provide tax credits for education.

Educational deductions
Minnesota provides a tax deduction covering educational expenses for students in any private or public school, including homeschooling. The program dates to 1955, and lowers a family’s total tax liability. The deduction covers books, tutors, academic after-school programs, other non-tuition educational expenses and tuition payments at private schools, the Friedman Foundation reports.

Indiana and Louisiana also provide tax deductions for education.

Tax Credit Scholarships
Arizona’s programs are among the most common private school choice programs. Arizona allows corporate tax credits for school tuition organizations that distribute private school scholarships, and credits to special education and foster care students.

Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia also offer tax credit scholarships.

Vouchers
The Milwaukee program, the nation’s oldest enrolled 20,189 students at 102 private schools in 2010-11.

Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin also offer voucher programs.

Mississippi’s adoption of school choice earlier this year means six states in the southeast region have some type of program.

Conclusion: Private School Choice in Arkansas
Private school choice can advance in the new Arkansas policy environment in a broad or narrow manner.

A broad initiative would make one or all of the programs available to the entire market for school choice in Arkansas.

A narrow initiative would address children with special needs. Most states in the region have followed this approach:
  • lorida, John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program
  • Georgia, Special Needs Scholarship Program
  • Louisiana, School Choice Pilot Program for Certain Students with xceptionalities
  • Mississippi, Dyslexia Therapy Scholarships
  • North Carolina, Tax Credits for Children with Disabilities
This research memo shall not be construed as supporting or opposing any legislation.

1  “Arkansas' Public Schools: A Thirty Year $20 Billion Taxpayer Investment Yields An Unprecedented Crisis in Academic Performance.” The study is dedicated to the late Karen L. Henry (1951-1998), a Policy Foundation board member, Murphy Commission Education Team co-chair, and passionate crusader for education reform.
2  This memo is the second in a three-part series on the new Arkansas policy environment.  Part one (November 2012) examined fiscal policy, i.e., “How to Cut Taxes in Arkansas.”

4  Policy Foundation analysis of NORMES data: http://normessasweb.uark.edu/schoolperformance/beta/.  The state Department of Education should be required to report charter enrollment to parents on its website.
5  “For the entire state of Arkansas in the 2010-2011 school year, 15,682 students were enrolled in receiving districts under some form of choice transfer. (Ex. 43, Table 3). This represents 3.35% of the total elementary and secondary student body in the State.” By contrast, “there were 468,066 students enrolled in publicly funded education” in Arkansas.  Memorandum Opinion and Order, Teague v. Arkansas Board of Education, et. al. Case No. 10-6098, June 8, 2012, U.S. District Court, Western District of Arkansas, Hot Springs Division.  The school choice civil suit was filed on behalf of six children.
6  Policy Foundation research memo (March 2012): “Twice as many Arkansas Home School and Private School Students as AEA Members.”  The memo relied on data from the state Department of Education and the Arkansas Nonpublic School Accrediting Association (ANSAA), a non-profit group.
7  ANSAA School Enrollment Statistics 2010-11, http://www.ansaa.com/memberschools.htm
8  Arkansas districts receiving failing (‘F’) grades in the final Policy Foundation report (2007-08) were Forrest City, Dermott, Augusta, Helena-West Helena, Turrell, Earle, Hughes, Dollarway, and Hermitage.
9  The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice (www.edchoice.org)

Tags: Arkansas, School, School Choice, Arkansas Policy Foundation

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Speaker Boehner: House Bill Prevents Tax Hike on Millions of Americans . . .

Update: This bill was withdrawn by the speaker!
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. . . Says President and Senate Democrats Must Act
WASHINGTON, DC – At a press conference today, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) took the White House to task for failing to put forth a balanced approach to resolve the fiscal cliff, and urged the president to call on Senate Democrats to take action on the bill the House will pass tomorrow to protect millions of families and small businesses from the largest tax hike in American history. Following are Speaker Boehner’s remarks:“Republicans continue to work toward avoiding the fiscal cliff.

“The president’s offer of $1.3 trillion in revenues and $850 billion in spending reductions fails to meet the test that the president promised the American people – a balanced approach. And I hope the president will get serious soon about providing and working with us on a balanced approach.

“Tomorrow, the House will pass legislation to make permanent tax relief for nearly every American – 99.81 percent of the American people. And then the president will have a decision to make: He can call on Senate Democrats to pass that bill, or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history.”

Joint Tax Committee Confirms GOP Bill a $3.9 Trillion Tax Cut
The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) says the bill Republicans will vote on tomorrow to shield millions of Americans from President Obama’s fiscal cliff tax hikes is itself a $3.9 trillion tax cut.

Under current law, tax rates will go up on EVERYONE on January 1. President Obama and Democrats want higher taxes, and are fighting to punish small businesses in particular. The GOP bill permanently protects as many families and small businesses as possible from the tax hikes demanded by Democrats.

Courtesy the House Ways & Means Committee, here’s a look at how key provisions of the GOP bill result in $3.9 trillion in permanent tax relief for families and small businesses:
  • 1.9 trillion: Permanently stopping the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) from hitting more middle class families;
  • $875.7 billion: Permanent extension of current income tax rates for everyone making less than $1 million;
  • $388.2 billion: Permanent death tax relief; $282.5 billion: Permanent extension of capital gains and dividend tax rates for everyone with less than $1 million in income; $220.1 billion: Permanent extension of $1,000 child tax credit;
  • $162.7 billion: Permanent repeal of personal exemption phase-out (PEP) and Pease limitation; $59.5 billion: Permanent marriage penalty relief;
  • $28.8 billion: Permanent extension of education and other family tax relief;
  • and $45.7 billion: Permanent extension of section 179 expensing for small businesses.
The House has not only voted to replace the defense ‘sequester’ and stop all of the tax hikes scheduled for January 1 -- Republicans have also outlined several balanced, bipartisan plans to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” Each of them would make needed spending cuts and reforms – including many supported by the president in the past – and could pass both the House and the Senate.

But the White House is still slow-walking us to the edge of the cliff, rejecting the GOP’s balanced plans and demanding ones that focus more on punishing small business owners than cutting spending. The threat of current tax rates expiring and hurting every taxpayer is too great to not take action. That’s why, as Speaker Boehner said today, the House will vote to "make permanent tax relief for nearly every American." Read more here.

Tags: Speaker Boehner, House Bill, Prevents Tax Hike, millions of Americans

Arkansas Delegation Endorses Priebus In Re-Election Bid For RNC Chairman

Little Rock, Ark. – Arkansas’ three-member delegation to the Republican National Committee (RNC) offered their support for the re-election of Chairman Reince Priebus today in an email to fellow members.

State GOP Chairman Doyle Webb, National Committeewoman Jonelle Fulmer and National Committeeman Rep. Jonathan Barnett specifically pointed to Priebus’ fundraising abilities, noting his work to reduce the RNC’s debt.

“During Reince’s first campaign for RNC Chairman, he promised to focus the majority of his time on raising money for the RNC so that we could eliminate over $24 million of debt that was hindering our committee’s operational integrity,” wrote Arkansas’ RNC members.  “A man of his word, Reince fulfilled his promise and went even further to break countless fundraising records.”

The letter also credited Priebus for “effectively delivering the Republican Party’s message” to the media and supporting the Arkansas Republican Party in their efforts to claim a majority in the state Legislature for the first time in 138 years.
Click here to read the full letter.

Tags: Arkansas, RPA, RNC Committee members, Doyle Webb, Jonelle Fulmer, Jonathan Barnett, endorsement, RNC Chair, Reince Preiebus

Taxing And Spending Too Much

Lt Gov. Mark Darr
by Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr: By now in the news, I’m sure you’re worn out from hearing the term “fiscal cliff”. This is the phrase used to describe what may happen in Washington if Congress and the White House don’t come to an agreement soon on whether to increase taxes, make spending cuts, or draft some sort of compromise budget plan.

I think it’s ridiculous what is going on in our nation’s capital. The simple fact is we are taxing too much and spending too much. At some point, it has to stop. President Ford said, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.” We now have a government trying to do both.

For the sake of our country, our leaders need to realize they are setting America up for failure. America’s greatness is not insured. We are not exempt from history. We need real leadership and real solutions because we have real problems. I hope that wisdom will prevail in these deliberations.
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Last week, I attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the planned expansion of the Millard-Henry Clinic in Russellville. Part of St. Mary’s Regional Hospital system, the Clinic has been serving patients in the River Valley since 1945. Serving over 130,000 people a year, their current facilities are about 40 years old and in need of updating as well as additional capacity. This new three-story facility, expected to take about a year to construct, will allow them to add staff and plan future expansion.

Once finished, it will be one of the largest multi-specialty clinics in Arkansas. The new clinic will house more than 30 physician practices including specialties in internal medicine, family practice, pediatrics, orthopedics, and general surgery as well as radiology and laboratory services. They are an excellent example of how private healthcare providers are seeking to improve care for the people of Arkansas. And, they have a great incentive program to attract and retain doctors, so that their needed talent and expertise will remain there in the community for years to come.

I was honored to take part in the groundbreaking. I was very impressed with the people who work there. Several doctors came to the microphone and said a prayer over the ground, the staff, and all of the patients who will be served there. It was a moving display of faith and compassion.
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Speaking of faith and compassion, Christmas is coming upon us next week. I love this time of year. It’s a time I greatly enjoy spending with my family and a time that enriches my faith. I know many of you are enjoying parades and light displays and holiday events all over the state. Many of you are also ringing bells for the Salvation Army and donating to food banks and toy drives and giving your time and treasure to your fellow Arkansans. Kim and I will be praying for you all this holiday season. We hope that God will bless you and your family and that you enjoy a time of peace. Merry Christmas!

Tags: Lt Governor, Mark Darr, Arkansas, Big Government, taxing, spending, too much, medical clinic, Russellville, Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

AG Dustin McDaniel Admits to Affair

. . . and he wants to be Governor. But does a Democrat affair even matter in Arkansas?  Former Arkansas AG then Governor and later POTUS Bill Clinton was notorious for his affairs in Little Rock and the White House up to and including allegations of rape.

Davis and McDaniel "Just Friends"
Photo Via FaceBook
We may not a change in 2014.  Below are extracts of the latest scoop on AG McDaniel via Channel 5 News:Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat and the only announced candidate for governor in 2014, admitted Tuesday that he had an inappropriate relationship with a Hot Springs attorney after court documents were filed alleging they had a sexual affair.

McDaniel, who has been married since June 2009, said he had a relationship with Andrea L. Davis, but would not offer details.

“With respect to Ms. Davis, I met her during the 2010 campaign. I had limited interaction with her in 2011, some of which I regret to say was inappropriate,” McDaniel said in a statement. . . .

McDaniel’s name surfaced in a custody dispute between Davis and her ex-husband in Garland County. McDaniel’s admission was first reported by the Talk Business website Tuesday. . . .

McDaniel announced in June that he would run for governor in 2014, and has already raised more than $1 million for his bid. Tricia Wallace, a spokeswoman for McDaniel, said he did not plan to drop out of the race due to Tuesday’s admission. . . .

The admission is a major setback for Democrats, who had hoped to rebound from an election this year where Republicans won control of the state Legislature for the first time in 138 years. The state GOP had targeted the governor’s race and Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor’s re-election bid as their top prizes in two years.
Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe is term-limited and cannot run for re-election in 2014.
Republicans stopped short of criticizing McDaniel, but indicated they viewed it as an issue in the governor’s race.

Tags: Arkansas, Attorney General, Dustin McDaniel, candidate, 2012, Governor, sexual affair, Andrea Davis

ICYMI: From the Front Lines to Capitol Hill [Tom Cotton]

A conversation with Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) & Congressman-elect Tom Cotton (R-AR); held at the 2012 FPI Forum at the Newseum in Washington DC on November 27.

Tags: Arkansas, Congressman-elect, Tom Cotton

Daily Kos: Senator Mark Pryor is "toast" in 2014

The editor for a social network (NING platform) called Saline247.Com out of Bryant, AR covering Saline County had the following interesting post:

The Daily Kos is a blog that that publishes news and opinions from a liberal Democrat point of view.

Less than a month after the 2012 elections, it has done a look at U.S. Senate race in 2014.

Here is the Daily KOS conclusion for Arkansas:

It’s never too soon to look at what the Senate holds for 2014.

Did the Dems build up enough of a cushion to insulate them in 2014, where they will be facing a similar-to-2012 20-13 difference in seats up for re-election?

Maybe.

DEMOCRATIC TOAST
Arkansas - Mark Pryor: Not even sure why he's bothering to run. Oh yeah - his opponent might talk about rape, so you never know.
With that kind of love from your friends, who needs enemies. Now we need an good candidate to elect to replace him.

Tags: Daily Kos, Arkansas, Mark Pryor, election 2014

Monday, December 17, 2012

Arkansas’ Six Presidential Electors Cast Votes For Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan

Little Rock, Ark. – Presidential Electors met today at the State Capitol for the 2012 Electoral College to cast Arkansas’ six votes for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

The six Presidential Electors were selected by the state Republican Party at their July 28 State Convention in Hot Springs. There are four Congressional District Electors and two At-Large Electors. The Congressional District Electors are Benny Speaks of Mountain Home, Chairman Doyle Webb of Benton, Robin Lundstrum of Springdale and Larry Bailey of Hot Springs 

At-Large Electors are Rep. Jonathan Barnett of Siloam Springs and Reta Hamilton of Bella Vista.

“It’s an honor and privilege to cast our vote on behalf of hardworking conservative Arkansans,” said State GOP Chairman Doyle Webb. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to participate in the Electoral College as it was established by our Founding Fathers.”

Rep. Jonathan Barnett, who is also the Arkansas National Committeeman on the Republican National Committee (RNC), served as Chairman of the 2012 Electoral College.

In November, Romney won nearly 61 percent of the vote in Arkansas, earning the state’s six Electoral College votes.

Tags: Arkansas. 2012 Electoral College, Republicans, cast votes, Mitt Romney

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Leading From The Front!

Julie Harris
by Julie Harris, President, Arkansas Federation Republican Women (AFRW): Looking back over the past year we have so much to be thankful for. Through hard work, the Republicans as a team changed the course of our state history. After 138 years of a Democratic stronghold, Republicans now hold 21 out of 35 seats in the Senate and 51 out of 100 seats in the House. We also elected Republican Congressmen in all four districts. Though the presidential race didn't go as we'd hoped, Arkansans overwhelmingly voted for Governor Romney. Even with these victories we still had disappointments throughout the state. It is clear there is more work to be done.

Looking ahead to 2014, we should use 2013 to build and prepare for the next election cycle. As we take our place as the majority party, we are sure to experience some growing pains; however, we must learn to lead from the front. As Condoleezza Rice said in Tampa, “we cannot be reluctant to lead and you cannot lead from behind.” We as Republican Women need to stay engaged and vocal throughout this upcoming session.

Many of us are concerned with our newly elected Republican Speaker Davy Carter’s choice to keep a former Democrat Speaker of the House Bill Stovall. Although Stovall was moved from Chief of Staff to a new position, it is my understanding that he will keep his $133,000 a year salary. We were further alarmed when Speaker Carter hired a former executive director of the state Democrat party, Gabe Holmstrom, as his Chief of Staff with another hefty salary. According to arkansasnews.com, at least two new positions have been created costing tax payers additional monies. We have the majority; let’s govern as the majority! I encourage you to do several things to remind Republicans to lead from the front.

1. Contact your Representative and ask them how they felt about the new hires.
2. Let them know how you feel.
3. If they are doing a good job representing and defending our Republican values remember to say, thank you. Be sure to let the rest of us know so we can thank them too.
4. Develop a good working relationship with your Representative and Senator, so that you can keep an open line of communication.

While it was by the authority of one person, the House Speaker, to hire House staff it is still important for folks back home to communicate with their representative, so that the representatives can effectively communicate with the speaker. Remember Arkansas’ motto, Regnat Populus (The people rule).

With all of that said, I know of at least one elected official that is sure to be on Santa’s “nice list,” and deserves a big thank you and a Christmas card from all of us. Our Secretary of State, Mark Martin, did a fantastic job with the recent Christmas Celebration, and he even featured our own Lieutenant Governor, Mark Darr singing the National Anthem. The SOS office hired a Santa and spent $400. The old Santa got mad, and went to the media. Nothing was said about the SOS saving $25,000 by putting the lights up themselves, and not hiring it out. $25,000 may not seem like a big cut, but every little bit helps, especially when they are dealing with taxpayer’s money!

Thank you all for your continued support of AFRW. I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tags: Arkansas, Republican women, AFRW,

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Boozman: Protecting the Rights of the Senate Minority

Senate Majority Leader Reid is proposing a rule change in the upper chamber that erases Senate precedence and the rights of the minority party. Senator Boozman discusses this power grab and his support for continuing current Senate rules.

Tags: Sen. John Boozman, US Senate, Senate rules, rules change

Monday, December 10, 2012

ICYMI: Arkansas Mention In Wall Street Journal Op-Ed

NOTE: "In Arkansas, by contrast, the Democratic Party barely exists. With the Clintons gone, it has no center, and Republicans have swept to power in only two years..."

North Carolina as the Blueprint for a Red-State Resurgence

With party unity, good candidates and an inclusive message, conservative campaigns can prosper

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, By Fred Barnes, December 8, 2012, Democrats across the country are celebrating the re-election of President Obama and the pickup of two seats in the Senate and eight in the House. But in two formerly Democratic states, Republicans have much to be joyful about.

The GOP victory in North Carolina included the governorship, veto-proof majorities in the state Senate and House, control of 54 of the state's 100 counties, three new U.S. House seats, and a pivotal seat on the state Supreme Court. All this lifted Mitt Romney to a narrow victory in a state that Mr. Obama won in 2008.

It is premature to declare North Carolina a reliably red state, but Republicans are "positioned to be the dominant party in North Carolina for at least a decade if not beyond," says GOP consultant Marc Rotterman.

The same is true in Arkansas, the second-best state for Republicans in last month's election. Both states offer Republicans an opportunity to unseat Democratic senators in 2014. In Arkansas, the GOP trend has moved so quickly that Sen. Mark Pryor, who had no Republican opponent in 2008, is now considered highly vulnerable. In North Carolina, Sen. Kay Hagen, when matched against an unspecified Republican challenger, led just 45%-41% in a Public Policy Polling survey last month. The last Democratic senator to win re-election in North Carolina was Sam Ervin in 1968.

Republicans in the Tar Heel State were unified, with all elements of the party, including social conservatives, engaged with the various campaigns. The GOP ticket was ideologically balanced, with moderate gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory at the top. The party, Republican campaigns, and GOP-oriented groups joined in a massive turnout operation. Republicans exploited every opening that Democrats gave them—and there were plenty.

The administration of incumbent Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue—though not Ms. Perdue personally—was marked by scandals. The John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank, uncovered numerous instances of misconduct and reported them in its publication, Carolina Journal. Gov. Perdue's job approval sank to 25%, making her the second-most unpopular governor in the country (behind Pat Quinn in Illinois).

That wasn't all. In 2007, Democratic House Speaker Jim Black was convicted of taking a $25,000 bribe. In 2009, the law license of Gov. Perdue's predecessor, Mike Easley, was suspended after his conviction on a campaign reporting violation, a felony. And this year, the state Democratic Party was hit by a sexual-harassment scandal.

"There was a culture of corruption because Democrats were in power for so long," says John Hood, president of the Locke Foundation. "And there were crooks."

The timing of these Democratic scandals was propitious for Republicans, who in 2010 captured the state legislature for the first time and earned the opportunity to reapportion legislative districts, also for the first time in the state's history. Republicans seized the moment, undoing more than a century of Democratic gerrymandering.

They forced the retirement of two Democrats in the U.S. House, Heath Shuler and Brad Miller, and helped cause the electoral defeat of a third, Larry Kissell. To improve GOP prospects, Republican incumbent Congressman Patrick McHenry agreed to have liberal Asheville shifted into his district. Having won his seat with 71% of votes in 2010, he still won re-election comfortably this year, 57%-43%.

The linchpin of the Republican sweep was Mr. McCrory, the gubernatorial aspirant. Mayor of Charlotte from 1995-2009, he lost a close contest for governor in 2008 but ran a nearly flawless race this time, significantly outspending his opponent and imposing his issues as the focus of the campaign. His message was simple: "We must fix North Carolina's broken economy and broken state government, and with new leadership we can bring about a Carolina comeback."

Given his reputation as a moderate, Mr. McCrory made a point of broadening his support by appealing to conservatives. He backed a voter ID law. More important, he endorsed an amendment on the ballot in the May primary that established traditional marriage as "the only domestic legal union" valid in the state. "You don't desert things like that," says Jack Hawke, Mr. McCrory's chief strategist. The amendment passed, 61%-39%.

The marriage issue energized evangelicals and social conservatives. "It kept them involved for the entire campaign," says Mr. Rotterman, the consultant. Mr. McCrory also overwhelmingly won independents, belying the notion that wooing social conservatives alienates others, independents especially.

Mr. Romney was a major beneficiary of the GOP success. Campaign buzz around a partial pullout of Obama operatives proved to be false, and in fact Mr. Obama expanded his North Carolina operation in the closing weeks, even dispatching Joe Biden and Bill Clinton to appear at rallies. The president likely would have won the state absent the boost that down-ticket Republicans gave Mr. Romney.

Now Mr. McCrory, the first Republican governor in two decades, must revive the state's economy, which has the nation's fifth-worst unemployment rate, at 9.3%. He wants to use tax reform to cut business and individual income taxes (top rate 7.75%) and tap the state's oil and natural-gas resources, all while overhauling state government. If he succeeds, he'll build a durable Republican majority.

Jensen, the director of Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling, says the Democratic Party in North Carolina is "broken" and leaderless. But former four-term Gov. Jim Hunt remains active and the party's longtime alliance with big business is weakened but not dead.

In Arkansas, by contrast, the Democratic Party barely exists. With the Clintons gone, it has no center, and Republicans have swept to power in only two years. In 2010, Republican John Boozman ousted Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln, 58%-37%. This year, Republicans took the state legislature and Tom Cotton, the star Republican freshman of the 2012 class, won the state's last Democratic-held seat in Congress. Mr. Romney won Arkansas by 25 points. Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe is term-limited and leaves office in 2014.

The lesson from the two states where Republicans did the best in 2012 are hardly new ones. Party unity matters. There is no substitute for good candidates. Broad-gauge, inclusive conservative campaigns tend to prosper. Simple as that.
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DISCLAIMER: The Republican Party of Arkansas provided the above article as a service to its employees, party officials and others. And this site provided it for "educational purposes" under the Fair Use Doctrine.

Tags: Arkansas, political changes, Wall Street Journal, Fred Barnes

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Rep. Crawford: Averting the Fiscal Cliff

Congressman Rick Crawford (AR-01): Christmas came to Washington this week with the lighting of the Capitol Christmas Tree. It was an honor to be at the lighting of the tree with my staff and their families.

My staff and I welcomed Eddie and Randy Dill and Terry and Brenda McKim from Cabot to Washington this week with a tour of the Capitol Building.  They met with me after taking a tour of the Capitol Building.

Averting the Fiscal Cliff
These days it is hard to avoid news about the so-called “fiscal cliff.” With any bit of good or bad information coming from negotiations the stock market reacts. Democratic and Republican pundits repeat well-scripted talking points about avoiding economically destructive tax increases and spending reductions that are set to kick-in at the end of the month.

Over the coming weeks it will be essential for Congress and the White House to reach a bipartisan agreement that will avert the fiscal cliff and will put America’s economy back on track. Failure is not an option. If nothing is done, across the board spending cuts will hurt senior citizens, middle class families, and every sector of our economy. Also, tax increases will put a huge burden on the backs of small business owners. However, it would be a mistake for Republicans to strike a deal that increases spending in exchange for higher taxes and the promise that we will cut spending down the road. If Republicans are going to strike a deal that raises taxes, then permanent spending controls have to be part of the deal. Anything else is a sham.

The real roots of our nation’s financial problems are ballooning deficits. For the last four years our budget deficit has been over $1 trillion. With our national debt now exceeding $16 trillion, we cannot reasonably expect to grow our economy without first addressing deficit spending.

It is critical to our Nation’s future that any legislation from the “fiscal cliff” negotiations includes a permanent limitation on the ability of Congress to spend money we do not have. At a time when the U.S. treasury borrows thirty-one cents of every dollar spent, America needs real reform that cannot be dodged, delayed, or punted to future Congresses. I have been a strong supporter of a Balanced Budget Amendment, or any constitutional amendment that permanently limits the ability of Congress to add to the Nation’s debt. A permanent, binding, spending cap is the only way to truly restore fiscal certainty to job creators, to the global marketplace, and most of all, to the American people.

In the coming weeks I will urge leaders of the House and the Senate seeking a solution to the fiscal cliff to include a permanent and long-term solution as part of any solution to the Nation’s spiraling debt. Middle class families, seniors from our Greatest Generation, and our children and grandchildren deserve a government focused on America’s long-term economic stability.

With each passing day Congress and the White House have less and less time to reach a compromise that will produce a long-term plan for avoiding tax hikes on small business owners and automatic spending cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare. Despite some predictions, I still believe a bipartisan deal can be reached that will include a permanent spending cap and ensure future generations of Americans are not burdened with debt.

Tags: Rep. Rick Crawford, averting fiscal cliff, Capitol Christmas tree, Arkansans visiting Washington, D.C.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Reps. Franks and Crawford Lead Coalition Seeking Balanced Budget Amendment in Fiscal Cliff Negotiations

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR-1st Dist)
Washington  - Reps. Trent Franks (AZ-02) and Rick Crawford (AR-01) led a coalition of House members urging House and Senate leaders to include a Balanced Budget Amendment as part of a deal to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the House members said, “We believe it is critical to our Nation’s future that any legislation from current ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations include a permanent limitation on the ability of Congress to spend money we don’t have. At a time when the U.S. treasury borrows thirty-one cents of every dollar spent, we need real reform that cannot be dodged, delayed, or punted to future Congresses.”

Rep. Franks said, "With every passing election, we hear continual, renewed promises that the federal government is going to stop kicking the can down the road and actually get serious about addressing a federal budget that can only accurately be deemed a crisis. A Balanced Budget Amendment -- which would Constitutionally mandate that our federal budgets be balanced -- is a simple, common-sense way to finally stop merely talking about fiscal responsibility and instead to take one of the only practical steps that can have such a meaningful impact on a fiscal crisis of this magnitude."

Rep. Crawford said, "Over the next few weeks it will be essential for Congress and the White House to reach an agreement that will avert the fiscal cliff and put America’s economy back on track. Failure is not an option,” said Crawford. “However, it would be a mistake to strike a deal that increases spending in exchange for higher taxes and the promise that we will cut spending down the road. If Republicans are going to strike a deal that raises taxes, then permanent spending controls have to be part of the deal.”

Click here to read the letter.

Tags: Trent Franks, Arizona, Rick Crawford, Arkansas, U.S House, coalition, Balance Budget Amendment, avert, fiscal cliff

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Senator Pryor Avoids Taking Position On Obama’s Fiscal Cliff Plan

“Senator Pryor is more concerned with his upcoming re-election bid than seriously working to solve our nation’s fiscal cliff crisis.” ~ Vasilos

Little Rock, Ark. – After U.S. Senator Mark Pryor took to the Twitterverse today to discuss averting the nation’s fiscal cliff, Arkansans were left wondering why the state’s senior Senator has refused to take a position on the President’s plan, claiming that “everything is on the table” and he is “waiting to see” what happens.

“Why are Senators Mark Pryor and Harry Reid slow-walking fiscal cliff negotiations at the expense of hardworking taxpayers?” asked Republican Party of Arkansas Communications Director Katherine Vasilos. “Clearly, Senator Pryor is more concerned with his upcoming re-election bid than seriously working to solve our nation’s fiscal cliff crisis. If Senator Pryor won’t endorse either the President’s or House Speaker Boehner’s plan, then he needs to stop skirting the issue and put forth his own proposal.”

The below tweets were questions the Republican Party of Arkansas asked Senator Pryor during his Twitter Townhall today:

  Senator Mark Pryor Avoids Taking Position On 's Plan
  Can you explain why haven't passed a budget in over three years?
  According to asking questions of elected officials is consider "badgering"


Instead Of Taking Position On Obama Fiscal Cliff Plan, Senator Pryor Claims “Everything Is On the Table”
“@ARGOP Everything is on the table. Ideas are still circulating. I want tax reform, entitlement reform, spending cuts.” (@SenMarkPryor, Prior's Twitter, 12/6/12)

Senator Pryor And Democrats Hide From Obama Fiscal Cliff Plan
“Senate Democratic centrists, whom Grover Norquist describes as the “hostages” in the tax debate, are lying low and keeping quiet about competing proposals from President Obama and House GOP leaders.” (Alexander Bolton, “Centrist Dems lying low on deficit negotiations to avoid 2014 backlash,” The Hill, 12/5/12)

Despite The President’s Already Public Plan, Senator Pryor “Waiting To See” What Happens On Fiscal Cliff Proposal
“’What I’m doing on all of those fiscal cliff-type issues is just waiting to see what package we put together,’ said Sen. Mark Pryor (D), who faces reelection in Republican-leaning Arkansas in 2014.” (Alexander Bolton, “Centrist Dems lying low on deficit negotiations to avoid 2014 backlash,” The Hill , 12/5/12)

Senator Pryor And Democrats “Slow-Walk” Fiscal Cliff Negotiations
“Democrats did not do much on Wednesday, adopting a deliberate strategy to slow-walk Republicans to the edge of the fiscal cliff in a belief that mounting pressure from within the GOP will force conservatives to fold on tax hikes.” (Chris Frates, “Democrats Stroll Toward Edge of Fiscal Cliff,” National Journal, 12/5/12)

Tags: U.S. Senator, Mark Pryor, democrat, Arkansas, Twitter, Town Hall, fiscal cliff, RPA, questions

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Rep. Griffin Seeks Cosponsors For The Employee Paycheck Protection Act

Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR-2nd Dist)
Washington - Rep. Tim Griffin (AR-02) is seeking co-sponsors for H.R. 6322, the Employee Paycheck Protection Act. The Act supports hardworking American taxpayers. If enacted, this bill would codify into law the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Knox v. SEIU which requires non-union members to be exempted from paying union dues unless they opt in. Specifically, the decision requires that “when a union imposes a special assessment or dues increase levied to meet expenses that were not disclosed when the regular assessment was set, it must provide a fresh notice and may not exact any funds from nonmembers without their affirmative consent.” Prior to this ruling, California law permitted public-sector employees in a collective bargaining unit to vote to create an arrangement under which all the employees are represented by a union. Even employees who do not join the union were required to pay an annual fee for the cost of union services. Further, union fees were subject to increases that would not require further notice for employees. This would simply codify the Supreme Court’s decision, ensuring that hardworking Americans have the necessary information to protect their paychecks from union fee increases and automatic extraction of their income for union fees.

Tags: Tim Griffin, U.S. House, Arkansas representative, sponsors, Employee Paycheck protection Act, H.R. 6322

Monday, December 3, 2012

Power Struggle Between Arkansas Supreme Court and State Legislature

Arkansas Corruption Risk Report Card
OVERALL GRADE 2012: D+
Bill Smith, Editor:  When considering the following news, note that until just a few years ago,  Arkansas judges  including Supreme Court judges were elected based on political parties and for years almost all judges filed as democrats and the filing fees were very large and funded the Arkansas Democratic Party. A few years ago, the Democrat Party faced with opposition in judicial elections by a growing number of Republican judicial candidates agreed to support the changing of judicial races to be nonpartisan.  With this shift in perspective, the legislative democrat majority  in the both houses of the State  legislature agreed to the change for judges races and stipulating that Judicial candidates now could not share their personal political viewpoints when campaigning.

Now, a few years later, as detailed below in the Capitol News, we note conservative sunlight being shined on plantation politics and the traditions and practices in operation in Arkansas government. In July, 2010, the editor of the ARRA News Service who had been focusing on Arkansas Plantation Politics also addressed the Traditions and Practices Costing Arkansas Taxpayers.

Now we find another of these situations.  After years of practices and traditions operating behind the closed doors of plantation politics, the chickens are coming home to roost. The situation below should be a no brainier for the Supreme Court. They should yield to transparency! Also, the Arkansas Supreme Court being in charge of setting license fees and then pressing Arkansas attorney's for those license fees and then using these fees to fund whatever operations they wish leave even the common man with distaste for this situation. Why is a supposed impartial Supreme Court system even involved in the tawdry aspect of licensing and collecting fees from all Arkansas attorneys considering the fact that they may eventually appear before them with legal issues to be settled? It seems a wall of separation should exist. More detailed info is in the following "Capitol News" report.
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Arkansas State Senator Cecile Bledsoe, Capitol News: LITTLE ROCK – What is taught in civics class doesn’t always reflect what happens in the real world of politics.

However, a dispute last week at the state Capitol could have come directly from the pages of a high school civics textbook.

It occurred during legislative budget hearings. Senators and representatives on the Legislative Council and the Joint Budget Committee were considering a spending request by the state Supreme Court. The chief justice of the Supreme Court presented the budget request to legislators.

For decades, in the days before the start of regular legislative sessions the court had made similar budget requests to legislators. For decades the legislature had listened to the budget requests and signed off on them after making a few modifications.

But this year legislative auditors brought to the attention of the legislature a practice that has been going on for years under the radar, figuratively speaking. The Supreme Court has been collecting license fees from all attorneys in Arkansas and using the revenue to pay a staff that regulates the practice of law. The court sets their salaries and has even created a retirement system for those employees.
This practice raised questions among legislators who are versed in the Constitution and remember the lessons they learned in civics about the separation of powers between the legislative, the executive and the judicial branches of government.

Article 16, Section 4, of the state Constitution says “The General Assembly shall fix the salaries and fees of all officers of the State.” It also says that “the numbers and salaries of the clerks and employees of the different departments of the State shall be fixed by law.”

Civics teachers often describe legislative authority to appropriate tax revenue as the “power of the purse strings.”

Therefore it came as an surprise to many legislators to learn that the court has been levying fees and basically appropriating the revenue to staff an office that the court created. The legislature has never enacted an appropriation for the 15 court employees in question. They mostly work in jobs that regulate the legal profession and enforce professional standards of conduct for attorneys.

The chief justice based the court’s practice on a 40-year-old interpretation of Amendment 28 to the state Constitution, which authorizes the court to regulate the practice of law and the conduct of attorneys. That 40-year-old decision does not reference Article 16, Section 4, of the Constitution.

All sides agree that it would be necessary for an Arkansas citizen to file a lawsuit in order to reach a conclusive resolution of the disagreement, and to reconcile the provisions of Amendment 28 and Article 16, Section 4 of the Constitution.

Presumably, if such a lawsuit were filed, the seven justices of the Supreme Court would step down to prevent the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Practical-minded leaders of the legislature don’t relish the idea of a lawsuit, which would be lengthy and expensive. They hope that negotiations conducted by reasonable people will result in a satisfactory outcome, some time before the final day of the 2013 legislative session.

Tags: Arkansas, Capitol News, power struggle, Arkansas, State Supreme Court, legislature, funds, state auditor, Arkansas State Corruption Risk, report card

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Rep. Tim Griffin Won't Run Against Sen. Mark Pryor

The Hill reports that: Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) won't challenge Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) or run for governor in 2014, he said on Friday.

"I'm not going to run for Senate and I'm not going to run for governor. I'd like to put those rumors to rest,” Griffin told a local newspaper, citing his recent appointment to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. "I'm very honored and excited about this opportunity. I look forward to the work we have to do and I want to be unequivocal that I'll be focused on Ways and Means in the House."

Griffin had been one of a handful of Arkansas Republicans thought to be interested in challenging Pryor, who faces reelection in the heavily conservative and Republican-trending state. . . . [Read More]

Tags: Arkansas, 2014, US Senate, Mark Pryor, Rep. Tim Griffin

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Arkansas GOP Elects 2013-2014 State Party Officers

Bill Smith, Editor: Doyle Webb is to be commended for many reasons but in particular  for his a four year plan for Republicans to gain control of the State legislature in 2012.  He recruited good conservative candidates, supported them and promoted them.  He worked that plan continuously and established a good communication with the Republicans in Arkansas supported by a dedicated staff including among others Katherine Vasilos.    Webb remains the right person to lead Arkansas Republicans and all conservatives to gain majority control of the State Constitutional officers including the Governor's office in 2014. The other elected RPA officers are also congratulated with special attention to Duane Neal who has been a leader of conservatives in the state  through several organization in Arkansas including the Arkansas Republican Assembly.
Hot Springs, Ark. – Arkansas Republicans elected five party officers at their Winter State Committee Meeting today in Hot Springs. 
 
Doyle Webb
Two hundred and thirty eight voting members cast their ballots to re-elect Doyle Webb of Benton to serve an unprecedented third term as Chairman of the State GOP. Webb was first elected in 2008.
 
In a contested race for First Vice Chairman, Duane Neal of Bentonville was re-elected. For the remaining offices, Robin Lundstrum of Springdale was re-elected Second Vice Chairman, John Parke of Little Rock will serve again as Treasurer and Jennifer Parks of El Dorado as Secretary. 
 
State Republican Party officers may serve up to four consecutive two-year terms.

Tags: Arkansas, Republican Party, GOP, election,State officers, Doyle Webb, Duane Neal, John Parke, Jennifer Parks