Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hill Offers Amendment to Stop Funding for Wasteful VA Solar Panel Projects

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) website, the VA has over 40 renewable energy projects, some dating back to 2010, that are not operational. Included in these, was an $8 million project to install solar panels at the Little Rock VA Medical Center which were never turned on and are already being deconstructed.

Hill offered the amendment as a follow up to Sen. John Boozman’s (R-AR) and his request to the VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to investigate the VA’s Renewable Energy Program. After Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chairman Charlie Dent (R-PA) offered to assist with Rep. Hill’s and Sen. Boozman’s call for an OIG investigation, Rep. Hill withdrew his amendment.

Hill said, “It is essential that we ensure accountability and transparency when utilizing precious taxpayer dollars to support these government projects. Many questions remain unanswered about the project in Little Rock and similar projects throughout the country, and I am pleased that the Committee is willing to work with me to ensure additional oversight from Congress.”

Tags: U.S. Rep, French Hill, AR-02, amendment, stop funding, Wasteful, VA Solar Panel Projects To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Arkansas: Legislature Adjourns Having Passed Multiple Pro-Gun Measures

by NRA-ILA: Last week, on April 22, the Arkansas General Assembly adjourned Sine Die. The 2015 legislative session was a success with the General Assembly taking many steps to support and respect your Second Amendment rights. The following eight important pro-gun measures passed and have been signed into law by Governor Asa Hutchinson (R):

Senate Bill 159, introduced by Senator Linda Collins-Smith (R-19), has been codified into law as Act 1259. Act 1259 removes the absolute prohibition on carrying a concealed firearm into a county courthouse for employees who have a concealed handgun license. SB 159 received final passage in the Arkansas House of Representatives by a 74 to 3 vote on April 1, after passing in the Arkansas Senate on March 24 by a 33 to 1 vote. Governor Hutchinson signed SB 159 into law on April 9.

Senate Bill 612, introduced by state Senator Jon Woods (R-7), has been codified into law as Act 649. Act 649 removes the restriction on law-abiding, permanent U.S. residents who are not citizens from obtaining an Arkansas concealed handgun license. SB 612 passed in the House of Representatives on March 17 by a 79-1 vote after passing in the state Senate by a 26-3 vote on March 9. Governor Hutchinson signed SB 612 into law on March 25.

House Bill 1190, introduced by state Representative Kim Hammer (R-28), has been codified into law as Act 105. Act 105 removes the restriction on obtaining a concealed carry permit from those Arkansas residents between the ages of 18 and 21 who are active members of the United States Armed Forces, members of the National Guard or a reserve component of the US Armed Forces, and former members of the US Armed Forces who have been honorably discharged. HB 1190 was passed by the House of Representatives on February 9 unanimously and passed unanimously by the Senate on February 17. Governor Hutchinson signed HB 1190 into law on February 19.

House Bill 1240, introduced by state Representative Dwight Tosh (R-52), has been codified into law as Act 1073. Act 1073 strengthens the civil immunity statute to protect a person from civil damages stemming from an incident when he or she lawfully uses deadly physical force in self-defense or in defense of another person. On March 31, the House unanimously concurred with the Senate’s changes to HB 1240 after the Senate passed HB 1240 on March 27 by a 26 to 2 vote. HB 1240 originally passed in the House unanimously on March 17. Governor Hutchinson signed HB 1240 into law on April 6.

House Bill 1372, introduced by state Representative David Meeks (R-70), has been codified into law as Act 933. Act 933 removes the absolute prohibition on carrying a concealed firearm on school property for private K-12 schools and allows those schools to establish policies regarding the scope of who may carry a concealed firearm on school property. HB passed in the Arkansas Senate by a 32-1 vote on March 26, after passing in the House on March 13 by a 80-2 vote. Governor Hutchinson signed HB 1372 into law on April 2.

House Bill 1432, introduced by state Representative Jeff Wardlaw (D-8), has been codified into law as Act 1175. Act 1175 removes the absolute prohibition on concealed handgun license (CHL) holders carrying their concealed handgun onto the property of any polling place. Those property owners who still wish to prohibit CHL holders from lawfully carrying firearms at polling places on property under their control will still be permitted to post their property. HB 1432 passed in the Senate by a 26-4 vote on March 31, after passing in the House by a 73 to 17 vote. Governor Hutchinson signed HB 1432 into law on April 7.

House Bill 1488, introduced by state Representative Tim Lemons (R-43), has been codified into law as Act 720. Act 720 requires the chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) of a jurisdiction to certify the transfer or making of a firearm, as required by the National Firearms Act, within 15 days if the person is not prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm by law. Act 720 also establishes that an applicant may appeal a denial to the circuit court. HB 1432 passed in the Senate unanimously on March 23, after passing in the House unanimously. Governor Hutchinson signed HB 148 into law on March 30.

House Bill 1505, introduced by state Representative Michelle Gray (R-62), has been codified into law as Act 1078. Act 1078 removes the prohibition on having a firearm in a vehicle while in certain public parking lots for individuals with a concealed handgun license. The House unanimously concurred with the Senate’s change to HB 1505 on March 31 after the Senate passed HB 1505 on March 27 by a 33 to 1 vote. HB 1505 originally passed in the House on March 12 by a 68 to 9 vote. Governor Hutchinson signed HB 1505 into law on April 6.

NRA would like to thank our members and Second Amendment supporters who contacted their elected officials in support of these important laws for helping make the 2015 legislative session a success.

Tags: NRA_ILA, Arkansas, Successful Year, legislature, passed, pr-gun measures To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

ICYMI: Arkansas Delegation Honors JPH on House Floor

John Paul Hammerschmidt (R-AR)
Img Via Wikipedia
Hammerschmidt served for 13 terms in the
U.S. House from N.W. Arkansas district before
he retired in 1993.  In 1974, a nationally
Democratic year, he defeated then 28-year-old
future President Bill Clinton.  He was also the
the first Republican elected to the U.S.
House from Arkansas since Reconstruction.
WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, April 28, 2015, Representatives Rick Crawford (R-AR-1), French Hill (R-AR-2), Steve Womack (R-AR-3), and Bruce Westerman (R-AR-4) paid tribute to former U.S. Representative John Paul Hammerschmidt (R-AR-3; 1967-1993) and observed a moment of silence in his honor on the House Floor. Hammerschmidt passed away on April 1, 2015, at the age of 92.


Tags: Arkansas, Congresional delegation, on floor of House, honors, former Rep. John Paul Hammerschmitt, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Governor Hutchinson Names Members to Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson names members to the Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force as directed by the Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2015, or Act 895, of the regular session. The task force will meet for the first time on Thursday, April 30th at 10:00 a.m. The meeting will take place in the Big Mac Building behind the state Capitol. Members are as follows:
Judge Gary Arnold, Specialty Court Judge
Judge Cristi Beaumont, Specialty Court Judge
Sheriff Tim Helder, Washington County Sheriff
Ken Casady, Saline County Prosecuting Attorney
Chief Kent Buckner, City of Little Rock Police Chief
Steve Newsome, LCSW, President/CEO of Counseling Asso. Inc., Medicaid Provider
Robin Raveendran, Medicaid Provider
John Wesley Hall, Attorney, At-Large Member
Tjuana Byrd, Attorney, At-Large Member

Drew Baker, Business Proprietor, At-Large Member
Senator Jeremy Hutchinson, Senate Judiciary Chairman
Representative Matthew Shepherd, House of Representatives Judiciary Chairman
Benny Magness, Chairman, AR Board of Corrections
John Felts, Chairman, AR Parole Board
Wendy Kelley, Director, Department of Corrections
Sheila Sharp, Director, Arkansas Community Corrections

*Both the Senate president pro tem and the House speaker will also have an appointee.

Tags: Arkansas, Governor, Names members, Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight task-force To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Rewriting History: Remembering the Sultana Disaster

by U.S. Rep Rick Crawford (R-01): The only difference between events that become history and experiences that fade beyond memory is that some are recorded and remain in our culture’s collective consciousness, while the others do not. But that fact does not mean that the unremembered stories are any less a part of our nation’s past. Unfortunately, chance and timing often determine our historical narrative instead of an event’s significance.

But that hasn't stopped local Marion residents from trying to change, or add to, their town's history. Currently, several of the town's citizens are telling a powerful story that was originally more or less forgotten, and left in the shadows of the past.

By April 9th, 1865, the Civil War was over. Soldiers were heading home to their families, and some of those soldiers were onboard the steamship Sultana. On April 27th, 1865, in the dead of night and passing through the river channel near Memphis, the ship's boilers exploded. The burning ship floated towards the Arkansas side of the Mississippi river near Marion. Almost everyone on board lost their lives. To make matters worse, the boat was severely overcrowded. Made for carrying around 400 people, the Sultana was packed by more than two thousand passengers. Adding insult to injury, almost all of the passengers were recently released Union soldiers heading home after long stays in southern prison camps. Ship ablaze, the soldiers not immediately killed jumped into the river to try and swim ashore.

Because communication systems in the South at the time were severely limited during the war, many Southerners did not yet know the war was over, and according to the oral history passed down by local residents and Memphians, several of the passengers who managed to survive the explosion and the river current were shot. But other locals rushed to the victims' aide regardless, some using logs to float out into the river to collect bodies and survivors (they used logs because the Union had confiscated most boats in the area). In the end, it is estimated that about 1,800 of the original passengers were killed, about 70% of those onboard.

Overshadowed in the news by the recent assassination of President Lincoln and largely ignored by a war-weary populace, coverage of the disaster in the news was very low despite it being the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history, with more lives lost than even the Titanic. The event did of course receive some coverage.The New York Times ran a story covering the disaster, stating "The hospitals, military and citizens of Memphis deserve great praise for their great exertions in behalf of the rescued." But through the years the tragedy was largely forgotten, until now.

Several passionate local Marion residents are determined to add more cloth to the fabric of the town's history by speaking out about the importance of the event, and have even opened a museum filled to the brim with local artifacts, like a piece of the boiler found in a Marion soybean field. The rest of the ship is located right outside of town.

The museum also contains a scaled-down replica of the Sultana, lists of all the soldiers' names aboard the vessel, the history of the boat before the disaster, and other items found through the years. Some of the more unusual items in the museum are the small stuffed alligators. Lisa O'Neal, a member of the Marion Chamber of Commerce and a lead advocate for the museum and history of the event, explained that onboard the Sultana was a pet alligator named Sal, who was cherished by the passengers and crew. During the disaster, many passengers were very concerned about Sal's survival and safety. For that reason, the museum pays tribute to the alligator's role in the event with much smaller, less dangerous, and stuffed toys made in Sal's image.

On Friday, April 24th, more than 200 people from around the country (some of them descendants of survivors) and flew into Memphis and drove across the bridge to Marion in order to celebrate the museum and draw attention to the event's significance. Locals and the travelers enjoyed reenactments of an army camp, refreshments, several guest speakers, and of course the museum. Later in the weekend, many of the folks who have gathered in the area for the event will take a boat-ride to the place in the river where the Sultana sank and will honor the memory of all those lost that night by dropping a grapevine wreath into the water.

As more people visit the museum and learn about the Sultana disaster, the tragedy will finally have a place in our collective history and heritage that it earned a long time ago.

Tags: Arkansas History, remembering, Sultana, steamboat, explodes, 1800 people killed, Disaster, Rick Crawford, Us Rep, Dist 1, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Demanding Responsibility at the Veterans Administration

by Senator John Boozman: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been working to reestablish its trust with veterans and taxpayers. However, additional issues that are significantly undermining the public’s trust in VA, especially its commitment to be being good stewards of taxpayer dollars, continue to arise.

Here's a perfect example.

Little Rock's Veterans Affairs Medical Center received an $8 million grant to build solar panels, but since construction was completed in 2013, they were never activated because they were not compatible with the local electricity grid. In addition, these solar panels were knowingly built in a location that conflicted with another construction project and it was known that the solar panels would have to be torn down and relocated.

Congressman French Hill and I called for an investigation into the due diligence failures that led to this and find out why VA proceeded forward with the project. On Tuesday, I asked the Secretary of Veterans Affairs why this was allowed to happen and what’s being done to prevent this abuse of taxpayer dollars.
I also requested that the Secretary provide vigorous oversight to the problems facing hospitals across the country, including in Arkansas. Our state has 75 hospitals with 4,400 claims pending with VA, worth a total of $24 million. That’s why my office hosted a conference with VA officials and Arkansas health providers. VA admits this is a problem it’s working to resolve but it requires a certain level of involvement by the Secretary.

These are among the many serious trust issues at VA. If the public can’t trust VA to use taxpayer money wisely, Americans will lose faith. If VA refuses to meet its obligations to providers, veterans will lose service. These problems require an immediate course correction on VA’s part and I am committed to holding it accountable.

Tags: Senator John Boozman, demanding responsibility, Veterans Administration, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

CONSUMER ALERT: Disposing of Unused or Expired Prescription Medications

LITTLE ROCK – Many Arkansans have unused or expired prescription medications because they are unsure of how to properly dispose of them.

Common disposal mistakes include flushing medication down the toilet, crushing pills or throwing them in the trash. All of these methods pose serious health and safety hazards. The safest disposal method is to give the medication to law enforcement at Arkansas’s Take Back Day on Saturday, April 25.

More than 130 police stations and community centers across the State are providing a safe disposal option with secure drop boxes or staffing stations for Arkansans to discard unwanted and expired medication with no questions asked. The medications will be taken to an off-site location and disposed of safely by law enforcement.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate Arkansans about the dangers of unused prescription drugs and proper prescription drug disposal methods available to clear out their medicine cabinets and drawers.

“Take Back Day is an important initiative to make our communities safer,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This innovative program not only prevents children from getting their hands on medication that could be harmful and even deadly, but also prevents the chemicals from contaminating waterways and soil if disposed of improperly.”

Medications can be very harmful, even if expired, because they are still chemically active. If the prescription drugs are merely left in medicine cabinets or thrown away, they can be accessed or abused by children or adults, possibly resulting in hospitalization or death.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, nearly 5 million pounds of prescription medications have been taken out of circulation through Take Back events nationally including over sixty-two tons of that amount were medications disposed of through Arkansas’s Take Back events, which began in 2010.

This year’s event is sponsored by the Attorney General’s Office, the office of the Arkansas Drug Director, both Arkansas United States Attorney’s Offices, the Arkansas National Guard, Arkansas Rotary Clubs, Arkansas Department of Health and 170 agencies that make up the Arkansas Prescription Drug Coalition.

A complete list of collection sites for the 2015 Take Back Day, as well as permanent, year-round collection sites, is available at artakeback.org. Take Back sites will be open for collections from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 25. Law enforcement officials at the sites will be collecting prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, pet medicines, medicated ointments and lotions, inhalers, liquid medicines in glass or leak-proof containers, and medicine samples.

For consumer-related questions, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (800) 482-8982.
About Attorney General Leslie Rutledge
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Leslie Carol Rutledge is the 56th Attorney General of Arkansas. Elected on Nov. 4, 2014, she is the first woman and first Republican in Arkansas history to be elected to the office.

Tags: Arkansas, Attorney General, Leslie Rutledge, consumer alert, disposal, unused, expired prescription medication To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Boozman Statement on Loretta Lynch Confirmation Vote

Loretta Lynch Confirmed by Vote of 56-43
Editor's Note: Both Arkansas U.S. Senators: John Boozman and Tim Cotton, voted against confirming Loretta Lynch of U.S. Attorney General.  She was confirmed with several Republicans voting with Democrats to Confirm her nomination.
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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after the Senate voted to confirm Loretta Lynch to be the next Attorney General of the United States:

“I voted against the confirmation of Loretta Lynch because she has offered her unequivocal support for the President’s unconstitutional actions, including his attempt to offer amnesty to illegal immigrants and his efforts to erode the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.

While many believe her to be well qualified for the position, given the controversial actions and policies that have defined the tenure of Attorney General Eric Holder, I believe it would be irresponsible to confirm a successor whose approach is virtually indistinguishable from her predecessor.”

Tags: ISen. John Boozman, Loretta Lynch, nomination, U.S. Attorney General To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Supports Buffalo River Watershed Moratorium

LITTLE ROCK – Today Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that he supports reinstating a 180-day moratorium on issuing permits for medium and large scale animal-feeding operations in the Buffalo River watershed.

Governor Hutchinson issued the following statement:
“I think the public will understand the need to reinstate a 180-day moratorium on issuing permits for medium to large scale animal-feeding operations in the Buffalo River watershed to allow proposed rulemaking process to be completed.  In addition, a five-year sunset clause for rulemaking is appropriate and will provide a needed deadline for action. This way, there is time for the University of Arkansas to complete its independent study to determine any impact of current feeding operations on the watershed.

“Science and facts will drive our future decisions. In the meantime, we’ll do everything we can to protect the watershed while the facts are collected.”

Tags: Arkansas, Governor, Asa Hutchinson, Buffalo River watershed, moratorium, medium and large, animal-feeding operations,  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Common Core Review Hearings And Listening Tour Kicks Off

LITTLE ROCK – The first hearing and listening tour session for the Governor’s Council on Common Core Review will take place on Thursday.

WHAT:            Governor’s Council on Common Core Review will host the first Little Rock hearing and listening tour session.

WHEN:            Thursday, April 23, 2015
             Hearing: 8:00AM – 4:30PM
             Listening Tour Session: 5:00PM – 7:00PM

WHERE:        Hearing:
Arkansas State Capitol
                      Old Supreme Court
500 Woodlane St, Little Rock, AR 72201

Listening Tour Session:
Pulaski Technical College Little Rock-South
Transportation Technology Center, The Community Room
13000 Interstate 30, Little Rock, AR 72210

Hearing Panelists
Panel #1:
1   Deborah Jones, Ed.D.: Assistant Commissioner, Learning Services, Arkansas Dept of Education
2   Stacy Smith: Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Learning Services, Arkansas Deptof Education
3   Tom Kimbrell, Ed.D.: Superintendent, Bryant School District

Panel #2:
     Clara Carroll, Ed.D., NBCT: Professor of Education, Assistant Dean, College of Education, Chair of Graduate Studies in Education, Harding University
     Jason Endacott, Ph.D.: Assistant Professor of Secondary Social Studies Education, Dept of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Arkansas
     Chasidy White: 2015 State of Alabama History Teacher of the Year, Brookwood Middle School, Alabama

Panel #3:
     Michele Linch, Ph.D.: Executive Director, Arkansas State Teachers Association
     Ouida Newton: 2015 Arkansas Teacher of the Year, Poyen High School
3   Ken James, Ed.D.: President, Arkansas Advanced Initiative for Math and Science

Panel #4:
     Sarah McKenzie, Ph.D.: Executive Director, Office of Education Policy, University of Arkansas
2   Gary Ritter, Ph.D.: Endowed Chair in Education Policy, University of Arkansas

We are live streaming all hearings. To view the live stream please visit our website and click on the Video Gallery at the bottom or you may visit our YouTube page

All listening tour sessions will be lived streamed via Google+.

We are video recording all hearings and plan to post them to our website.

Tags: Arkansas, Common Core, review hearings, listening tour, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Boozman, Heitkamp Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand U.S. Agricultural Exports to Cuba

New Bill Would Enable U.S. Exporters to Access Credit from Private Banks & Companies
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) today introduced a bipartisan bill to help support and improve the export of American agricultural commodities to Cuba.
The number one barrier that farmers and agricultural exporters in Arkansas, North Dakota and across the country have faced when trying to export to Cuba is a prohibition against providing lines of credit. Current law prohibits any kind of financing of exports to Cuba and requires cash payment up front, essentially preventing farmers and ranchers from being able to ship their products to Cuba. Boozman and Heitkamp introduced the bipartisan Agricultural Export Expansion Act, which would change a provision in current law, lift the ban on private banks and companies from offering credit for agricultural exports to Cuba, and help level the playing field for U.S. farmers and exporters. The bill was also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).
“Arkansas farmers are in a good position to benefit from exporting agricultural commodities to Cuba. But as was reiterated at yesterday’s Agriculture Committee hearing, farmers face significant commercial barriers when trading with Cuba. Cuba represents a remarkable opportunity for American farmers, and it’s also an opportunity for Cubans to gain access to safe, affordable, and high quality agriculture products from the United States,” Boozman said. “Increased trade and travel with Cuba will expose Cubans to American values and ideals. It is far more effective to have an open line of communication and a working relationship with governments in need of democratic assistance, rather than shut them out. ”
“While farmers in North Dakota and all across the country dedicate their lives to feeding folks around the world, we have to make sure our producers have the opportunities they need to get their products to market,” said Heitkamp. “The biggest obstacle in that effort involves private companies and banks not being able to provide credit to export agricultural commodities to Cuba, where these crops are in high demand. Especially in light of our country’s new policy toward Cuba, there isn’t any reason why Cuba should buy its black beans, peas, and lentils from Canada instead of North Dakota. When I was in Cuba last year, I spoke with top Cuban agriculture officials who would like to be able to access our products – so let’s make that happen. Our bill would enable North Dakota exporters to more easily enter the Cuban market, boosting our economy and communities right here at home.”
Since his time in the U.S. House of Representatives, Boozman has been supportive of efforts to end the embargo of U.S. agriculture exports to Cuba, relax the travel ban and loosen monetary restrictions. He has advocated policy changes to create new opportunities for Arkansas’s farmers and small businesses while pushing for human rights and democratic change in Cuba. Earlier this year, Boozman joined with Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to introduce the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015 which aims to legislatively address the administration’s proposal to loosen travel restrictions to Cuba and remove restrictions on banking transactions incidental to travel.

For more than a year, Heitkamp has pushed to improve agricultural export opportunities to Cuba and make it easier for farmers to sell their crops – particularly pulse crops grown in North Dakota – to this high-demand market. In February 2014, Heitkamp visited Cuba with U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and met with Cuban agricultural trade officials, including Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, to discuss the bilateral economic benefits of expanding agricultural exports from North Dakota to Cuba. Last December, Heitkamp highlighted how federal action that was taken would help support agricultural exports for North Dakota farmers. And yesterday, Heitkamp reinforced the need to expand U.S. agricultural export opportunities to Cuba during a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing. North Dakota is the 9th largest agriculture exporting state in the country, with an estimated $4.1 billion in commodities sold each year in foreign markets. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Dakota agricultural exports support about 27,000 jobs.

Tags: Sen. John Boozman, Arkansas, bipartisan legislation, Agriculture exports, expand exports, to Cuba To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Governor Launches New Website; Highlights Entire State

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson has launched a new website for governor.arkansas.gov. This new site design is intended to reach beyond the Little Rock bubble and into the homes and offices of all Arkansans. It features all areas of our great state and highlights Governor Hutchinson’s focus on job creation, economic development, computer science, and a whole lot more. 

Governor Hutchinson released the following statement:

“Welcome to our new website. That is, welcome to your website. Our ultimate goal in launching this new site is to create an accessible, functional and fun way for all Arkansans to keep track of what we’re doing, where we’re going and how we’re getting there. By being ‘place-based,’ you’ll know when I’m coming your way, and our growing database of Natural State photographs — many submitted by Arkansans — highlight cities and towns from every region. Thank you for stopping by, and I hope to see you again and again.”

WEBSITE HIGHLIGHTS:
·         GEOLOCATION – When you log on, this new site will establish your location and, in turn, provide a local feel, including the name and photo of that location. To change the location, click on the city and start typing.
·         PHOTOS – Nearly every photo you see on this website was provided by an Arkansan who lives in that specified area.
·         METRICS – The four blue circles at the top of the homepage keep track of Governor Hutchinson’s “Promises Kept.” These metrics will update on a regular basis and switch in and out from time to time. At this time, the four metrics are: “Taxes Cut,” “Jobs Created,” “Businesses Created or Expanded,” and “Promises Kept.” Each metric is clickable and takes viewers to a specific page.
·         “PROMISES KEPT” – This page measures the promises made by the Governor. They are broken down into: GREEN (“Completed”); YELLOW (“Completed, Ongoing”); or BLUE (“In Process”). Most promises lead to a specific page.
·         LIVE TILES – In the middle of the homepage you will find the “live tiles” section where specific content will be highlighted. Use the arrows to the left and right of the tiles to navigate through the highlighted content.
·         MENU – Click the menu icon (some know it as the “hamburger”) in the top right corner for all other content, including: “Our Office” (Boards & Commissions, Proclamations, Executive Orders), “Online Services” (Scheduling Requests, Proclamations Requests, State Seal Use Form, Internship Application, Citizen Alerts, Flag Status, etc.), “Contact Us” and Social Media links.
·         “ASA ON THE ROAD” – When activated, this interactive map at the bottom of the homepage shows you where Governor Hutchinson is going to be (GREEN), where he’s been (RED) and your location (BLUE).
·         COMPUTER SCIENCE INITIATIVE – This portion of the site is a one-of-a-kind, fully interactive page focusing on the Governor’s computer science initiative. There’s information, videos, computer coding games, resources, etc.

·         “ASA & SUSAN” – This is a unique – yet simple – take on the typical “About” section. Considering that the Governor and First Lady have been married for 41 years, it’s fitting that this tile takes you to a page featuring the two of them. This page will develop over time. In the meantime, feel free to click on the “More About Asa” or “More About Susan” link to get to their full, individual bio pages. 

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

Media Bashes GOP Representative - Grants Sainthood To Liberal

Debbie Pelley
by Debbie Pelley: Recently in the Jonesboro Sun Waylon Harris excoriated in typical media style a freshman Republican representative and applauded an ultra-liberal state senator by using a mild squabble when compared to shenanigans that happen daily at the legislature.1

The controversial senator, Joyce Elliott, granted sainthood in the article, is probably the most liberal legislator in Little Rock. Is it any wonder the media used some episode to praise her! Even noted liberal John Brummett, in suggesting Elliott was too liberal to run for Congressman Vic Snyder's position in 2010, said Elliott was "an unapologetic liberal" and wore an "ACLU card on her sleeve." 2

In 2005 Elliott "complained that the prayer given each day in the House is limited to Christianity," 3 and sponsored a "hate crimes" bill that would've enhanced penalties for crimes against certain groups and basically made gays a protected class. "Elliott's bill was defeated "partly because some black male ministers testified against it...because gays were included." 4

Elliot is also a zealous promoter of illegal immigration in Arkansas, sponsoring the failed "Dream Act" bills in 2005 and 2009. 5

A fervent supporter of Common Core, Elliott actually sponsored the evaluation law, Act 709 of 2013 that forces teachers to use Common Core methods.6;  7

The Democrat Gazette wrote a scathing article about Senator Elliott's shameful ethics: "Joyce Elliott was just warming up when she called her opponent 'crooked.' Her campaign flier also claims he 'wants a new 23 [percent] sales tax on everything we buy, including groceries, gas, and medicine...Asked how she could justify her charges, she said, 'What is said about politicians is fair game, and if it’s not true and you can disprove it, then you disprove it.'” 8

Elliott showed the same ethics as Harry Reid in falsely saying Mitt Romney hadn't paid taxes for almost a decade.

Elliott received the 2nd highest overall score from the ultra-liberal Arkansas Citizens First Congress, proclaiming as their first major accomplishment of 2013 the passage of the Private Option, saying, "Arkansas became the first, and only, Southern state to expand health care under the federal Affordable Care Act, extending coverage to over 250,000 Arkansans!" 9; 10

Freshman GOP Representative Brandt Smith was one of 16 who kept his word and voted against SB96that extends the Private Option through 2016 and will probably cover the same population (250,000) indefinitely. Brandt Smith would have voted opposite Senator Elliott in the other areas covered above. No wonder the liberals are after him. 11
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Documentation:  Original Links may not be available without subscription or may be archived.
1.  Newspaper editorial:  Jonesboro Sun  "Lawmaker's reckless action speak volumes of this session." By Waylon Harris April 3, 2015 
2.  "Democrats need a Shane or a Robbie" by John Brummett, January 19, 2010. 
3. Elliott "complained that the prayer given each day in the House is limited to Christianity."
4Sponsored hate crimes bill. 
5.  Elliott sponsored the Dream Act bill for illegal in 2005 and 2009
 "Legislature to look at Illegal immigration issues again." Quote: "Elliott’s 2005 bill...But then-Attorney General Beebe said in an opinion that the measure could run afoul of a federal law that prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving post-secondary education benefits based on residency." January 25, 2009 - The 2005 bill by Elliott was HB1525.  The 2009 bill was Senate Bill 799 and Beebe refused to support it.
6. " State developing standards for new teacher evaluations," Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Dec 13, 2009 "LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Department of Education is spearheading the development of a comprehensive teacher-evaluation system to offer the state’s school districts." Also see this article:
"Proof Teachers Have No Freedom To Teach Under Common Core Standards" 
7. Act 709, law on evaluation of 2013 sponsored by Senator Joyce Elliott and Representative Homer Lenderman 
8.  Scathing editorial on Senator Elliott:  "A test of character", September 22, 2010 Democrat Gazette archives but the entire article is reprinted at this link in Blue Hog blog, "AR-02: New Motto For The Dem-Gaz Opinion Page — “Like Fox News, Only With A Much Smaller Audience”
9.  Senator Elliot received 2nd highest score from Arkansas Citizens First Congress
10. Arkansas Citizens First Congress quote from Executive Summary: "Arkansas became the first, and only, Southern state to expand health care under the federal Affordable Care Act, extending coverage to over 250,000 Arkansans!
11. Voting record on SB96 - Brandt Smith was one of 16 that voted against extending the Private Option SB96. 

Tags: Debbie Pelley, Jonesborro Sun, Media, bashes GOP Representative, grants, sainthood, to liberal,  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Riceland Representative Testifies Before Senate Ag Committee on Benefits of Agriculture Trade with Cuba

WASHINGTON – Normalized commercial relations with Cuba are expected to create opportunities for Arkansas farmers, Riceland Foods’ Terry Harris told U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) and other members of the Senate Agriculture Committee during a hearing on opportunities and challenges for agriculture trade with Cuba.

Harris, the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Risk Management at the Stuttgart-based company, told the committee that Cuba is a significant market for rice. The country imports $300 billion worth of rice annually, most of it from Vietnam.

“As the largest rice producer in the country, Arkansas is in a good position to benefit from exporting this commodity to Cuba,” Boozman said. “This is a great way to expand agriculture markets and to share our ideals with the Cuban people.”

“The U.S. rice industry wholeheartedly supports the opportunity to move to normal commercial relations with Cuba,” Harris told lawmakers. “Prior to the U.S. embargo on Cuba more than 50 years ago, the island was the number one export destination for U.S. rice.”


Harris participated in the first sale of U.S. rice to Cuba since the embargo was imposed after Congress passed the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000. He was in Cuba when the first shipment of U.S. rice arrived. “It was an incredible experience for me to see how excited they were with the quality of rice they had purchased for the people of Cuba. I saw what can happen when barriers are removed and people are allowed to meet and find common ground for cooperation and trade,” Harris said during his testimony.

“I’ve long supported efforts to end the embargo of U.S. agriculture exports to Cuba, relax the travel ban and loosen monetary restrictions. I intend to work with my colleagues to create changes to this outdated policy while pushing for human rights improvements and democratic change in Cuba,” Boozman said.

In January, Boozman joined a bipartisan group of senators to introduce the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015 which aims to legislatively address the administration’s proposal to loosen travel restrictions to Cuba and remove restrictions on banking transactions incidental to travel.

Tags: Senator John Boozman, Riceland representative, testifies, Senate Ag Committee To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Boozman, Hill Request Investigation into Little Rock VA Solar Panels Activation Failure


WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) and Congressman French Hill (AR-02) urged the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General (VAIOG) to evaluate the planning process for renewable energy programs, like the solar panels at the Little Rock Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC), to ensure these taxpayer funded projects are able to work once constructed.

Little Rock’s VAMC received an $8 million grant to the build solar panels, but since construction was completed in 2013, they were never activated because they were not compatible with the local electricity grid.

“We have a number of concerns with this project. First, it appears that there was a significant lack of planning and due diligence on the part of VA by installing a solar photovoltaic system that was incompatible with the local electricity grid. Second, we do not understand why VA would proceed with a construction project that was knowingly in conflict with another pending construction project,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the VAIOG.

Boozman and Hill are aggressively using their authority to provide oversight and requested that the inspector general recommend any legislative and regulatory changes that Congress can make to prevent similar situations from happening in the future.

The following is full text of the letter:

The Honorable Richard J. Griffin
Deputy Inspector General
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
801 I Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Dear Mr. Griffin:

We request that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of the Inspector General (VAOIG) investigate the situation at the Little Rock Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) that has recently come to our attention.  According to recent news reports and information from the VA, in February 2012, VA received and designated an $8 million grant to build a 1.8 megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) system in the parking lot of the Little Rock VAMC.  This construction project was completed in 2013; however, the PV system has never been activated and construction of a new parking garage has resulted in the tearing down and proposed relocation of a number of the solar panels for the PV system.

As you may be aware, reports about the PV system have highlighted the need for additional engineering changes to ensure compatibility of the PV system with the local electricity grid.  Further reports have also indicated that, prior to the construction of the solar panels at the Little Rock VAMC, a construction proposal for a new parking garage had been submitted for approval and subsequently approved in August 2012.  The proposed area for where the parking garage would be constructed conflicted with the area designated for the solar panels.  The plans for the parking garage purportedly contained a provision for relocating the solar panels to the roof of the parking garage, but the solar panel system was still constructed even after receiving approval to build the parking garage.  It is now clear that the parking garage, which is currently under construction and expected to be completed in 2016, will require the removal and relocation of some or all of the solar panels.

It has been two years since the planned activation of the PV system, and many questions remain unanswered about the project and when the VA plans to fully implement this supposed cost saving system to provide energy for the facility.  We have a number of concerns and questions regarding this project, and it is essential that we ensure accountability and transparency when utilizing precious taxpayer dollars to support these extensive and costly government projects.  We request that the VAOIG:

1.      Evaluate the planning process for these renewable energy programs to ensure that there are safeguards in place that prevent projects from proceeding without first establishing that the project will be able to fully function for its intended purpose once constructed. 

2.      Determine what, if any, safeguards exist within VA construction planning to ensure that other approved and proposed construction projects at VA facilities do not conflict with ongoing projects.  We are especially concerned about the Little Rock VAMC situation because it appears that VA officials knew in advance that these two projects conflicted and decided to proceed.  We cannot conceive of how such a decision was deemed acceptable and approved in light of the fact that the parking garage was approved prior to breaking ground on the solar panel construction. 

3.      Determine how the contractor for this PV system was selected and whether this contractor has been selected for any of the other 91 solar PV system projects listed under the VA’s Green Management Program.  We request that the VAOIG also investigate the performance features of the contract.  We must determine any lessons to be taken from this episode that may be applicable to these other projects.  

4.      Determine if there are any legislative or regulatory changes that need to be made to help VA avoid similar failures in the future.

5.      Provide our offices with a full briefing on the results when your investigation is complete.

We appreciate your attention to this matter, and if the VAOIG determines that legislative changes need to be made, we look forward to working together to enact the needed changes.

Tags: Senn. John Boozman, Rep. French Hill, request investigation, Little Rock, Veterans Administration, Solar Panel, Activation Failure To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Time to Fix the Broken Tax Code

by Rep. French Hill (AR-2): This past week, as they struggled to meet the Tax Day deadline to submit their taxes, millions of hardworking Americans were reminded of the burden of the United States' madly complex federal tax code. This, combined with the public's lack of faith and distrust in the Internal Revenue Service, served as a stark reminder that our tax system is broken and that the need for relief from its maze is now.

At over 70,000 pages, the federal tax code is simply unnavigable. Estimates from the National Taxpayers Advocate show that, this year alone, Americans will spend more than six billion hours seeking to comply with the tax code.

A recent report from the National Taxpayers Union found that 94 percent of returns are filed with some kind of assistance, whether paid preparers or automatic software, and compliance costs are estimated at almost $234 billion. Obamacare's new taxes and added regulatory burdens only compound the tax-compliance nightmare, especially for our job-creating small businesses.

When you add together the burden of compliance on small businesses and families, the fact that the United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world, and has one of the highest tax rates on long-term investment, the imperative of tax reform is clear: it is no longer an aspiration--it is a necessity for our successful economic policy.

There is universal agreement that we must reform our tax system. The last successful attempt was in 1986, and, since then, the complexity of the code has increased greatly. Past Congresses and presidents have been unable to summon the political resolve to find a long-term solution to our tax-code crisis.

One of my main priorities in Congress is working toward a tax code that is simpler, fairer, and flatter that promotes job creation, economic growth, and competition.

The first bill I co-sponsored was HR27, the Tax Code Termination Act, which was introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia; the bill would abolish our current tax code altogether and compel Congress to work together to put forth a new, more efficient, user-friendly system that not only funds our government, but also is fairer to the taxpayer and promotes long-term investment and growth.

Recently, the House has made strides toward the goal of comprehensive tax reform by passing bills that would permanently extend certain tax credits that encourage charitable giving and make it easier for small businesses to operate, invest and grow.

We have also passed a balanced budget that provides for comprehensive tax reform, and most recently, passed a bill to repeal the onerous death tax and a series of reforms to make the IRS more transparent and accountable to the American people. While these strides are important, they are not a substitute for the real solution--pressing the reset button and overhauling our broken tax code.

Numerous tax-reform proposals, including the consumption-based fair tax and variety of flat-tax proposals, have been circulating around the Capitol, and the House Ways and Means Committee, under Chairman Paul Ryan, is working to create a simpler and fairer system that creates jobs and opportunities in our economy.

With the recent overwhelming bipartisan success in repealing Medicare's flawed sustainable growth rate to reform and preserve Medicare, I am optimistic that we can work together to overhaul our broken tax code.

Tags: fix, tax code, French Hill, U.S Rep. To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Floodplain Executive Order To Affect 1st District Cities

Floodplain Executive Order To Affect 1st District Cities
by U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford: In 1977, President Carter issued Executive Order 11988, which established the definition of "floodplain" as an area subject to a 1% or greater chance of flooding in any given year. President Carter issued this order in order to protect federal investments and human life from flood risk. This definition of a floodplain informs federal agencies in their use of funds, building standards, and sets benchmarks for many other programs. The currently defined floodplain has been the standard ever since 1977.

However, in January of this year, President Obama's administration issued Executive Order 11988, which would require federal agencies to broaden significantly the current floodplain definition. This change attempts to reflect not the historical flood data on record, but the possible increase of flooding in the future based on the Administration's predictions of climate change patterns.

The Administration has given a choice of three new requirements for builders. Builders can make plans using data based on available climate science; or build two feet above 100-year floods estimates for most projects, but three feet above the current level for critical buildings such as hospitals and evacuation centers; or build to elevations above a 500-year floodplain. Instead of the flexibility choice normally offers, I'm concerned that these vague choices may introduce further confusion, at the expense of the American people.

According to an initial analysis by the National Association of Home Builders, a 500 year floodplain designation would increase the amount of Arkansas land in the floodplain by 20%, the second largest increase across all 50 states. Large swaths of Arkansas cities could be subject to these new rules. With Osceola, West Memphis, Marion, and Helena-West Helena bordering the Mississippi, and Batesville, Newport, Augusta, Des Arc, and Clarendon on the White River, I'm very worried about how the newly proposed standard would affect cities and towns in the First District of Arkansas.

My main concern centers around how these new rules would be adopted and implemented. As we have seen before with the proposed Waters of the U.S. Rule and The National Blue Ways System, new federal rules without clear definitions can vastly expand federal overreach. I am also concerned about the possibility of confusion between agency plans. Using the "best science" available method, different agencies, and even projects within the same agencies, could have varied interpretations with increasingly complicated and confusing results.

The scope of the new rule is also a point of concern. The Administration clearly states that this order is intended to affect only federally funded projects, but the effects could stretch even further. One interpretation could include projects financed and approved by the federal government, including: FHA and HUD housing programs, the National Flood insurance program, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act (the floodplain is identified as critical habit for many listed species).

For now, the Administration's proposed rule change is open to public comment until May 6th. However, given the vagueness of the rule and the large percentage of the First District potentially affected, I do not believe that the May 6th deadline is enough time to allow all potential stakeholders to give their opinions. For that reason, I signed on to Congressman Rod Blum's letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requesting an extension of the deadline for public comment. I have also signed my name to Congressman John Ratcliffe's letter to President Obama. Ratcliffe's letter questions the legality of the Executive Order, highlights the possible economic ramifications, and requests additional information concerning how the rules will be interpreted and implemented.

Please know that I will remain focused and diligent on this issue, which is of critical importance to many towns in our District.

Tags: Executive Order, Floodplain, FEMA, affect, cities, Representative, 1st District, Arkansas, cities,  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Arkansas Delegation Votes to Support Arkansas’s Family Farms, Business and Personl Estates

The ARRA News Service reported that yesterday the House passed H.R. 1105 (240 - 179) — "To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes, and for other purposes." All members of the Arkansas delegation, Reps. Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack, and Bruce Westerman voted in favor of the bill.

Congressman French Hill released the following the statement: “Repealing the outdated and burdensome ‘Death Tax’ than tax chips away at the complexity of the current tax code and protects small family farms and businesses across Arkansas and America from its stressful and potentially devastating effects. Instead of being forced to purchase enormous insurance policies or sell off assets to pay the tab, families can invest in and grow their businesses, benefitting the economy as a whole. Today’s vote reaffirms House’s commitment to a pro-growth tax code that benefits the American people and not the federal government.”

Tags: Arkansas, delegation, votes, for, eleimating the Federal Death Tax To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.