As usual, things are really hopping at the Capitol if you are intent upon learning current events.
Pines Broadcasting Company
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As usual, things are really hopping at the Capitol if you are intent upon learning current events.
This week continues our look at the history of each of the nine Extension Homemakers Clubs in Drew County with a glimpse into the history of the Northside EHC. The Extension Homemakers program in Arkansas is celebrating 100 years in 2012. The organization is made great contributions to the lives and welfare of Arkansans throughout the state n the past 100 years.
Northside Extension Club
What a week! Between teacher insurance, broadband access, teacher salaries and, we have had a great many important issues and information to absorb.
Our Arkansas state capitol celebrated its 100th birthday in 2011. Although it is a beauty to behold, like any building 100+ years old, it has seen better times and better conditions. Last year the Capitol rotunda received an intensive restoration. This year the House Chamber will be given a $1 million restoration. In fact, architects and contractors began work on that restoration project June 2 of last week. The chandelier is down and has been shipped off for restoration, seats are gone, other furnishings are covered and the scaffolding is rising to the ceiling.
There is little news to report on the health insurance front this week except that the State and Public Life and Health Insurance Board decided that public school and state employees who get mammograms, blood-pressure tests and other preventive health screenings, or quit smoking and lose weight, or enter into other health-prevention programs by November 1 will receive a $75.00 discount on monthly insurance premiums next year.
Greetings! I’ll begin this week by hopefully allaying some of the teacher apprehensions relating to their insurance. You may recall that their insurance plans’ premiums were likely to increase another 35% for the next year unless the legislature intervenes and takes some corrective actions. The State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force did hold a major meeting on May 14th to try to make some definite decisions on changes to the system and I think they have. (I do appreciate Dr. Max Dyson of Hamburg for his attendance and insight into the meeting.)
Greetings! We have finished a very stress-filled week at the legislature. Three issues, and the pursuit of their solutions, filled most of our time. These issues are teacher insurance, adequate broadband access in all our schools (and who will provide it), and other various and sundry items. .
Legislative Re Greetings! Teacher insurance has once again been the subject of many sessions held by insurers, consultants and legislators. This week’s meetings brought up several possible changes to the insurance plans to ease the increased costs of those plansand remain sound.
Some good economic news for the state has been released by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services. For the first time in 5 years Arkansas’ unemployment rate has dropped below 7%. It has been dropping for the 6th consecutive month. In a separate jobs report released with labor statistics, Arkansas also saw eight industry sectors achieve gains compared to one year ago. Notably, construction jobs have experienced a healthy rebound with an estimated 1,600 new jobs created in that sector in the last year.
Education, and some of its various “supplemental” issues, proved to be interesting, if not disheartening, subject matter for most of this week at the Capitol.
Drew County lost another great native son this weekend with the passing of Mr. Homer Pace. This narrative begins with his military service among the “greatest generation” during WWII and continues until about 10 years ago. Like most of his generation, he didn’t feel like a hero and was rather modest about his war experiences. Yet he was as were they all. Here is Mr. Homer’s story as he related it to me. May it serve as a tribute to a great American.
Although we are still in the very early phases of our Private Option insurance programs, the Public Health committees have heard their first report dealing with the implications it is having on our state thus far:
I received some good news at the Capitol this week about a former Monticello High School assistant superintendent. John Hoy came to Monticello a few years ago and did an admirable job with our young people. (more…)
Wednesday afternoon, March 19th, the longest fiscal session, in our short history of fiscal sessions, finally concluded. It ended not without drama, however!
In the final days of the third Fiscal Session the House of Representatives at last passed the Revenue Stabilization Act, also known as Arkansas’ $5 billion balanced budget. This budget included a 2% growth in spending, the majority of which was a $65 million increase in funding for education. The new budget also took into account the tax breaks passed by the General Assembly during the regular session in 2013.
The fourth week of the fiscal session began with another Arkansas ice storm! The storm set in Sunday night and created a real quagmire in some areas, including Little Rock and much of the state north, east and west of there. Only the south was spared the misery. When the session continued on Monday only 71 of the House membership were able to make it to work.
Greetings!! We have now completed our second week of this fiscal deadlock/ gridlock session. (I hope it doesn’t become a marathon!) I am reminded of an old song that says “You can bet as sure as you live! Something’s got to give!” I just hope reason isn’t the biggest loser in this stalemate over the Private Option. For two weeks every day has been “Same song; second verse; a little bit louder, a little bit worse!” I hope the end to gridlock is in sight!
The third annual fiscal session in Arkansas history began on February 10, 2014, and, even though activities for the first day (Monday) were mostly ceremonial, our job to work/ rework/ balance Arkansas’ $5 billion budget began. You may recall that the vote of the people created this special session to study and address fiscal matters only every second year and we are trying to limit the session to these same fiscal matters only. One hundred forty-nine (149) appropriation bills had been filed in the House as of the first day of the session, but there are “boo coodles” to come.
I hope all have had their fill of snow for 2014! Last week at the legislature began with the Joint Education Committees. The meetings first heard a statement from Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell that he was no longer interested in seeking the superintendent’s position at Fayetteville, but would stay with the state department.
Greetings! We are now one week from the fiscal session and the hatches are being “battened down”!! Seriously we have still been hearing reports and requests from the “Big Six” agencies in anticipation of the 4th fiscal session of the Arkansas legislature.
Greetings! What a week!! My head almost throbs with the mass of numbers, periods and dollar signs we’ve seen on budgets during this pre-fiscal session week!! Tuesday – Thursday we have dealt with pages and pages of budget reports and requests, discussions and debate. It has been quite thorough to the point that we did not get finished with our work. We will reassemble next Tuesday, January 21, in hopes of finishing that task. I think this might indicate a lengthy fiscal session in February.
Happy New Year! I hope and trust it will be a happier, healthier, more profitable and wiser year for all Americans. It will surely go quickly!
I want to start this week by trying to clarify a question several of you have asked the past couple of weeks about your health coverage under the new private option healthcare program.
Merry Christmas to all! Last week the Arkansas legislature was quite busy trying to tie up loose ends in anticipation of the two-week holiday break to celebrate the Christmas season and the New Year.
A major topic both Monday and Tuesday was site selection for the new veterans’ home. (more…)
One week until the big day! Just think! In two weeks Christmas 2013 will be mostly history! By next year we’ll be remembering the extremely cold winter weather (for south Arkansas) that came before Christmas 2013! I’m getting hopeful for an early spring!
Because of the earlier extreme weather in some parts of Arkansas, things were still running slowly at the capital last week. Work resumed officially on Wednesday and several minor Medicaid expansion rules and regulations cleared a legislative subcommittee. They will go before the Arkansas Legislative Council on December 20.
Greetings from the Arkansas legislature! I hope you missed my article last week and I sincerely apologize for not getting it in on time. I was attending a three – meeting combined SREB (Southern Regional Education Board) conference representing Arkansas. I’ll summarize that meeting next week, but first, I want to say how much I enjoyed the Veterans Day ceremonies in Monticello and in Hamburg on Veterans Day. It is comforting to see so many people taking a short time out of their holiday to say “Thank you” to our veterans. With each year’s passing fewer and fewer veterans are still with us; Drew County lost at least three WWII veterans in the week before Veterans Day. I really appreciate both counties efforts on Veterans Day and regret missing the bagpipes in Hamburg. Thank you to all our veterans!
This has been another week of educational issues for me. The Education Committees met Monday and Tuesday to discuss several topics. Those items included preliminary reviews of the number of student transfers under the provisions of the Public School Choice Act of 2013. Lists were distributed naming the top districts with the most net gain in students and the districts with the most net loss in students under the annals of the new law. None of our local districts felt any significant impact to either extreme.
As the year 2013 winds down, I believe anticipation of the 2014 fiscal session is emerging at the Capitol. Although this was a relatively slow week at the legislature, many discussions were brought deviously close to revelations about budget proposals that will soon be forthcoming at budget hearings.
Greetings! To begin this week I am going to offer some suggestions about the Arkansas Healthcare Marketplace, because I have had several constituents contact me with questions. I felt it logical that there are others out there with similar questions and I will try to help answer them. Please don’t assume that I think I am an expert because that is far from true, but maybe I can get you started.
My most asked question is “I really need healthcare, but how do I find information on how to get enrolled?” My first answer to that is “online”. There are at least two good sites that I have observed. They are www.arhealthconnector.org and www.access.arkansas.gov. The www.arhealthconnector.org site is more relevant and easier since it deals only with the health insurance plans. The www.access.arkanses.gov site deals with many state programs so you must first click on the yellow box that says “Learn about Health Care Independence”. I would use the first site, www.arhealthconnector.org. It is very well organized and looks easier to follow.
As you may, or may not, have heard last Wednesday Governor Beebe called a Special Session of the Arkansas Legislature to “fix” the problem surrounding the Public School Employees insurance’s ballooning rates for the year 2014.
Teacher insurance remains at the head of the debate at the legislature. Last week I reported on Saturday about “the” plan to solve this entanglement. When I returned to Little Rock on Monday, it had been discarded and another had taken its place. We had two more plans arise during the week and none have been agreed to by a majority as of today (Sunday). So I truthfully don’t know where that leaves the issue. The latest plan came out Friday and has been hashed and rehashed this weekend by emails. Monday we may know if it sinks or swims. I feel like the issue may still have a long way to go, so I won’t even try to fully explain it. I will only say time is running short and decisions one way or the other must be made soon.
Where do I begin? The crisis in teacher insurance rates is writhing like a two-headed snake and may yet bite all of us. What is the “right” of it? It seems that those supportive of bailing out big businesses a few years ago are dead set against most things now, including helping with teachers’ insurance. I think many citizens and legislators fear a precedent being set.
The health insurance marketplace and teacher health insurance have overshadowed all else at the Capitol again this week. The biggest “news” on the matter of the health insurance marketplace dealt with a call Governor Beebe received Friday morning officially giving final federal approval for Arkansas’ private option plan to go forth. Although approval was expected, it is still a boost receiving their official approval of the plan. The Governor says it is our own insurance plan using the private markets to insure that all Arkansans can obtain affordable health care. It was legislation put forth by a bipartisan team of Arkansas legislators and adopted by a supermajority of bipartisan votes. It is a model of mostly cooperation and civility that the U. S. government might do well to emulate rather than shutdown the government of the entire country.
As I’ve said before, what a week!! Monday and Tuesday were filled with meetings about the crisis in teacher insurance. Monday the House and Senate Education Committees and the House and Senate Insurance and Commerce Committees met jointly to get some general information on the situation and to ask pointed questions of all parties involved. We began at 10 a.m. and those of us who stayed for the entire meeting finished around 5 p.m. Hopefully some of us have a little better understanding of the problem. “Here’s how it happened.” (A quote from Monk!)
This week I attended the August Task Force meeting concerning the new veterans’ home to be built and got a little surprise. I’d thought the task force might have greater input in selecting a site. At this meeting it was stated several times that the committee must make a recommendation to the Legislative Council by October 31, but the State Veterans Affairs Director Cissy Rucker will make all the final determinations about where it will be located, what it will look like and who it will serve.
Greetings! Last week turned out to be a rather calm week for legislators at the Capitol. We did have another interesting session involving the Arkansas DCC (Department of Community Correction) relating to the release of an inmate and his subsequent arrest for murder. The incident has brought to light a few “questionable” and obsolete practices within the department and some favorable changes already in place under the leadership of the new director, Sheila Sharp. Ms Sharp seems to be alert, have the situation in hand and ready, willing and able to implement needed reforms to the system.
Chance of Rain77°/66°
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