Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Arkansas House Republican Caucus Reaffirms Sanctity of Traditional Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Governor Asa Hutchinson Issues Statement on Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

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

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


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

Friday, June 26, 2015

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

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

WOTUS Has Far-reaching Effects for Arkansans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 25, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, visit watersystemscouncil.org.

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

State Police: Transparency? What Transparency?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trojan Horse Amendment Gives Arkansas Legislators A Pension Boost

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

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

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

Issue No. 3 and pensions.

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

Legislative salary as a factor in pensions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

Monday, June 22, 2015

Governor Sends Letter to Department of Education; Directs a Withdraw from PARCC

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson sent a letter to Education Commissioner Johnny Key this afternoon directing the Department of Education to withdraw the State of Arkansas from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Consortium.
Editor's Note: Letterhead and signature removed to reduce image size of letter.

Tags: Governor, Asa Hutchinson, letter to, Dept of Education, directs withdrawal, PARCC, return, to, ACT, ACT Aspire,  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Support Growing for Resilient Federal Forests Act

by Rep, Bruce Westerman, AR-04: This week, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015 made its way through the House Committee on Agriculture, bringing it one step closer to a vote on the House floor. At the same time, I have been hearing from individuals and groups from across the nation in support of this common sense legislation that will promote proper forest management techniques, promoting thriving and healthy forests in Arkansas and across the country.

One of the individuals I have heard from in recent weeks is Joe Fox. Joe is the Arkansas State Forester, a consummate professional in the field who sees firsthand the role over-regulation and frivolous lawsuits play in forest fires.

In Joe’s letter to me, he very clearly made the case for why my legislation is so necessary for foresters in the field.

“The USFS (United States Forest Service) works hard to deliver critically needed management on NFS lands, but they are hampered by cumbersome regulations, administrative costs, declining budgets, and the increasingly common practice of ‘fire borrowing,’” he said in a letter.

For those of you not involved in professional forestry, the term “fire borrowing” refers to taking monies from one critical program in order to pay for firefighting in the national forests. It causes the government to rob from Peter to pay Paul and it is not sound policy.

The Resilient Federal Forests Act is designed to put proper management practices in place to lessen the risk of wildfire, which in the long run will save money, save property, and save lives. Joe recognizes these benefits.

“I applaud your efforts to identify and directly address the barriers currently preventing the USFS from doing more to proactively address these threats,” he wrote.

Joe also noted the bill’s focus on collaboration between the private and public sectors, as well as different governments, to properly manage the forests in an expedited fashion.

“As a member of the Ouachita and Ozark Highlights CFLRP (Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program) as well as the Western Arkansas Woodland Restoration effort, the Arkansas Forestry Commission is supportive of any efforts to get the good work from these groups accomplished on the ground more efficiently,” he said.

Joe Fox is not the only individual to have expressed support for this bill. But as a local forester, I believe he can best explain to you – his fellow Arkansans – the benefit of this bill. Others have reached out to my office, including El Dorado County in California, the National Association of Counties, the National Water Resources Association, the California Agriculture Commissioners and Sealers Association, and the Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities Coalition. The bill is even receiving bi-partisan support, with House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) saying yesterday[1] that this bill will stop environmental groups from actually doing more harm to our forests by filing frivolous lawsuits aimed at stopping proper forest management in the name of “environmentalism” by requiring a bond in order to file a lawsuit aimed at stopping controlled burns and other forest management practices. The bond would cover the costs of legal fees for the Forest Service, though it would be refundable should the plaintiff prevail in court.

“For some time now I’ve been concerned with the regulations stemming from lawsuits. Environmental groups have used the court system to twist laws against agriculture which then leads to policy changes decided by activists and bureaucrats. This ‘sue and settle’ strategy means a less transparent, less accountable process,” Peterson said. “This bill would simplify forest management activities as a means to reduce some of this behavior.”

Thanks to Joe Fox and Congressman Collin Peterson for their support, as well as the more than 40 other groups from across the nation who have expressed support for the Resilient Federal Forests Act. It is only with a bi-partisan coalition that this bill can continue moving its way to an eventual vote on the House floor in coming months.

Tags: Rep. Bruce Westerman, AR-04, resilient Federal Forrest Act To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

U.S. House Passed Bill To Repeal Medical Device Tax

by Editor: Today, the House passed H.R. 160, the Protect Medical Innovation Act, which repeals Obamacare’s 2.3 percent excise tax on the manufacturer, producer, or importer of covered medical devices, by a 2/3 of the House vote of 280-140 sending a signal that they have the votes to over-ride a Presidential Veto. All four of Arkansas U.S, Representatives voted for the repeal.

The ARRA News Service reported:Notice the yea vote was two-thirds of the vote which indicates to the White House that the House most likely has enough voted to over-ride a presidential veto.  However, the vote should have been even larger. So, keep the pressure on the Senate and if needed your House members.

Save my life bro!
But don't tax me to death
And remember, that this tax was is on "technologies that millions of Americans depend on every day, and, as a matter of principle, they should not have an additional tax added by the  Federal Government." As an example, here a just 9 items of the myriad of items being taxed as medical devises: pacemakers, dentures, surgical gloves, Lasik machines, MRI machines, defibrillators, heart valves, joint replacements, insulin pumps. However, there is whole lot more - basically anything that comes in contact with a needed patient. Which mean anything used by an  emergence ambulance team, emergency room, diagnosis team, nurse, therapy, etc. is taxed If you or someone you know has been helped by a medical devise. If you are someone you know or love has been helped by one of these devises, take a moment to share this information. Together, let's get this common-sense legislation through the Senate and to the president's desk.

Following passage of H.R. 160, Congressman French Hill (AR-02) released the following statement:
“The Medical Device Tax is yet another failed policy of Obamacare that not only stifles innovation and costs good-paying jobs, but also threatens access to live-saving and life-improving devices, on which many Americans depend. I am proud to be an original cosponsor and strongly encourage the Senate and President follow our lead and do their parts to ensure this unnecessary tax is repealed.”

Tags: U.S. House, passes bill, HR. 160, repeal medical devise tax, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sunset Review Legislation Much Needed

by David Ferguson, Conduit for Action: What do you think would happen if you drove your car for years but never had any normal maintenance done? What if you just put gas in the car and never even bothered to check the condition or pressure of your tires?

Ignoring what is going on with your vehicle until you end up stranded on the side of the road is not a good plan, but for the most part, that is how we deal the operation of state agencies.

The need for an in-depth and systematic review of every state agency program seems obvious. Recent headlines of the Department of Human Services sending millions of dollars down the drain seem to underscore the need for in-depth review of all agencies.

Legislative committees already study issues concerning the operation of state agencies, but often the review is narrow in scope or occurs after car has broken down. It is a hit or miss process that often starts only after constituent groups have complained loud and long.

New agency regulations and contracts as well as certain personnel changes are reviewed by the Legislative Council. But what about the review of the performance of agency programs and need or lack of need for an agency programs?

Before a regular session all state agencies are called in to consider their budgets. Unfortunately, the budget hearing process runs so many agencies through the hearings over a short period of time that there is little time to delve into the operations of each agency, other than to raise some constituent gripes about an agency. For the most part the budget hearings are merely a quick gas stop, with the Governor and legislature giving most agencies the same percentage increase or decrease in budget based on available revenues.

Too much of state agency activity gets rubber stamped with little scrutiny from the legislature.

2015 proposal was overlooked

Donnie Copeland filed a bill called “Sunset Review” during the 2015 regular session, but HB1729 never got out of the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee. Representative Copeland’s bill deserved serious attention. The bill would have brought state agencies before legislative committees for review of the agencies’ programs. It would have provided an opportunity to not only to evaluate how well the program is being conducted but also to assess the continued need for the program or for the development of an alternate or revised program.

Past efforts fell short

Decades ago the legislature tried to address the problem but there was little follow through.
  • Act 100 of 1977 was called “Sunset Review” but that law was very different from the bill filed by Representative Copeland. Act 100 of 1977 was a merely cattle call which ran a large number of agencies through a process asking “Should we keep this agency?” It was a very narrow review and was conducted during a time when legislative committees still met infrequently. Other than the name “Sunset Review,” Act 100 of 1977 was too limited to be beneficial and was soon repealed.

  • Act 222 of 1999 adopted a pilot program of performance-based program budgeting and strategic planning by the Arkansas Legislative Council. Although the idea was good, the execution of the program relied heavily on abstract benchmarks and the pilot program was quickly discarded.
Isn’t it time?

Many members of the Arkansas House of Representatives and Senate now think of themselves as full-time legislators and their legislative salaries have increased along those lines. If they are going to be full-time or near full-time legislators, why not spend the time to systematically review the programs of each state agency. It is the regular maintenance that is needed to ensure that state government is operating efficiently.

Letting state agency programs drive down the road until the wheels fall off isn’t working for Arkansas.

Representative Donnie Copeland’s 2015 Sunset Review bill or some similar legislation should be considered. Follow this link to read the bill: HB1729.

Tags: Irkansas, Sunset Review legislation, review agencies, Conduit for Commerce,  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Boozman Highlights Arkansans’ Concerns with WOTUS Rule on Senate Floor

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) highlighted the potential impact the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) overreaching “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule would have on Arkansas and shared the concerns of Arkansans during a speech on the Senate floor.

“The Obama Administration wants to give bureaucrats in Washington control of almost all water in Arkansas. For the past year Arkansas farmers and ranchers have shared with me their concerns of this EPA overreach. I want to share some comments that I recently received,” Boozman said before reading emails from residents in Lonsdale and Trumann.

Boozman encouraged support for the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, bipartisan legislation he supported last week in the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee that protects our nation’s water and the rights of landowners.

Watch the speech here.

In March, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge testified before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry about the negative impact the WOTUS rule would have on Arkansas and questioned the legal basis for the proposed rule.

Tags: Semator. John Boozman speech, Senate Floor, Arkansans’ Concerns , WOTUS Rule To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hill to VA Sec: Give Arkansas Veterans Certainty

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman French Hill (AR-02) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert A. McDonald urging him to find a permanent Medical Center Director for the Central Arkansas Veterans Health System (CAVHS). After sending the letter, Congressman Hill released the following statement:

“Improving services for veterans has been a major focus for Congress and the Administration. Considerable resources have been spent to ensure higher quality of healthcare and better access to that care. However, when VA healthcare networks are operating without permanent leadership, veterans begin to lose trust in the system and recent bipartisan reforms are in vain. I urge the Secretary to appoint a permanent director of the Central Arkansas Veterans Health System and give Arkansas’s veterans greater certainty in their healthcare.”

You can see the full text of the letter here.

Tags: French Hill, U.S Representative, AR-2, Letter, VA Secretary, give veterans certainty To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Friday, June 12, 2015

A.G. Rutledge Requests Rehearing On Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act

AG Leslie Rutledge
by Jerry Cox, Family Council: Yesterday, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed for a rehearing in a court case that struck part of a 2013 pro-life law.

The law–known as the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act–was sponsored by Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) in 2013; it prevents abortions after the twelfth week of pregnancy if a fetal heartbeat is detected–except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.

The law passed the Arkansas Legislature handily, but was vetoed by Gov. Mike Beebe. After legislators voted to override the governor’s veto, the law went into effect, but was challenged as unconstitutional in a lawsuit.

As a result of that lawsuit, federal District Judge Susan Webber Wright struck down much of the law as unconstitutional, and late last May a panel of three federal judges upheld her ruling. The Attorney General’s Office has requested a rehearing of the case before the entire Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

A rehearing would provide an opportunity for the federal court to reverse the lower court’s ruling and reinstate a good, pro-life law that protects unborn children and promotes women’s health; the longer a woman waits to have an abortion, the more dangerous abortion becomes.

Arkansas Department of Health data from 2010 – 2014 does not show a single abortion performed in Arkansas due to a medical emergency; the vast majority of abortions are performed on healthy mothers carrying healthy babies. It’s unfortunate abortion has become just another means of birth control. The Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act addresses that by specifying the timeframe during which an abortion can occur.

Tags: Jerry Cox, Family Council, Arkansas, Attorney General, Leslie Rutledge, requests rehearing, Arkansas, Human Heartbeat Protection Act To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Board of Education’s Vote on Statewide Assessment

by Tami Greever, AR1TV: Breaking News - The Arkansas State School Board of Education voted 7-1 AGAINST the recommendation of BOTH the Arkansas Education Task Force led by Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and the announcement from the Governor that our state will forego PARCC testing in favor of the ACT test.

Additionally, the School Board won their legal battle to dismiss the waiver request of the Hughes School District---effectively closing an academically-solid, facility-solid and financially-solid school district and destroying another piece of rural Arkansas community living. For the Coleman: Edge to Edge exclusive interview with Representative Mark Lowery, please visit www.AR1.TV

Governor Asa Hutchinson issued the following statement:

"I’m disappointed the state Board of Education rejected the recommendation for student assessment for the next school year. The recommendation was based on the conclusions reached by the Common Core Review Council, a 16 member council made up of teachers, administrators, business leaders and students from all over the state.

"The legislature had directed through Act 1074 that the current PARCC contract not be renewed long term and for the State Board to consider a change for the 2016-17 school year. I determined it best to make the change for the next school year for the sake of long-term stability for the teachers, school districts and for the sake of our students.

"In the coming days, I will work closely with Commissioner Key and the Board to determine the best guidance we can provide our students, teachers and administrators as to the next steps in student assessments."

Tags: Arkansas State School Board, votes, against, Arkansas Education Task Force, Lt Gov. Tim Griffin, Governor Asa Hutchinson, PARCC Testing, ACT Testing To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Duncan Baird Named State Budget Administrator

Duncan Baird
LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson today announced that Duncan Baird will fill the position of State Budget Administrator at the Department of Finance and Administration.

“I appreciate Duncan’s work as we crafted our first budget and worked with the legislature to enact it into law,” Hutchinson said. “In his new role, he’ll continue to play a critical part in both the budget process and our efforts to reform state government.”

“Duncan’s experience as Budget Director and his previous work with the budget as a legislator make him a great fit for this position,” said Larry Walther, Director of the Department of Finance and Administration.

“It’s been an honor to be a part of the Governor’s staff through the transition and the Regular Session,” Baird said. “I look forward to the opportunity to put my budget experience to work as part of the team at DFA.”

Baird was as a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2009 until he was term-limited in 2015, where he served as the House chairman of the Joint Budget Committee. Before being elected to the legislature, Baird was in the investment industry, working as a licensed securities trader for Arvest bank in Northwest Arkansas. He holds a degree in Finance and Accounting from the University of Arkansas.

Tags: Governor, ASA Hutchinson, Appoints, Arkansas, State Budget Administrator, Duncan Baird To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Governor Names Elizabeth Smith as Medicaid Inspector General

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson today announced that Elizabeth Smith, currently the administration’s chief legal counsel, will become the state’s next Medicaid Inspector General.

“Given her background in healthcare law and as a former prosecutor, Elizabeth is a perfect fit as the next Medicaid Inspector General,” Governor Hutchinson said. “She has been an invaluable member of our team as my legal counsel, and I know she will do a great job in her new role, which is critical to Arkansas.”

“I’m honored and appreciative of the trust the Governor has placed in me,” Smith said. “It’s been a privilege to serve as his legal counsel, and I am eager to take on this new challenge to best serve the people of Arkansas.”

Smith has more than two decades of experience practicing law, including more than 15 years combined as a prosecutor and later as associate general counsel for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Smith served as deputy prosecuting attorney under Larry Jegley for the 6th Judicial District. She also served as an assistant attorney general of Arkansas under Mike Beebe and with the firm of Mitchell Williams Selig Gates and Woodyard, specializing in healthcare.

The office of the Medicaid Inspector General, created in 2013, prevents, detects and investigates fraud and abuse within the medical assistance program.

Tags: Asa Hutchinson, appoints, Elizabeth Smith, Medical Inspector General, Arkansas To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Cyber Security: An Attack on our Nation

by Sen. John Boozman: Make no mistake about it, cyber attacks are a threat to our national security. As you likely heard in the news, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently revealed that a breach of computer systems in their agency compromised the records of up to 4 million current and former federal employees, many of them with security clearances. The Obama Administration has identified that hackers in China are most likely responsible for this attack. I am especially troubled by the revelation that the Chinese government may have been involved in this massive breach.

Earlier this week, we learned of yet another cyber attack -- this time, the public website of the United States Army was hacked -- and this just adds to a long, disturbing list of U.S. Government websites that have been hacked. Clearly our nation must do a better job of protecting and securing information contained on important websites.

We know that hackers are now one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century and one that we must deal with on a daily basis. Substantial improvement in our cyber databases and defenses is perilously overdue. Washington must act quickly.

Consider these attacks which have occurred recently:
  • Breach of computer systems of the Office of Personnel Management. (Second time in a little over a year.)
  • U.S. Army website hacked.
  • Security breach at the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Unclassified networks at the White House and State Department were also recently hacked.
  • In November 2014 the private files of more than 25,000 Department of Homeland Security employees were compromised by another cyber attack.
We recognize this is a global problem. There are people being paid to try to get inside our systems 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Last year alone there were almost 61,000 cyber attacks and security breaches across the entire federal government. The Government Accountability Office estimates that the number of cyber incidents involving government agencies has jumped 35 percent between 2010 and 2013.

Clearly this is a national security issue and we must find a way to strengthen cyber security for every federal agency. We can't continue to let foreign governments such as China, or rogue hackers for that matter, bully our federal agencies or our corporations. It is critical that we strengthen cyber security and have timely responses ready when coordinated attacks such as the one at the OPM occur. We have the best computer minds in the world and we can develop effective detection systems, but we must work together to accomplish it.

Tags: John Boozman, U.S. Senator, Arkansas, Cyber Security, attack on our nation, commentary To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Arkansas GOP Welcomes Three Democrat Crawford County Officials to the GOP


VAN BUREN, Ark — Republican Party of Arkansas Chairman Doyle Webb attended the Crawford County Republican Committee Meeting Tuesday night to welcome three Democrat county officials to the Republican Party. The move comes in the wake of a highly successful 2014 campaign cycle for the state GOP.

“It is a great time to be a Republican in Arkansas”, said Webb. “We are excited to welcome these outstanding public servants to become a part of the new majority party. This continuance of momentum from the past election cycle is indicative of the future of the party.”

Crawford County Republican Chairman Mark Schaffer stated, “The room was electric tonight. Anytime you get a chance to see Republicans taking office, or, in this case, Democrats becoming Republicans, it’s a celebration. Crawford County, like the rest of the state of Arkansas, continues to move in the Republican direction, and we are excited for 2016.”

Former Democrat officials announcing their intent to file as Republicans include County Clerk Teresa Armer (elected first in 2008), Circuit Clerk Sharon Blount-Baker (elected first in 2006), and Coroner Pam Wells (elected first in 2004). The candidates’ joining the GOP follows the Republican victories in 2014, including all seven Constitutional Offices, all six federal seats, and an increased majority in the state legislature.

Tags: Doyle Webb, Arkansas GOP, welcomes, three democrats, Crawford County officials, County Clerk, Circuit Clerk,, Coroners, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Rep. Hill Awards First Golden Fleece To U.S. Dept. Veterans Affairs




Tags: Arkansas, U.S. Representative, French Hill, Golden Fleece Award, U.S. Dept Veterans Affairs To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Boozman Joins EPW Colleagues to Approve Bill to Rein in EPA Overreach

Bill pushing back on WOTUS rule now moves to full Senate

WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) today joined his colleagues on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee to approve legislation that would pushback on the Obama Administration’s “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) power-grab.

The Federal Water Quality Protection Act, which Boozman is cosponsoring, was passed by the EPW Committee and now awaits debate by the full Senate.

The bill reins in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) overreach and gives the agency direction to write a rule that protects our waters without eroding the rights of landowners.

“WOTUS is an attack on property rights of all landowners that EPA touts as environmental protection. It is nothing more than overly burdensome and costly regulatory power-grab by Washington,” Boozman said. “Our bill protects Americans from the EPA’s gross overreach and requires the agency to write a rule that protects our waters while preserving the rights of landowners.”

The Federal Water Quality Protection Act directs the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to revise the WOTUS rule to exclude waters that have never been controlled by the federal government like isolated ponds, ditches and agriculture water that lack enough flow to carry pollutants to navigable waters.

“EPA wants Americans to think that the only way we can protect our environment is by giving Washington wide-ranging power to control our water and air. The reality is Arkansans know better than those in our nation’s capital. We take great pride in being called the Natural State, work hard at the state and local level to maintain that and we don’t need bureaucrats in Washington to protect our resources for us,” Boozman said.
The bill requires the agencies to revise its current proposal and adhere to the following principles that the Waters of the US should include:

·      Traditional navigable waters and interstate waters.
·      Streams identified on maps at the scale used by EPA to identify potential sources of drinking water.
·      Streams with enough flow to carry pollutants to a navigable water, based on a quantifiable and statistically valid measure of flow for that geographic area, and
·      Wetlands situated next to a water of the United States that protect water quality by preventing the movement of pollutants to navigable water.
The legislation details what Waters of the U.S. should not include
·      Water that is located below the surface of the land, including soil water and groundwater.
·      Water that is not located within a body of water (e.g., river, stream, lake, pond, wetland), including channels that have no bed, bank or ordinary high water mark or surface hydrologic connection to traditional navigable waters.
·      Isolated ponds.
·      Stormwater and floodwater management systems.
·      Wastewater management systems.
·      Municipal and industrial water supply management systems.
·      Agricultural water management systems.
·      Streams that do not have enough flow to carry pollutants to navigable waters.
·      Prior converted cropland.
·      Areas lawfully filled pursuant to a permit or areas exempt from permitting.

Last month, the EPA finalized its WOTUS rule giving the agency much greater power to oversee the land use decisions of homeowners, small businesses and family farms throughout the country. The Clean Water Act, passed by Congress nearly 40 years ago, provides for water quality protection through partnerships between the federal government and the states, but it does not provide unlimited power to the federal government. 

Tags: Sen. John Boozman, EPA, Water of the US Rule, taking property rights, Federal Water Quality Protection Act, Rein in EPA To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Federal Lawmakers Request More Time for Comment Period on Plains & Eastern Clean Line Transmission Project

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) — along with Congressmen Rick Crawford (AR-01), French Hill (AR-02), Steve Womack (AR-03) and Bruce Westerman (AR-04)—today requested that the Department of Energy (DOE) extend the comment period for the need and feasibility review of the Plains & Eastern Clean Line Transmission Project.

In a letter to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, the members request a minimum of 60 additional days for comments citing inadequate communication to let stakeholders know they can submit their input on this project.

“The Department is engaged in a new process that justifies a deliberative and thorough review, with greater transparency and public participation,” the members wrote. “The 45-day comment period has proven inadequate.”

The current comment period is scheduled to end on June 12.

In January, members urged Secretary Moniz to extend the comment period for the environmental review of the project for additional input from stakeholders. The comment period was extended for one month.

The following is the full text of the letter:

Dear Secretary Moniz:

We strongly urge you to extend the comment period regarding the Department of Energy’s Non-NEPA Review for the Plains & Eastern Clean Line Transmission Project by at least 60 days so that our constituents will have an adequate opportunity to share their views and/or concerns.

The current comment period is scheduled to end on June 12, and the opportunity to participate has not been effectively communicated to many impacted stakeholders. Furthermore, the Department has invited public comments on highly complicated issues, such as the project’s technical and financial feasibility and whether the project is in the public interest. The 45-day comment period has proven inadequate.

Also, the Department is engaged in a new process that justifies a deliberative and thorough review, with greater transparency and public participation. Although Section 1222 was enacted a decade ago, the Department has not yet used this authority to design, develop, construct or operate transmission facilities, nor has the Department participated with other entities in doing so. Also, according to the Department, “the purpose of the program is to reduce electric transmission congestion and/or increase electric transmission capacity.” However, the proposed route for the pending application is located in neither a Federal Power Act section 216(a) a designated congestion area nor a national interest electric transmission corridor. Due to these concerns, we strongly believe that the Department has a responsibility to be tremendously thorough, transparent, and deliberative.

Again, we strongly urge you to provide at least a 60-day extension of the comment period on the non-NEPA review for the Plains & Eastern Clean Line Transmission Project, and we ask that you intensify your efforts to keep our offices fully informed as the Department’s review of this project continues.

We look forward to your response, and please let us know any time we can be helpful.
Written comments should be addressed as follows: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE-20), 1222 Program, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20585. Electronic comments can be emailed to plainsandeastern@hq.doe.gov. The Department will make comments available as they are received. Additional information from the Department is available at http://energy.gov/oe/downloads/plains-eastern-clean-line-transmission-line-part-2-application

Tags: IPress release, Request More Time, Comment Period on Plains & Eastern Clean Line Transmission Project, Arkansas delegation To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.