Legislative ReportDecember 27th, 2012 by Sheilla Lampkin
This will be my last legislative report from District 10 because redistricting placed me further south into District 9. Although I campaigned hard and won the District 9 seat, I want to share with all those folks in District 10 that I really hate to lose you! I wish I could keep both groups! I will miss all the great constituents I met in Lincoln and Cleveland counties (and many of my Drew County people too), but we will forever be friends. I just wanted you to know that I truly will miss those of you who were taken from my district. God bless you and, if I can ever help, call.
All of the legislative activities during the past two weeks have dealt with cleaning up old matters on the agenda and/or preparations for the 89th General Assembly that will begin January 14th.
Of course, health care and the expansion of Medicare will be high on the list of hot topics. At first, there seemed to be little room for agreement or compromise on Medicaid expansion, but I feel both sides are now at least listening to the other occasionally. Interestingly, UAMS is supporting the expansion as the highest priority for UAMS in tackling their rising costs, debt burden and efficiency. The expansion also has the support of the Arkansas Hospital Association, Arkansas Medical Society and other healthcare groups. Keep your eyes, ears and minds open on this one!
Education issues will also be a top priority. Adequacy funding will be important as well as accountability, particularly for some districts that have been given extra funding targeted toward helping children in poverty get a better education, but have not been having much success in boosting scores or improving learning. These funds come through the National School Lunch Act (NSLA) and were designated to provide extra services such as before and after-school programs and remediation programs. In reality the money has gone to a variety of projects and its purpose seems to have been diluted to a wide range of “however we want to spend it” in many cases. Many legislators feel some schools have taken too much leeway in their spending of these funds and a “tightening – up” may be in order.
The third most debated topic for the 89th General Assembly will likely be gun control. This is an issue that requires thoughtful reactions. We would not be wise to go off “half-cocked” like those disturbed people who have brought us to this low point in the first place. Yet security for our children should be a top priority. We just have to react calmly and intelligently. We certainly don’t want to have to deal with “friendly fire” too.
The fourth biggest issue will likely be voter fraud and the ballot petition process. All of those ineligible/incomplete petitions for the voter initiatives that contained pages and pages of signatures signed by the same individual or faulty in other ways was ridiculous, ludicrous and cost the state a great deal of money. There may have to be penalties set at some point of misrepresentation to curb these actions taken by some groups.
The 89th General Assembly will be sworn in and get to the nitty-gritty (I hope) starting January 14th. In January of 2011 when the 88th Assembly took office there was a whale of a snowstorm. Let’s hope this Christmas “blizzard” was the worst this winter has to offer!
I wish you all a safe, prosperous New Year! Thank you for the opportunity to serve and represent you.