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Author Archive

Tribute to Homer Pace

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Homer PaceDrew 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.

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Legislative Report – Fiscal Session- Week 5

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

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.

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Legislative Report – Fiscal Session – Wk 4

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

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.
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Legislative Report – Fiscal Session – Wek 2

Monday, February 24th, 2014

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!

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Legislative Report

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

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.

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Legislative Report

Friday, February 14th, 2014

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.

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Legislative Report

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

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.

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Legislative Report

Friday, January 17th, 2014

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.
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Legislative Report

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

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.

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Legislative Report

Friday, December 27th, 2013

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…)

Legislative Report

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

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.

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Legislative Report

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

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!

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Legislative Report

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

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.

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Legislative Report

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

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.

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Legislative Report

Monday, October 28th, 2013

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.

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Legislative Report

Monday, October 21st, 2013

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.

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Legislative Report

Friday, October 18th, 2013

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.

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Legislative Report

Monday, October 7th, 2013

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.

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Legislative Report

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

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.

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Legislative Report

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

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!)

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Legislative Report

Monday, August 12th, 2013

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.

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Legislative Report

Monday, August 5th, 2013

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.

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Legislative Report – Education & Common Core

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Last week was filled with lengthy and sometimes emotional discussions in the Arkansas legislature. Monday and Tuesday monthly joint sessions of the House and Senate Education committees were held and the current educational program known as Common Core was the major topic of discussion. Let me explain that Common Core is not new to Arkansas. Rumblings have been heard around the country about the program and in Arkansas since 2007. Former governor Mike Huckabee was a supporter and has written a letter in support of it as late as June, 2013.

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Legislative Report – Updaes on Several Topics

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

This week I’ll present a hodgepodge of information because the legislature is dealing with a hodgepodge of matters and materials. However I am working to keep both myself and you, my constituents, informed and alerted to emerging issues.

First, let me remind you of Arkansas’ upcoming Back-to-School Sales Tax holiday. This means that state and local taxes will not be collected or paid one weekend on the purchase of certain items typically thought of as necessities for the classroom. A complete list of exempt items can be found at www.arkansashouse.org. (Click on the rotating picture.)

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Legislative Report

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Wow! What an interesting week at the Capitol! First let tell you that the legislative subcommittee gave approval for Governor Beebe to use part of his “rainy day fund” to “bail out” the Arkansas Health Care scholarship funds that assists students going out of state to obtain specialized degrees not available in Arkansas. Some moneys will also go for scholarships of certain deceased military personnel’s children and certain fallen law enforcement officer’s children. Next Friday, July 19, the measure will go before the entire Arkansas Legislative Council for their final approval and then the moneys can be released. Surely it will pass with flying colors!!

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Legislative Report

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

This week we’ll discuss the work done by dedicated legislators during the interim, the period of time between the sessions. Our work does not end when the session ends. We devote as much, or as little for some of us, time as we will tending the people’s business at a much less hectic pace that is possible during the busy sessions on a variety of constituent’s and/or state issues. We search for solutions or suggestions for constituent’s problems, monitor regular reports of state agencies, boards and commissions, and we also seek information, recommendations and legislation to be submitted at the next General Assembly.

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Legislative Report

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Unless unforeseen situations arise, this will likely be my final report in this series on the legislative activities of the 89th General Assembly involving educational issues. There were approximately 200 laws passed involving some aspect of education, but I will only mention a few programs specifically initiated to allegedly enhance our children’s learning.

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Legislative Report

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Greetings! Last week we talked about the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships, also known as the “lottery scholarships”. This week we’ll look at some other scholarships available to qualifying Arkansas students.

The other scholarship program receiving the most space in the media lately has been the Arkansas Health Education Grant Program. This attention is due to many applicants being informed they would receive these scholarships and then later informed some applicants would not after all, due to a funding shortage. Recipients were naturally distressed because they had made plans according to the first notification and now were unsure as to their status and financing.

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Legislative Report – Lottery & Scholarships

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

This week we’ll look at the present situation with scholarships and the state lottery scholarship in particular. Declining lottery revenue and an increase in students applying for the Academic Challenge created a tense situation for the Legislature and the Lottery Oversight Committee this year because tough decisions had to be made regarding the “lottery scholarships”.

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Legislative Report – Education Issues

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Greetings! This week I’ll visit with you about the educational debate surrounding school safety in the 89th General Assembly. You may be assured that the safety of our students was at the forefront of all of our minds as the session began exactly one month after the tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary.

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Legislative Report – Veteran’s Issues

Monday, June 10th, 2013

(Posting late, sorry for the inconvenience.  Joe B.)

Greetings! Since Memorial Day was celebrated on Monday, May 27, I thought it timely to address the veterans’ issues that faced the recent legislative session. I find it interesting to note that the statewide population of veterans today is just over 8%. In the House of Representatives this term we have 13 members (13%) who have served in the military. That means the House has a larger percentage of veterans than the state does. Interesting! Needless to say, the House took the issues facing our veterans very seriously during the session; we passed 19 bills dealing directly, or indirectly, with our veterans or our active military.

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Legislative Report

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Greetings! Although I’ve already said that I surmised that health care reform, Big River Steel, tax cuts and the veterans home were some of the key issues in the 89th House of Representatives, education is always a top priority in the Arkansas legislature. I personally believe that education is the key to all our futures. A better educated workforce is essential to economic growth and development and a brighter future for all of us. The legislature’s support of this is evident in our $4.9 billion dollar state budget which diverts over $2 billion of General Revenue funds to education.

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WEATHER FORECAST

Weather in Monticello
Today Sunday
It is forcast to be Partly Cloudy at 10:00 PM CDT on April 19, 2014
Partly Cloudy
77°/55°
It is forcast to be Partly Cloudy at 10:00 PM CDT on April 20, 2014
Partly Cloudy
79°/57°

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