Friday, February 25, 2011

Week in Review at the State Capitol- February 25th

What do you get when you cross wild hogs with tax cuts and the Second Amendment? If you guessed week seven of the 88th General Assembly, then you’re correct.

House members began an eventful week on President’s Day, which since 2001, is also recognized as Daisy Gatson Bates Day in Arkansas. We passed a resolution to honor the life and legacy of Bates, who worked as a civil rights leader and advisor to the “Little Rock Nine” as they integrated Central High School in 1957.

A government mandate to require Arkansans to buckle up in the back seat of a vehicle failed to pass the House on Tuesday with a vote of 34-57. House Bill 1356 is an unnecessary intrusion into the private lives of Arkansans, and would have established a $25 fee for adults caught not wearing a seat belt in the back seat.

A tax cut trio is en route to the Arkansas House, after the full Senate passed three measures on Tuesday. Senator Gilbert Baker's Senate Bill 274, a used car tax reduction which raises the exemption on used car sales from $2,500 to $5,000. Senator Bill Sample's Senate Bill 275, a manufacturers' utility tax cut which cuts the sales tax manufacturers pay on natural gas and electricity from 3.25 percent to 2.75 percent. Senator Larry Teague's Senate Bill 276, a grocery tax reduction which cuts the sales tax on groceries by a half-cent.

A bill designed to create a sales tax holiday for the purpose of back to school shopping was approved Wednesday by the Arkansas House with a 90-3 vote. Rep. Matthew Shepherd’s House Bill 1369 would exempt items such as clothing and school supplies from state sales tax the first weekend of August every year. Establishing a tax-free weekend for school shopping will allow working families, teachers and school districts to save money and better provide for students. Most surrounding states already have a similar tax-free weekend in effect. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Tax cuts will help transform our state into an economic engine for business growth and private sector job creation. In the coming weeks, the Arkansas House and Senate will negotiate which tax cuts to send to the Governor’s office to sign. What’s crucial to remember is cutting taxes does not translate into cutting essential services. Any tax cut measure passed by each chamber and approved by the Governor will be spent from the administration’s projected 2.5 percent growth in state spending. Instead of increasing state spending, we need to cut taxes and stimulate economic development.

Meanwhile, the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs House Committee has begun to review about a dozen proposals for constitutional amendments. The General Assembly is allowed to refer up to three measures to the 2012 ballot for voters to consider. One notable amendment is by Senator Jason Rapert, which would require a 75 percent majority of both legislative chambers to pass a tax increase. Most taxes, including the sales tax, can be raised with only a 51 percent majority. However, the income tax and some other taxes already require a 75 percent majority.

The House State Agencies Committee also considered a bill by Rep. Jon Hubbard Wednesday which would deny state benefits to illegal immigrants except in emergencies. This is a bill I fully supported. Unfortunately after hours of debate, the bill failed in committee with a party line vote of eight Democrats voting no and 9 Republicans voting yes.

While a thunderstorm was brewing outside the Capitol on Thursday, inside lawmakers passed a resolution to finish legislative work by April 1 and return for a “sine die” on April 27. A “sine die” is the final adjournment of the legislative session. We have a number of critical issues to tackle in the final five weeks of the session including highway funding, prison reform and congressional redistricting.

A Senate bill to strengthen Second Amendment rights was passed Thursday in the Arkansas House. The measure prevents cities or counties from taking up guns in case of emergency declared by the governor.

On Thursday, we passed a measure making it illegal to release a hog into the wild. Violators would face a $1,000 fine. Supporters of the bill say Arkansas’ wild hog population has exploded in recent years, which is ironic seeing as though we live in “Razorback Country.”

What to watch for:

· House Speaker Robert Moore revealed a $2.8 billion highway program which includes a proposal to raise the state diesel tax by 5 cents a gallon and another proposal to impose a temporary half-cent sales tax. According to the proposal, the diesel tax would be referred to voters in a special election next year while the half-cent sales tax increase would be placed on the November 2012 general election ballot.

Since commencing the session in January, lawmakers in the Arkansas House of Representatives have filed 607 bills as of Friday afternoon. Only 146 bills from the Legislature have been signed into law by Governor Beebe. The deadline to file bills is Monday, March 7.

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

I also encourage you to visit where you can watch committee meetings and proceedings happening on the House floor from anywhere in the state

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Hard Decision

Today I personally made one of the most difficult votes that I have had to make all session. I voted against HB1315, An Act to Provide Health Insurance Coverage for Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The bill would mandate insurance companies cover Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Here are the main reasons why I voted against the bill:

  • 1) It’s another government mandate. There are already around 40 different mandates in Arkansas that increase premiums by around 5% to 15%. This is not the only mandate the Arkansas Legislature is considering this session. SB66 requires insurance to cover diagnosis and treatment of morbid obesity.
  • 2) It will add around $30 to private insurance policies per year. While this may not be a lot, it does put an even greater burden on families already stretched to the limit in these economic conditions. As stated in point one, mandates add to the cost of insurance. For the Arkansan spending $800 a month ($9,600/yr) on insurance, you are paying at least $40 a month ($480/yr) due to mandates.
  • 3) Our schools already receive over $100 million in federal funding under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This act includes children with Autism.
  • 4) I believe in the people of Arkansas and believe that there are other solutions that will help solve this issue without the government having to mandate coverage.
A couple of possible solutions:

  • Non-profit Autism/Disabilities organizations work thru the communities and schools to help those in need.
  • Insurance companies offering riders that cover certain disabilities and offer the rider to everyone so that people can choose to help rather than force.
We need to work to make our healthcare system better. My philosophy is less government. Let the people, medical, and insurance companies come up with free market solutions.

Today I did not vote against Autism. I voted against more government, and higher premiums.

If you have any questions about this or any other vote, please feel free to contact me. My email address is

Friday, February 18, 2011

Week in Review at the State Capital

The Arkansas Legislature is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. From flowers and candy to a tax cut showdown, week six of the 88th General Assembly proved to be far from ordinary in the Arkansas House of Representatives.

On Valentine’s Day, the full House kicked off an eventful week by passing House Bill 1323, which is designed to protect “cottage food operations,” such as individuals who sell homemade jams or farmers who sell fresh produce at farmers’ markets. The bill exempts cottage food operations from permits required by the Arkansas Department of Health. House Bill 1323 passed the Arkansas Senate Thursday and is now headed to the Governor’s Office to be signed into law. Less government regulation on state farmers and food producers promotes economic growth and I am proud to have voted yes on this bill!

A bill requiring insurance companies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism was passed Tuesday by the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee. The bill now heads to the full House for consideration. Also on Tuesday, members of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee approved three separate tax cut measures which ultimately set the stage for a tax cut showdown during Wednesday’s House session.

Despite public opposition from Governor Mike Beebe who labeled Republican attempts to cut your taxes “voodoo economics,” the full House on Wednesday approved three bills aiming to lower taxes for Arkansas families, attract business capital and create much-needed jobs.

While the Governor argues the state can’t afford any tax cuts beyond a grocery tax he is advocating, I believe Governor Beebe’s proposed 2.5 percent increase in state government spending, or nearly $110 million, should be utilized for tax cuts. These cuts will provide economic relief to working Arkansans and create a more business-friendly environment in our state. Instead of increasing state spending levels, the projected growth money in the 2012 Fiscal Year budget should be applied to tax cuts for Arkansas families.

After lengthy debate and discussion, the conservative majority in the House passed the following three tax cut measures.

House Bill 1052 by Rep. Lane Jean (R-Magnolia), to decrease the state sales tax on natural gas and electricity used by manufacturers. The bill passed with 88 yes votes, eight no votes and two not voting.

House Bill 1002 by Rep. Ed Garner (R-Maumelle), to create the Arkansas Capital Gains Reduction Act of 2011 which exempts new investments made in Arkansas after July 1, 2011 from the 4.9% Capital Gains Tax. The bill passed with 53 yes votes, 43 no votes, one voting present and one not voting.

House Bill 1056 by Rep. Uvalde Lindsey (D-Fayetteville), to provide income tax relief to head of household taxpayers with two or more dependents. The bill passed with 93 yes votes and five not voting.

The House Transportation Committee on Thursday advanced House Bill 1365, which would require all back-seat passengers to wear a seat belt. Current laws only apply to front-seat passengers and back-seat passengers up to age 14. Also, the full House unanimously passed House Bill 1207, which increases the distance from where individuals can protest funerals from 150 feet to 300 feet.

On Friday, the Governor signed Ethics Reform into law after the Arkansas Senate gave final approval to the House and Senate versions of the bill Wednesday. The measure will implement a one year “cooling off” period before lawmakers can become lobbyists, and remodel legislative travel policy to be more cost efficient.

What to watch for:

Representative Kathy Webb has filed several bills which could have a detrimental effect on the natural gas industry.

House Speaker Robert Moore (D-Arkansas City) will introduce legislation next week that would raise taxes to maintain the state’s highways.

The Arkansas Senate will consider a bill next week to provide used car tax relief to Arkansas families. It would raise the current threshold from $2500 to $5000, meaning that consumers would not have to pay sales taxes on a used vehicle if it cost less than $5000. I will support this measure as it reaches the House floor.

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

I also encourage you to visit where you can watch committee meetings and proceedings happening on the House floor from anywhere in the state.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Breaking Down the Numbers

This past week, the US Census released the 2010 figures for Arkansas.

Here are just some of the figures for Faulkner County, Conway, and the State Senate and House Districts that are in Faulkner County:

Faulkner County went from a population of 86,014 to 113,237 (+27,223).
This is a change of +31.6% (Now the 5th most populated county in Arkansas)

Cities in Faulkner County:
Conway: 58,908 (Now the 7th most populated city in Arkansas)
Damascus: 382
Enola: 338
Greenbrier: 4,706
Guy: 708
Holland: 557
Mayflower: 2,234
Vilonia: 3,815
Wooster: 860

State House Districts:
For redistricting purposes: Around 29,159 (plus or minus 5%)
District 42: 32,375 (Faulkner County: 16,715)
District 45: 32,959 (All in Faulkner County)
District 46: 35,918 (All in Faulkner County)
District 47: 34,367 (Faulkner County: 27,645)

Note: You could fit two House Districts within the city of Conway, and four House Districts within Faulkner County now.

State Senate Districts:
For redistricting purposes: Around 83,311 (plus or minus 5%)
District 18: 85,656 (Faulkner County: 7,640)
District 29: 85,160 (Faulkner County: 1,654)
District 30: 103,943 (All in Faulkner County)

To access the maps and files here is the link:

The Week in Review at the State Capital

Wintry weather and record snowfall didn’t prevent the House chamber from heating up week five of the legislative session. From tax cuts to sports agents and snowball fights, House members wasted no time in getting down to business.

After observing “Ronald Reagan Day” Sunday, the full House convened and as expected passed the highly publicized ethics reform legislation. House Bill 1284 will implement a one year “cooling off” period before lawmakers can become lobbyists, and remodel legislative travel policy to be more cost efficient. We also passed the senate version of the Ethics Reform Bill on Thursday. When ethics reform is signed into law, we will be the first Assembly to ever place limitations on our behavior during and after we serve the people of this great state. While this is a start, I will continue to push for a longer "cooling off" period.

Also on Monday, we passed a bill requiring sex offenders to register all electronic information, such as online social networking accounts, with local law enforcement. The bill is now headed to the Senate.

Tuesday we passed House Bill 1211, which adds spina bifida and Down syndrome to the list of conditions named in our state law defining “mental or physical impairment.” This clarification will remove roadblocks for Arkansans applying for developmental disability services.

A bill designed to create a sales tax holiday for the purpose of back to school shopping was filed Tuesday by Rep. Matthew Shepherd. House Bill 1369 would provide economic relief to Arkansans by reducing the cost of school-related items. The measure would exempt clothing and accessories, school and art supplies and instructional materials from state sales tax the first weekend of August every year. If approved by both chambers and signed by the Governor, Arkansas families would enjoy the benefits of tax-free school shopping as early as August 2011. I fully intend to support this beneficial piece of legislation when it reaches the full House floor.

As snow began to blanket the State Capitol Wednesday, House members moved full steam ahead and passed the Athlete Agent Reform Act by Rep. David Sanders, which increases the charge for sports agents who unlawfully give money or gifts to student athletes.

House members also passed a bill that would help to prohibit public employees from “double dipping,” or receiving salary and retirement benefits simultaneously. Rep. Allen Kerr’s House Bill 1018 would define “terminate” under eligibility requirements in the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System. Therefore, a public employee would no longer be able to cheat the system and take themselves off payroll to fabricate termination before returning to work. “Double dipping” is nothing more than unprincipled politics as usual and I am proud to be a part of its termination!

Lawmakers in the House and Senate filed 25 constitutional amendments by Wednesday’s deadline. These amendments must first be passed by the Legislature and then referred to the 2012 ballot for Arkansas voters to approve. Most of the 25 amendments are “shells,” meaning they lack content, but can be amended later to include details.

Also on Wednesday, Rep. Ann Clemmer filed House Joint Resolution 1005 which requires that 35 percent of the Arkansas Lottery’s proceeds be used for scholarships. Currently, only 22 percent is used to provide college scholarships to Arkansas students. More money equals more scholarships for students!

The full House passed a measure on Thursday that would require local law enforcement agencies to also notify the Arkansas State Police when a child is missing. This will guarantee information is communicated in a timely manner so that missing children are found quickly.

What to watch for:

· U.S. Census data for Arkansas was released this past week, which means the Legislature will begin to propose options for congressional redistricting soon. Early results indicate that 39 out of our 75 counties lost population. Thirty-seven of those counties are located in the first and fourth congressional districts. I will keep you updated on redistricting developments as the session progresses.

· Tax cut proposals will continue to surface in the House and Senate Committees on Revenue and Taxation next week. On the House side, look for Rep. Shepherd’s Back to School Tax Holiday (HB 1369), Rep. Lane Jean’s bill to decrease the sales tax on natural gas and electricity for manufacturers (HB 1052), and Rep. Ed Garner’s Arkansas Capital Gains Reduction Act of 2011 (HB 1002).

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

I also encourage you to visit where you can view live stream committee meetings and proceedings happening on the House floor from anywhere in the state.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Remembering President Reagan

One of my earliest memories is that of watching Ronald Reagan get elected in 1980. I can remember the hope that he brought to a nation, but more importantly of his belief in the people of America to overcome whatever issue or problem it faced.

If I had to pick one person who was the biggest influence on me politically, it would be without a doubt President Reagan. He showed me that you could hold an office and still stand on your principles.

Thank you President Reagan for all that you did for your country, and for being such a great example to a young boy. Your legacy lives on in me and many other people around the country.

Below is a few of my favorite quotes from Ronald Reagan as well as two of my favorite speeches:

The American dream is not that every man must be level with every other man. The American dream is that every man must be free to become whatever God intends he should become.

They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right

Mankind's best defense against tyranny and want is limited government--a government which empowers its people, not itself, and which respects the wit and bravery, the initiative, and the generosity of the people. For, above all, human rights are rights of individuals: rights of conscience, rights of choice, rights of association, rights of emigration, rights of self-directed action, and the right to own property. The concept of a nation of free men and women linked together voluntarily is the genius of the system our Founding Fathers established.

Why is the Constitution of the United States so exceptional?... Just three words: We the people. In... other constitutions, the Government tells the people of those countries what they are allowed to do. In our Constitution, we the people tell the Government what it can do

I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: as government expands, liberty contracts.

We can leave our children with an unrepayable massive debt and a shattered economy, or we can leave them liberty in a land where every individual has the opportunity to be whatever God intended us to be. All it takes is a little common sense and recognition of our own ability. Together we can forge a new beginning for America

Our friends in the other party will never forgive us for our success, and are doing everything in their power to rewrite history. Listening to the liberals, you'd think that the 1980s were the worst period since the Great Depression, filled with suffering and despair. I don't know about you, but I'm getting awfully tired of the whining voices from the White House these days. They're claiming there was a decade of greed and neglect, but you and I know better than that. We were there.

Click on the link to view an extensive list of Reagan Quotes:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Week in Review at the State Capital

Lawmakers in the 88th General Assembly wrapped up our first month of the legislative session after an active week full of discussion and debate on topics ranging from ethics reform, abortion funding to community safety and former President Ronald Reagan.

On Monday, we passed House Bill 1004, which would prohibit the state’s Public Defender Commission from paying for private attorneys hired by indigent defendants, and it would also set controls on how trial expenses for those defendants are paid. Under this bill, tax dollars cannot be spent to pay for any attorneys fees. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The much-needed Ethics Reform bill for state lawmakers made its way through House and Senate committees this week with overwhelming support from both chambers. The bill requires a one-year “cooling off” period before ex-lawmakers can register as lobbyists. I believe reasonable restrictions and separations are necessary to protect the integrity of the Legislature.

The ethics proposal would also require lawmakers to be reimbursed for the most cost-efficient mode of travel for out of state conferences. In the past, there have been several instances of legislators abusing the system to make money. This bill will model our policy after the Department of Finance and Administration’s travel policy for every other state employee.

The Ethics Reform bill currently has 74 co-sponsors in the 98-member House. Both the House and Senate are expected to vote on the bill Monday.

On Tuesday, the House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs approved a measure that would authorize the state Contractors Licensing Board to sanction contractors who knowingly employ illegal immigrants.

Several bills to toughen laws on sex offenders were approved by the Arkansas House of Representatives this week. Tuesday the chamber passed House bill 1009, which would allow local law enforcement agencies to immediately notify the public when a sex offender from another state enters a community. We also passed House Bill 1243, which would establish a late fee for sex offenders who fail to register their address with law enforcement on time. Estimates show about 1,200 offenders are currently delinquent in registering.

Lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 1278, which would require individuals subject to the lifetime sex offender registration to register electronic information such as email addresses, internet usernames and social media accounts. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration. I am proud to support all three measures as they aim to increase the safety and security of every community in Arkansas.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Jane English that would require improvement districts and protection districts to file annual financial reports was passed by the full House on Thursday.

We also passed House Resolution 1008 by Rep. Jon Woods, to honor the life and legacy of President Ronald Reagan. The measure declared February 6, 2011, “Ronald Reagan Day,” which would have been the former president’s 100th birthday. President Reagan’s belief in American exceptionalism, individual ingenuity, and a less intrusive government continues to influence generations of Americans and are principles I live by as I represent the people of House District 46.

A bill to ban public funding of abortions as proposed in the federal health care overhaul stalled in the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on Thursday. Despite the fact Senator Cecile Bledsoe’s bill passed with bipartisan support in the Arkansas Senate, House Democrats added a hostile amendment that would make the bill conflict with the Arkansas Constitution. As a result, the bill was tabled. Putting partisan politics above Arkansas values is not in the best interests of our state. However, I remain hopeful this important piece of legislation will surface again later in the session.

What to watch for:

· Lt. Governor Mark Darr’s vision to create an online checkbook to track state spending is now a reality with Senate Bill 221, The Arkansas Financial Transparency Act. The bipartisan bill would create a free, publicly accessible website through which information on state expenditures will be published on a regular, ongoing basis. Taxpayers have a right to know how and where their money is being spent, and I fully intend to support this solid piece of legislation when it reaches the House.

· Debate on tax cut bills will begin this week with discussion on Governor Mike Beebe’s proposed grocery tax cut.

· When legislators kick-off our second month of the session, I remain committed to representing your values and your voice as we begin to tackle critical issues such as, prison reform, highway funding, tax cuts, and congressional redistricting. I also encourage you to visit where you can live stream committee meetings and proceedings happening on the House floor from anywhere in the state.

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