• 2017 Legistalive Session Begins

    Work for the upcoming legislative session will begin just minutes after we are sworn in on Monday. The 2017 Regular Session begins at noon on January 9. With 200 bills already filed, we expect committees to begin hearing testimony on proposed legislation this week.

    Although no one can say with certainty what issues will take the most time or gather the most headlines, we do know that education funding, criminal justice reform, and tax proposals will be on the agenda for the 91st General Assembly.
    This week we received the monthly revenue report. It shows a net available general revenue of $2.6 billion so far for this fiscal year. Fiscal years begin in July. The report show revenues are $38.2 million or 1.5% above levels a year ago, but $8.8 million below what was forecasted.

    We will take this information into consideration as we work to craft a budget for the next fiscal year. Several tax cut proposals are being brought forward. One bill has been filed that would lower income taxes for those receiving military retirement benefits.

    Education has historically been the largest budget priority for the state. This year, we will once again be asked to approve increases in education funding. In its annual adequacy report, the Education Committee recommended of an increase of $45.6 million for the next fiscal year. We also expect to consider a new funding formula for higher education.

    The Criminal Justice Reform Task Force was created in 2015 to research ways to address prison overcrowding and ways to promote seamless reentry into society for inmates scheduled to be released. As a result of the work by the task force, we expect to see several pieces of legislation filed to address the issue.
    On Tuesday, the Governor is expected to speak to the legislature in the House Chamber. In this speech, the Governor will describe his proposals and ideas for the upcoming session.

    As a reminder, all House proceedings in the Chamber and House committee meetings held in the Capitol building are streamed live at www.arkansashouse.org.

  • Support for Marijuana Legalization Declining in Arkansas

    A new poll by Talk Business shows that support for medical marijuana legalization in Arkansas is declining. An August 2015 Talk Business Poll showed support for medical marijuana prescribed by physicians at 84 percent, but as voters understand more about the issue it has lost a significant amount of support.

    “Talk Business released the poll late yesterday afternoon that showed 58% of voters could potentially support the measure, but that’s a 26% reduction of the support they enjoyed this time last year. I think parents, businesses, and community leaders are really starting to take a look at the negative impact legalizing medical marijuana will have,” said Kevin Russell, Chairman of The Coalition for Safer Arkansas Communities. “These measures will not only have an effect on our workforce, the safety measures concerning children and marijuana use is a huge concern as there are too many unanswered questions.”

    There are currently two competing ballot measures. One would allow the sale of medical marijuana through regulated dispensaries. The other would allow residents living over 20 miles away from a dispensary to grow up to 10 marijuana plants at their home.

    “Previous polling has shown the ‘grow your own’ aspect of this initiative struggles to find support. This is where things get dangerous. Without FDA approval, allowing folks to grow marijuana plants in their home without proper safety precautions is a disaster waiting to happen and will make it incredibly difficult for authorities to regulate,” said Russell.

    The Coalition for Safer Arkansas Communities is dedicated to fighting any initiatives to legalize marijuana as the facts overwhelmingly show that states that legalized marijuana lead non-legalized states in teen marijuana use, meaning less educational achievement, lower IQ, more school dropouts, traffic fatalities, and eventual unemployment.

    “We are making a lot of progress in our efforts to educate the public,” said Russell. “We still have more work to do.”

    For more information on the effects of marijuana, how to volunteer, and where you can donate, visit KeepArkansasSafe.com.

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  • Arkansas Commemorates Memorial Day

    Since the founding of our country, over 1 million men and women in the armed forces have sacrificed their lives in time of war.

    This Memorial Day, we encourage Arkansans to remember that this weekend is about much more than the unofficial beginning of summer. It is a day to remember.

    Arkansans have a proud history of serving their country. Today our state is home to more than 260,000 veterans.

    During WWI, over 71,000 soldiers who served were from Arkansas. Out of those soldiers, 2,183 lost their lives.

    Close to 10% of our state’s population served in WWII. Of the 194,000 Arkansas soldiers serving in various branches of the military, 3,519 were killed as a result of combat.

    We are reminded every day at the Capitol of the lives lost in Vietnam. A memorial on the grounds lists the names of the 600 soldiers killed in combat.

    Since September 11th, 142 men and women from Arkansas have lost their lives serving our country.

    The numbers of our fallen heroes are not just statistics. They are real people, with real families, who lived in real communities.

    We can best honor their sacrifice by remembering their families, who have lost so much.

    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has posted a link to all ceremonies at all veteran’s cemeteries across the country. You can find the one nearest you by visiting www.cem.va.gov.

    And if you cannot make it to a ceremony, there is a way all of us can pay a small tribute. In an effort to help remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, Congress passed the “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution in December 2000. It asks that at 3pm all Americans pause whatever they are doing for a moment of silence and remembrance.

    We owe it to the heroes that died and the loved ones left behind to make sure that their sacrifices are remembered and that their service to this nation always be honored.