Saturday, January 29, 2011

Week in Review at the State Capital

This week at the Capital:

The halls of the Arkansas State Capitol were buzzing with conversation of spending cuts, healthcare reform, and abortion issues as House members began our third week of the 88th General Assembly.

Monday afternoon the House convened and passed House Bill 1063, the $36 million spending bill that Joint Budget Committee amended last week to remove judicial pay raises totaling $475,000. The full House and Senate approved the General Appropriation Act, and the Governor has now signed it into law. Significantly, the vote to freeze salaries opened a valuable window for legislators in both chambers to begin discussing spending cuts and examining every dollar appropriated by state government. As the session progresses, we expect budget issues to remain at the forefront of our legislative agenda as each party works together to contain state spending and advance Arkansas economically.

The House Transportation Committee unanimously advanced a measure by Rep. Kathy Webb of Little Rock on Tuesday which would allow individuals to choose to be notified by e-mail rather than regular mail when it is time to renew their vehicle registration. This innovative use of technology could potentially save our state $97,000 annually. Speaking of saving state money, the full House passed Rep. Justin Harris’ bill on Tuesday which requires sex offenders to verify their registration at local law enforcement agencies, potentially saving our state over $70,000 in postage annually. House Bill 1007 now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The Nick Bacon Remembrance Act, named for the late Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Nick Bacon, was approved by the House this week. The Act would allow honorably discharged veterans to have their veteran’s status listed on their Arkansas driver’s license. It was a great privilege to have Nick Bacon’s family as our guests as the bill passed the House.

Midweek, the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee voted 12-7 to prevent House Bill 1053, the Healthcare Freedom Act, from reaching the House floor for a full debate and vote. The bill, sponsored by Rep. David Meeks, R-Conway, aimed to prevent the individual mandate in the healthcare law from forcing Arkansans to purchase health insurance. Five Republicans and two Democrats on the committee voted in favor of the Healthcare Freedom Act. Individual liberty and freedom of choice take precedent over federally-imposed mandates, and I applaud those committee members who took a principled stand to represent conservative Arkansas values.

What to watch for:

A Senate Bill aimed at preventing taxpayer dollars from funding abortions as projected in the federal healthcare overhaul is now headed to the Arkansas House. Republican Senator Cecile Bledsoe of Rogers sponsored the legislation, which I fully intend to support as it reaches the House floor.

For the first time in our state’s history, a true two-party system is now in play in the Arkansas Legislature. Together, each party will work to tackle issues ranging from redistricting to highway funding and tax cuts.

As your Representative, I am honored to serve you in the Arkansas House. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have. My email is:

Here to Serve,
David Meeks

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