Governor Hutchinson's Weekly Radio Address: Getting to the Other Side of COVID
LITTLE ROCK – We are in our second month of inoculating Arkansans against COVID-19, and today I’d like to talk about the progress we are making.
We have received nearly 473,000 doses of the vaccine, and we have administered right at 252,000 of the first dose. Arkansas ranks in the Top 15 states in the number of doses administered, and we are also giving out the second dose of the vaccine on schedule with a separate supply for the second dose.
Our goal is to vaccinate all those who are eligible in the 1-A category by the end of January. This includes health care workers, nursing home residents and staff, and first responders. We expect to meet that objective. We also added to the mix some elements of Phase 1-B, which includes people older than seventy, teachers and school staff, and daycare workers. Once we complete these categories, we will go into other essential workers. Those are identified on our Arkansas Department of Health website. You should remember that this is subject to adjustment as we receive additional information and different CDC guidance.
I have designated Colonel Robert Ator to coordinate and oversee the distribution of the vaccine.
Colonel Ator, whose friends call him Gator, is a retired wing commander of the 189th Airlift Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard.
With his experience in logistics and supply-chain, Colonel Ator is the perfect person to oversee this mission.
As part of our distribution plan, we are working with pharmacies and with state hospitals and other providers to streamline the administration of the vaccines. Our Department of Health team is tracking the supply and redistributing excess vaccine to ensure that the doses are at the sites where they are most needed. The team also is attempting to increase the supply of vaccine and to improve communication with the public and our medical providers.
The vaccine is our best hope for containing COVID-19, and while the number of new COVID cases are gradually trending down, this is no time to let up.
Bryan Duffie, who is superintendent of the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District, reports that about 55 percent of the district’s staff has received the vaccine. We do hope that number increases.
The district partnered with Baptist Hospital North Little Rock, and on the first day, 115 staff members took the vaccine.
Danyelle Musselman, wife of Razorbacks basketball coach Eric Musselman, wants the vaccine so that she can safely visit her sister, who had a heart transplant and is in the high-risk category. She said she has studied vaccines. She said she likes to read and know things for herself rather than listen to opinions.
Danyelle said that “it’s time to get to the other side of this, and the vaccine is the way to do it. We all want to spend time with our friends and family. We want to have birthday parties. We want to have dinners out. We want to have fans at Razorback games.”
Now that we have vaccines, and we have folks such as Colonel Ator and the incredible team at the Department of Health, Superintendent Duffie, and Danyelle Musselman leading the way, we are going to beat this. The First Lady and I have had our vaccine, and there were no side effects. I encourage all of you to get the vaccine at your first opportunity. We’re all ready to get to the other side of this pandemic.
Protecting the Vulnerable and Voiceless
Like many Arkansans, I believe every life is precious and that each person is made in the image of God with a unique purpose and undeniable worth. Whether we notice them or not, every human being possesses fundamental, unalienable rights that we must not deny.
Sadly, that has not been the case in our nation in a variety of situations, but none is more tragic than in the case of the millions of children who have been deprived of their right to life since the Supreme Court upheld the legal right to abortion in 1973.
Since then, a movement to protect these unborn babies has worked diligently to attest to the inherent value of every child and build support around policies to defend lives in the womb and prohibit abortion except in the rarest of circumstances. That movement is spear-headed by groups like the March for Life, the National Right to Life, the Susan B. Anthony List and so many others. We are grateful for their steadfast resolve to stand for the defenseless and end abortion.
We must continue to advance the cause of life and educate the public, including expectant parents, about when life begins and why it is worthy of protection.
Throughout my time in Congress, I have supported policies and actions that embolden and empower the pro-life agenda. The 117th Congress has just begun and I have already sponsored legislation to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortions – which Democrats are now threatening to pursue through ending the Hyde Amendment – and shield babies who, as science tells us, can feel pain as early as 20-weeks from cruel abortion procedures.
On this last issue, it is almost unfathomable to believe that the United States is just one of seven countries in the entire world to allow on-demand abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The other nations on this list include China and North Korea – not company we should wish to keep.
I’m also once again supporting pro-life bills to protect children born alive after an attempted abortion and prevent discrimination against babies diagnosed with Down syndrome from termination of pregnancy because of their condition. Every life is a priceless gift, and unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are no exception.
Each human being, born or unborn, is capable of amazing things that exceed expectations and add much value and joy to the lives and families they are fortunate to be part of. I am honored to stand up and speak out on their behalf and on behalf of those yet to be born so that they can realize their full potential and purpose. Our world would be less bright and loving without them.
Recently, I was proud to learn I had received an A+ pro-life rating from the Susan B. Anthony List for my record promoting the value of life during the last Congress. I truly believe that defending the most vulnerable among us is one of the most important things we can do because of what it says about us and our values as a society.
I remain committed to protecting innocent and unborn children, supporting policies that end abortion and preventing groups participating in the destruction and devaluing of human life from receiving taxpayer dollars. We can be encouraged at how the pro-life movement continues to expand as we unite to defend the sanctity of human life.
One day this effort and movement will culminate in the achievement we have been pursuing for so long – the protection of the unborn from abortion. I hope that day comes soon and am humbled to do my part to bring it to fruition.
1-29-21 4:27 p.m. KAWX.ORG
Several bills are now making their way to the Governor’s desk including one that could expand broadband services across the state.
SB74 had unanimous support in both the House and the Senate.
This bill allows cities, counties, and improvement districts to partner with established providers to expand broadband services for those who currently do not have service or those who are underserved.
SB74 has an emergency clause which means it will become effective after the Governor signs it.
Other bills passed by the House in recent days include:
HB1151-This bill suspends the public school rating system for the 2020-2021 school year due to the disruption to education caused by the pandemic.
HB1009- This bill allows a public school or an open-enrollment public charter school to distribute excess food to students for consumption on the school campus or at home.
HB1113-This bill amends the Commission of State Lands Urban Homestead Act.
Currently, the Commissioner of State Lands can donate land to community organizations to develop low-income housing. This bill states that if the donated land has not been used for that purpose after three years, the commissioner can allow the land to be used for the development of a public school or open-enrollment charter school in an area with a high poverty rate.
HB1032-This bill allows taxpayers with military retirement benefit under $6,000 to claim a total retirement exemption up to that amount if the taxpayer has additional retirement income. The Department of Finance and Administration estimates this bill affects 700 Arkansans.
HB1202-This bill requires counties to post sample ballots on the Secretary of State website at least 20 days before each preferential primary and general election and at least ten days before each general primary, general runoff, school, or special election.
HB1211-This bill states the Governor shall not prohibit or limit a religious organization from continuing to operate religious services during a declared emergency.
HB1003-This bill ensures respectful language is used in Arkansas code regarding individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and removes from the Arkansas code the term "hearing impaired".
SB76-This bill creates a permitting process for excursion trains to serve and sell alcoholic beverages.
HB1056-This bill amends the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act by allowing public meetings to be held via phone or video conference during a declared emergency.
HB1009- This bill authorizes the Veterinary Medical Examining Board to promulgate rules for the use of telemedicine.
HB1013-Amends Arkansas Music Appreciation Day to add James "Jim Dandy" Mangrum, Buddy Jewell, and Mark Lavon "Levon" Helm. September 1 was established as Arkansas Music Appreciation Day by the 92nd General Assembly.
The House will reconvene on Monday at 1 pm. You can find all agendas and links to live-streams of meetings at www.arkansashouse.org.
1-29-21 3:51 p.m. KAWX.ORG
Rutledge Highlights Outstanding Law Enforcement at Annual Awards Ceremony
Recognized Fayetteville Police Officers as Law Enforcement Officers of the Year
BENTON – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge hosted today the 2020 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Luncheon at the Benton Event Center, where she announced Fayetteville Police Department’s Sergeant James Jennings, Corporal Seay-Peter Floyd, and Officer Natalie Eucce as the Law Enforcement Officers of the Year. Following Arkansas Health Department guidelines, law enforcement from across the State attended the 18th annual awards ceremony honoring an outstanding law enforcement official from each of Arkansas’s 75 counties.
“Every day law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to protect their communities,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “In Arkansas, we will always back the blue.”
The 2020 Law Enforcement Officers of the Year recipients, Sergeant James Jennings, Corporal Seay-Peter Floyd, and Officer Natalie Eucce, were recognized for an incident that occurred on December 7, 2019, when Officer Stephen Carr was sitting in his patrol unit outside of the Fayetteville Police Department. Officer Carr was waiting on his partner, Natalie Eucce, who was inside the police department speaking with one of her supervisors, Sergeant James Jennings. A suspect approached from the rear of Officer Carr’s patrol vehicle and without provocation or warning, shot Officer Carr.
Corporal Seay Floyd was inside the police department and heard the shots being fired in the parking lot. Corporal Floyd looked out the window and observed the suspect shooting at Officer Carr’s vehicle as he walked through the parking lot. Without hesitation and with no regard for his own safety, Corporal Floyd immediately exited the police department and confronted the armed suspect. Corporal Floyd fired his handgun at the suspect as the suspect moved to a position of cover.
Officer Eucce and Sergeant Jennings also heard the shots being fired. They immediately responded to assist Corporal Floyd. All three officers ran towards the threat to engage the suspect. The suspect hid in a dark alleyway alongside the police department. The three officers moved with precision and sound tactics which gave them a tactical advantage when they located the suspect hiding in the alleyway. The suspect emerged from the alleyway and advanced on the officers still armed. Corporal Floyd and Officer Eucce fired striking the suspect multiple times. They then attempted life saving measures but the suspect died at the scene. Other responding officers attempted life saving measures on Officer Carr, however, he succumbed to his injuries and died at the scene.
Chief Reynolds states, “Valor is defined in part as ‘great courage in the face of danger.’ Sergeant Jennings, Corporal Floyd and Officer Eucce exemplified this definition on the night of December 7, 2019. With no regard for their own safety, they moved into the line of fire, located and stopped a murderer before he could stop anyone else. If it had not been for their bravery, courage and valor, many more lives may have been lost.”
Regional Officers of the Year recognized during the luncheon included: Searcy Police Officer Burnis “BJ” Rouse, Little Rock Police Detective Troy Dillard, Arkansas State Police Corporal Andrew Ault, Star City Police Department Sergeant Ben Reeves and Officer John Fallis.
Rutledge also presented a VALOR tribute, which is given in honor of members of the law enforcement community who tragically lost their lives while in the line of duty this past year. This year’s tribute was presented to the family of eight law enforcement officials who lost their lives.
County Officers of the Year
Corporal Billy McCradic, Arkansas State Police
Trooper Charles (Ross) Allen, Arkansas State Police
Special Agent Jackie Stinnett, Arkansas State Police
Chief Stephen Grizzle, Decatur Police Department
Special Agent Buster Rinks, Arkansas State Police
Corporal Sammy Norris, Arkansas State Police
Trooper First Class Wade Schanzlin, Arkansas State Police
Corporal Jeff Ricketts, Arkansas State Police
Corporal David Tumey, Arkansas State Police
Corporal William Summerville, Arkansas State Police
Sergeant Ashley Vaughn, Corning Police Department
Wildlife Officer Briston Gould, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Corporal Greg Rowland, Arkansas State Police
Trooper First Class Brent Walker, Arkansas State Police
Corporal Josh Howard, Morrilton Police Department
Officer Kaitlyn Inouye, Jonesboro Police Department
Trooper First Class Chris Short, Arkansas State Police
Sergeant Stephanie Soimis, Arkansas Department of Community Correction
Trooper Tanner Hess, Arkansas State Police
Trooper Jimmy Pyler Jr., Arkansas State Police
Corporal Scott Rosegrant, Arkansas State Police
Trooper Tyler Gentry, Arkansas State Police
Special Agent Gregg Bray, Arkansas State Police
Lieutenant Ben Sisk and Wildlife Officer Kirk Turner, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Corporal Jason Hooks, Arkansas State Police
Corporal Andrew Ault, Arkansas State Police
Corporal David Forthman, Arkansas State Police
Trooper First Class Chris Davenport, Arkansas State Police
Corporal Corwin Battle, Arkansas State Police
Corporal David Hamilton, Arkansas State Police
Hot Spring County
Corporal Christopher Garner, Arkansas State Police
Corporal Tomisha Ivory, Arkansas Department of Correction
Corporal Kyle Jones, Arkansas State Police
Deputy Jordan Harder and Deputy Bobby Tate, Independence County Sheriff’s Office
Sergeant Kyle Moody, Arkansas Department of Correction
Trooper Marcus Simpson, Arkansas State Police
Corporal Huston Talley, Arkansas State Police
Lieutenant Arron Arnold, Clarksville Police Department
Deputy Kris Carr, Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office
Corporal Anthony Dail, Arkansas State Police
Trooper Jake Price, Arkansas State Police
Sergeant Ben Reeves and Officer John Fallis, Star City Police Department
Little River County
Wildlife Officer Cody Standifer, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Lieutenant Thurman K Lunsford, Logan County Sheriff’s Office
Corporal Jason Dooley, Arkansas State Police
Special Agent Eric Lee, Arkansas State Police
Corporal Tim Davenport, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Captain Lillie Phillips, Arkansas Department of Correction
Captain Andre Harris, Arkansas Department of Community Correction
Trooper Justin Williams, Arkansas State Police
Corporal James Avant, Arkansas State Police
Wildlife Officer Spencer Miller, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Senior Corporal Mike Thomas, Arkansas State Police
Corporal Larry McMahen, Arkansas State Police
Chief Bill Sneed, Perry Police Department
Lieutenant John E. Harris, Phillips County Sheriff’s Office
Lieutenant Wayne Epperly, Pike County Sheriff’s Office
Trooper Tommy Fitzgerald, Arkansas State Police
Trooper First Class Bo Hayes, Arkansas State Police
Trooper First Class Deston Linkous and Corporal Steven C. Magness, Arkansas State Police
Special Agent Jason Martin and Sergeant Randall Murphy, Arkansas State Police
Detective Troy Dillard, Little Rock Police Department
Corporal Nick Poulsen, Arkansas State Police
St. Francis County
Corporal Kelvin Stewart, Arkansas State Police
Corporal Chet White, Arkansas State Police
Corporal Mac Davis, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Sex Offender Coordinator Cari Seaton, Searcy County Sheriff’s Office
Officer Kenneth Martin, Fort Smith Police Department
Wildlife Officer Sydney Grant, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Trooper First Class Darren Bates, Arkansas State Police
Corporal Chad Cruce, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
Trooper Garrett Brock, Arkansas State Police
Van Buren County
Lieutenant Charles Shaw, Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office
Corporal Seay Peter-Floyd, Sergeant James Jennings and Officer Natalie Eucce, Fayetteville Police Department
Officer Burnis “BJ” Rouse, Searcy Police Department
Major Jody Akins, Woodruff County Sheriff’s Office
Trooper Steven Payton, Arkansas State Police
1-29-21 3:08 p.m. KAWX.ORG
State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Larry Teague
January 29, 2021
LITTLE ROCK – A Senate committee advanced legislation that protects the rights of people with disabilities who need an organ transplant.
Senate Bill 155 also is known as Lila’s Law, after a girl with Down syndrome who in 2018 was denied a potential heart transplant. The Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor gave it a favorable recommendation, which means it will be voted on by the entire Senate.
Federal law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, but there is a general lack of enforcement. If SB 155 is enacted, Arkansas would join 15 other states with similar laws that are meant to highlight and prevent discrimination.
SB 155 would prohibit health care providers, organ donor organizations, laboratories and other providers from discriminating against people with disabilities. They could not deny a transplant based only on the fact that the person has a disability, nor could they drop that person lower on the list of potential organ recipients.
They could not refuse to refer someone to a transplant center or refuse to put them on a waiting list. The person with a disability could not be denied insurance coverage.
However, under the bill a health care provider could still refuse to perform a transplant that is considered medically inappropriate.
SB 155 would expedite the appeals process in the event someone is denied a transplant and decides to go to court.
In other news, the House passed HB 1151 to suspend for this year a grading system to rate schools.
The impetus is that the Covid-19 virus has caused changes in scheduling, increased absenteeism and disruptions in formerly routine chores. For example, school staff must sanitize classrooms and maintain social distancing. Many more students are being taught virtually.
School report cards contain a multitude of information, such as graduation rates and student scores on standardized tests. They also include a grade letter from A to F, but under HB 1151 those letter grades would not be included for the 2020-2021 school year.
HB 1151 was sent to the Senate and referred to the Senate Education Committee.
HB 1056, to allow public entities to meet virtually during a disaster emergency declared by the governor, was approved by the House. It would amend current provisions in the state Freedom of Information Act that requires public meetings to be open. Under HB 1056 the public could still attend, virtually.
The public entity must publish the method by which people may virtually attend the meeting.
The meetings must still be recorded.
The Senate passed SB 87 concerning the licensing of massage therapists by the Health Department. SB 87 authorizes the state licensing board to deny someone a massage therapy license if the person had committed a prostitution offense.
Also, the Senate approved SB 27, which would ensure that the Health Department hire individuals with experience working with veterans for the staff that answers the state suicide prevention hot lines.
Over the past three years, 1,077 veterans have called the state’s Suicide Prevention hotline, according to the sponsor of SB 27.
SB 87 and SB 27 were sent to House committees. If advanced by the committees, the entire House will vote on them and they will go to the governor’s office for his signature.
1-29-21 11:15 a.m. KAWX.ORG
The following information was received from Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer for the week of January 18, 2021 – January 24, 2021. The charges against those arrested are allegations and the cases are still pending in the courts. Individuals charged and whose names appear in this column may submit documentation to us at a later date that the charges have been dismissed or that they have been found innocent and we will include that information in this space in a timely manner.
January 18, 2021
Report of receiving harassing text messages. Deputy responded. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for further consideration of charges.
Report of a structure fire on Polk 76E near Acorn. Deputy responded.
Report of a domestic disturbance on Polk 76E near Acorn. Deputy responded. Both complainants refused to press charges.
Report of an unattended death on Hendricks Lane near Cove.
January 19, 2021
Report of problems involving a neighbor’s livestock. Deputy responded.
Arrested was Taylor Higgins, 25, of Mena on Charges of Disorderly Conduct, and Refusal to Submit to Arrest.
Arrested was Thomas E. Stotts, 67, of Mena on Charges of DWI, Refusal to Submit and Improper Turn at Intersection.
January 20, 2021
Report of receiving harassing text messages. Deputy responded. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for further consideration of charges.
Report from complainant on Polk 18 near Vandervoort of a stolen vehicle. Deputy responded. Investigation continues.
Report from complainant on Polk 76E near Acorn of a hit and run accident. Deputy responded.
January 21, 2021
Report of a disturbance led to three juvenile males being issued Juvenile Citations for Criminal Mischief. Juveniles were released to the custody of parent/guardian.
Report of damage done to a car. Deputy responded. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for further consideration of charges.
Report of an individual being struck by a car on Polk 88 near Ink. Deputy responded.
January 22, 2021
Report from complainant on Hwy 8W near Shady Grove of possible identity fraud. Deputy responded.
Report from complainant on Polk 57 near Board Camp of a scam. Deputy responded.
January 23, 2021
Report from complainant on Dalton Lane near Vandervoort of a domestic disturbance. Deputy responded.
January 24, 2021
Report from complainant on Hwy 375E near Dallas Valley of identity fraud.
Report from complainant on Polk 76 E near Acorn of an altercation. Deputy responded. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for further consideration of charges.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office worked one vehicle accident this week.
Polk County Detention Center Jail Population: 18 Incarcerated Inmates, with 13 Inmates currently on the Waiting List for a State Facility.
1-25-21 11:47 a.m. KAWX.ORG
Movie Nights Return to OLT
The monthly “Movie Night Party” will return on Wednesday, February 10 at 6:30 PM. The next two classic films will feature a salute to the work of Neil Simon, who authored these selections that have both been produced on the OLT stage with great success.
The first film stars a young Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in “Barefoot in the Park.” This delightful comedy from 1967 is a romantic story of a two “opposite but passionate” newlyweds and their hilarious adjustment to ordinary married life. On March 10, OLT will show Simon’s famously hilarious work, “The Odd Couple” starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.
Mark your calendars, and don’t forget to wear your mask. And you might want to bring a couple of dollars for fresh hot popcorn!
1-25-21 11:40 a.m. KAWX.ORG
Mena Police Department reports for the week of January 17th through January 23rd, 2021
A report of harassment was taken from a walk-in complainant.
Clifton Dover, 65, was charged with Possession of Meth, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia after a disturbance at the Northside Super Stop.
A report of trespassing was taken at a residence on Michelle Drive.
A report of harassment was taken from a walk-in complainant.
Cord Olsen, 35, was served with a warrant after a vehicle accident at James’ Super Save Foods.
A report of leaving the scene of an accident was taken at Walmart parking lot.
A report of harassment was taken from a walk-in complainant.
A report of theft was taken at PCDC.
A report of a disturbance was taken at Walmart.
No reports taken.
A report of theft was taken. Theft occurred on Bonner Circle.
A report of battery was taken by a walk-in complainant.
A report of financial identity fraud was taken from a walk-in complainant.
Catelin Watkins, 28, was charged with Theft of Property (Shoplifting) at The Market.
A report of disorderly conduct was taken from a walk-in complainant.
Billy Fletcher, 34, was served with five warrants after contact at the intersection of Janssen Avenue and Pickering Avenue.
Richard Adair, 41, was charged with Public Intoxication and Obstructing Government Operations after a disturbance call to a residence on 10th Street.
All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
1-25-21 11:17 a.m. KAWX.ORG
Biden Decision to Cancel Keystone XL Pipeline Costly and Destructive
Griffin says 'The consequences will be less jobs, higher energy costs and more dependence on foreign oil'
LITTLE ROCK – Lt. Governor Tim Griffin issued the following statement regarding President Biden's decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit:
"President Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline permit is a giant step backwards for our country. The decision will negatively impact millions of Americans while doing nothing to further his stated goal of improving the environment. The consequences will be less jobs, higher energy costs and more dependence on foreign oil. The bottom line is that the oil traveling in the pipeline will still be refined somewhere. Even the Prime Minister of Canada criticized the decision. I spent years in Congress leading the charge for the Keystone XL Pipeline and was excited when President Trump approved it. We have seen first-hand the positive economic impact it has had, especially right here in Central Arkansas, while furthering the goal of energy independence. In 2014, I called President Obama’s delays in approving the permit 'embarrassing and unacceptable' because the decision was based on politics, not good science or the country’s interests. President Biden is making the same mistake that President Obama did, and I am asking our federal delegation to continue the fight to reverse this ill-conceived decision."
Click here to watch Lt. Gov. Griffin's January 18, 2012 press conference on the Keystone XL Pipeline.
1-23-21 8:38 a.m. KAWX.ORG
Governor Hutchinson's Weekly Radio Address: The Peaceful Transfer of Power
LITTLE ROCK – The inauguration of President Joe Biden was like no other in our history. I have had the privilege of attending five inaugurations before President Biden’s this week, and the atmosphere this year was understandably more somber than the others. With all that our nation has been through over the past year, including the recent attack on the U.S. Capitol, it was if the nation was holding its breath. But as we always have, the United States peacefully transferred authority from one administration to the next.
This year, I attended the inauguration as a member of the opposition party. After more than two months of angry debate about the outcome, Democrats and Republicans put the arguments in the past and convened peacefully in the nation’s capital to witness our new president swear that to the best of his ability, he will “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The inauguration of President Reagan was special for me, even though I watched it from a distance. He followed Jimmy Carter when the country was still healing from the Vietnam War, and we were struggling with high inflation in a sluggish economy. The two main political parties were as divided as they ever had been.
But we handed off the baton without incident. In his inaugural address, President Reagan noted that Americans take for granted the peaceful quadrennial transfer of power.
He said, “The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place, as it has for almost two centuries, and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every-four-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.”
At this year’s inauguration, my seat was about fifteen yards behind the 46th President of the United States as he delivered his first speech as our Commander in Chief. When you are there, you can’t help but think of all the other presidents and significant Americans who have walked on that very ground over the past two centuries to participate in this wonder of self-government.
This year’s inauguration was no less a miracle than the fifty-eight others that preceded it. Amanda Gorman, the 22-year-old youth poet laureate who delivered her poem, The Hill We Climb, captured it beautifully when she said: “And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow we do it. Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.”
One of the most difficult hand offs was in 1801 when selection of the president fell to the House of Representatives, who elected Thomas Jefferson over the incumbent John Adams. In a letter that President Jefferson wrote to President Adams towards the end of their lives, Mr. Jefferson recalled that time through the long lens of history. When it was all said and done, he wrote, they had fought for the same cause. He wrote, “It carries me back to the times when, beset with difficulties and dangers, we were fellow laborers in the same cause, struggling for what is most valuable to man … Laboring always at the same oar, with some wave ever ahead threatening to overwhelm us, and yet passing harmless ... we rode (safely) through the storm.”
Once again, the United States has sailed safely through the storm of an election and the transfer of power. It’s a journey I don’t take for granted.
As President Reagan said: “That's our heritage; that is our song. We sing it still. For all our problems, our differences, we are together as of old, as we raise our voices to the God who is the Author of this most tender music. And may He continue to hold us close as we fill the world with our sound—sound in unity, affection, and love—one people under God, dedicated to the dream of freedom that He has placed in the human heart, called upon now to pass that dream on to a waiting and hopeful world.”
These words still ring true today.
In the second week of the 2021 Regular Session, the House voted on bills addressing everything from car tags to jury duty pay.
The bills now advancing to the Senate include:
HB1028-This bill changes the length of time a consumer has to tag their vehicle. Current law gives car buyers 30 days to pay the sales tax and register a vehicle after purchase. HB 1028 would extend it to 60 days.
HB1059-This bill allows participants in a specialty court program, such as drug court, to transfer to a similar program if they move to another court district. This bill also includes guidelines for courts to establish a veterans treatment specialty court program and a DWI specialty court program. In addition, HB1059 sets to develop a domestic violence specialty court program.
Specialty courts are designed to lower the prison population by directing individuals to needed treatment programs.
HB1185-This bill allows the Department of Correction to make an administrative transfer of an inmate to the Division of Community Correction. This would not impact the length of a sentence but rather allow the department to transfer an inmate if they need behavioral or substance abuse treatment.
HB1058-This bill allows a juror to donate their per diem compensation and mileage reimbursement to an eligible nonprofit entity. The administrative office of the courts will be tasked with compiling a list of eligible nonprofits.
An eligible nonprofit should offer services in multiple counties and have as one of its primary goals the providing of:
- Crime victim assistance or counseling
- Services for abused or neglected children
- Shelter for victims of domestic violence
- Services for veterans
- Legal education for students seeking a Juris Doctor degree.
HB1107-This bill amends the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to allow the Arkansas Department of Health to request physical or electronic copies of prescriptions from prescribers or dispensers when checking for accuracy.
The House reconvenes on Monday at 1 pm. You can find a list of all agendas and links to live-streams of all meetings at www.arkansashouse.org.
1-22-21 5:05 p.m. KAWX.ORG
Challenges and Opportunities Ahead with New Administration
As of January 20 at noon, the executive branch of the United States government is now headed by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. As with any new administration, we congratulate and pray for them as they embark on this journey of leadership during a very difficult time for our country.
I also pledge to work together with them on the issues where we can find agreement, but I know both sides will continue to maintain the courage of our convictions – especially on the tough, but important, issues that our country faces today and in the future.
In his inaugural address, President Biden implored the nation to unite and heal by practicing empathy and respect. I concur on the need to renew our efforts on those fronts, and believe we should always treat each other with dignity and grace. I’m fond of the reminder to disagree without being disagreeable.
Indeed, there are even policy areas where I believe we can find common ground.
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine distributed and administered, helping support the individuals and businesses decimated by the economic impact of the virus, working on shared priorities like sensible investments to modernize and improve America’s aging infrastructure and address the lack of broadband internet access in many rural areas –– these are just a few examples of places where I think there might be a will and way to achieve significant results.
In my role in the Senate, I will have an opportunity to work across the aisle on some of the issues I’ve spent years learning about and working to make progress on. As the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, I will help my counterpart Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and this new administration support our farmers and ranchers, producers and rural America through a variety of policy efforts.
Likewise, as a longtime member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I recognize how much more work there is to be done to deliver on the promises made to America’s former service members. Ensuring they receive the services and benefits they have earned is a mission I will eagerly work to accomplish with my colleagues across the aisle and at the Department of Veterans Affairs. I believe the president appreciates the magnitude of this responsibility and will work with us to advance solutions and reforms that are needed.
But unity cannot come at the expense of first principles and deeply-held convictions. And it must not mean stampeding through Congress or the culture to silence and sideline those who might disagree on any given issue, but especially the most important ones.
Calls to abolish the legislative filibuster risk poisoning any earnest attempts at bipartisan collaboration. Similarly, on day one of his administration the president signed a number of executive orders on consequential, highly-polarized subjects which threaten to undermine his own stated intentions to work cooperatively with Congress and get buy-in from the very Americans who did not vote for him.
Taking unilateral action on his first day in office to rejoin the Paris climate accords, cancel the Keystone XL pipeline project, make sweeping changes to immigration enforcement policies and once again empower bureaucrats to impose heavy-handed regulations is not the way to start a productive relationship between the president and congressional Republicans, or win the trust of our constituents.
I will always do my part to foster unity and comity in the halls of the Senate and elsewhere. Yet I would also encourage the president and his administration to do the same – not just with words and symbolic gestures, but with meaningful action or, perhaps even more appropriately, restraint. There is much work to be done.
1-22-21 4:02 p.m. KAWX.ORG
State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Larry Teague
January 22, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – The Senate passed legislation known as the “Stand Your Ground” bill, which would allow someone to use deadly force to defend themselves against an aggressor. If enacted, the bill would remove a provision in current law that says people may not use deadly force if they are able to retreat safely.
The Senate approved the measure, Senate Bill 24, on a vote of 27-to-7, with one senator not voting. SB 24 was sent to the House Judiciary Committee, which must consider it before a vote of the entire House of Representatives.
For a bill to become law, both chambers of the legislature must approve the exact same version of it.
The Senate also approved SB 32, which would allow liquor stores to deliver alcoholic beverages to a customer’s home. It would make permanent the temporary allowances initiated by executive order last year, at the start of the pandemic.
Under the bill, customers can only order home deliveries if they’re 21 years of age. The store will have to use its own employees for deliveries, and not third party contractors. The bill only affects wet counties, because liquor stores could only make deliveries in the same county in which they are located.
The vote on SB 32 was close. It needed 18 votes in the 35-member Senate for approval. It passed by a vote of 19-to-9, with seven senators not voting.
In other news, the Senate approved legislation to complete the merger of Henderson State University at Arkadelphia into the Arkansas State University System. SB 116 would abolish the Board of Trustees of Henderson State and vest its duties to the Board of Trustees of the ASU System.
SB 116 also adds two members to the ASU System Board of Trustees, bringing it from five to seven.
The Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor endorsed SB 99, which would regulate “step therapy” protocols.
Health insurance companies are using step therapy in more plans nowadays, as a method of holding down costs of prescription drugs.
Under step therapy, a patient would start with an over the counter drug, for example, because it is relatively cheap. If that drug is not effective, the patent would get a more expensive prescription. Under the protocol, the patient gets more expensive drugs after the insurance company has reviewed the case and determined that the cheaper drug does not work.
According to SB 99, the protocol process can have adverse consequences for the patient’s health. The bill would allow patients to be exempt from protocols if the protocols cause the patient to not receive the most appropriate treatment.
SB 99 would require health insurers to rely on established research and clinical guidelines when they write step therapy protocols into coverage plans.
Patients and their physicians could ask for an exemption from the protocol, and the process of getting an exemption must be clear, readily accessible and convenient.
SB99 would change the law governing health insurance, prescription drugs and the authority of physicians. The bill’s sponsor said that it would be amended to address concerns of affected parties.
1-22-21 9:14 a.m. KAWX.ORG
On Thursday January 14, 2021, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to a report of a freezer being found in a wooded area north of Acorn. Upon arrival, deputies opened the freezer and discovered human remains.
Based on evidence at the scene and witness statements, it was determined that the remains had been there for several months. Further investigation determined that the remains were possibly connected to a missing persons case in Wagoner, Oklahoma.
The Arkansas State Police assisted the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in processing the scene and recovering the body. Investigators from the Wagoner County Sheriff’s Office were contacted and also came to the scene.
The body was transported to the Arkansas State Crime Lab for positive identification and an autopsy. The victim has since been identified as Talina Galloway, age 53, of Wagoner, Oklahoma. Galloway was first reported missing in April of 2020. Talina Galloway’s disappearance was featured in Dateline's "Missing in America" on May 25, 2020.
In June of 2020, Wagoner County Sheriff Chris Elliot named Kore Bommeli, Galloway's roommate, as a person of interest in Galloway's disappearance. At the time of Sheriff Elliot's press conference, Bommeli was in custody on several charges including: felon in possession of a firearm, destruction of evidence, obstruction, fraud, and larceny. Bommeli has since posted bond on those charges.
On Thursday, January 21, 2021, warrants for 1st Degree Murder and Abuse of a Corpse were issued for Kore Bommeli by the Wagoner County Prosecuting Attorney, Jack Thorp. Bommeli was arrested at an undisclosed location and is awaiting extradition back to Wagoner, Oklahoma.
Sheriff Sawyer stated “The Wagoner Oklahoma Sheriff’s Office has been working very hard on this case since last summer. They’ve done a great job and I am very happy that we could help them close out this tragic case and bring those responsible to justice”.
1-21-21 9:11 p.m. KAWX.ORG
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (Jan. 21, 2021) — The Ouachita and Ozark-St. Francis National Forests will be conducting prescribed burns in Arkansas and Oklahoma over the next several months.
The purposes of these burns are to reestablish fire’s natural role in the forest ecosystem, improve forest health, and reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires. Prescribed burns are conducted when the conditions indicate that natural resource management objectives will be met and there will be minimal impact to the public.
“The Ouachita and Ozark-St. Francis National Forest approach their prescribed fire season based on historic fire frequency, said Joshua Graham, Ouachita and Ozark-St. Francis National Forests fire and aviation staff officer. “On this landscape of 3.1 million acres of Federal land in Arkansas and the southeastern part of Oklahoma, the Forest Plans refers to burning up to a combined 250,000 acres annually to meet our historic normal desired condition over a period of 10-15 years.”
Prescribed fires, also known as controlled fires, are intended to meet several objectives.
“The first objective of prescribed burns is to reduce the potential for large, costly catastrophic wildfires,” Graham said. “Other important objectives include improving habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, including deer, turkey, endangered Indiana Bats or Red Cockaded Woodpeckers and others, which are all essential in the balance of natural processes.
With urban development continually spreading into the forests, we are no longer able to allow natural ignition to roam freely across the states as it did in prehistoric conditions. Instead of allowing wildfire to move across the landscape unrestricted, land managers use controlled fire to meet similar objectives.”
People with smoke sensitivities, who are not on the Forest Service’s prescribed burn notification list, should contact their nearest ranger district to be added.
Many conditions must be met before a prescribed fire can be ignited. The day chosen must be a combination of the correct humidity, wind speed and direction, temperature, fuel moisture, and atmospheric conditions. Factoring in all these requirements limits the number of days in which a prescribed fire can take place.
Flying drones over a wildfire or prescribed burn puts our pilots in danger. This violation of federal, state, and local laws may subject the offender to civil penalties, including fines of up to $25,000, and potentially criminal prosecution.
The Ouachita and Ozark-St. Francis National Forests will notify local media outlets and smoke sensitive residents on days when prescribed fires are scheduled in their area. Daily updates on prescribed fires across the forests can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/ouachita or www.fs.usda.gov/osfnf, or by calling 888-243-1042.
The public is asked to report any unattended wildfires by calling 911 or the Forests’ fire dispatch at 501-321-5232.
1-21-21 10:02 a.m. KAWX.ORG
The Mena School Board held their January meeting on Tuesday, Janaury 19, at the Administration building.
The Meeting began with Mr. Benny Weston addressing a number of topics in his Superintendent’s Report. He began with an update on Covid Vaccine availability for staff. The district will be partnering with UAMS to host a clinic on Wednesday, January 27th.
Weston also reported that Mena will be receiving additional Covid relief funding. These ESSER II (Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief) Funds will total $2,410,776.00
Finally the board was updated on education issues that will be a part of the current legislative session in Little Rock.
In new business Weston read a proclamation from Governor Asa Hutchinson on School Board Appreciation Month.
Next the board was notified that the annual Mena FFA Alumni Auction has been postponed indefinitely due to Covid concerns.
Dr. Lee Smith gave an update on the new phone system that was installed over the winter break at MHS, MMS and HHE. Technicians continue to work on ironing out issues and the process is nearing completion.
District Maintenance Supervisor, Mr. Danny Minton, spoke to the board about facilities and stated that S.E. Texas Sports Fields have begun work on the baseball and softball fields at Union Bank Park in preparation for the upcoming season. All outdoor facilities have been winterized and the new surface on the gym floors at Jim Rackley and the Union Bank Center have been completed. Minton also asked the board to renew the annual contracts with Harrison Energy for system maintenance at MHS and LDE. Also with Chem-Aqua for HVAC maintenance at MHS. All were approved.
Dr. Smith then presented a new virtual attendance policy for approval. In short, all blended students and those enrolled in the Polk County Virtual Academy must meet attendance requirements by remaining actively engaged. Students do this by completing at least 95% of daily assignments. Logging in and participating in required online activities up to 6 hours per day. Participation in District and State assessments as well as other requirements necessary for promotion to the next grade level or graduation. That policy was approved.
The annual Mid Year Review was next on the agenda. Weston said that to date approximately 44% of the annual budget has been depleted and that the district remains in good financial condition.
The board then approved the proposed budget for July 1st, 2022 thru June 30th, 2023 with no changes from the previous year.
They also approved the annual legal liability insurance policy at a cost of $8,870.00 and also an out of state liability policy at a cost of $541.00.
Dr. Lee Smith updated the board on the ASBA policy regarding Covid leave. An additional 10 days leave has been added for school employees for a maximum of 20 days for Covid related illness.
The board was happy to hear that a recent audit of the district’s finances showed no findings. The board accepted the clear audit.
It was reported that all school board members have met their training requirements for the year.
The financial report met with prompt approval.
Superintendent Benny Weston then presented his resignation to the board effective June 30, 2021, to take the role of DeQueen-Mena Educational Cooperative Director. That resignation was accepted and the board immediately went into executive session.
When the open meeting resumed they proceeded to address personnel issues. The board accepted the resignation of custodian Dianne Barber. They were also notified and accepted the retirements of MMS Principal Clifton Sherrer and MMS teacher Robin Ponder. The board also hired Dr. Lee Smith as Superintendent effective July 1, 2021.
Mena Police Department reports for the week of January 10th through January 16th, 2021
A report of violation of a no contact was taken in the parking lot of Graves Propane.
Justin Keaster, 38, was served with a warrant and Barbara Rusher, 33, was charged with Hindering Apprehension at a residence on Evans Circle.
Samuel Fuselier, 36 was charged with Theft of Property and served with a warrant, and Jessica Williams, 36, was charged with Theft of Property at Walmart.
A report of criminal mischief was taken on Bonner Circle.
Aaron Whisenhunt, 29, was served with a warrant after a traffic stop on Highway 71 North.
A report of domestic battery, criminal mischief and criminal trespass was taken at a residence at Men-Ark Apartments.
A report of criminal mischief was taken at Keller-Williams Real Estate.
A report of battery was taken at Budget Inn.
A report of a disturbance was taken at a residence on Reeves Avenue.
A report of theft was taken at Budget Inn.
A report of theft of property (shoplifting) was taken from Walmart.
A report of financial identity fraud was taken from a walk-in complainant.
Marsha Denton, 36, was served with a warrant after a disturbance call to the parking lot of Mena Insurance.
Tristen Chaney, 25, was charged with Criminal Trespass and served with a warrant at Walmart.
A juvenile was charged with Theft of Property (Shoplifting) at Walmart.
James Pierce, 34, was charged with Possession of Meth with the Purpose to Deliver, Possession of Meth, Possession of Schedule VI with the Purpose to Deliver, and Possession of Schedule VI Controlled Substance and Mykos Pierce, 21, was charged with Possession of Marijuana at a residence on 9th Street.
A report of harassment was taken from a person at Walmart.
A theft report was taken at a residence on Port Arthur.
Tracy Suire, 62, was charged with Theft of Property after a complaint from Salvation Army.
A report of criminal mischief was taken at a residence on Fink Street.
Richard Silverman, 47, was charged with Resisting Arrest and served with four warrants at a residence on 7th Street.
A report of trespassing was taken at a residence on Hidden Valley Road.
A report of financial scam through Facebook was taken from a walk-in complainant.
All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
1-19-21 11:29 a.m. KAWX.ORG
The following information was received from Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer for the week of January 11, 2021 – January 17, 2021. The charges against those arrested are allegations and the cases are still pending in the courts. Individuals charged and whose names appear in this column may submit documentation to us at a later date that the charges have been dismissed or that they have been found innocent and we will include that information in this space in a timely manner.
January 11, 2021
Report of a disturbance led to a juvenile female being issued a Juvenile Citation.
Arrested by an officer with the Grannis Police Department was Debbie Bennett, 45, of Spiro, Oklahoma on Charges of Fleeing in a Vehicle, Careless and Prohibited Driving, and DWI.
January 12, 2021
No reports filed.
January 13, 2021
Report of receiving inappropriate text messages. Deputy responded.
January 14, 2021
No reports filed.
January 15, 2021
Report from complainant on Polk 54 near Dallas Valley of the theft of three ATV’s valued at $8,000.00. Deputy responded. Investigation continues.
Report of a disturbance led to a juvenile male being issued a Juvenile Citation. The juvenile was released to the custody of a parent/guardian.
Report of suspicious activity at a jobsite. Deputy responded.
January 16, 2021
Report of a domestic altercation on Doris Lane near Mena. Deputy responded. Complainant refused to press charges.
Report of a possible forged check. Deputy responded.
January 17, 2021
No reports filed.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office worked no vehicle accidents this week.
Polk County Detention Center Jail Population: 17 Incarcerated Inmates, with 13 Inmates currently on the Waiting List for a State Facility.
1-19-21 9:57 a.m. KAWX.ORG
Congratulations to the following Mena High School Band students for making the Region 8 All Region Concert Bands:
Jaci Allen- 3rd band, 2nd chair Flute
Katie Benefield-3rd band, 8th chair Flute
Ranessa Ricker-3rd band, 11th chair Flute
Annika Thompson-1st band, 2nd chair Oboe
Lexi Williams-2nd band, 4th chair clarinet
Lexi Dilbeck-2nd band, 15th chair clarinet
Suzanne Lawrence- 2nd band, 18th chair clarinet
Breezy Hendrix-3rd band, 3rd chair bass clarinet
Emily Holloway-Alto Saxophone Alternate
Kate McDonald-2nd band, 2nd chair Tenor Saxophone
Cadence Barnes-2nd band, 3rd chair Tenor Saxophone
Shylee Head-2nd band, 1st chair Bari Saxophone
Levi McIntyre-2nd band, 13th chair Trumpet
Esmerelda Johnson- Trumpet Alternate
Gage Gorden-Trombone Alternate
Ayden Ludwig-2nd band, 3rd chair Baritone
Layla Spenser-3rd band, 2nd chair Baritone
Samuel Cross-2nd band, 1st chair Tuba
Daniel McDonald-3rd band, 6th chair Tuba
Alexia Minzel-2nd band, 8th chair Percussion
Summer Loar-3rd band, 4th chair Percussion.
Congratulations to the following students for qualifying to try out for the Arkansas All-State Band:
Annika Thompson, Lexi Williams, Kate McDonald, Shylee Head, Ayden Ludwig, and Samuel Cross.
LITTLE ROCK — With more than a month left in Arkansas’s archery deer season, hunters have checked 214,022 deer during the 2020-21 deer hunting season. That’s more deer than any season since the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission began keeping harvest records in 1938.
The previous record harvest was 213,487 deer, set in the 2012-13 season. With the exception of last year, Arkansas hunters have harvested more than 200,000 deer annually since that season as well. During the 2019-20 deer hunting season the harvest dipped to 188,151.
“Last season was the result of a perfect storm lined up against harvest,” Ralph Meeker, AGFC deer program coordinator, said. “Spring and summer flooding in 2018 and 2019 contributed to lower fawn recruitment in certain parts of the state. Then a massive crop of hard mast (primarily acorns) reduced deer movement and made deer feeders much less productive. On top of that, flooding during the peak of the gun season closed hunting in some parts of the state. All three of these factors contributed to what we witnessed in the 2019-20 deer harvest.”
According to license sales numbers from the last five years, this year is the first in many when hunter numbers did not decline. In fact, this year’s resident and nonresident hunting license numbers are very similar to those recorded in 2018, but still are far below the numbers seen during the record-setting year nearly a decade ago.
Meeker points out that this season’s increase in hunting licenses might be because of COVID-19 and people finding new ways to spend their time in an outdoor setting, but says the record-breaking year is not solely the result of new hunters joining the ranks.
COVID-19 also may have influenced hunters’ mindsets toward the number of deer they harvested. The pandemic caused many meat shortages throughout the nation last year, which may have increased people’s view of venison as a healthy and sustainable alternative to beef and pork.
“I know of several people who harvested (or attempted to harvest) more deer than they normally would this season to fill their freezer for the coming year,” Meeker said. “We’ve also likely seen some hunters who had not purchased a license in a few years get reactivated this year, but those are only two factors that went into the high harvest,” Meeker said. “All of the factors that hindered harvest in 2019 were nearly the exact opposite in 2020.”
Meeker says deer that normally would have been harvested last year may have also added to this year’s total.
“What will be interesting to see is if hunters were able to harvest a larger percentage of older age-class bucks, another result of carryover from 2019,” Meeker said. “It also will be interesting to see how the harvest numbers per hunter break down once the season has ended.”
Things have come a long way since Arkansas’s first recorded deer harvest in 1938. That year, hunters checked only 203 deer, statewide. More than 20 years later, the deer harvest broke the 10,000-deer mark, and hunters did not reach a 100,000-deer season in Arkansas until 1987.
With current annual harvests consistently exceeding 200,000 deer, is there still room for growth? According to Meeker, the current deer harvest and limits fit the factors that influence the state’s deer herd well and are likely where they need to be for a healthy deer population.
“Our current herd matches up well with the available habitat as well as the social carrying capacity of our state,” Meeker said. “The social carrying capacity is how many deer people can stand to live with. At some point, deer can become a nuisance or safety risk. But when you see environmental stressors such as flooding or buffalo gnat outbreaks followed by a good harvest, that is a good indication that the deer population is healthy enough to rebound quickly, so I’d say we’re in good shape where we are.”
Meeker readily admits though that having too many or not enough deer greatly depends on who you are talking to.
Hunters and wildlife enthusiasts interested in learning more about white-tailed deer harvest records and scientific management of the species in Arkansas can find historical deer harvest reports and the AGFC’s Strategic Deer Management Plan at www.agfc.com/en/hunting/big-game/deer/deer-harvest-reports.
1-16-21 12:35 p.m. KAWX.ORG
Governor Hutchinson's Weekly Radio Address: My Goals for the 93rd General Assembly
LITTLE ROCK – The 93rd General Assembly convened this week, and today I’d like to talk about the goals that I shared with legislators in my State of the State address.
I expect legislation that will boost our economy from tax cuts to reduced regulations. We need laws that will assure that our police officers have the highest standards, and are fully trained, funded, and supported. We also want laws to increase accountability and oversight.
Two years ago, legislators raised the pay of our dedicated public-school teachers. I support another round of pay increases. My goal is to raise average teacher salaries by $2,000 over the next two years, and I expect there will be great legislative support for this effort.
During my time in office, we have become a national leader with our computer science initiative. But we can’t relax in our success. This year, I am asking the general assembly to support legislation that will require all students to take at least one computer science course in order to graduate, and to require all schools to employee at least one certified computer science teacher. We will have to increase the training of our teachers even more, but we are ready to do it because this will give our young people even greater opportunities right here in Arkansas.
During each regular session while I have been governor, we have lowered taxes on hard-working Arkansans. As a result, we have moved $800 million from the government bank account into the hands of Arkansans.
This session, I am asking for two specific tax cuts. I would like to reduce the sales tax on used cars that sell between $4,000 and $10,000. The tax would be reduced from 6.5 percent to 3.5 percent. This would give relief to thousands of Arkansans who depend upon used vehicles for getting to work and to school.
To pay for tax cuts, we need to continue to grow our economy and bring people to Arkansas. To help with that goal, I am recommending a second tax cut. And that is that we lower our tax rate for new residents to 4.9 percent for the first five years they live in Arkansas. That will attract new Arkansans, who will spend money and pay taxes, and companies that will create jobs and contribute to our economy.
This year the individual income tax rate has been reduced to 5.9 percent, and I hope that within the next five years, Arkansas will reduce the rate to 4.9 percent for all residents.
We are entering 2021 with a balanced budget, a strong economy, and the strength of Arkansans to pull through these tough days. As I established my legislative goals for the 93rd General Assembly, I am mindful that the most urgent task is to respond and recover from the pandemic and to do everything needed to get our vaccines out to everyone in need.
House members are now ready to begin the second week of the 2021 Regular Session.
Nearly 200 bills have been filed so far in the House and more than 135 have been filed in the Senate.
House members elected to serve in the 93rd General Assembly took the oath of office in the House Chamber on Monday. Upon swearing-in, members then voted to name Rep. Matthew J. Shepherd of El Dorado as the Speaker of the Arkansas House. This will be his second full term to serve as Speaker.
Speaker Shepherd announced the chairs for all House committees. You can find a complete list of committee assignments at www.arkansashouse.org.
On the second day of the Regular Session, Governor Asa Hutchinson addressed the General Assembly and outlined his legislative goals for this session.
He said he will be asking the General Assembly to affirm the current health emergency order and direct federal COVID-19 relief funds for vaccine distribution.
The Governor’s legislative agenda also includes the following:
· Increase teacher pay by $2,000 over the next 2 years
· Reduce the used car sales tax
· Reduce income tax for new Arkansas residents
· Appropriate $30 million for increased broadband in rural areas
· Implement a computer science requirement for high school graduation
· Increase sentencing for hate crimes
On Thursday, the House passed resolutions outlining new rules and changes to procedure due to COVID-19. These include mask requirements, changes to committee agendas, and remote voting options for members.
The House will not meet on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday or on Wednesday during the Presidential Inauguration. We will meet on Tuesday and Thursday next week. Schedules and agendas will be available on our website.
As a reminder, the House live streams all of our meetings on the website. We also posted the guidelines for members of the public who wish to participate in the process at the Capitol.
We will continue to update you in the weeks ahead.
1-15-21 4:05 p.m. KAWX.ORG
Paycheck Protection Program Re-Launches with Improvements
Small business owners have faced unprecedented challenges for nearly a year as a result of COVID-19. Last March, Congress developed the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help these businesses survive and continue paying their employees. More than 43,000 PPP loans were approved for Arkansas last year. Now, more help is on the way.
Last month, President Trump signed into law COVID-19-relief that extends the PPP, allocating more than $284 billion to expand the program. This will allow additional businesses to participate and provide those experiencing severe revenue reductions an opportunity to apply for an additional forgivable loan, particularly restaurants and hotels. These updates to the program will help prevent small business closures, allowing them to continue paying their employees, rent and utilities. We know the PPP has been a lifeline for small businesses, so strengthening the program to ensure it continues to deliver vital support was absolutely necessary.
I’ve advocated allowing local newspapers, radio and television broadcasters to be eligible for PPP loans. This is particularly essential as Arkansans rely on quality news coverage from local outlets to stay informed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local newsrooms are reporting details residents need to know about things such as when they can receive the COVID-19 vaccine and where and how it will be administered.
Unfortunately, this crisis has intensified declines in advertising revenue forcing some news outlets to drastically reduce the number of staff, furlough workers or even close. This threatens the flow of reliable and community-centered information.
I worked with my colleagues to expand eligibility and ensure these local outlets have access to PPP funds. The new law fixes the Small Business Administration (SBA) affiliation rule that prevented local news outlets owned by larger parent companies from qualifying for PPP funding. TV and radio stations with 500 or fewer employees and newspapers with no more than 1,000 employees are now eligible for PPP loans – that’s more than 3,300 television and radio stations and 2,000 newspapers nationwide.
Arkansas Press Association Executive Director Ashley Wimberley says this “will help maintain these vital information sources and preserve local jobs” in our state.
Just as importantly as providing funds to small businesses, Congress has a role to oversee the implementation of the program so these critical resources only go to qualified recipients. For instance, last year we learned Planned Parenthood received PPP loans despite being ineligible to participate in the program. I joined my Arkansas colleague Senator Tom Cotton in calling on the Department of Justice to investigate this misuse of taxpayer dollars. As the SBA reopens the PPP, we’ve requested that agency officials take precautions to prevent this from happening again.
Congress made some necessary updates to the PPP that will improve how we can help struggling businesses. I’m pleased we are able to deliver additional aid so we can assist small businesses in rebounding quickly.
1-15-21 4:02 p.m. KAWX.ORG
We live in a volatile world with lots of uncertainties and confusion. If there were to be a sudden lack of food or medicine available to you due to a natural or manmade disaster, or civil unrest, would you be prepared?
This article is not intended to be a lesson in prepping, or by any means exhaustive, rather it is intended to be a general guideline that you can customize based on your specific needs and means.
Food - Water
Two weeks worth of food per person on hand, and routinely rotated (oldest used and replaced with fresh) is a good rule of thumb. This may not be something that some can accomplish immediately, but a few extra non perishable items purchased each time you shop can be stored in a designated space, marked with a date, and added to as possible. Make a list of what you have on hand so you don't have to unstack or spend a lot of time inventorying. Purchase as many items as possible with: a long shelf life, nourishment, easy preparation, and that you or others in your household would eat. Fo more ideas, click here.
Bottled water does not have an indefinite shelf life. While storing cases of bottled water is a very good idea, it needs to be used and restocked so as to not get old and possible unsafe to drink. Use a Sharpie to date the water and always uses the oldest first. Water purifiers are great to have too. Those with water wells should have a way of safely operating the pump during a power outage. For more ideas, click here.
Like food and water, the supply of medicine coming to your local pharmacy can be interrupted by weather or transportation problems. More commonly, an ice storm or power outage may keep you at home and your pharmacist from getting shipments on a timely basis. Plan ahead and try to always have at least two weeks of your medicines on hand. In other words, don't wait until the bottle is empty to request a refill. Your doctor and a local pharmacist will be able to help you with this. Over the counter items with long shelf life are good to stock up on too, especially first aid items.
Toiletries - Cleaning - Household
Unlike some food items, toiletries, cleaning supplies and disinfectants, and household items like air conditioner filters and light bulbs have long shelf lives. Stocking up on these when bulk purchases are possible or items are on sale will be helpful. Think about what items are needed over a period of time and consider doubling up when you shop if you are unable to purchase backup items all at one time.
Heating - Cooling - Cooking
Without a generator, all electric homes should consider properly installed gas space heaters for emergencies. Those fortunate enough to heat with wood or LP gas need only have plenty of fuel to get through a crisis. Like refilling prescriptions, don't wait until you are out of LP gas or seasoned wood to resupply. Cooling can be a big challenge in the humid mid-south , especially in the summer months. Fans help assuming there is power to run them. Screened windows opened may be your only hope in some cases. When there are power outages and extreme heat or cold, this is a good time to check on older or sick relatives and neighbors.
Communicating with family members, employers or employees, medical professionals, fire and police, and suppliers of energy or important services seems to be easier than ever with many ways to communicate. The problem is that they all depend on the internet either partially or completely. In Polk County when there is a fiber optic cable cut that cuts our county off from the world, 911 can be affected, phones don't work, cellular data is gone, you can't use a credit or debit card, you can't even use a prepaid shopping card or write a check. So don't assume all the ways we communicate will be available should there be a disaster. We've even started to see individuals blocked from certain social media platforms, and the old reliable landline phones are fast becoming a thing of the past.
So how do we communicate? Communications is either one way or two way. The one way kind is a littler easier to prepare for. Have a good AM-FM radio that will operate on electricity or batteries on hand. NOAA Weather Radios are also very useful during emergencies, but need to be properly programmed and have good backup batteries installed. Police scanners are useful for more than listening to the police and fire department. Amateur or "ham" radio operators, long involved in emergency communications, have radio repeaters all over the country, including the Polk County area, that often can operate for many days without electricity or internet. These repeater frequencies can be added to your scanner and monitored for information when necessary. Get to know a ham radio operator, he or she can be a valuable asset in times of emergency.
One other thing to consider is personal two way radios. Some people have them just for their family, others for a neighborhood or neighborhood watch organization, and there are even groups that have repeaters for people to use to extend the range of their small, low power radios. There are almost unlimited possibilities with these FRS (Family Radio Service) or GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) devices. Please note that some require a license and the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) still actively enforces radio rules, so ask your radio vendor if the radio you are considering requires a license. These licenses have a fee but unlike amateur or "ham" radio don't require a test.
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) that come over your smartphone are a great idea, but as with any technology, not 100% dependable. During a recent spring storm outbreak, a number of alerts intended to Polk County, Texas went off in Polk County, Arkansas. Some people report that they never get the alerts on their phones, others that they get them for the wrong area. So while these are not to be ignores, they are not to be completely trusted. Again, of there is a fiber optic cable cut or cell tower out of service, these WEAs will not help you.
Remember that streaming services and apps that might be used to listen to radio or watch TV may not work during emergencies, internet or power outages.
Since we have very little public transportation in our area, most people are on their own or dependent on friends or family members. Probably the best advice is to always keep your fuel tank as full as possible, especially if you know severe weather is possible, and keep you vehicle in good working order. It is also a good idea to keep a small emergency kit in all of your vehicles. For more ideas, click here.
Elderly Or Sick Relatives - Neighbors
During any disaster or civil unrest, the elderly or sick are very vulnerable. Check on them and let them know they can and should ask for help. Just a daily call or visit during troubled times may help them survive. Offer to pick up medicine or groceries for them, or take care of chores they might be unsafe doing if there is ice on the ground or dangerous cold or heat.
Planning for pet care during emergencies is a lot like planning for humans, just think about the needs your pet might have over a period of time. Food, medicine, grooming and shelter. For more ideas, click here.
Know account numbers for your utilities and have those numbers stored with the phone numbers to report power outages or gas leaks. Never assume they utility company knows you have an outage. Be patient when reporting outages and be prepared to provide your account number, service location and description of the problem either to a customer service representative or automated system.
Never assume you won't have to deal with a natural or manmade disaster or civil unrest. Make a plan. Be prepared, not scared!
For information on making a plan, click here.
1-15-21 2:25 p.m. KAWX.ORG
State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Larry Teague
January 15, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – The 93rd General Assembly convened with a traditional day of swearing in ceremonies for new members, followed by the governor’s speech in a joint session of the legislature. Then lawmakers immediately got down to business.
More than 400 bills were filed in the first three days, and the public was able to participate as usual when they were heard in committee.
The governor proposed raising teacher salaries by $2,000 a year. It would take two years to phase in the increase, and would cost about $25 million annually. A spokesman for the Department of Education said that the average teacher salary last year was $49,822.
Also, the governor proposed an additional $50 million a year in tax cuts for middle class and low income families. One specific proposal was to lower the state sales tax on the purchase of used cars valued between $4,000 and $10,000, from 6.5 to 3.5 percent. Now, used car purchases of less than $4,000 are completely exempt from the sales tax.
Legislators have questioned another of the governor’s tax cut proposals, to lower income tax rates for new Arkansas residents in the top bracket, from 5.9 to 4.9 percent for the first five years they live in the state. The goal is to attract people to Arkansas who will invest and create jobs here.
Lawmakers expressed support for the governor’s proposal to spend $30 million to continue expanding broadband access across Arkansas.
Senate Bill 107 would require high school students to pass a computer science course in order to graduate, beginning with students who will be in the 9th grade in the 2022-2023 school year.
SB 107 was referred to the Senate Education Committee, which in the past has always been crowded with spectators and people wanting to comment, such as parents, patrons, superintendents and school board members.
This year Senate Education will meet in the Old Supreme Court Room rather than its traditional location in Room 207, because the Old Supreme Court Room is larger and people can more easily maintain safe social distancing.
The public and people waiting to speak on bills will wait in Room 272, which is just across the hall from the Old Supreme Court Room.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also tends to draw a crowd, due to the nature of legislation it considers. When the committee considered and gave a favorable recommendation to SB 24, commonly known as the “Stand Your Ground” bill, the public was allowed to voice opinions as always.
The Judiciary Committee met in Room 171, as always, while the public watched on live television monitors from Room 207.
The public can sign up to speak on legislation, as always, but this year they can also sign up online.
When a member of the public signs up to speak, they wait in a nearby room. When it is their turn to testify, a legislative staffer will escort them from Room 207 to the Judiciary Committee meeting in Room 171, or from the waiting area in Room 272 to the Education Committee in the Old Supreme Court Room.
All waiting rooms for the public are very close to the committee rooms, and they are clearly marked. Employees at the Capitol will help anyone with questions about where to go.
1-15-21 9:41 a.m. KAWX.ORG
All criminal information is merely an accusation and the Defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. Prosecuting Attorney Jason Barrett, within and for the 18th-West Judicial District of the State of Arkansas, of which Polk County is a part, in the name and by the authority of the State of Arkansas, on oath, do hereby accuse the defendants of committing in Polk County, Arkansas the following crimes:
State of Arkansas Vs. Tony Caldwell, White Male age 66, Count I: Possession Of A Schedule I Or II Controlled Substance, a Class "D" Felony. The state of Arkansas intends to pursue enhanced penalties due to the fact that he had been convicted of four (4) or more felonies.
State of Arkansas Vs. Justin Glenn Heflin, White Male age 34, Count I: Domestic Battery In The Second Degree, a Class "C" Felony. Count II: Endangering The Welfare Of A Minor 3RD Degree, a Class "B" Misdemeanor. Count III: Interference With Emergency Communication 1ST Degree, a Class "A" Misdemeanor. Count IV: Aggravated Assault On A Family Member Or Household Member, a Class "D" Felony.
State of Arkansas Vs. Anthony M. Robertson, While Male age 30, Count I: Aggravated Assault, a Class "D" Felony. Count II: Residential Burglary, a Class "B" Felony. Count III: Criminal Mischief In 1ST Degree, a class "A" Misdemeanor.
State of Arkansas Vs. Michael C. Martin, White Male age 37, Count I: Possession Of Drug Paraphernalia, a Class "D" Felony.
State of Arkansas Vs. Troy Caleb Denton, White Male age 29, Count I: Aggravated Assault, a Class "D" Felony. Count II: Violation Of An Order Of Protection, a Class "A" Misdemeanor. Count III: Criminal Mischief In 1ST Degree, a Class "D" Felony.
State of Arkansas Vs. Troy Caleb Denton, White Male age 29, Count I: Aggravated Assault, a Class "D" Felony. Count II: Terroristic Act, a Class "B" Felony. Count III: Violation Of An Order Of Protection, a Class "A" Misdemeanor.
State of Arkansas Vs. Justin Ashley, White Male age 27, Count I: Criminal Mischief In The 1ST Degree, a Class "B" Felony.
State of Arkansas Vs. Justin Ashley, White Male, age 27, Count I: Failure To Appear, a Class "C" Felony.
State of Arkansas Vs. Dustin Trevor Swinney, White Male Age 31, Count I: Possession Of Drug Paraphernalia, a Class "D" Felony. Count II: Fleeing, a Class "A" Misdemeanor. Count III: Possession Of Firearms By Certain Persons, a Class "D" Felony. Count IV: Possession Of Methamphetamine With The Purpose To Deliver, a Class "B" Felony. Count V: Simultaneous Possession Of Drugs And Firearms, a Class "Y" Felony. Count VI: Possession Of Drug Paraphernalia, a Class "A" Misdemeanor. Count VII: Possession Of A Controlled Substance, a Class "A" Misdemeanor. Count VIII: Possession Of A Schedule I Or II Controlled Substance (Fentanyl), a Class "D" Felony.
State of Arkansas Vs. Barbara Greer Braun, White Female, age 20, Count I: Possession Of Drug Paraphernalia, a Class "D" Felony. Count II: Possession Of Methamphetamine With The Purpose To Deliver, a Class "B" Felony. Count III: Simultaneous Possession Of Drugs And Firearms, a Class "Y" Felony. Count IV: Possession Of Drug Paraphernalia, a Class "A" Misdemeanor. Count V: Possession Of A Controlled Substance, a Class "A" Misdemeanor.
State of Arkansas Vs. Trae A. Clouse, White Male age 29, Count I: Possession Of A Schedule II Controlled Substance, a Class "D" Felony. Count II: Endangering The Welfare Of A minor In The 1ST Degree, a Class "D" Felony. Count III: Fleeing, a Class "D" Felony.
State of Arkansas Vs. Casey Nicole Trantham, White Female age 23, Count I: Possession Of A Schedule II Controlled Substance, a Class "D" Felony. Count II: Possession Of A Schedule IV OR V Controlled Substance, a Class "A" Misdemeanor. Count III: Possession Of A Controlled Substance, a Class "A" Misdemeanor. Count IV: Possession Of Drug Paraphernalia, a Class "D" Felony.
State of Arkansas Vs. Jacob L. Baker, White Male age 36, Count I: Internet Stalking Of A Child, a Class "Y" Felony. Count II: Computer Child Pornography, a Class "B" Felony.
State of Arkansas Vs. Allen Timothy Starr, White male age 48, Count I: Domestic Battery In the 3RD Degree To A Family Member Or Household Member, a Class "D" Felony. Count II-III: Endangering The Welfare Of A Minor In the 1ST Degree, a Class "D" Felony. Count IV: Possession Of Firearms By Certain Persons, a Class "D" Felony. Count V: Aggravated Assault Upon A Certified Law Enforcement Officer, a Class "D" Felony. Count VI: Refusal To Submit To Arrest, a Class "B" Misdemeanor.
State of Arkansas Vs. Marla Donne Fahrney, White Female age 44, Count I:Theft Of Property, a Class "C" Felony. Count II: Criminal Mischief In The 2ND Degree, a Class "A" Misdemeanor.
The following information was received from Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer for the week of January 4, 2021 – January 10, 2021. The charges against those arrested are allegations and the cases are still pending in the courts. Individuals charged and whose names appear in this column may submit documentation to us at a later date that the charges have been dismissed or that they have been found innocent and we will include that information in this space in a timely manner.
January 4, 2021
Report from complainant on Hwy 71N near Acorn of identity fraud.
Report from complainant on Polk 93 near Rocky of items missing from a residence. Deputy responded.
Report from complainant on Polk 301 near Cherry Hill of damage to a window and door and the theft of two flat screen T.V.’s for a loss in the amount of $1600.00. Deputy responded. Investigation continues.
Report from complainant on Polk 194 near Ink of the theft of a log splitter valued at $2000.00. Deputy responded.
Report from complainant on Polk 301 near Cherry Hill of the theft of a fifth wheel travel trailer. Deputy responded.
Arrested was Brittan Mist McCulley, 38, of Hatfield on a Warrant for Failure to Appear, and two Warrants for Failure to Comply.
January 5, 2021
Report of fraudulent checks on a business account. Deputies responded. Investigation continues.
January 6, 2021
Report of the unauthorized use of a vehicle led to the arrest of Marla D. Fahrney, 44, of Dierks on a Charge of Theft of Property and a Charge of Criminal Mischief.
Report of a hit and run accident on Hwy 71S. Deputy responded.
Report from complainant on Polk 627 near Dallas Valley of damage done to a vehicle. Deputy responded.
Report of a stolen license plate. Deputy responded.
January 7, 2021
Report from complainant on Polk 659 near Board Camp of an unwanted person on the property. Deputy responded.
January 8, 2021
No reports filed.
January 9, 2021
Report from complainant on Polk 277 near Vandervoort of a broken window. Deputy responded.
Report of problems involving child custody visitations. Deputy responded.
January 10, 2021
No reports filed.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office worked one vehicle accident this week.
Polk County Detention Center Jail Population: 18 Incarcerated Inmates, with 11 Inmates currently on the Waiting List for a State Facility.
1-11-21 1:49 p.m. KAWX.ORG
Mena Police Department reports for the week of January 3rd through January 9th, 2021
A report of a disturbance was taken at a residence on Armour Street.
A death investigation report was taken at a residence on Evans Circle.
A report of disorderly conduct was taken at a residence on 10th Street.
Shannon Shaw, 40, was served with a warrant at the Polk County Detention Center.
Rachel Crow, 40, was served with a warrant at the Polk County Detention Center.
Lisa Caldwell, 53, was served with a warrant at the Polk County Detention Center.
Herbert Slater, 35, was served with a warrant at the Polk County Detention Center.
No reports taken.
Randy Lewis, 38, was charged with Possession of Meth, Obstructing Governmental Operations, and Resisting Arrest. He was also served with two warrants after a disturbance call to a residence on Ridge Street.
A report of assault was taken at a residence on Ridge Street.
No reports taken.
No reports taken.
All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
1-11-21 10:31 a.m. KAWX.ORG
President Donald Trump has ordered the United States flag to be lowered to half-staff "as a sign of respect for the service and sacrifice of United States Capitol Police Officers Brian D. Sicknick and Howard Liebengood, and all Capitol Police Officers and law enforcement across this great Nation...."
Likewise, the state flag of Arkansas shall be lowered to half-staff also. Flags will remain at half-staff until sunset, January 13, 2021.
The President's Proclamation can be found HERE.
1-10-21 6:46 p.m. KAWX.ORG
Governor Hutchinson's Weekly Address: Vigilance and the Vaccine
LITTLE ROCK – We’re almost a month into our COVID-19 immunization program, and today I’d like to emphasize the importance of Arkansans taking one of the two approved vaccines so that we can stop the coronavirus and get back to our lives.
The vaccines are the most important tool in our fight against COVID. The masking, the social distancing, and the hand washing continue to be important, but they are placeholders while researchers developed a vaccine. The vaccine is our big gun, and if people participate widely, the number of cases will decline.
In Phase 1-A, we have received 194,000 doses of the vaccine to date, and we have administered nearly 59,000 to health care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff. EMS and law-enforcement officers and firefighters have also been included as first-responders. We hope to inoculate all of the 180,000 people in Phase 1-A by January 30.
Phase 1-B, which we plan to start in February, includes people who are at least 70 years of age, teachers and school staff, food and agricultural workers, firefighters and law enforcement that were not included in 1-A. It will also include manufacturing workers, grocery store employees, public transportation workers, child care workers, and essential workers in government, including legislators.
Phase 1-C will include people at least 65 years of age, people ages 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions, and a number of other categories. From transportation and logistics workers, waste and wastewater employees, food-service workers, shelter and housing employees, and those in finance. It will also include IT and communications employees, media, public safety, and public health workers. Phases 2 and 3 will round out the vaccination program.
Some people are reluctant to take the vaccine, and I understand that. Members of the black community have historically distrusted vaccines, but African Americans are disproportionately impacted by COVID, so it is all the more important that they have the vaccine.
Keith Jackson, a championship football player at Parkview High School, the University of Oklahoma, and in the NFL, has devoted his life after football to improving life for kids in Central Arkansas. He founded Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids, or P.A.R.K. He knows that the COVID shot is important, which is why he will roll up his sleeve when it’s his turn.
Joe Booker, star of the Broadway Joe Morning Show, is encouraging his listeners to take the vaccine as well. He has made a public service announcement for the Arkansas Department of Health.
“For me, getting the vaccine is the right choice because I love my family,” he says. “I love my wife, my children. I would do anything to keep them all safe. Right now, the best thing I can do is to commit to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. For those of you who are unsure about getting the vaccine, I urge you to think about your loved ones. Many of you may have underlying health conditions or be at a higher risk of contracting the virus. I know keeping them safe is a high priority to you, just as it is to me.”
Thank you, Broadway Joe.
I also have confidence in the vaccine myself. The First Lady and I will be taking the vaccine when it is our turn. I hope you will also.
Public participation is an essential part of our democracy. In preparation for the upcoming session, House and Senate leadership have agreed to a few rules so Arkansans can participate in an environment that is as safe and healthy as possible.
With limited exceptions, a mask or other cloth face covering will be required to enter committee rooms and public comment holding rooms. All individuals will be submitted to a temperature check and onsite health screening at the entrance to either the State Capitol Building or the adjacent MAC Building.
We have provided nearby space for committee rooms for members of the public to watch the live stream while they wait for their turn to testify for or against a bill. These rooms will provide ample space for social distancing.
Staff will direct you to sign up sheets and they will be available at www.arkleg.state.ar.us.
In an effort to prevent crowds in committee rooms, the rules call for revised committee agendas. These are designed to let the public know what bills will be heard on a given day. Committee agendas will be divided into three categories.
(A) Regular Agenda–bills to be considered by the committee on the date of the agenda.
(B) Consent Agenda–bills on the committee agenda for which there is no known opposition or expected public testimony and that may be taken up at any time by the committee.
(C) Deferred Bills–bills for which committee consideration has been deferred either for failure of the sponsor to appear or at the request of the sponsor.
Committee agendas will be posted at least eighteen (18) hours prior to the committee meeting.
There is limited public seating in the House chamber. Our chamber proceedings and every committee is live streamed and archived on our website www.arkansashouse.org.
On Monday, January 11, members will be sworn into office and officially elect the Speaker for the 93rd General Assembly.
On Tuesday, January 12, the Governor will give his State of the State address in the House Chamber.
We will continue to update you during the session.
1-8-21 5:35 p.m. KAWX.ORG
Americans, Our Constitution and Democracy Deserve Better
The events that transpired in our nation’s capital were not only shocking and unlawful, but represent a dark moment in our history that we must reckon with in the weeks to come.
The Constitution gives every American the right to peaceably assemble and protest. It does not condone or provide for opportunities to sow chaos or provoke insurrection. Sadly, many of the demonstrators in the nation’s capital on January 6 failed to live up to this obligation, and an alarming number willfully participated in an attack on the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to thwart the constitutional responsibilities of Congress. ‘The People’s House’ is the place where the will of our citizenry is rightfully expressed through its elected representatives –– not a forum for mob rule and anarchy. The perpetrators of this despicable attack will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. The Department of Justice has arrested multiple people who are facing federal charges and we will continue to bring those responsible to justice.
It is also incumbent on every American to soberly recognize that the divisions in our society have reached a place beyond troubling, and we must prayerfully and diligently work to mend those divides so that what recently occurred is never repeated, or worse.
This assault is not the final word, however. Congress was not intimidated or cowed. We eventually reconvened and ultimately certified the vote of the Electoral College, performing our prescribed constitutional duty. Like many Arkansans, I am disappointed by the results of the 2020 presidential election, but we cannot erode the ideals that generations of Americans have fought to protect simply because we do not like the outcome of the election.
During the mayhem, there were countless acts of heroism and sacrifice including that of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Officer Sicknick fought to defend the Capitol building —as well as the members of Congress and staff in it— and was viciously attacked. He died of injuries resulting from the criminal mob. We honor his courageous service, mourn alongside his law enforcement colleagues and loved ones, and pray for comfort amid this senseless loss.
We all, as Americans, deserved better than what we experienced –– a disturbing, demoralizing and entirely avoidable episode. We must pray for healing, and we must pledge to demand better from each other. This incident cannot define us, but it must persuade us that choosing a different and better course –– one that lives up to the high ideals which have reliably sustained the United States and inspired our exceptional story –– is the only path forward.
1-8-21 4:15 p.m. KAWX.ORG
State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Larry Teague
January 8, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – When the Arkansas legislature convenes the 2021 regular session, the first major challenge on the agenda will be ensuring that the public can still safely participate in the democratic process.
Visitors to the Capitol must wear a face mask, and they will be given a temperature check to make sure they are not running a fever.
There will be limited seating for visitors, because of Health Department regulations that restrict the number of people who can safely sit in the public galleries.
Legislative leaders were finalizing details of a safety plan up until the beginning of the session, which this year will convene at noon on January 11. They were working with the Secretary of State, who is the constitutional officer who is in charge of maintaining the Capitol and its grounds.
Several changes were made in how legislative committees will function during the pandemic.
Legislative committees review all proposed legislation before they are voted on during full sessions of the Senate and House. It is during committee meetings that the public can comment on bills.
Committee rooms in the Capitol have been connected with video technology, so that when a committee is in session the public can keep up with the action from a nearby room. If members of the public want to voice opinions on a bill, they will be allowed to do so, but there will be rules about where they must wait until it is their turn to speak.
Senators will consider adoption of new rules for the 2021 session that would allow legislators to participate remotely, in the event they are under quarantine or have concerns about appearing in person at the Capitol.
The legislature will address a series of familiar issues, along with some new ones.
Funding public schools is one of the first duties that lawmakers will take care of, because of the state’s Constitutional obligation to adequately and equitably provide an education to every child in Arkansas. Education funding accounts for more than half of the Arkansas general revenue budget.
Other vital state services include operating prisons and re-entry programs for inmates returning to society. Juvenile justice, foster care and adoption services are run by the state.
The state pays for health care, treatment of drug and alcohol abuse, residential care for people with developmental disabilities and nursing home care.
Apart from setting budgets and spending levels for state agencies, there will be bills affecting the rights of taxpayers, gun owners, businesses and voters.
The state revenue report for December shows that the Arkansas economy continues to recover from the impact of the pandemic.
For the first six months of Fiscal Year 2021, total general revenue was up $320.7 million over the same period of the previous year. That is a 9.5 percent increase.
The revenue report is an accurate gauge of economic activity in Arkansas, because tax rates have not gone up. In fact, the top state income tax rate just went down from 6.6 to 5.9 percent on January 1, thanks to a tax cut written into Act 182 of 2019.
1-8-21 10:12 a.m. KAWX.ORG
Department Seeking Public Input about Proposed Construction of Passing Lanes on Highway 71
POLK & SCOTT COUNTIES (1-8) – The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) will conduct an online public involvement meeting about the proposed plans to construct northbound and southbound passing lanes on Highway 71 between Mena and “Y” City in Polk and Scott Counties.
The public is invited to listen, view meeting materials, and provide written comments. The website will be available for comments until 4:30 p.m. on Friday, January 29.
Link To Virtual Meeting: CLICK HERE
To access the online public meeting, click on the link above. It will take you to the online neighborhood public meeting website. This website will provide project materials and handouts that would have been shown at the in-person meetings. A separate link (on that page) will provide a Spanish version of the presentation. There will also be an option to send online comment forms to ARDOT staff, or you can print the form and mail it to, Environmental Division, 10324 Interstate 30, Little Rock, AR 72209.
If you do not have internet access, please contact Karla Sims at 501-569-2000 to ask questions about the proposed project and how to access project information at email@example.com.
1-8-21 9:55 a.m. KAWX.ORG
OLT hopes to bring their regular schedule back as soon as possible, but in the meantime, the theatre group will continue to bring socially distant smaller productions to the stage. There is much excitement for the next play entitled “Love Letters” will take place February 13 and 14. Robby and Gini Burt will perform this readers theater style show on Valentine’s Day weekend. Their excellent acting skills will bring to life this touching story of two lifelong friends whose complicated relationship is observed through letters to one another. CDC guidelines, including masks and limited audience size, are still in effect.
Watch social media and this website for details of this and other upcoming shows this spring.
The Board of Ouachita Little Theatre recently declared January to be a “dark” month, which means the theater was closed to all public events during the first month of 2021. Since our patrons’ safety is paramount to us, this time was used to execute a deep cleaning and professional disinfecting regimen to the building. Repairs and modifications also took place to enhance a comfortable and safe environment.
The OLT office will be open only on Fridays from 10:00 – 2:00 until further notice. You can purchase season tickets at 610 Mena Street. The Memory Maker service is also located there where you can turn your old VCR tapes into DVD’s for long lasting preservation at a very reasonable cost.
The staff and players at OLT hope to see you soon!
1-8-21 7:37 a.m. KAWX.ORG
Commodities will be distributed Wednesday, January 20th at the Polk County Fairgrounds in Mena from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. The information for the Commodity Distribution below. ARVAC and volunteers will be following all safety precautions, therefore this will be a drive through only distribution. They are asking that everyone please follow the directions of the ARVAC Volunteers, this will help insure safe and timely distribution.
Listed are the income guidelines, family size and monthly income below:
Each additional family member
The above income guidelines are based on 130% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Add $468.00 for each additional family member. You cannot pick up commodities for more than two households. Rules for acceptance and participation in the program are the same for everyone without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, or handicap.
Contact Person: Tim Riley, Community Programs Coordinator (479)968-7019 or (479)229-4861.
1-6-21 11:34 a.m. KAWX.ORG
The Polk County Quorum Court convened for their first session of the new year on Monday, January 4th. Just prior to the meeting, County Judge Brandon Ellison administered the oath of office to the Justices of the Peace, including new JP Levi Ellison, and two by telephone, JP Jim Neugent who is self-isolated and JP Chris Daniel who is in quarantine. Deputy County Clerk Paula Clark filled in for County Clerk Terri Harrison who also in in quarantine.
JPs took care of routine business and set the meeting time for 6:30 p.m. (it had been 6:00 p.m.) for meetings in 2021. Meetings will continue to be on the fourth Tuesday of each month.
In new business, two ordinances were passed by unanimous consent to pave the way for a special election on March 9th to replace the special road tax that will expire June 30th. This will not cause a tax increase, only continue the tax that had a built in sunset to allow voters the opportunity to renew it or not. The once cent tax money can only be used for roads and bridges in the county. If passed, the tax will go into effect July 1st.
While no action can be taken until November, there seemed to be agreement that if the sales tax passes, the current road millage would be rolled back from 1.2 to 0. Should the tax fail, the millage would have to be increased to the maximum allowed of 5.0.
Allowing a road sales tax to partially fund the maintenance and building of roads and bridges in the county, and not the millage, will take some burden off property owners and take advantage of taxable sales to the many people who visit here for recreation purposes and use the roads, as well as other county services.
The 2021 - 2022 Quorum Count is made up of Justices of the Peace: Chris Daniel, Jim Neugent, Levi Ellison, Margo Kimp, Troy Lunsford, Terry Terrell, Tommy Floyd, Terry Scott, Basil Kesterson, Mitchell Tidwell, and Tawana Gilbert.
The next Quorum Court meeting will be held February 23rd at 6:30 p.m. in the Quorum Court Meeting Room at the Polk County Office Complex (old hospital) on Pine Street in Mena. Quorum Court meetings are open to the public.
1-5-21 10:56 a.m. KAWX.ORG
The following information was received from Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer for the week of December 28, 2020 – January 3, 2021. The charges against those arrested are allegations and the cases are still pending in the courts. Individuals charged and whose names appear in this column may submit documentation to us at a later date that the charges have been dismissed or that they have been found innocent and we will include that information in this space in a timely manner.
December 28, 2020
Report from complainant on Polk 178 near Acorn of harassment. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for further consideration.
Report from complainant of a rock striking a vehicle windshield. Deputy responded.
December 29, 2020
Report from complainant on Polk 299 near Dallas Valley of receiving threatening text messages. Deputy responded.
Report of a one vehicle accident on Polk 5 near Grannis. Deputies responded.
December 30, 2020
Report of a domestic disturbance on Hwy 375W near Potter. Deputy responded.
Report of receiving texts and threats from a family member. Deputy responded.
December 31, 2020
Report of an unattended death on Polk 642 near Ink. Deputy responded.
January 1, 2021
Report of a one vehicle accident led to the arrest of Brandi M. Santiago, 39, of Mena on a Charge of DWI.
Request for a welfare check on Polk 299 near Dallas Valley. Deputy responded.
January 2, 2021
Report of an assault on Hwy 71S near Cove. Deputy responded. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for further consideration.
Report of a dispute between neighbors near Hatfield. Deputy responded.
Arrested was Bradley M. Verba, 23, of Mena on four Warrants for Failure to Appear.
January 3, 2021
Report of a domestic disturbance on Polk 42 near Potter led to the arrest of Christopher L. Huddleston, 41, of Mena on a Charge of Disorderly Conduct.
Report from complainant of the violation of an Order of Protection. Deputy responded. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for further consideration.
Report of a structure fire on Polk 29 near Hatfield. Deputy responded.
Report of damage done to a building near Cove. Deputy responded.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office worked four vehicle accidents this week.
Polk County Detention Center Jail Population: 15 Incarcerated Inmates, with 10 Inmates currently on the Waiting List for a State Facility.
1-4-21 11:39 a.m. KAWX.ORG
Mena Police Department reports for the week of December 27, 2020, through January 2, 2021
Brandon Rose, 23, was charged with Public Intoxication, Resisting Arrest, Criminal Trespass, and served with a warrant after a call of a suspicious vehicle at a residence on Reeves Street.
Dixie Jones, 28, was charged with DWI and Fleeing in a vehicle after a reckless driving complaint on Highway 8 West.
Hunter Johns, 21, was charged with Disorderly Conduct and Resisting Arrest, and Marsha Denton, 36, was served with 2 warrants after a disturbance call on Finks Street.
Brandon Sturdivant, 34, was charged with Aggravated Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer, Fleeing in Vehicle, Fleeing on Foot, Resisting Arrest, Speeding, Running Stop Light, Driving Left of Center, Reckless Driving, Driving on Suspended License, and Theft by Receiving after an attempted traffic stop on Highway 71.
Zackery Summit, 28, was charged with DWI, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Driving with a Suspended License, No Vehicle License, and No Vehicle Insurance after contact in the parking lot of Elders Auto Sales.
No reports taken.
No reports taken.
No reports taken.
A missing persons report was taken on Amsterdam Street.
A report of disorderly conduct was taken from a walk-in complainant.
All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
1-4-21 10:32 a.m. KAWX.ORG