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 www.arkansasgop.org.
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: http://arkansas-house.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=539&meta_id=23192
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
I also encourage you to visit www.arkansashouse.org where you can view live stream committee meetings and proceedings happening on the House floor from anywhere in the state.