Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Funding Obamacare and the Department of Insurance

Here are Facts on the Insurance Department Budget:

It contains 1 million dollars to start implementation of the Federal Healthcare Exchange (aka Obamacare)

While the budget was in the Joint Budget committee, Senator Jason Rapert tried to have the million dollars stripped out and when that didn't happen tried to put an amendment in so it couldn't be spent. The amendment was voted down.

We have twice made motions on the House floor so that the money could be stripped out. We were blocked both times by the Democrats.

HB2138, the bill that would give the power to actually implement does contain a clause that would keep money from being spent until either Supreme Court rules it constitutional OR 11/15/11.

HOWEVER there is this clause at the end:

(c) Nothing in subsection (b) shall be construed to limit or prevent the commissioner from either spending any portion of the federal grant monies already procured by the State Insurance Department, or attempting to procure additional federal grants prior to the dates specified in subsection (b).

This is there way of being able to start spending money to implement Obamacare on JULY 1st, 2011 or even sooner.

None of us want the Department to go unfunded, but unfortunately it contains taxpayer money that would implement the healthcare bill that so many Arkansans oppose. The Democrats continue to adamantly oppose our efforts to have it taken out.

I am disappointed that Governor Beebe and House Democrats have taken this course of action and think implementing Obamacare is more important then funding the Department of Insurance.

As long as the money is still in there, I will continue to vote against it and encourage my colleagues to do the same.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Week in Review at the Capitol- March 25th

Christopher Columbus would have found it difficult to navigate a proposed congressional redistricting map that forcefully sailed its way through the House State Agencies Committee this week. Dubbed the “Pig Trail Gerrymander” for its suspicious meandering, creative carvings and raw partisanship, the redistricting proposal ruffled plenty of feathers during week eleven of the 88th General Assembly.

Entering the fourth quarter of the session meant two-a-days for lawmakers, with the House convening twice a day and legislative committees holding multiple daily meetings. Cruising full speed ahead, members passed a bill Monday to decrease voter fraud and ensure fair elections. The measure requires Arkansans to present a voter ID card when casting a ballot at the polls, and would allow county clerks to issue identification cards to individuals without driver’s licenses. House Bill 1797 is currently en route to the Senate for consideration.

Arkansas owes $330 million in unemployment benefits to the federal government. In order to responsibly address this debt, we passed a bill to place a cap on unemployment benefits and cut the benefit period by a week. The measure could potentially save our state $50 to $75 million annually, thus shoring up money to begin balancing our unemployment trust fund.

Midweek, the marble halls of Capitol Hill echoed with concerns of over four-hundred Arkansans who gathered to protest several bills threatening the livelihood of our state’s natural gas industry. The five measures would have imposed burdensome regulations on an industry that provides jobs for Arkansans and revenue for our state. After mounting opposition from conservative lawmakers like myself and hundreds of citizens, one bill failed to pass the House Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee, while the remaining four were successfully removed from consideration and sent to interim study.

Gerrymandering is the art of manipulating geographical boundaries to achieve a political advantage for a particular party. Every decade the Arkansas Legislature is charged with redrawing the boundaries of our state’s four congressional districts using U.S. Census data. This week, the State Democratic Party endorsed a proposed congressional redistricting map that unfairly gerrymanders Arkansas’ four congressional districts.

Conservative legislators believe the proposed "Pig Trail Gerrymander" or "Fayetteville Finger" map ignores the traditional communities of interest in Arkansas and only exists for raw partisan purposes. Most notably it puts the northwest city of Fayetteville into the fourth congressional district, which currently encompasses the southern region of our state. Arkansas has four defined regions, the Ozarks, Northeast Delta, Central Arkansas and Southern Timberlands. The full House is expected to vote on the “Pig Trail Gerrymander” early next week, and I intend to fight this partisan power grab to protect the people of Arkansas. You can view the map at

The full House passed a resolution this week that would refer to Arkansas voters a constitutional amendment creating a half-cent temporary sales tax increase to fund construction of a four-lane highway system. I opposed this resolution because the taxes in Arkansas are already too high. It is time we look at where our state money is currently going and find ways to fund our roads from existing funds. This proposal is one of several constitutional amendments being considered by the Legislature. The General Assembly has the authority to refer up to three measures to the people in the 2012 general election.

A bill to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in Arkansas failed in the House Insurance and Commerce Committee Friday, falling short of eleven votes needed to pass. House Bill 2138 would have established insurance exchanges necessary to the implementation of the healthcare law. More than half the states, 28 and counting, are challenging the law in court on the grounds it violates the constitutional rights of their citizens. Until we know how the Supreme Court will rule on the federal healthcare law, we do not need to spend more money implementing the law in Arkansas.

House members also approved a bill that would allow public schools to adopt curriculum standards to teach the Bible for academic significance. The measure, which passed our chamber with a vote of 71-16, now goes to the Senate for consideration.

I also had the honor of closing out the week in the House by banging the final gavel as we adjourned. You can view that clip here:

What to watch for:

Despite opposition from an overwhelming majority of Arkansans, the Democrats are intent on implementing Obamacare here in Arkansas. On Monday, expect HB2138 and SB880, which would allow the job killing law to be implemented here to be brought back up in there respective committees.

Two pro-life Senate bills are headed to the Arkansas House for consideration. As a pro-life conservative, I intend to support these vital pieces of legislation.

A battle is brewing over congressional redistricting. Stay tuned for the finishing results.

The final significant piece of legislation lawmakers will approve before the session’s end is the budget bill, also known as the Revenue Stabilization Act. Because we held the line on spending to reduce taxes for Arkansans, the final balanced budget will be much smaller than originally proposed.

Since January 10, House members have tackled hundreds of critical pieces of legislation, and with just days to go until our scheduled April 1 recess, I will continue my fight to protect your values and move our state forward.

As your Representative, I am honored to serve you in the Arkansas House of Representatives. Please 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.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Week in Review at the Capitol- March 18th

Sorry, I didn't post about the week of March 11th. Here is a very good post about what happened that week from Laurie Masterson:

Now onto the week ending March 18th...

After weeks of dancing between an assortment of proposed tax cuts, House and Senate members came together like a good old fashioned do-si-do, announcing a deal to cut $35 million in taxes for Arkansans. From striking a deal on tax cuts to passing prison reform legislation, lawmakers did plenty of heavy lifting during week ten of the legislative session.

Earmarks didn’t stand a chance in the Arkansas House when members kicked off an eventful week, voting to reject appropriation bills that would have funded local pet projects for lawmakers. Rather than continuing an irresponsible state earmark practice, we opted to use this money from the General Improvement Fund to enhance the state overall.

A measure to toughen laws on sex offenders was passed by the full House on Monday. If approved by the Senate, the bill will prevent Level 3 or Level 4 sex offenders from working in organizations where children sixteen and under and present, such as daycares.

A bill to increase the severance tax on the natural gas industry was withdrawn this week after facing a swarm of opposition from concerned citizens and legislators. The tax increase would have killed jobs and crippled one of Arkansas’ most valuable industries.

In an effort to reduce escalating prison costs and curb inmate overpopulation, on Wednesday the House passed a measure to initiate positive reform in our state prison system. When signed into law, the bill will lessen sentencing for some non-violent offenses, expand alternative sentencing programs and potentially save the state $875 million over the next decade. Although we took a step in the right direction, our work as lawmakers to improve our state prison system is far from over.

If you want less of something, tax it. Unfortunately for Arkansans, midweek Democrat Senators on the Revenue and Tax Committee voted to block House Bill 1002, the Capital Gains Reduction Act, from reaching the full Senate floor for consideration. The bill, which passed the House with bi-partisan support, would have exempted new investments made in Arkansas after July 1, 2011 from the 4.9 percent capital gains tax. Arkansas’ high capital gains tax is hindering entrepreneurial spirit from materializing in the state. Reducing the capital gains tax would have unleashed Arkansas potential to become an engine for job creation and a magnet for business development.

Over the course of the legislative session, ten tax cuts have been proposed by House and Senate members. After mounting pressure from conservative lawmakers to hold the line on state spending and provide tax relief to Arkansans, six tax cuts totaling $35 million were agreed upon Thursday by both chambers and the Governor. The variety of tax cuts, three from the House and three from the Senate, include, a back to school sales tax holiday, single parent tax cut, an increased tax credit for ecotourism, tax cuts on used cars and manufacturers’ utilities, and a half-cent reduction in the grocery tax. By reducing the $109 million spending increase in Governor Beebe’s proposed 2012 budget, House and Senate members were able to decrease revenue flowing into state coffers to cut taxes and protect the pocketbooks of Arkansans.

Beginning July 2012, natural state citizens will be given an “online checkbook” to track state spending and monitor how your tax dollars are being spent. The measure, advocated by Lt. Governor Mark Darr, was signed into law Thursday and will undoubtedly enhance transparency in government and encourage public input as to how our state spends your money.

What to watch for:

It looks like this is finally the week the Democrats will try to push thru bills that will allow Obamacare to be implemented here in Arkansas. Late on Friday, Representative Hyde-(D) amended HB2138 to include language that will allow the state to implement the unpopular and job-killing Obamacare. You can view the language of the amendment here:

State Senator Johnny Key released the first of many congressional redistricting proposals this week. Keep in mind, the Legislature is charged with redrawing Arkansas’ four congressional district using 2010 Census data. Expect to see additional bills surface in the remaining days of the session.

The state of Arkansas currently owes the federal government an estimated $330 million in unemployment benefits. Arkansas is one of thirty states to borrow federal money to compensate for the number of individuals collecting unemployment benefits. Two Senate bills addressing this debt are currently en route to the Arkansas House.

With only three weeks left before the House is scheduled to recess, I will continue to work tirelessly to represent your views and values for a better, more competitive Arkansas. From Capitol Hill to our community, my top priories have always been to responsibly cut taxes for all Arkansans, promote job creation, protect Arkansas families and move our state forward.

As your Representative, I am honored to serve you in the Arkansas House of Representatives. Please 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, March 6, 2011

Spending, Tax Cuts, and the Future

“The type of people that ran for office this year didn’t show up to learn the system, they showed up to change it...” Rep John Burris

Some facts about the Arkansas Budget:

In 2000, the budget was around 1 billion dollars. The proposed budget for the next fiscal year is 4.5 billion. In that same time frame, Arkansas is ranked as the 5th fastest growing state government.

Read more here:

One of my campaign promises I made to the people of my district is to curb the growth of government. That is one of the reasons I have voted against appropriation bills that include any pay raise or cost of living allowance.
Let me be clear: At this time, I do not want to defund any program or make any cuts. My votes against the appropriations have been because of the increases.
The appropriation bills give the agency the authority to spend that amount if the money is there. To me, one of the best ways to control the growth of government is control the amount you give it the authority to spend. Government will normally find a way to spend the money you give it.

It is important we hold the line on spending this year because in the coming years we will have to deal with tens of millions in increases from Medicaid spending, and the almost $400 million we owe the unemployment trust fund. To see how deep Arkansas is in debt here is the debt clock:

As for tax cuts, this week HB1002, the Capital Gains Tax Cut bill will go before the Senate Tax and Revenue Committee on Wednesday. Here are some links that explain why we need to pass this bill:

The Capital Gains Tax Cut will make us more competitive with the states around us and is the most likely proposal to create jobs.

It is important we make Arkansas a more business friendly state and passing HB1002 will do just that.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Week in Review at the State Capitol- March 4th

A political earthquake mimicked tremors felt across the natural state this week as legislators in the Arkansas House shook up the marble halls of Capitol Hill. From debate on fluoride in drinking water to lawmakers giving the full court press on spending increases, week eight of the legislative session was bursting with seismic activity.

Appropriation bills for various state agencies were on the table Tuesday and Wednesday, but concerns quickly arouse when House members learned these funding bills included spending increases. An appropriation bill grants a state agency authority to spend money. Under the state constitution, appropriation bills must acquire at least 75 votes in the 100-member House to pass. Even as one appropriation for the state crime lab passed, conservative lawmakers argued that in order to stop the growth of government, we must act with fiscal responsibility when appropriating money that affects our state budget.

A bill requiring Arkansas flags purchased by state government to be manufactured in the United States rather than overseas passed the Arkansas House on Tuesday. The Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs will consider this patriotic measure next week.

The full House passed a bill on Wednesday that would grant parents the right to purchase child-only health insurance policies. House Bill 1428 would create policies for families of children with conditions that prevent insurance companies from providing coverage. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

While we voted 90-3 last week in favor of House Bill 1369, which creates a sales tax holiday on back-to-school items, Wednesday the Senate Revenue and Tax Committee failed to garner five votes needed to pass the measure out of the eight-member committee and onto the Senate floor. With Republican support, it’s unfortunate our colleagues across the aisle declined an opportunity to provide relief to working families and protect Arkansas’ businesses. I am hopeful this common sense tax-cut will be reconsidered in our final weeks.

The Arkansas House approved a bill midweek that would provide fluoridated water to most Arkansas homes. Senate Bill 359 requires cities with more than 5,000 residents to fluoridate their water systems. Opponents of the bill argued that mandating cities to fluoridate water strips local control away from communities. On the other hand, supporters testified that fluoride in water would provide tremendous dental health benefits to Arkansans, including the prevention of tooth decay in children and adults. The bill now goes to the Governor for final approval.

A website that allows the public to provide input on the legislative redistricting process was launched by Secretary of State Mark Martin this week. While the Legislature is charged with redrawing boundaries for Arkansas’ four congressional districts, the Board of Apportionment must use 2010 Census data to redraw the state’s legislative districts. The Apportionment Board includes the Secretary of State, Governor and Attorney General. Reapportionment is expected to begin later this month, and I highly encourage you to participate in this historic process by visiting

What to watch for:

· Additional House-endorsed tax-cuts, such as House Bill 1002, the Capital Gains Reduction Act, are currently en route to the Senate Revenue and Tax Committee. Keep a close eye on how Senate committee members vote on tax relief measures that passed our full chamber with bi-partisan support.

· The 167-page prison reform bill is now on the table. Prison growth is projected to increase rapidly over the next decade, meaning more cost to our state. Expect debate and discussion on this legislation in the coming week.

I recognize our state’s economic potential and respect your conservative values, which is why I’ve committed to holding the line on government spending and advocating responsible tax-cut proposals. In our final four weeks, the Arkansas House and Senate will negotiate which tax cuts to send to the Governor’s office for consideration. What’s crucial to remember is cutting taxes does not translate into cutting essential services for Arkansans. As a legislative body, we must decide whether we support more of your money flowing into state coffers or whether we want to cut taxes and put that money back in your pockets.

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 committee meetings and proceedings happening on the House floor from anywhere in the state.