KAWX News Archives for 2023-03

State Representative John Maddox's Weekly Column

 

When the House reconvenes on Monday, members will likely be entering the last week of the 2023 Regular Session. Currently, the General Assembly is expected to adjourn on April 7.

Before members adjourn, they will be addressing education funding, tax cuts, and amending the Revenue Stabilization Act which prioritizes spending for the next fiscal year.

On Thursday, the House Education Committee advanced HB1688. This bill amends public school funding. It increases per-pupil funding from the current amount of $7,413 to $7,618 for the 2023-2024 school year. The bill would increase the amount to $7,771 for the 2024-2025 school year. This bill will now go to the full House for a vote.

Also on Thursday, several legislators and the Governor announced the introduction of a proposed tax cut. SB549 would reduce the state’s top income tax rate from 4.9% to 4.7%. It would also reduce the corporate income tax rate from 5.3% to 5.1%. The reductions would be retroactive to January 1, 2023. SB549 will be before the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee on Monday.

One of the last items of legislation before House members every session is the Revenue Stabilization Act (RSA). The RSA outlines general revenue spending. Once a proposal for the budget is released, it will be posted at arkansashouse.org.

Meanwhile, the House passed a number of bills during the 12th week of the session including the following:

SB248-This bill creates the Arkansas Challenge Plus Scholarship Program. The bill states that a student is eligible to receive an Arkansas Challenge Plus Scholarship if the student receives the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship and demonstrates financial need as determined by FASFA. The Plus Scholarship would be awarded in $1,000 increments per student per academic year.

HB1503-This bill creates the offense of operating a chop shop and makes the offense a Class C felony.

HB1468-This bill prohibits requiring employees of public schools and state-supported institutions of higher education to use a person’s preferred pronoun, name, or title without parental consent.

 

HB1610-This bill amends the law relating to public meetings under the Freedom of Information Act. It defines a public meeting as one-third or more of the members of a governing body of all municipalities, counties, townships, school districts, boards, bureaus, or commissions of the State of Arkansas.

SB377-This bill creates a misdemeanor offense concerning initiative petitions if a person knowingly changes a signature on a petition, erases or destroys a signature, pays a person in exchange for not signing a petition, or misrepresents the purpose and effect of the petition.

HB1617-This bill would require an autopsy in the case of a suspected drug overdose.

HB1502-This bill creates the offense of sexual solicitation of a minor and classifies the offense as a Class B felony.

The House will convene on Monday, April 3, at 1:30 p.m. You can watch all committee meetings and House floor proceedings at arkansashouse.org.

 

3-31-23 5:18 PM KAWX.ORG

US Senator John Boozman's Weekly Column: Standing Up for Arkansas's Role in Protecting Clean Air and Water

Standing Up for Arkansas’s Role in Protecting Clean Air and Water

 

We hear a lot about the federal government stepping into situations to ensure our air or water isn’t contaminated by external sources. That’s not a bad thing when a need for federal support, expertise and assets truly exists, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other entities often overstep their authority or fail to work in a collaborative way with states to protect the environment.

 

Sadly, Arkansas is currently on the receiving end of just such overreach. That’s a problem I’m not willing to ignore.

 

As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), I have an opportunity to conduct oversight of federal departments issuing environmental rules and regulations. Serving on this panel allows me to call attention to unfair or unreasonable actions that encroach on states’ jurisdiction to set rules for the road when it comes to keeping our air and water pristine.

 

Recently, I stood up for The Natural State in the face of the EPA’s so-called “Good Neighbor Rule” during a committee hearing that featured witnesses from other states on the receiving end of this onerous mandate.

 

The problem stems from the EPA rejecting an air-quality plan Arkansas officials proposed without providing them an opportunity to revise it. It was a bad faith, top-down move that is hard to defend. Not only does the federal plan continue to be a moving target – it’s also estimated to put nearly 50 Arkansas businesses at risk of closure, including power plants, natural gas pipelines, cement producers, steel factories and glass, paper, and chemical manufacturers.

 

This is just the latest example in a troubling pattern. Whenever there's a disagreement with the EPA about how to accomplish an objective, then it's their way or the highway. That’s in stark contrast to the model it is supposed to follow, which is a cooperative federalism approach to pursue consensus and mutual buy-in.

 

Regrettably, this isn’t the only area where environmental regulators are running roughshod over states.

 

The Biden administration, through the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers, has also been moving to change the definition of Waters of the United States in a way that will expand federal regulatory authority. In effect, the federal government would be able to seize control of every pond, puddle and ditch in Arkansas and throughout America.

 

That would be a disaster for farmers and ranchers, landowners and builders, and energy and infrastructure workers who would be forced to jump through endless hoops whenever they seek to start a project and would need an army of lawyers to help comply or to sue the administration for relief.

 

The good news is the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have now both passed legislation, through the Congressional Review Act, preventing the rule from taking effect. On a bipartisan basis, we’ve sent the measure to the president’s desk and are urging him to approve it. The Supreme Court is also set to decide a case with major implications on the Clean Water Act’s scope and enforcement, so this issue is being contested on multiple fronts.

 

Arkansas, and every other state, deserves predictability, certainty and deference to create regulations that protect the environment without being dictated rules that might not be in our best interest. I will continue to challenge the Biden administration each time it attempts to do just that.

 

3-31-23 4:01 PM KAWX.ORG

Congressman Bruce Westerman's Weekly Column: American Energy Dominance is Within Reach

American Energy Dominance is Within Reach

 

This week, the House of Representatives passed historic, bipartisan legislation to lower energy costs for hardworking Americans. This bill puts American families and American workers first – and I’m proud that both Democrats and Republicans could realize how important that is for Congress to support. With the passage of H.R.1, the Lower Energy Costs Act, House Republicans are delivering on our promise to end President Biden’s war on American energy and create an economy that’s strong, resilient, and works for American families.

 

This common sense, science-based, landmark legislation will end the misguided war on American energy by restarting onshore and offshore leasing programs. It will incentivize domestic energy production, unlocking the resources we have here at home which are vital to our clean energy future. H.R. 1 will cut the red tape and modernize federal regulations that have inflicted decade-long permitting delays on critical energy infrastructure projects of all kinds. But most of all, it will lower energy costs for hardworking families and boost our economy.

 

Americans have suffered the consequences of the woke left’s misguided energy policies for far too long. The President’s misguided energy policies have increased costs for hardworking Americans and jeopardized our national security by making us more reliant on foreign adversaries like Russia and China. The Lower Energy Costs Act gets the federal government out of the way so American workers and American companies can lower costs for Americans, complete infrastructure projects faster and cheaper, and ensures the critical minerals we need for advanced technologies come from America, NOT our foreign adversaries. The American people can rest easy knowing that House Republicans have set the U.S. back on course to be a global leader in energy production.

 

As chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, I am proud to have played a central and critical role in developing and passing this historic legislation alongside House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Sam Graves.

 

The Lower Energy Costs Act is a massive win for Americans everywhere, but it’s not over yet. It’s now in the hands of the Senate to take the reins and keep this critical legislation moving to the President’s desk. I’ve already spoken to many of my Senate counterparts about this legislation, and I’m optimistic. We have an incredible opportunity to continue working on a bicameral basis to get this bill signed into law.

Liberal Democrats’ war on American energy is coming to an end. We have the resources here at home to dominate in American energy production. This week, the House made a massive stride towards unleashing American energy independence once and for all. 

State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Terry Rice

State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Terry Rice

 

LITTLE ROCK – The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation that lengthens prison sentences for violent offenders and requires prison inmates to work harder to qualify for parole.

 

The legislation is Senate Bill 495. One goal is to provide juries in criminal trials with more accurate information about the length of time that convicted criminals are truly going to serve behind bars after their sentencing.

 

Criminals convicted of rape and capital murder would serve 100 percent of their sentences. The 100 percent sentence requirement also will apply to aggravated robbery, human trafficking, Internet stalking of a child and more serious categories of aggravated residential burglary.

 

Offenders would serve 85 percent of their sentence after conviction for a long list of violent felonies, including second degree murder, negligent homicide, manslaughter, encouraging someone to commit suicide, first degree battery, first degree sexual assault and sexual indecency with a child.

 

Other felonies on the list include permitting abuse of a minor, serious categories of arson, advocating overthrow of the government, treason, making a terrorist threat, arming a terrorist and exposing the public to toxic, chemical or radioactive substances.

 

Making offenders serve longer sentences would bring Arkansas sentencing guidelines more in line with those used by federal prisons, where people convicted of federal crimes serve almost all of their sentence.

 

The sponsor of SB 495 told senators on the Judiciary Committee about inmates being released after serving only a sixth of their sentence because of Arkansas laws.

 

In some cases, they were released before completing drug rehabilitation or other programs designed to help them transition back to the outside world.

 

A goal of SB 495 is to create incentives for inmates to complete rehabilitation, anger management, skills training and other courses that improve their chances of success in society. Instead of automatically earning “good time” just for being in prison, they would not begin to accumulate credits for early release until they complete rehabilitation programs.

 

The bill creates a task force to work on recidivism, and expands mental health treatment for inmates.

 

Along with SB 495, the legislature will consider appropriations to pay for an additional 3,000 prison beds and the hiring of additional security officers and prison staff. One goal is to put a stop to the “revolving door” that allows dangerous offenders to be released early due to lack of prison capacity. Those new beds will be in addition to the 400 beds recently approved by prison officials.

 

Another goal is to free up space in county jails, which house convicted offenders when there is no space in state prisons. Sheriffs have told legislators that conditions are becoming more dangerous for jail staff and minimum security prisoners, as county jails fill up with serious offenders.

 

A growing number of people charged with misdemeanors are being released because county jail space has to be reserved for dangerous felony offenders. By making space available again in county jails, supporters of SB 495 say they want to re-establish the importance of punishing misdemeanors.

 

Representatives of prosecuting attorneys and county sheriffs told senators that they support SB 495.

 

3-31-23 09:27 AM KAWX.ORG

Fentanyl and Other Dangerous Street Drugs Confiscated in Polk County, Arrests Made

Multi-Agency Operation Seizes $30,000 in Fentanyl and Other Dangerous Street Drugs in Polk County
 
Prosecuting Attorney for the 18th West Judicial District, Debra Buschman, announced today that on March 22 the 18th West Drug Task Force, in conjunction with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Mena Police Department, and Arkansas Probation and Parole seized quantities of the drugs fentanyl, methamphetamine, hydrocodone, Xanax, Suboxone, and marijuana, valued at approximately $30,000, from a group of individuals dealing drugs in the area.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The bust came after a month-long investigation targeting a local counterfeit oxycodone medication ring. The counterfeit pills, sold as 30 mg oxycodone to unsuspecting users, actually contained the dangerous drug fentanyl, which is much deadlier than oxycodone. The bogus pills were blue in color and had “M30” stamped on them. Law enforcement has noted this type of fake pill usually contains between .2 mg and 5 mg of fentanyl, with dosages varying from pill to pill, making the risk of overdose more likely. For reference, just 2 mg of fentanyl is likely to be fatal to a person. Overdose by inadvertent contact with fentanyl has developed as an emerging hazard to law enforcement due to the intense strength of the drug and its increased prevalence on the street.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In addition to selling locally, the suspects were smuggling these drugs and other contraband into prisons. Equipment and records for the smuggling operation were also confiscated, as well as the mobile devices used to facilitate the transactions. Two individuals have been arrested and warrants are being sought for other individuals involved.
 
3-28-23 8:41 PM KAWX.ORG
 
 
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Mena School Board Meeting Recap

The Mena School Board met for their regular March meeting on Monday, March 27th at the district administration building.

 

The meeting began with Mena High School Principal David Maxwell addressing the board about community service hours. He asked the board to approve a plan that would allow students to earn hours and graduate with a community service credit. MHS currently has no community service partnerships recorded and legal with the state. Maxwell presented the board with a list of organizations willing to partner with the schools that will need to be submitted by May 1st. That list included:

 

1. Special Olympics Arkansas

2. The Crossing

3. Green House Cottages

4. The Ouachita LIttle Theatre

5. The Salvation Army

6. ARVAC

7. The Call

8. CASA of the Ouachitas

9. UA Kids College

 

The board approved the plan.

 

Maxwell also submitted a plan to make the free ACT Test for MHS Seniors an annual event. The board had earlier approved the test being made available this school year. A total of 72 seniors took advantage of the free exam. The board approved of making the test available on a yearly basis and it will be administered in the first two weeks of October.

 

Assistant Superintendent Bridget Buckley then spoke to the board about the district's ongoing efforts to address literacy shortcomings in the elementary schools. A new program has been instituted and students are already showing growth and making unit gains. 

 

Superintendent Dr. Lee Smith then updated those in attendance on the LEARNS Act. Specifically how LEARNS will impact teacher pay and classified salaries. Smith outlined the following points to the board:

 

The Good Things

*The minimum teacher salary will now be $50,000 per year.

*Any teacher at or above $50K will receive at least a $2000 raise. 

*Mena is receiving approximately $900,483 in new funding to cover these increases.

 

The Dangerous Things

*Our salary schedule is based on a minimum of $37,500 for 190 days of work. It is built to provide a yearly cost of living increase or step, pays increased amounts for advanced degrees, pays increased amounts for added duties through a multiplier, and pays increased amounts based on days above 190. The increased funding does not cover this type of salary schedule.

*Should MPS keep its current salary schedule, we will have an unfunded increase of $424,462 in the first year and this does not include benefits, which is an additional $97,626.

*Mena spends 80-85% of our state funding for salaries on salaries, which indicates little cushion to absorb this cost and we are always over budget for maintenance and operations, which is where this little cushion does go.

*The LEARNS Act did nothing for classified salaries; therefore, we must fund an increase for these employees from our foundation funds.

*The new funds do not account for employees paid with federal or categorical funds and I do not want to reassign anyone.

 

Other Information

*Foundation funding will increase by $205 per student and this amount will generate an additional $305,237.

*There will be an additional $153 per student funded in 2024-2025 generating approximately $260,000

*Increasing classified salaries by at least $2000 to compare to the teachers will cost approximately $290,000.

 *We will have to pay an additional $105,000 employee insurance contribution next year. We had a $105,000 increase this year for a total of $210,000.

*Most, if not all, other schools are in this same situation.

*This is an event like COVID being unprecedented and there’s no guidance on how to proceed.

*We do not know how many of our students will take advantage of the educational voucher program.

 

The Plan

*Add $2000 to all employees' salaries who are currently at $48,000 or above and freeze them there for FY24.

*Add enough to all salaries below $48,000 to meet the $50,000 minimum and freeze those salaries for FY24.

*Work with the PPC throughout the 2023-2024 school year to build a new and suitable salary schedule and gain more understanding of how LEARNS will impact the district financially.

*Teachers still have the other half of our retention bonus to come at the end of this school year.

 

Smith agreed to keep the board posted as more information became available. 

 

Dr. Smith then recommended a student expulsion. The student is to be expelled for 365 days with a virtual option being made available for the student to continue their education during this time. The board approved.

 

Next on the agenda was the 2021-2022 Audit. Dr. Smith was happy to report that the district received a clean audit and that there were no negative findings.

 

Board Member Clint Montgomery then read a pair of resolutions. The first was the School Choice Capacity Resolution and the second was the Board Member Election Resolution. Both were approved with no discussion . 

 

District Maintenance Supervisor Danny Minton then updated the board on projects. The gym floors will be resurfaced in May. He is looking for a way to keep the cost down on painting the baseboard area around the district. These areas were damaged when the hallway floors were resurfaced recently. Work is to be done on the baseball scoreboard this week and he asked the board to approve the purchase of a new dishwasher at Holly Harshman Elementary. The board approved the low bid of $18,069.69 by Markham Restaurant Supply.

 

Dr. Smith added that the district had received a safety grant that would pay for the installation of a new higher fence at Louise Durham Elementary, a one key lock system at HHE, door alarm across the district as well as signage for security. 

 

The board next approved the latest financial report with Dr. Smith stating that expenditures in February outpaced revenue but the district was still on target for a positive balance at the end of the year.

 

Next the topic of season passes for athletic events was brought up for discussion. After some debate the board directed Dr. Smith to research the topic and report back to the board.

 

Finally the board accepted the retirement of Brent Tibbs as Custodian at LDE and the resignation of Abigail Denton as Para at LDE .

 

3-28-23 2:37 PM KAWX.ORG

 

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Mena Police Make Murder Arrest

Mena Police Department Announces Arrest of Larry Lee Kenyon of Mena, Wanted for Murder

 

The Mena Police Department made the following statement Monday afternoon.

 

"On the afternoon of Monday, March 27, 2023, Larry Lee Kenyon of Mena, Arkansas was arrested on a warrant for one count of Murder in the First Degree.  Mena PD would like to thank Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer and his Deputies, as well as the 18th West Drug Task Force for their key assistance in the swift apprehension of Kenyon.  Bond is currently set at $1,000,000.

Murder in the First Degree is a Class Y felony, carrying a possible sentence of 10-40 years or life imprisonment in the Arkansas Department of Corrections if convicted.

All defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law."

 

On February 24, 2023 the Mena Police Department investgaited a disturbance at the Rebecca Apartments in Mena where 39 year old Christopher Brown had been injured by a gunshot wound, and later arrested Kenyon and charged him at the time with Battery in the First Degree.

 

Brown died March 27, 2023 as a result of the wounds.

 

Polk County Detention Center Inmates

 

3-27-23 6:06 PM KAWX.ORG 

Mena Police Report for March 19th - 25th

Mena Police Department reports for the week of March 19th through March 25th, 2023

 

All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

 

March 19

A report of contributing to the delinquency of a minor was taken at a residence on Evans Circle.

 

March 20

A report of criminal trespass was taken from Walmart.

 

Jesus Melendez, 28, was charged with Harassing Communications, and Communicating a False Alarm at a residence on North Polk Street.

 

A report of criminal trespass was taken from Walmart.

 

A report of shoplifting was taken from Walmart.

 

A report of shoplifting was taken from Walmart.

 

March 21

Christopher James, 38, was served with a warrant at a residence on Gary Drive.

 

March 22

Robert Wallis, 41, was charged with Possession of Schedule 3 Controlled Substance, Trafficking a Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and served with warrants at EZ Mart.

 

March 23

Anthony Robertson, 32, was charged with Criminal Mischief, Disorderly Conduct, Resisting Arrest, and Assault after a disturbance call to a residence on Maple Avenue.

 

A report of harassment was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

A report of violation of a protection order was taken at a residence on Cole Avenue.

 

Trinity Hamm, 19, was served with a warrant after a traffic stop on Southerland Avenue.

 

March 24

A report of curfew violation was taken on Eve Street.

 

Marcus Shores, 50, was served with a warrant after a traffic stop on Highway 71.

 

A report of harassment was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

March 25

Dakota Bullard, 23, was charged with Disorderly Conduct at McMillan Park.

 

All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

 

3-27-23 9:32 AM KAWX.ORG

 

Polk County Detention Center Inmates

 

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Polk County Sheriff's Log for March 20th - 26th

SHERIFF’S LOG

 

The following information was received from Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer for the week of March 20, 2023 – March 26, 2023. 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.

 

March 20, 2023

No reports.

 

March 21, 2023

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 76 E near Acorn in reference to a Physical Domestic Disturbance leading to the arrest of Danny Hunt, 56 of Mena on charges of Violation of a Protection Order, 3rd Degree Domestic Battery and 2nd Degree Terroristic Threatening.

Deputies responded to a walk-in complainant in reference to a Theft of Property.

 

March 22, 2023

Sterling Bowen, 24 was arrested on a charge of DWI.

 

March 23, 2023

Deputies were dispatched to an area on Polk 61 in reference to a side by side that had caught fire.

Deputies responded to a report of a theft.

 

March 24, 2023

No reports.

 

March 25, 2023

No reports.

 

March 26, 2023

Laura Flores, 19 of Wickes was arrested on charges of DWI, Refusal to Submit and Purchase or Possession of Intoxicating Liquor by a Minor.

A traffic stop led to the arrest of Bryan Sturgis, 56 of Mena on a Parole Hold.

 

Polk County Sheriff’s Office worked 1 vehicle accident this week.

 

Polk County Detention Center Jail Population: 22 Incarcerated Inmates with 19 Inmates currently on the Waiting List for a State Facility.

 

3-27-23 9:25 AM KAWX.ORG

 

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Congressman Bruce Westerman's Weekly Column: The Lower Energy Costs Act

The Lower Energy Costs Act

 

Americans are suffering the consequences of misguided energy policies. Fuel and utility costs are on an uphill rollercoaster ride as supply shortages, and market manipulation from bad actors like OPEC, Russia, and China are causing disruptions and price fluctuations globally.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  America is blessed with abundant resources; when we use those resources, we control our economic and national security destinies.  When we don’t, we simply play into the hands of OPEC, Putin, and the Chinese Communist Party.

 

I’ve heard from Arkansans who know the reality these misguided policies have created at home. With the cost of energy up by nearly 40 percent, family budgets are being stretched thin in more places than just the pump.  It’s easy to see how energy affects everything when we stop to consider how increased energy costs get multiplied at the grocery store, on the electric bill, and in virtually everything we purchase.  High energy costs lead to inflation that leads to higher interest rates that affect the ability to purchase a home or a car and even devalue our retirement accounts.  Energy costs permeate every inch of our economy.

 

That’s why I’m taking the lead with other House Republicans to take back control and put America first. Last year, we made a Commitment to America, and we made a commitment to deliver on an economy that’s strong – and that starts with restoring America’s energy independence.

 

As chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, I worked alongside House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Sam Graves to introduce the Lower Energy Costs Act. Speaker Kevin McCarthy assigned this bill as H.R. 1 – to show the American people that this is our #1 priority. We will not stand idle while our country is being damaged. We’ve heard from constituents who are feeling the pain of the energy crisis, and we’re taking action with a bold vision and robust energy policy.

 

There is a misguided civil war on American energy, and it’s time for it to stop. Claiming to be warriors for the climate while making America dependent on energy and minerals from the worst polluters on the planet is irrational and does more harm to the environment than to save it.  A “not in my backyard” mentality regarding energy production and mining may give someone a warm fuzzy feeling. Still, it’s significantly damaging our economy, national security, and the health of our climate and environment. Rather than tapping into the vast energy and mineral resources our country is blessed with, our current policies are making it even harder for American energy producers to build new projects and capacity across the board, including renewable and non-carbon-emitting energy projects. Our policies are riddled with burdensome and often impossible-to-achieve regulations that, instead of creating more U.S. supply, result in market forces that make us dependent on our foreign adversaries, including the Chinese Communist Party, OPEC, and Russia.

 

Our Lower Energy Costs Act will break down the barriers and allow us to safely and responsibly unleash the full power of American energy. House Republicans know that when we produce energy here at home, we do it cleaner, safer, and more efficiently than anywhere else in the world.  It’s plain common sense that producing our energy and mined materials at home with the best environmental standards on the planet is better for the environment, and the wealth created will go into the bank accounts of American workers and American businesses…not in the coffers of dictators, communists, and despots that despise our freedom.

 

We are putting this issue front and center for the American people, and this legislation will be the jumpstart we need to reverse the course we are headed down. H.R.1 is full of science-based, common-sense solutions that will cut down red tape and unleash American energy production.

 

It’s long overdue that we deliver on our promises to the American people to lower energy costs, boost our competitiveness on a global level, and unleash American energy independence. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to bring down energy costs for our nation and strengthen our national security by securing our energy independence.

 

3-27-23 8:41 AM KAWX.ORG

 

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US Senator John Boozman's Weekly Column: Preserving and Modernizing an Arkansas Tradition

Preserving and Modernizing an Arkansas Tradition

 

As I often travel between home and Washington, D.C., I’m constantly reminded how blessed we are to live in The Natural State. With its beautiful rivers, majestic mountains and incredible wildlife, Arkansas has long celebrated and utilized these resources in a variety of ways. The abundance of natural treasures is one of the many reasons people are drawn to the state for recreation opportunities.

 

Outdoor recreation is a way of life that has shaped me and countless other Arkansans who enjoy the opportunity to explore the over 100,000 miles of streams and rivers, 600,000 acres of lakes, five world-class Epic Rides Mountain biking paths, hundreds of miles of trails and over 3.2 million acres of public land. In 2021, outdoor recreation and related spending generated $3.5 billion for the state’s economy and supported almost 40,000 jobs, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

 

My commitment to protecting and preserving not only Arkansas’s outdoor spaces and activities, but all of America’s beautiful landscape, is due in no small part to the close proximity of these opportunities right outside our doors. In the 118th Congress, I’m honored to have been named co-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC). The CSC is a bipartisan, bicameral, caucus that champions efforts on behalf of America’s 55 million sportsmen and women while promoting fish and wildlife conservation, sporting access and opportunities, and working to combat efforts to limit our time-honored traditions of hunting, fishing, trapping and recreational shooting.

 

We are particularly proud of the world-class duck hunting that attracts sportsmen and women from around the globe. As one of Arkansans’ favorite pastimes, I am always looking for ways to ensure the processes to enjoy the duck hunting season works efficiently to provide more opportunities to enjoy it with fewer headaches.

 

That’s why I partnered with a bipartisan group of senators to introduce the Duck Stamp Modernization Act of 2023. This legislation makes the Federal Duck Stamp more accessible, decreases barriers to compliance and increases revenue for conservation by authorizing an electronic stamp for use through the entirety of a waterfowl hunting season. 

 

Allowing hunters immediate access to an electronic duck stamp via their smart phone to meet the requirement that they purchase a Federal Duck Stamp and carry it while in the field makes perfect sense. The Duck Stamp Modernization Act of 2023 builds off a successful pilot program validating E-Stamps for 45 days and extends use for the entire waterfowl season. Arkansas and 27 other states currently participate in the pilot program. 

 

This new bill is yet another effort in championing increased conservation efforts and access to our state’s natural resources.

 

In 2020, I approved an effort to improve federal conservation programs with the enactment of America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act – a bipartisan conservation law to better implement collaborative strategies to protect and restore wetland habitat by reauthorizing critical programs that have a track record of success like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

 

Additionally, I also voted for the Great American Outdoors Act, historic legislation to support investment in the conservation and preservation of public lands. As a member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, which invests federal funds generated by the Duck Stamp in wetland preservation, I am proud to support initiatives that will protect these habitats.

 

Arkansas is blessed with a wonderful landscape and incredible wildlife that people from across the country come to our state to enjoy. Duck hunting and other outdoor activities are deeply engrained in our identity, and I’m committed to advocating for and promoting commonsense policies that only continue to increase accessibility to these time-honored traditions for years to come.

 

3-24-23 4:03 PM KAWX.ORG

 

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State Representative John Maddox's Weekly Column

When House members return from the spring break recess, they will begin the process reviewing proposed constitutional amendments.

 

Those hearings will take place in the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee. Every member who has filed a proposed constitutional amendment will have the opportunity to present his or her proposal during the committee meetings.

 

According to the House and Senate Joint Rules, the Senate may recommend one proposed constitutional amendment for consideration by the House and Senate.

 

If that amendment fails to receive a majority vote in the House, the Senate may recommend additional proposed constitutional amendments one at a time until the House affirms one by a majority vote.

 

Conversely, the House may recommend one proposed constitutional amendment to the Senate. If that amendment fails the House can recommend additional amendments one at a time until the Senate affirms one by a majority vote.

 

A third proposed constitutional amendment can only be considered if the House and Senate approve identical resolutions with a 2/3 vote in both chambers.

 

Constitutional amendments do not require the Governor’s signature.

 

Proposed constitutional amendments with a majority vote from both chambers will appear on the November 2024 general election ballot.

 

There are 13 proposed constitutional amendments filed in the House and 20 proposed amendments in the Senate. We have posted the proposals at arkansashouse.org. The website also provides links to watch the committee meetings and House floor proceedings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3-24-23 3:55 PM KAWX.ORG

 

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State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Terry Rice

LITTLE ROCK – In every regular session the legislature can refer up to three proposed constitutional amendments to voters.

 

The measures referred during the 2023 session will be on Arkansas general election ballots of November, 2024. If a majority of voters approve, the amendments will become part of the state Constitution.

 

Individual lawmakers have introduced 33 proposed amendments. Of those, 20 have been filed by senators and 13 by House members. The proposals are in the form of joint resolutions. Senate Joint Resolutions 1 through 20 are proposed amendments, as are HJR 1001 through HJR 1013.

 

The legislature has not chosen the three amendments it will refer. The first step is for the Senate and House Committees on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs to narrow the list of proposals.

 

It is not mandatory for the legislature to refer any proposed amendments. Legislators could refer just one or two resolutions to next year’s ballot.

SJR 10 would establish the rights of crime victims, such as being notified in a timely manner of all public proceedings arising from the crime. For example, any time the offender is due for sentencing or a parole hearing.

 

The victim would have a right to full and timely restitution, and would have the right to reasonable protection from the accused and from anyone acting on behalf of the accused.

 

SJR 8 would establish the taxpayers’ bill of rights. It is a shell, meaning that it consists only of a title and a brief description. In addition to creating a taxpayers’ bill of rights, it would set limits on government spending.

 

SJR 6 would allow lawsuits against the state in state courts. Currently, there is language in the state Constitution that the state may never be sued in any of its courts. SJR 6 would allow a lawsuit alleging the state had violated the U.S. or state Constitutions, and seeking injunctive, declaratory or monetary relief.

 

SJR 7 would provide that the Highway Commission should be governed in the same manner as all other state agencies. In 1952 Arkansas voters approved Amendment 42, also known as the Mack-Blackwell amendment, and it grants the Highway Commission a degree of constitutional autonomy that other state agencies do not have.

 

SJR 3 would provide that no individual would be denied the right to conduct a transaction because of his or her personal opinions or beliefs. Transactions would include purchases and sales of goods and services, either in cash, electronically or by a method normally used by households.

 

SJR 14 would provide for additional methods of financing firefighting equipment. SJR 17 is also a shell. It would set ethical requirements for elected officials. SJR 13 would legalize the growing of marijuana at home. It is a shell, and would be amended to add details later.

 

One of the lengthiest proposals is HJR 1002, to authorize the legislature to reduce or eliminate property taxes, both real and personal.

HJR 1003 would create procedures for recalling elected officials, after they have taken office.

 

A House proposal would allow the General Assembly to set its own salaries. Now, an independent commission sets legislative salaries. Another House resolution would allow lottery scholarship revenue to pay for scholarships at vo-tech schools and technical institutes.

 

3-24-23 12:07 PM KAWX.ORG

Ouachita National Forest Announces Public Scoping Period for Mena Trails Project

Public scoping opens today, March 24, 2023, for a trail and recreation related infrastructure development project proposal in the Mena/Oden Ranger District of the Ouachita National Forest.

 

The project, known as the “Trails at Mena Project,” is a proposal submitted to the US Forest Service from the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism-Division of Arkansas State Parks for a groundbreaking gravity-oriented trail experience in Arkansas.

 

The proposed project includes the following actions on National Forest System Lands:

·     Issuance of a special use permit to the State of Arkansas for developed recreation within select locations and corridors across 8,832 acres of NFS lands;

·     Construction of up to 100 miles of primarily natural surface trails on NFS lands;

·     Development of a base portal for arrival and guest services;

·     Construction of parking areas and improvements to the existing pull-offs along Highway 88;

·     Development of an uplift infrastructure to transport users throughout the SUP area;

·     Construction of ancillary support facilities and amenities within the trail network;

·     Creation of non-trail-based, developed recreation opportunities; and,

·     Improvement of existing road segments and creation of new access routes.

 

Public involvement will enable the Forest to better assess concerns of the public. Public scoping is not limited to a single point in time. The Forest will continue to accept and consider comments until an implementation decision is made. However, comments will be most helpful if they are received early in the process. Comments will help the Forest identify environmental issues associated with implementation and alternative ways to meet Forest objectives and desired conditions.

 

Comments will become a part of the public record for this Proposed Action. Comments submitted anonymously will be accepted and considered; however, anonymous comments will not provide the Agency with the ability to provide the respondent with subsequent environmental documents.

Electronic comments are encouraged and can be submitted on the Forest Service website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=63649. Click on “comment” on the right side of the page.

 

Specific written comments must be submitted to: Mena/Oden District Ranger, Attention: Mena Trails, 1603 Hwy 71 North, Mena, AR, 71953; or via fax to 479-394-2389. The office business hours for those submitting hand-delivered comments are: 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.

 

For additional information, please visit the Trails at Mena Project website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=63649.

 

3-24-23 8:30 AM KAWX.ORG

 

Polk County Sheriif's Log for March 13th - 19th

SHERIFF’S LOG

 

The following information was received from Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer for the week of March 13, 2023 – March 19, 2023. 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.

 

March 13, 2023

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 76 W near Acorn in reference to a trespasser. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney for further consideration.

Deputies responded to a walk-in complainant in reference to a violation of an order of protection.

Deputies responded to a walk-in complainant in reference to a theft of property.

 

March 14, 2023

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on 4th Street near Wickes in reference to a possible break-in attempt.

Deputies responded to a report of harassment.

 

March 15, 2023

William Thompson, 64 of Mena was arrested on a charge of Disorderly Conduct.

 

March 16, 2023

An incident on Hwy 88E near Ink led to the arrest of Holly Robinson, 31 of Mena on charges of Disorderly Conduct and Public Intoxication.

 

March 17, 2023

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Carter Creek Lane near Mena in reference to an unruly juvenile.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Susie Lane near Mena in reference to a possible theft of property.

 

March 18, 2023

No reports.

 

March 19, 2023

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 78 near Potter in reference to a domestic dispute leading to the arrest of Mark Blehm, 30 of Mena on a charge of Disorderly Conduct.

Edward Kilcollins, 48 of Mena was arrested on a Misdemeanor Failure to Appear Warrant.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on W Boundary in reference to a Domestic Disturbance.

 

Polk County Sheriff’s Office worked 2 vehicle accidents this week.

 

Polk County Detention Center Jail Population: 23 Incarcerated Inmates with 17 Inmates currently on the Waiting List for a State Facility.

 

3-20-23 1:09 PM KAWX.ORG

 

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Mena Police Report for March 12th - 18th

 

Mena Police Department reports for the week of March 12th through March 18th, 2023

 

All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

 

March 12

A report of theft was taken from Walmart.

 

March 13

Rocky Daugherty, 31, was charged with Disorderly Conduct and Public Intoxication at Janssen Park.

 

Kaleb Birtcher, 25, was served with a warrant after a traffic stop on South Reine Street.

 

Kathy Harper, 43, was served with warrants after a traffic stop on Pine Avenue.

 

A report of fleeing, reckless driving, possession of meth, and possession of drug paraphernalia was taken after an attempted traffic stop on Racetrack Road.

 

Shawna Morris, 26, was charged with Possession of Marijuana and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia after a traffic stop on Highway 71.

 

March 14

A missing persons report was taken at a residence on Oak Grove.

 

Benjamin McKnight, 28, was charged with Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and Driving on Suspended License after a traffic stop on Highway 71.

 

Jody Carter, 38, was served with a warrant at the detention center.

 

March 15

No report.

 

March 16

Joshua Lott, 42, was charged with Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and served with a warrant at a residence on 11th Street.

 

Charles Solo, 50, was served with warrants at a residence on 11th Street.

 

A report of theft was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

A report of breaking or entering was taken at a residence on Himes Avenue.

 

A report of theft was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

A report of criminal mischief was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

A report of a disturbance was taken at a residence on 4th Street.

 

March 17

Martin Rodriguez, 21, was served with a warrant after a traffic stop on Highway 71.

 

Michelle Huff, 47, was served with a warrant at the detention center.

 

March 18

John Hollis, 26, was charged with Battery 3rd and Terroristic Threatening after a disturbance call to Missouri Avenue.

 

A report of theft of property was taken from Walmart.

 

All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

 

3-20-23 9:46 AM KAWX.ORG

 

Polk County Detention Center Inmates 

 

KAWX is now at 89.3 FM! 

US Senator John Boozman's Weekly Column: Strengthening the Health Care Workforce

Strengthening the Health Care Workforce

 

Arkansans rely on access to physicians and health care professionals to provide life-saving and preventative care close to home. Rural states like ours face an acute need for medical providers. More than 500,000 Natural State residents live in an area defined by the federal government as lacking the adequate number of health professionals to serve the population. While we’re investing in educating and training the next generation of health care providers to help expand the delivery of health care across the state, Congress is also advancing a number of solutions to help enhance health care in rural communities and underserved areas.

 

Arkansas is not alone in experiencing an increasingly insufficient number of physicians. Nationwide, we’re facing a projected shortage of up to 124,000 doctors by 2034 according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. There is a bipartisan effort in both chambers of Congress to address this and I’m proud to support these initiatives to strengthen our health care workforce.

 

We’ve made positive steps in recent years with a small increase of Medicare-supported Graduate Medical Education (GME) positions and we’re building on this momentum.

 

I recently joined my colleagues to introduce legislation aimed at attracting medical professionals to practice in communities across Arkansas by increasing access to medical residency slots in areas with a shortage of health care professionals. The Physicians for Underserved Areas Act would update the GME distribution process to allow medical residency programs in areas with physician shortages a greater chance of gaining available residency slots following a hospital closure elsewhere in the country. 

 

During residency, physicians refine their skills in specialty fields and obtain their license to practice. Once this step is completed, data show most doctors don’t move away. That’s why having GME positions in Arkansas is so vital to creating a pipeline of future medical providers.

 

We’re also working to incentivize students to join the medical field and encourage them to pursue residencies in rural areas by advancing the Resident Education Deferred Loan Interest Act. This legislation would allow medical and dental students to pause student loan interest accrual and principal loan repayment while serving in their residencies or internships. 

 

UAMS chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson said these measures “will help retain physicians in areas where they are needed most.”

 

We are also aiming to preserve the talent developed at American medical schools to stay here to serve our citizens. The Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act allows international doctors trained and educated in the United States to remain here as long as they practice in areas experiencing physician shortages.

 

Just as importantly as drawing physicians to rural areas is ensuring they want to stay. The Save Rural Hospitals Act would help curb the trend of hospital closures in rural communities by making sure they are fairly reimbursed for their services by the federal government. This would help hospitals increase compensation for doctors and other medical professionals.

 

Because this is an issue that impacts the entire country, there is widespread interest in developing policies to better support the health care needs of underserved areas. This will continue to be a priority for me and our state leaders to help Arkansans live longer, healthier lives.

 

3-17-23 4:09 PM KAWX.ORG

 

KAWX is now at 89.3 FM!

Staet Representative John Maddox's Weekly Column

House members will now be taking an extended recess. When the House reconvenes on March 27, members will be addressing public safety legislation, constitutional amendments, and the budget.

In the days leading up to the recess, the House passed a number of bills addressing human trafficking, elections, and employment.  

 

Bills passed this week that amend human laws include SB282, HB1459, and HB1470.

SB282 allows a victim of human trafficking to bring a civil action against a person or entity who knew or should have known that the individual was being trafficked.

HB1459 increases the fines for a human trafficking conviction and trafficking-related charges to a range between $5,000 and $15,000. The bill directs that the fines be divided between specified funds that support exploited children and trafficking victims.

 

HB1470 ensures victims are eligible for crime victim reparations even if they do not cooperate with law enforcement.

Election bills passing the House this week included SB 250, SB 254, and SB 258.

SB 250 requires counties to pay for the costs if using paper ballots. SB 254 eliminates the write-in candidate portion on a ballot, and SB 258 prohibits absentee ballot drop boxes.

The House also passed HB1207 which requires local governments to act on permit applications in the first 60 days.

And the House passed HB1575 which requires Arkansans to make at least 5 work searches a week when claiming unemployment benefits. That search could include applying for a job or participating in job training.

In addition, the House passed SB81 and SB66. 

 

SB81 amends the law concerning libraries and obscene materials and creates the offense of furnishing a harmful item to a minor. It states furnishing a harmful item to a minor is a Class A misdemeanor. 

 

SB66 requires a commercial entity to use a reasonable age verification method before allowing access to a website that contains a substantial portion of material that is harmful to minors. 

 

We will continue to update you in the remaining weeks of the session. You can watch all House committee meetings and floor proceedings at arkansashouse.org.

 

3-17-23 4:03 PM KAWX.ORG

 

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Congressman Bruce Westerman's Weekly Column: Food Insecurity Amid the Economic Crisis

Food Insecurity Amid the Economic Crisis

 

This past week I visited the Harvest Regional Food Bank in Texarkana. While there, I had the opportunity to tour their facilities and meet all the incredible people who work diligently behind the scenes to fight food insecurity in southwest Arkansas.

 

When people talk about food insecurity, you may picture a third-world country or low-income area in an urban city. Most of us wouldn’t think of a small town in Arkansas, and most of us wouldn’t picture our own backyards. What’s surprising to some people is that often food insecurity rates are higher in rural communities and small towns than in urban areas and big cities.

 

Even though America is the number one agricultural producer in the world and Americans spend less of their disposable income on food than other countries, food insecurity is still an issue our country faces. But unfortunately, amid the pandemic, we’ve seen a spike in food insecurity across the country. Hard-working Americans are feeling the pain of record-high inflation rates. The economic crisis in our country is making it harder for Americans to pay their bills, and hard-working mothers and fathers are facing uncertainty when it comes to providing food for their children as food prices escalate.

 

On my visit to Harvest Regional Food Bank, I was not only reminded of the impact that the economic crisis has had on families in rural areas, but I was also blown away by the work that the volunteers do to support families in the 4th District who are experiencing economic hardships. Through their Food Bank, Food Rescue, Backpack, Mobile Pantry, Gleaning programs, and their cooperation with local food pantries often run by churches, Harvest’s team is working around the clock to provide relief in southwest Arkansas. Organizations like Harvest Texarkana break down the barriers to food accessibility and provide relief to hundreds of families a year while they work through hard times.

 

When faced with adversity, it’s nice to have a helping hand while you get back up on your feet. As Congress gears up for the upcoming Farm Bill, there’s a great opportunity for programs that will be beneficial to agricultural producers as well as food banks like Harvest Texarkana providing relief to Americans who are feeling the pain of our economic crisis so they can provide for their families.

 

3-17-23 11:32 AM KAWX.ORG

 

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State Senator Terry Rice's Weekly Column

State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Terry Rice

March 17, 2023

 

LITTLE ROCK – The legislature has advanced a long list of bills to prevent voter fraud and protect the integrity of elections.

 

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have passed HB 1510 to schedule all special elections on the same date as traditional primary elections in May and general elections in November. A motivation of the sponsors is to prevent local officials from holding a special election for a tax increase on a date when few people will know about and go to the polls.

 

In presidential election years, Arkansas primary elections are in March and that is when special elections could be held.

 

SB 250, which affects counties that choose to use paper ballots, has been sent to the governor. It requires those counties to use paper ballots that are compatible with the vote counting machines of the Secretary of State, and it requires the county to pay the costs of printing and counting the ballots.

 

SB 254 eliminates write-in candidates in state elections. It has been sent to the governor.

 

SB 255, which has been sent to the governor, prohibits state and local election officials from accepting any gifts, services, products or anything of value from any source other than the government entity that employs them. A goal is to prohibit social media, consultants, political parties and strategists from paying for any election expenses.

 

SB 258 prohibits the use of drop boxes for collecting absentee ballots. All absentee ballots that are not delivered by mail must be hand delivered inside the county clerk’s office. SB 258 has passed in both chambers and is on the governor’s desk.

 

Already in law is Act 236, which affects citizens’ groups trying to place an issue on statewide ballots. They will have to gather signatures of registered voters from at least 50 counties. That is an increase from at least 15 counties.

 

SB 377, which has been advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee, would make it a crime to destroy signatures gathered on petitions to place an issue on the ballot.

 

The bill was prompted by incidents that occurred when competing casino interests paid or harassed canvassers.

 

HB 1513 creates an Election Integrity Unit with the state Attorney General’s office. It is in the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee.

 

The Senate has passed SB 272 to require more audits of elections by the state Board of Election Commissioners.

 

In odd-numbered years an election audit will be performed in 15 to 20 counties, randomly selected.  The Board can order an audit in response to complaints of election fraud, and the legislature’s Joint Performance Review Committee can designate a county to be audited.

 

Act 194 authorizes the state Attorney General to review ballot titles and popular names of proposed amendments and initiatives. For many years the Attorney General reviewed ballot titles, but in 2019 the legislature transferred that authority to the Board of Election Commissioners.

 

Last year, in a decision on a proposed ballot issue to legalize recreational marijuana, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the Board of Election Commissioners had no authority to approve ballot titles.

 

3-17-23 9:04 AM KAWX.ORG

 

KAWX is now at 89.3 FM!

Polk County Sheriff's Report for March 6th - 12th

SHERIFF’S LOG

 

The following information was received from Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer for the week of March 6, 2023 – March 12, 2023. 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.

 

March 6, 2023

Deputies responded to a report of a possible suicidal individual.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 76 E near Acorn in reference to a trespasser.

 

 

March 7, 2023

Michelle Crawford, 30 of Mena was arrested on charges of Criminal Trespass, Public Intoxication and Disorderly Conduct.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Hwy 71 near Acorn in reference to a vehicle being broken into.

 

March 8, 2023

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 121 near Mena in reference to a welfare check.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 121 near Mena in reference to a verbal domestic disturbance leading to the arrest of Matthew Owen, 26 of Mena on a charge of disorderly conduct. Owen was also served Felony Warrants for Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and Probation Violation.

Deputies responded to a residence on Polk 419 in reference to a domestic disturbance leading to the arrest of Darrell Sanders, 53 of Mena on charges of Violation of a Protection Order and 3rd Degree Domestic Battery as well as being served Felony Warrants on nine charges.

Deputies responded to a report of Identity Theft.

Michael Laws, 36 of Mena was arrested on a Felony Warrant for Failure to Comply with Registration and Reporting Requirements.

 

March 9, 2023

No reports.

 

March 10, 2023

A traffic stop led to the arrest of Jeremiah Kahn, 37 of Mena on a Parole Hold and a Misdemeanor Warrant.

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Hwy 246 E near Hatfield in reference to a trespasser.

 

March 11, 2023

Christopher Chandler, 42 of Grannis was arrested by an officer with the Arkansas Sate Parks on charges of Obstructing Governmental Operations and Probation Violation.

Deputies were dispatched to a church near Wickes in reference to a broken window.

Deputies responded to a report of a reckless driver. Information has been forwarded to the Prosecuting Attorney for further consideration.

 

March 12, 2023

Deputies responded to a walk-in complainant in reference to missing property.

 

Polk County Sheriff’s Office worked 1 vehicle accident this week.

 

Polk County Detention Center Jail Population: 20 Incarcerated Inmates with 14 Inmates currently on the Waiting List for a State Facility.

 

3-13-23 4:35 PM KAWX.ORG

 

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OLT Early Spring Offerings

OLT Early Spring Offerings

 

Everyone is excited about the warmer days and daffodils popping up, which means spring is not far away! Ouachita Little Theatre has been working to bring you entertainment in the coming months.

 

After a very successful run of the comedy, “You Can’t Take It With You,” OLT has recently held auditions for the spring musical, “Little Shop of Horrors” by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Directed locally by Alex Night, the cast will be announced shortly. Shows are scheduled for May 12th, 13th, 14th, 19th, 20th, and 21st.

 

Some very exciting news is that Lana Gail and her band, including radio DJ “Tex McWestern” is performing a musical show later this month, “The Women of Country Music.” Lana will put on a professional concert stylizing the vocals of famous women throughout the country music genre, including performers from the 1930’s through modern day. The shows are scheduled for March 31 and April 1 at 7:30 PM, and April 2 at 2:30 PM. Reserved tickets will be available online at oltmena.com or drop by the OLT office at 610 Mena Street during regular office hours.

 

Mark June 1 on your calendar for one of OLT’s landmark events, the semi-annual OLT Benson Awards. Since the awards were postponed for the 2019-2020 season due to Covid restrictions, this will be a double award ceremony including the 2021-2022 season as well. Held at The Crossing Church Facility, the meal will be catered by Papa’s Mexican Café. The theme is “A Night on the Town.”

 

Nominees for the Benson awards have been announced in the OLT February newsletter which can be found on the OLT Facebook page or the website at oltmena.com. Short videos of performances are available online by going to oltmena.com. This is to assist members in their selections for Benson Award recipients. Voting is for OLT members only and will take place online March 1st through 29th. If members require a paper ballot, they may be picked up in person at the OLT office or contact OLT to have one mailed to you. You still have time to become a member, so check out the website to see how you can join the fun and cast your vote for your favorite shows and the people who produced them!

 

3-13-23 3:07 PM KAWX.ORG

 

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Mena Police Report for March 5th - 11th

Mena Police Department reports for the week of March 5th through March 11th, 2023

 

All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

 

March 5

Garet Wilson, 20, was charged with Battery 2nd, Public Intoxication, Disorderly Conduct, and Criminal Use of Prohibited Weapons after a Disturbance on Reine Street.

 

A report of forgery was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

William Pierce, 39, was served with a warrant at a residence on Janssen Avenue.

 

March 6

Heath Spencer, 26, was charged with Theft of Property at Walmart.

 

A report of theft and disorderly conduct was taken at Walmart.

 

March 7

No report.

 

March 8

Robert Craddock, 26, was served with a warrant at the detention center.

 

Harmony Muniz, 30, was charged with Domestic Battery after a complaint from a walk-in complainant.

 

A report of theft of property was taken from Walmart.

 

March 9

No report.

 

March 10

 

A report of battery was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

Madison Scott, 21, was charged with Theft of Property at Walmart.

 

March 11

Larry Kenyon, 52, Cheryll Rice, 58, and Sandra Ralph, 41, were all served with warrants at a residence on Dallas Avenue.

 

All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

 

3-13-23 10:50 AM KAWX.ORG

 

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State Representative John Maddox's Weekly Culumn

In the 9th week of the 2023 Regular Session, the House passed several bills addressing education, elections, and healthcare. The House also passed a bill to increase the property tax credit for Arkansas families.

 

With a vote of 99-0, the House voted in favor of increasing the homestead property tax credit from $375 a year to $425 a year. HB1032 now heads to the Senate.

 

Education bills passing the House this week include the Seizure Safe Schools Act. HB1315 requires all schools to have at least 2 employees trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of seizures and know how to respond. 

 

The House also voted in favor of HB1535 and HB1462. 

HB1535 states that at each regular monthly meeting of a school board, a report of student academic performance should be provided to the board.

 

HB1462 clarifies the definition of “unaccompanied homeless youth” to mean an individual between the ages of 16 and 22 who is not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. The definition will allow a school’s liaison for homeless children and youth to provide additional support. HB1462 also waives fees for identification, driver’s license, and birth certificates for unaccompanied homeless youth.

 

The House passed several bills regarding elections including HB1487 and HB1510.

 

HB1487 creates the Ballot Security Act of 2023. The bill allows for the tracking of ballots and proper delivery and creates a process to preserve spoiled ballots.

 

HB1510 would require special elections to be held on the same dates as primary and general elections. It states special elections shall be held on the second Tuesday of March or November in a year when a presidential election is held or the second Tuesday of May and November of all other years. The bill outlines specific criteria for exceptions to hold an emergency special election.

 

The House also passed HB1035. This bill requires a healthcare insurer to provide coverage for screening for depression of the birth mother by a healthcare professional within the first 6 weeks of the birth mother's having given birth on or after January 1, 2024.

 

The House voted in favor of SB199. This bill states that a healthcare professional who performs a gender transition procedure on a minor is liable if the minor is injured in any way. It also states that a civil action can be filed for up to 15 years after the minor turns 18 years of age.

 

And the House passed SB295. This bill seeks to create the Cost-Shifting Prevention Act of 2023 by addressing the rates paid for customer-owned net-metering facilities. It would require utilities to compensate solar users at wholesale rates as they do other power providers.

 

The House will reconvene on Monday at 1:30 p.m. You can watch all committee meetings and House floor proceedings at arkansashouse.org.

 

3-10-23 5:21 PM KAWX.ORG

 

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US Senator John Boozman's Weekly Column: Stepping Up Bipartisan Opposition to Bad Policies

Stepping Up Bipartisan Opposition to Bad Policies

 

The 118th Congress has already provided multiple opportunities to roll back proposed or recently enacted rules, regulations and legislation that is bad for Arkansas and our country.

 

Republicans in Congress have been leading Congressional Review Act (CRA) joint resolutions of disapproval to challenge several ill-advised and potentially damaging orders from taking effect. These initiatives provide Congress an expedited mechanism to overturn certain federal agency actions. A joint resolution of disapproval under the CRA is also afforded special privileges that bypass normal Senate rules and allow for a vote on the Senate floor.

 

When a CRA resolution is approved by a simple majority in both chambers of Congress and signed by the president—or if Congress successfully overrides a presidential veto—the rule is invalidated.

 

I’m pleased we’ve already been able to draw bipartisan support for some CRA joint disapproval resolutions in the last month that are headed to the president’s desk.

 

When the Biden administration issued a rule last November allowing ERISA retirement plan fiduciaries to politicize millions of Americans’ retirement investments by favoring liberal ideological preferences like environmental, social and corporate governance factors, I joined my colleagues on a CRA to halt it.

 

Hard-working Arkansans want their money working for them, and focusing on anything else is a distraction. Fortunately, a few Democrats in the House and Senate voted with Republicans to protect millions of Americans’ financial security and send this measure to President Biden’s desk.

 

His administration has also put forward a burdensome Clean Water Act regulation discarding a commonsense rule that would protect our water systems and sources without eroding the rights of landowners. The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) decree will expand federal regulatory authority over virtually every pond, puddle and ditch nationwide.

 

A similar framework was advanced during the Obama administration only to be reformed by the Trump White House. Now President Biden wants to revert back to the misguided, far-reaching rule that fails to provide farmers, ranchers and private landowners certainty and predictability.

 

There is also bipartisan support to strike that down. Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives voted this month on a CRA resolution objecting to it and a similar result is likely in the Senate where a vote is expected soon.

 

Finally, just a few days ago Congress sent another CRA joint resolution of disapproval to the president, this time dealing with a disastrous crime bill the D.C. City Council passed over objections from the city’s mayor and others. I was proud to sponsor this rebuke of a radical attempt to weaken penalties for certain crimes as the nation’s capital experiences a surge in violence, criminal conduct and public safety concerns – and I wasn’t alone.

 

Over 30 Democrats each in the House and Senate joined my Republican colleagues and me to stand up and say no to this very bad idea.

 

This string of bipartisan agreement and cooperation can continue, even beyond just CRA joint disapproval resolutions. For the good of Arkansas and our country, I’m committed to working in that spirit for the rest of this Congress.

 

3-10-23 5:11 PM KAWX.ORG

 

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Congressman Bruce Westerman's Weekly Column

President Biden’s Budget: Big Spending, Big Taxing, Big Inflation

 

Our country has a spending problem. I feel like a broken record when I say that, but I’ll keep saying it until we can fix it. We need to get our country back on the right fiscal track, and that starts with reining in on our government’s relentless habit of irresponsible spending.

 

That means making tough choices about where we spend our tax dollars. Sadly, President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget proposal is a bloated, over-spending mess that makes no serious attempt at lowering our spending. Rather than proposing changes that would correct our country’s current economic trajectory, the President proposed trillions of dollars in new taxes for hard working American families and businesses and more spending on unsuccessful initiatives.

 

In the next ten years, President Biden plans to increase government spending by $2.2 TRILLION. We are already in an economic crisis with inflation at a record high rate; increasing spending would just add fuel to the inflation fire and cause interest rates to skyrocket. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the U.S. will be paying over $10.5 TRILLION in the next decade on interest alone. That’s more interest to be paid in the next ten years than has been paid in the history of our country. That’s how deep we are in debt and how much increased interest rates are spiraling out of control. Americans are already struggling to pay their bills, the last thing they need is to continue paying higher and higher interest rates to fund wasteful government spending.

 

The proposed budget also practically hands American jobs and companies to foreign nations, even the Chinese Communist Party. The President is proposing an increased tax hike on corporations, from 21% to 28%. The tax hike on American businesses risks over 145,000 jobs. And what incentive do businesses have to stay in America if we’re making it less profitable for them? The answer is none. It makes more sense for them to leave. China, for example, taxes their companies at 25%. Ireland only levies a 12.5% tax on corporate income. In the UK, the normal corporate rate is 19%. This is a lose-lose situation.

 

This is bad policy, and it’s the American people who will pay the price, not President Biden. This out of touch budget does nothing to get our country back on track to fiscal responsibility. It does nothing to lower gas prices, increase national security, lower inflation, or make the lives of the American people better. It’s more of the same big government, big spending, big taxing plan that has failed us time and time again.

 

Although the proposed budget is disappointing, I will not lose sight of what’s important. I will not lose sight of the crises that the American people are facing. Luckily, House Republicans stand between President Biden’s proposed budget and the American people picking up the check. House Republicans will do everything we can to block the Biden Administration from enacting policies that will diminish our chances of digging ourselves out from this hole. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it’s time we came together on a bipartisan basis to deliver real solutions to Americans and restore our country’s economic sanity.

 

3-10-23 2:20PM KAWX.ORG

 

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State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Terry Rice

State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Terry Rice

March 10, 2023

 

LITTLE ROCK – As the legislative session enters its final weeks, activity is in high gear.

 

The highlight of the week was the final passage of the governor’s historic reform of Arkansas education.

 

Dozens of other important measures were advanced out of committee and approved by the Senate and House of Representatives.

 

Both chambers approved HB 1419 to change the rules for citizens’ groups trying to place an issue on statewide ballots.

 

Currently, supporters of an initiative or proposed amendment must submit signatures from at least 15 counties. HB 1419 would require a minimum number of signatures from 50 counties. Arkansas has 75 counties.

 

The bill’s sponsors say it is too easy for wealthy special interests to get an issue on the ballot. Opponents question whether the bill is constitutional.

 

Senate Bill 199 was sent to the governor for signing. It would extend the period in which a person can sue a physician for malpractice for performing gender transformation procedures on a minor. Those procedures include surgery and hormone therapy.

 

People who have had the procedures could file a malpractice suit up to 15 years after they turn 18.

 

The Senate passed SB 270 to expand the definition of sexual indecency with a child to include adults who knowingly enter and remain in a bathroom assigned to the opposite sex, if a minor is present.

 

It does not apply to parents with their own children who are under the age of seven.

 

The House passed HB 1156 to require schools to designate all bathrooms and changing areas as exclusively for boys or girls. If a student is unwilling or unable to use the boys or girls bathrooms, the school must provide a reasonable accommodation, such as a single-use room.

 

The Senate approved SB 262 to remove the power of the state Board of Education to require consolidation or annexation of a school districts whose student population falls below 350.

 

Act 195 repeals a state law that required teenagers under the age of 16 to get an employment certificate from the state Department of Labor as a condition for getting a job.

 

The House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs advanced HB 1513 to create an election integrity unit within the office of the state Attorney General.

 

The unit will work with the state Board of Election Commissioners and the Secretary of State. Its staff will track all violations of election and voter registration laws, and will oversee the hotline for reporting violations that is maintained by the Attorney General.

 

The House approved and a Senate committee advanced HB 1401 to cut from two years to one year the cumulative period that an able-bodied adult is eligible for welfare.

 

According to the bill’s sponsor, more than half of the recipients of cash welfare in Arkansas have received it for longer than 18 months. Technically, the cash assistance program is under the Department of Workforce Services and is called the Transitional Employment Assistance Program.

 

HB 1401 would not affect children, people who cannot find work due to circumstances beyond their control, parents or caregivers over 60 and parents or caregivers with disabilities.

 

3-10-23 8:55 AM KAWX.ORG

 

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Polk County Sheriff's Log for Februry 27 - March 5

SHERIFF’S LOG

 

The following information was received from Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer for the week of February 27, 2023 – March 5, 2023. 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.

 

February 27, 2023

Javier Flores, 48 of Wickes was arrested on two Felony Warrants for 2nd Degree Sexual Assault.

 

February 28, 2023

No reports.

 

March 1, 2023

Deputies were dispatched to a business near Hatfield in reference to an MVA.

Deputies took a report of domestic abuse from a walk-in complainant.

Deputies took a report of vandalism at a residence on Polk 80 near Shady.

 

March 2, 2023

Deputies responded to a report of theft at a residence on Memory Lane near Mena.

 

March 3, 2023

A traffic stop on School Street near Wickes led to the arrest of Charles Houser, 66 of Wickes on charges of Possession of Methamphetamine or Cocaine, Driving on a Suspended License and No Proof of Insurance.

 

March 4, 2023

Deputies were dispatched to a residence on Polk 648 near Mena in reference to a welfare check.

 

March 5, 2023

Deputies took a report of rape.

A disturbance on Morgan Lane near Acorn led to the arrest of Michelle Crawford, 30 of Mena on a charge of Disorderly Conduct.

Floyd Head, 69 of Cove was arrested on a Body Attachment Warrant and two Misdemeanor Failure to Appear Warrants.

 

Polk County Sheriff’s Office worked 2 vehicle accidents this week.

 

Polk County Detention Center Jail Population: 25 Incarcerated Inmates with 22 Inmates currently on the Waiting List for a State Facility.

 

3-6-23 5:05 PM KAWX.ORG

Mena Police Report for February 26th - March 4th

Mena Police Department reports for the week of February 26th through March 4th, 2023:

 

All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

 

February 26

 

Officers responded to a disturbance at a residence on Magnolia Avenue. Connor Skaggs, 25, was charged with Disorderly Conduct, Resisting Arrest, Possession of Schedule VI Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Criminal Mischief, and Assault on Family or Household Member. Also, Riley Fitzpatrick, 24, was charged with Disorderly Conduct, Obstructing Government Operations, Resisting Arrest, Possession of Schedule VI Controlled Substance, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.

 

Jeffery King, 44, was served with a warrant at a residence on Missouri Street.

 

Brittney Rexroad, 36, and Brent Rexroad, 37, were both served with warrants at Walmart.

 

William Baston, 42, was served with a warrant after a traffic stop on Reine Street.

 

February 27

 

Roy Laxson, 60, was served with a warrant at Salvation Army.

 

February 28

 

Bertha Willis, 46, was served with a warrant at Walmart.

 

A report of unauthorized use of a vehicle was taken at a residence on 4th Street.

 

John Robertson, 48, was served with warrant at the county detention center.

 

Jeana Phillips, 51, was served with warrants after a traffic stop on Highway 8 East.

 

March 1

 

A report of a missing person was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

Jennifer Williams, 51, was served with a warrant at the probation office.

 

March 2

 

Zachery Fields, 28, was charged with Public Intoxication after a disturbance call to Jerry Lee Drive.

 

A report of financial identity fraud was taken from a walk-in complainant.

 

Timothy Robertson, 36, was served with a warrant at a residence on Church Street.

 

March 3

 

A report of domestic battery was taken at Peachtree Assisted Living.

 

Dajah Hamilton, 25, was served with a warrant after a traffic stop on Highway 71.

 

March 4

 

Eldon Hibbs, 18, was charged with Possession of Marijuana after a traffic stop on Sherwood Avenue.

 

A report of theft was taken at a residence on Spring Avenue.

 

All subjects should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

 

Polk County Detention Center Inmates

 

3-6-23 8:53 A.M. KAWX.ORG

 

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State Representative John Maddox's Weekly Column

In the 8th week of the 2023 Regular Session, the House passed SB294. This bill creates the LEARNS Act and outlines several educational reforms.

 

SB294 raises the minimum teacher salary to $50,000 a year and raises current teacher salaries by $2,000.

 

It requires that students be reading at a 3rd-grade level before advancing to the 4th grade. It also calls for 120 reading coaches to be deployed statewide and supplemental educational services for students struggling to read.

 

The bill creates the Education Freedom Account. In a three-year phased-in approach, the account would offer universal school choice to all parents by the 2025-2026 school year.

 

It also offers high school students the option of a career-ready diploma and requires high school students to complete 75 hours of community service before graduation.

 

This bill now goes back to the Senate to concur in a House amendment.

 

The House also passed HB1458. This bill creates the Vincent Parks Law. Vincent Parks was a Jonesboro police officer who died last summer during law enforcement training. HB1458 would require instructors to complete training on the recognition and management of certain health conditions and establish procedures in the event a cadet or officer has symptoms of cardiac arrest while receiving training.

 

On Wednesday, the House passed HB1486. This bill amends the law concerning distracted driving. It states if a distracted driver causes an accident that results in serious physical injury or death of another person, the driver upon conviction is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor and could face a fine of up to $2,500 and imprisonment for up to one year.

 

The House also passed HB1365 and SB265.

 

HB1365 classifies the theft of a catalytic converter as a Class C felony. It states a person commits unauthorized possession of a catalytic converter if the person knowingly possesses a catalytic converter that has been removed from a motor vehicle and is not permanently marked.

 

SB265 allows a hospital pharmacy to dispense up to a 31-day supply of medication to emergency room patients or patients who are being discharged from the hospital. Currently, hospitals can dispense a 2-day supply.

 

You can watch all House committee meetings and House floor sessions at arkansashouse.org.

 

3-4-23 9:42 AM KAWX.ORG

 

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US Senator John Boozman's Weekly Column: Supporting Families of Loved Ones Called to Serve

Supporting Families of Loved Ones Called to Serve

 

Military service is a family affair. There is a lot asked of loved ones of who serve alongside the men and women who wear our nation’s uniform. They move away from family and friends to support our country’s readiness at home, during deployments and amid mission transitions. These families need to know we’re doing our very best to make sure they have a good quality of life. That’s why I’m helping lead a push to modernize and expand means to better support their evolving needs.

 

My dad served for 23 years in the Air Force, so I understand the unique challenges military families face. The top concern of today’s military spouses is employment, according to a recent survey by Blue Star Families. Military spouses consistently experience unemployment rates four times higher than the national average.

 

Too often, military spouses are forced to make professional sacrifices in support of their service members with up to two-thirds reporting underemployment. This is the number one contributor to financial stress. Frequent moves for new military assignments often stall military spouses’ upward career progression and force them to find new jobs. All of these challenges hurt families and military readiness.

 

Servicemembers’ spouses are a critical piece of the support system underpinning America’s military and they deserve abundant access to meaningful career opportunities. That’s why I’m championing the Military Spouse Hiring Act. This bipartisan legislation introduced earlier this month would incentivize businesses to hire military spouses.

 

Just as importantly, we must continue to ensure we fulfill the promises made to military families whose loved one made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our country. That’s why I’ve joined efforts to update the Dependence and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits for military survivors.

 

The Caring for Survivors Act of 2023 would bring payments to DIC recipients in line with payments to surviving spouses of other federal employees as DIC benefits currently lag behind other programs’ payments by nearly 12 percent. This legislation will deliver critical economic support to families that find themselves in the tragic situation of carrying on after their servicemember dies.

 

Many former members of our Armed Forces require additional support as a result of their service and rely on family to help meet basic needs. We can better support them as they provide this essential assistance, so I’ve introduced legislation to enhance Department of Veterans Affairs programs for disabled veterans and their children who often take on caregiving roles.

 

According to a report commissioned by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, these young caregivers are asking for more help. We’re pushing to improve benefits and expanding access to mental health care, peer support, recreational opportunities and other experiences to help these children lead healthier lives.

 

The Helping Heroes Act of 2023 recognizes the work done by the approximately 2.3 million children living in homes with a disabled veteran and seeks to provide critical support and assistance to connect these young caregivers with additional resources so we can help caregivers of all ages.

 

We have a responsibility to support the families and loved ones of those defending of our nation. These measures provide needed resources and help fulfill that obligation. I’m proud to be advancing these legislative initiatives and I am committed to working with my colleagues to make these meaningful improvements to ensure we take care of the unsung heroes in our military and veterans community.

 

3-3-23 3:44 PM KAWX.ORG

 

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Congressman Bruse Westerman's Weekly Column: Protecting American Farmland

Protecting American Farmland

 

Our national food supply is reliant on our farmlands, of which our country is blessed with a vast abundance. We have an obligation to protect our agricultural lands, the Americans who own them, and the food that is produced there.

 

Unfortunately, our foreign adversaries, like the Chinese Communist Party, are buying up our farmland right under our noses. This is a direct threat to our national food supply and the farmers and ranchers who produce it.

 

For the past four years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has turned a blind eye and has neglected to address this threat. This past week, I joined Representative Elise Stefanik, fellow Arkansan Representative Rick Crawford, and many of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle in sending a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack seeking answers about why the USDA has ignored these threats to local farmers, rural communities, and our national food supply.

 

Our population is growing at a rapid rate, and with more people comes an increased demand for food. Food security is national security. We cannot leave the fate of our nation’s food supply in the hands of our adversaries.

 

At the beginning of last month, I joined the Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, Dan Newhouse, and many of my Republican colleagues in cosponsoring a bill that will prohibit the purchase of U.S. land by the Chinese Communist Party. The “Prohibition of Agricultural Land for the People’s Republic of China Act” will prohibit the purchase of private or public agricultural land in the U.S. by any foreign nationals with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

 

The U.S. already relies on other countries for a multitude of agricultural exports. According to the USDA, foreign ownership of agricultural lands nearly doubled from 2009-2019. We are at a critical point in history. We have an obligation to take every action we can to bolster American production while preventing our adversaries from gaining control of our supply chains. Investments in American farmland are critical to our nation’s security, trade capabilities, and economic growth.

 

3-3-23 2:18 PM KAWX.ORG

 

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State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Terry Rice

State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Terry Rice

March 3, 2023

 

LITTLE ROCK – State government and a host of private organizations announced a new effort to recruit more foster families, streamline the process of placing foster children with relatives and accelerating the process for the permanent adoption of children.

 

The governor issued an executive order directing the Division of Children and Family Services to work with a list of more than two dozen organizations that recruit and train foster families.

 

In January the state had about 4,100 children in foster care but only 1,600 homes available for placement.

 

Three state agencies will work with a new group of organizations called Every Child Arkansas, with the goal of lowering the number of children in foster care. At the same time they will recruit more foster families so that placements are more suited to children and not driven by necessity. For example, it’s better for children to always be in a home with siblings.

 

Another goal is to increase the percentage of children placed with their biological families after getting out of foster care. That will require more effective services for biological parents, such as quickly getting them help with drug abuse or mental health treatment.

 

The executive order directs state agencies to better train foster parents and to improve retention rates of foster families.

 

The order directs agencies to streamline the process of placing foster children with relatives, and to streamline the process of allowing relatives to permanently adopt children in the foster care system.

 

Last year 196 children in foster care “aged out” of the system, which means they turned 18. The governor pointed out in her executive order that those young adults are more likely to be homeless, to be victims of human trafficking and to end up in prison.

 

By June 30, the state Human Services Department must have a list of recommended strategies for helping young adults who age out of foster care.

 

Within a year each of the 75 counties in Arkansas should have at least one advocate to help people become foster parents. The advocates will not only recruit new foster families but help them with support services after they officially become foster parents. The advocate will not be a state employee. The advocate will also help people through the adoption process.

 

The executive order also takes steps to better use technology and social media for recruiting, training and supporting foster families. There is a new website you can visit to learn more about becoming a foster parent, at this address: everychildarkansas.org.

 

In other news, the Senate passed legislation that allows victims of human trafficking to file lawsuits in civil court against their abusers. It includes civil suits against people who should have known that trafficking was occurring, such as hotel owners. The legislation is Senate Bill 282.

 

The House passed and sent to the Senate legislation that sets criminal penalties and fines for drivers of motor vehicles who cause a wreck because they were on their cell phones. It is House Bill 1486, but is also called “Ashton’s Law” in honor of Ashton Rae Woods. She was killed last year in a wreck caused by a distracted driver in Stone County.

 

3-3-23 2:14 PM KAWX.ORG

 

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