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May 05, 2021

CAMDEN’S FIRST FRIDAY MONTHLY MARKET RETURNS MAY 7TH TO DOWNTOWN CAMDEN
Camden, AR - First Friday Monthly Market in Camden, AR announces their plans for the 2021 Season!  We are excited to kick off the 2021 season in May this year and proceed each month through November.

Lots of fun and activities are planned, just as you came to expect from our past seasons.

The dates and themes for this year are:
May 7th               Cinco De Mayo
June 4th               Jugglin’ June – with special Circus Performers
July 2nd                Will be the “Camden Cook-Out”
August 6th          Take Flight Camden” will bring a Literacy Emphasis as well as Autism Awareness.
September 3rd  is “Off to the Fair” as we prepare for our own Ouachita County Fair
October 1st        “Downtown Get Down”
November 5th “Flannel and Frost” as we close out our 2021 season and prepare for the holidays.

Join us May 7th, 6PM – 9PM in downtown Camden as First Friday Monthly Market kicks off it’s 2021 season. This year will start of celebrating with the theme “Cinco De Mayo”.  

Be sure to get your shopping in with  a vast array of vendors set up along Washington St and Adams Ave selling everything from wood workings to jewelry.

Special nonprofit groups and local organizations will be there to provide all kinds of entertaining games, snow cones, special dog treats and dog tags.

Enjoy the special Sock Hop Soda Shoppe, a 50s style soda fountain for all your ice cream creations or grab a funnel cake and hot dog from Lee’s Concessions.  Of course with our “Cinco de Mayo” theme we will have street tacos and a special taco truck will be located at the Native Dog Brewery.

A new addition to the market this year will be “story time” for the kids.  Look for more information coming on what times and where this will take place during the evening.

For live music, what better way to celebrate a come back than with de France performing,   fresh off their win of Battle of the Bands with MAD.  Drew de France, a Camden native along with his band want to bring it back home in a special way.   While admission is free, the band will be raising money for the First United Methodist Church food pantry.

“Not only are we excited to get back to the community, but we are excited to give back to the community, and try to help raise some money for the FUMC food pantry that fed an overwhelming number of folks in the area last year. As a lifelong member of FUMC and growing up in Camden, I’m proud of the work they’ve done and it’s the least we could do to help,” states Drew deFrance.

The First United Methodist Church food pantry is open Monday, Tuesday, and Friday from 9:00-11:00 a.m. and due to COVID-19 has been operating in a drive-through method. To donate online visit tithe.ly/give_new/www/#/tithely/give-one-time/452672. The food pantry will also have a table setup at the concert on Friday, May 7 for those who wish to make donations in person. Learn more about the First United Methodist Church food pantry at CamdenFUMC.com.

Three of the five members of deFrance are Camden natives and as drummer Daniel Stratton Curry puts it, are “excited to play again in our hometown, it’s been too long!” Guitarist Mitchell Lowe is “honored to give back to the community that raised me. To support the kids of Camden is to support Camden’s future.”

Stop by Hollis Evans Floral to visit with this month’s featured author, Kat Robinson.  Kat is an Arkansas Food historian and appears on KARK News and KARN Newsradio as well as writing for the Arkansas Times and Food Network Magazine.  Her many books include 101 things to eat in Arkansas before you Die, Arkansas Pie and many, many more!

You can find the special Evening Farmer’s Market on the Farmer’s Bank Parking Lot for all your fresh produce, local honey, jellies, jams, free range eggs, grass fed meats and more! 

Downtown merchants will be open late for all your shopping convenience offering great First Friday specials. First Friday Monthly Market in Downtown Camden, AR, May 7th , 6PM – 9PM.

Come stroll, shop, nibble, browse and chat… See you there!
 

DEFRANCE OPENING FOR VANILLA ICE AT MAGIC SPRINGS ON JUNE 19
Rock stars on the rise deFrance will open for pop icon Vanilla Ice on June 19 during the 2021 Concert Series at Magic Springs Theme & Water Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The venue will open at 6:00 p.m. and the show will start at 7:00 p.m. Concert admission is included with one-day and season passes to the park, which can be purchased at MagicSprings.com

deFrance claims the title of “hardest working band in Arkansas,” having performed over 600 shows since forming in 2015. The band’s technical prowess has been compared to Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, and their deliverance of a reinvigorated rock & roll sound has landed the band support opportunities for Foghat, Bon Jovi, ZZ Top, Morris Day & The Time, Living Colour, and many others. deFrance consists of Charlie Askew on lead vocals, Drew deFrance on lead guitar and vocals, Mitchell Lowe on lead guitar, Connor Roach on bass and vocals, and Daniel Curry on drums.

“June 19th is going to be an absolute party,” said Drew deFrance. “We’re gonna rock the crowd and get things all warmed up before they get cooled down by Vanilla Ice. Get ready for a show you don’t want to miss!”

deFrance is performing this weekend at the First Friday Monthly Market in Camden, Arkansas on Friday, May 7 and at Stickyz Rock ’n’ Roll Chicken Shack in Little Rock, Arkansas on Saturday, May 8. View more upcoming shows at deFranceMusic.com.
 

FARM CREDIT OFFERS FREE SUCCESSION PLANNING WEBINAR
“Succession Planning; Preparing to Plan” is a one-hour webinar being hosted by Farm Credit on Wednesday, May 12 from Noon – 1:00 PM.  The event is free and open to anyone. 

Rusty Rumley, Senior Staff Attorney with the National Ag Law Center, will provide estate basics and explain how farmers can best prepare for a meeting with an attorney concerning farm succession.  All generations will find Rumley’s advice helpful.   In addition, Susan Koehler with the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust will discuss the FARMLINK program. 

Register at farmcredit.social/webinar .  Call 479-567-4548, if questions.

Farm Credit of Western Arkansas serves rural communities and agriculture with reliable credit and financial services. With more than 11,000 borrower-stockholders and $1.5 billion in assets, Farm Credit of Western Arkansas is a part of the nationwide Farm Credit System that has served rural America for more than 105 years.  
 

FORREST CITY JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL, LINCOLN MIDDLE SCHOOL NAMED OPPORTUNITY CULTURE MODEL SCHOOLS 
LITTLE ROCK — Because of their efforts to improve student access to a high-quality education by extending the reach of excellent teachers to more students, the Arkansas Department of Education’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education recognized two schools as Arkansas Opportunity Culture Model Schools. 

Forrest City Junior High School in the Forrest City School District and Lincoln Middle School in the Lincoln School District recently received surprise visits from DESE team members informing them of the recognition. In addition to receiving the distinction of being named an Opportunity Culture Model School, both schools were given a large banner they can display at their school and will be recognized at the May State Board of Education meeting.

“The Opportunity Culture School model serves as another best practice that schools around the state are embracing and implementing,” ADE Secretary Johnny Key said. “Both Forrest City Junior High School and Lincoln Middle School have demonstrated their commitment to the model and are seeing great success as a result. I congratulate the educators and administrators for a job well done."

The Opportunity Culture School model gives teachers the opportunity to grow professionally and earn more pay without leaving the classroom. The model uses multi-classroom leaders, or teachers who support other teachers on their team by providing coaching and feedback; setting annual goals; providing input regarding how best to structure learning time; and organizing teaching roles to fit each teacher’s strengths, content knowledge, and professional development goals.

Multi-classroom leaders also lead teams in analyzing student-learning data and changing instruction as needed to support high-growth learning for every student. They are assisted by Reach Associates, who are similar to paraprofessionals and provide additional supports to students.

To become a model school, Opportunity Culture Schools can request an evaluation, which involves interviews with teachers and administrators and review of artifacts and documentation provided by the school. A model school must exemplify the principles listed below, as well as provide ongoing professional learning and support, communication, instructional planning, and instructional improvement.
Reach more students with excellent teachers and their teams.
Pay teachers more for extending their reach.

Fund pay within regular budgets.

Provide protected in-school time and clarity regarding how to use it for planning, collaboration, and development.

Match authority and accountability to each person’s responsibilities.

In addition to successfully implementing the Opportunity Culture School principles, Lincoln Middle School gives students the ability to control their learning pace, provides students with embedded personalized learning time, and connects them with a mentor.

At Forrest City Junior High School, multi-classroom leaders provide real-time observations, feedback, and support to their team of teachers, resulting in students receiving instructional support in a timely manner. Teachers also are provided planning and collaboration time each week. 
Arkansas adopted the Opportunity Culture School program in 2017. To learn more, visit https://bit.ly/3eB4bPa.


BOOZMAN APPLAUDS DOD’S FINAL STEPS TO RESTORE FULL EDUCATION BENEFITS TO GUARD AND RESERVE MEMBERS
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) applauded the signing of a memorandum by the Office of the Secretary of Defense that enables members of the Guard and Reserve to concurrently use Federal Tuition Assistance and GI Bill benefits to fund their education, similar to active duty servicemembers. This process was initiated in August, following efforts led by Boozman and U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) to ensure Guard and Reserve servicemembers receive the full education benefits to which they are entitled. Boozman also recently joined a bipartisan group of senators in urging Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to take the final steps in restoring these benefits.

The policy change will achieve the goals of the Montgomery GI Bill Parity Act, bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Boozman.

“The men and women who serve in our nation’s uniform deserve the benefits they have earned without strings attached. This announcement by Secretary Austin will remove unnecessary barriers to education benefits for Guard and Reserve members,” Boozman said.

“This is tremendous news for our Guard and Reserve members, who will now have access to the full education benefits that they have earned,” said Hoeven. “We need well-educated servicemembers to ensure our nation can continue to keep pace with our adversaries. Allowing concurrent use of federal tuition assistance and GI Bill benefits will do just that for our Guard and Reserve components, who play an important role in supporting the high-tech operations of today’s military and defending against ever more advanced threats. We appreciate Secretary Austin for working with us on this priority.”May 05, 2021

May 04, 2021

GOVERNOR HUTCHINSON’S WEEKLY COVID UPDATE – MAY 04, 2021
State officials are setting a goal to see at least 50 percent of Arkansans partially or fully vaccinated within the next three months. 

During his weekly COVID-19 Taskforce update, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said his administration is working with both statewide and local partners to provide more opportunities to get the vaccine. That effort will be coupled with greater outreach to highlight the safety and effectiveness of the available COVID-19 vaccines. State health officials plan to organize pop-up, walk-in vaccine clinics at events throughout the state, from baseball games to local festivals.

Hutchinson said the goal is get as much as the state's population vaccinated as possible and help bring an end to the pandemic.

Hutchinson then provided an update on several legislative acts in relation to COVID-19. Those include a ban on vaccine passports within Arkansas and a prohibition on local and state facemask ordinances. These two acts effect only local and state authorities.  The third act prohibits state agencies from mandating vaccinations. All three acts will go into effect after 90 days following last week's legislative recess. 

Hutchinson also highlighted the state's most recent revenue report. That report showed a continued revenue surplus throughout the fiscal year. The report, Hutchinson said, is a sign that the state is recovering from the economic consequences of the pandemic.

The governor said Tuesday's COVID-19 Taskforce press conference will be the last unless the situation demands weekly updates in the future. Hutchinson said he will continue to broadcast updates each Tuesday but on a broader range of topics than just COVID-19.

Finally, the Arkansas Department of Health reported an additional 296 cases of COVID-19 statewide on Tuesday. That raises the state's cumulative total of COVID-19 transmissions to more than 336,000. Active cases rose by 104 to 2,043 across Arkansas. Deaths rose by five over the same period to 5,752 since the pandemic began. Hospitalizations rose by 20 to leave 192 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus.
 

ORTHOARKANSAS RECOGNIZES MAY AS NATIONAL OSTEOPOROSIS AWARENESS MONTH
LITTLE ROCK, ARK. – May 3, 2021 - OrthoArkansas is recognizing May as National Osteoporosis Month with an osteoporosis prevention educational campaign to encourage Arkansans to be proactive about protecting their bones. Osteoporosis is a disease of the bone that makes a person’s bones weak and more likely to break.

 A bone density test is the best way to diagnose osteoporosis and determine a treatment plan. As part of Osteoporosis Awareness Month, OrthoArkansas will offer Amazing Bones, a special on bone density scans, at its North Little Rock clinic. If appointments are made during May, the cost of the scan is $35. To schedule an appointment, call 501-600-3500.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and another 44 million have low bone density, placing them at increased risk for bone fractures. Studies show that half of all women over the age of 50 and a quarter of men will break a bone in their lifetime due to this chronic, debilitating disease.

The good news is that osteoporosis is largely a preventable disease. Diet, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle are keys to preventing and managing the disease.


DOYLE WEBB ANNOUNCES 2022 RUN FOR LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF ARKANSAS
Says, “I am the most qualified candidate in the race.”
BENTON, ARK— Doyle Webb (R-Benton), former Republican Party of Arkansas chairman, chief of staff to the late Republican lieutenant governor Win Paul Rockefeller, and state senator announced his candidacy for the office of Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas in 2022. Webb released the following statement:

“After numerous calls from Arkansans across our state I have decided to offer myself as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas in 2022. Serving the people of Arkansas and the Republican Party have been my life’s work. I believe I am the most qualified candidate in the race, but I will not take Arkansan’s support for granted. I will be running a full-time campaign over the next year and a half, getting to every corner of the state I have come to know so well. As your next lieutenant governor I will fight for life, liberty, and lower taxes. I am grateful for the overwhelming support of this announcement, and my experienced team and I are ready to hit the ground running!”.

About Doyle Webb:
Doyle earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, School of Law in 1981. He became the first Republican justice of the peace and state senator elected in Saline County. Republican Lieutenant Governor Win Rockefeller asked Doyle to serve as his chief of staff in 2002. Doyle served as chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas from 2008-2020, where he would run for re-election five times unopposed. When Doyle was first elected in 2008 Arkansas Republicans held 28/100 seats in the State House and 8/35 in the State Senate. At the end of Doyle’s tenure those numbers were 78/100 and 28/35, respectively. Every congressional, senatorial, and constitutional office were also held by Republicans for the first time in the state’s history.

Doyle was the longest serving party chairman in the nation, in addition to serving as Republican National Committee’s general counsel from 2017-2021. Doyle was proud to attend both the 2016 and 2020 Republican National Conventions, casting his votes each time for Donald J. Trump. Doyle’s first vote for president at a national convention belonged to Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Doyle is married to his wife Barbara Womack Webb of 35 years. They reside in Benton, AR.
 

2021 COUNTY FARM FAMILIES OF THE YEAR NAMED
LITTLE ROCK – County families for the 74th annual Arkansas Farm Family of the Year program have been selected. The families will be visited by a set of judges to determine eight district winners, who will be announced June 15. The state Farm Family of the Year will be announced in December at the Farm Family of the Year luncheon in North Little Rock.

Since 1947, the Arkansas Farm Family of the Year Program has served as a vehicle to recognize outstanding farm families throughout the state. The objectives of the Farm Family of the Year program are:
To give recognition and encouragement to farm families who are doing an outstanding job on their farm and in their community;
To recognize the importance of agriculture in the community and state; and
To disseminate information on improved farm practices and management

The county winners are:
East Central District
Lee – Justin Higgins family, Marianna
Lonoke – Brad Whitehead Farms, England
Monroe – Tyler Pettigrew and family, Clarendon
Prairie – Roger Lisko, Hazen
Pulaski – Margie Raimondo, Little Rock
St. Francis – Cottonwood Farms, Widener
Saline – Connell Berry Farm, Benton
White – Brandon Gordon, Bradford
Woodruff – Chappell Brothers Farm LLC, Cotton Plant

North Central District
Baxter – Cody and Hannah Walker family, Henderson
Cleburne – Bill and Gail Davis, Concord
Fulton – Michael and Duana Batterton family, Viola
Independence – Dennis Broadwater family, Batesville
Izard – Tyler and Whitney Cooper, Melbourne
Marion – Heath and Emily Smith, Yellville
Searcy – Fon Cash family, Everton
Sharp – Twin Oakes Farms LLC, Cave City
Stone – Keith and Cindy Branscum, Fifty-Six
Van Buren – Ronnie and Kerri Jones family, Scotland

Northeast District
Clay – Gerald and Michelle Hartsfield, Rector
Craighead – Cobb/Lyerly/Owens Farms, Lake City
Crittenden – Spence and Jenny Held, Earle
Cross – Danny Voyles Family Farms, Wynne
Greene – Eason Farms, Jonesboro
Jackson – William and Courtney Tate, Amagon
Lawrence – Andrew and Kristal Jones, Alicia  
Mississippi – Tim Griggs Farms Partnership, Blytheville
Poinsett – Joey McCorkle, Tyronza
Randolph – Chad and Brandi Chester family, Pocahontas

Northwest District
Benton – Kaleb and Chrisie Smith, Gentry
Boone – Richard and Gina Blevins Farm, Omaha
Carroll – Fred and Mitzi Worley, Berryville
Crawford – Scott and Tanya Rogers, Alma
Franklin – Mark and Becky Campbell, Ozark
Johnson – Chris and Brooklyn Heiser, Lamar
Madison – Jack and Brook Hudgins, Huntsville
Newton – Dustin Cowell family, Mt. Judea
Sebastian – Woody Hester, Hartford
Washington – Fround Farms, Springdale

Southeast District
Arkansas, North – Kirk and Krista Keller, Stuttgart
Arkansas, South – Jay and Megan McLain, DeWitt
Ashley – Kyle Harriman, Hamburg
Chicot – Joshua and Bailey Lingo Partnership, Lake Village
Desha – Layne and Ryane Miles, McGehee
Drew – Jeff and Christine Felts family, Tillar
Jefferson – S & L Farms, Sheridan
Lincoln – Joey and Rhonda Ratterree, Star City
Phillips – Jackie Swindle Farms, Elaine

Southwest District
Bradley – Jacob and Jamie Courtney, Warren
Calhoun – Woody's Peach Orchard, Hampton
Columbia – Hugh and Lindsay Bragg, Magnolia
Hempstead – Cody and Ashlee Askew, Hope
Miller – Rushing Farms, LLC - Patsy and Troy Rushing, Fouke
Nevada – Leslie Bullock, Prescott
Union – Rhett and Holly Hanry, El Dorado

Western District
Conway – Foshee Family Farms, Atkins
Faulkner – Tim and Judith Allen, Mayflower
Logan – Whitaker Farms, Booneville
Montgomery – Perry and Paula Sing, Oden
Perry – Tim Hubbard family, Adona
Polk – James and Janet Watkins, Vandervoort
Pope – Jason and Becky Smith, Atkins
Yell – Ernest Doyle Buckman III, Havana

West Central District
Clark – Kent and Anita Malcom, Okolona
Cleveland – Stephen Boyd, Rison
Dallas – William H. Sullivent, Sparkman
Garland – Roger Hutter, Pearcy
Grant – Bradley and Kerri Warren, Poyen
Hot Spring – Whitley Farms, Malvern
Howard – Newton Cheatham family, Mineral Springs
Sevier – Will Pickering family, DeQueen

“Each year the Arkansas Farm Family of the Year program recognizes the outstanding farmers and ranchers who make up our state,” said Rich Hillman of Carlisle, president of Arkansas Farm Bureau. “These families are involved in essential work, not only providing food for my family and yours, but also serving as the ultimate stewards of the land and water resources. 

“Congratulations to these farm families. We are proud to honor their work and dedication to Arkansas agriculture, our state’s largest economic sector.” 

The Farm Family of the Year program begins each year with the selection of top farm families in each county and culminates in December with the selection of the state Farm Family of the Year, who then go on to represent Arkansas at the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year. Arkansas has had two Southeast Farm of the Year winners; Brian and Nan Kirksey of Clark County in 2008 and Wildy Family Farms of Mississippi County in 2016.
All winners are judged on their farm production, efficiency, management, family life and rural/community leadership.

 

CAMDEN KIWANIS CLUB TO MEET
The Camden Kiwanis Club will meet this Thursday, April 29th, at Catherine's Bistro at 12:00 PM. The program will be presented by Kathy Boyette. She will be discussing Bill 1555 that recently passed in Arkansas.

 The Camden Kiwanis Club is participating in the First Friday Monthly Market this Friday, May 7th from 6pm to 9pm. They will be promoting the Searcy Harrell Make-A-Wish Golf Tournament. Volunteers are needed, please email Krissy or Betsy if you can attend. You do not have to stay the entire time any help is appreciated!

 

May 03, 2021


ENTERGY ARKANSAS PREPARING FOR POTENTIAL THUNDERSTORMS THIS EVENING AND TONIGHT
Customers encouraged to prepare with charged devices, emergency plan
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – Entergy Arkansas is preparing for the potential for power outages as a large part of its service area is likely to experience thunderstorms and strong winds this evening and into the night.

Entergy Arkansas employees plan and train year-round on how to safely restore power after severe weather strikes. See Operation Storm Ready for details on how the company prepares for disruptive storms.

Customers can and should take a few simple steps to be prepared:
Charge up mobile devices and back-up batteries.
If you depend on medical equipment that requires electricity to properly function, secure an alternative source of electricity in the event of a power disruption. This could be a generator, a battery back-up or an alternate location.
Have an emergency kit, including flashlights, medicine, first aid, blankets, water and food, and a plan. Instructions are available at www.entergynewsroom.com/storm-center/plankit/.
Download our free app for your smartphone at www.entergy.com/app.
Sign up for text alerts by texting REG to 36778 and have your account number and ZIP code handy. The registration pattern is as follows (including spaces): REG (account number) (ZIP code). Once registered, text OUT to 36778 to report an outage.
Install a smart phone app that will alert you to severe weather in the area or sign up for emergency alerts on your smart phone.
Have a weather radio with a loud alarm that will wake you when severe weather threatens at night.

In cases of outages, Entergy Arkansas encourages people to:
Stay away from downed power lines. It’s impossible to tell from looking whether they are energized or not, so assume they are. Report them to 1-800-9OUTAGE.
Report your power outage online or call 1-800-9OUTAGE. If you report your outage by phone, trust the automated system. It works very well. There is no need to speak with a customer service representative to report an outage.
If you have a portable generator, use it safely. DO NOT run it in an enclosed space. If connecting to the whole house, do so only if the connection has been installed by a licensed electrician. 
Do not open your refrigerator or freezer door as long as the power is out. Food will stay cold much longer.
Stay clear of linemen as they work.

To stay up to date on outages and restoration during a storm, customers should:
Check the app regularly, or visit our “View Outages” page at EntergyArkansas.com/.
Follow us on Twitter.com/EntergyArk and Facebook.com/EntergyArk.
Follow updates in your local news media.

 

ARKANSAS STATE TROOPER NAMED NATIONAL TROOPER OF THE YEAR
MAY 3, 2021
Arkansas State Trooper James O. Ray has been named by the American Association of State Troopers as the Trooper of the Year – 2021, recognizing him for his selfless act of bravery that saved the lives of motorists traveling through western Arkansas along Interstate 40 last year.

Trooper Ray, 24, of Franklin County, is a three year veteran of the Arkansas State Police Highway Patrol Division, assigned to the Highway Patrol Division, Troop H, headquartered at Fort Smith.

The heroic actions by Trooper Ray while pursuing a fleeing driver prevented a catastrophic collision between the suspect and innocent motorists.

On December 4, 2020, at 10:37 AM, Officer Matt Young of the Arkansas Highway Police had stopped to check the welfare of a driver parked along I-40 near Ozark.   The side windows on the vehicle were spray painted black preventing Officer Young from seeing through anything other than the driver's window.  Officer Young called Trooper Ray to assist with the unusual encounter.  When Trooper Ray arrived, he and Officer Young began to approach the vehicle at which time the driver pulled the vehicle onto the interstate and sped away.

During the ensuing pursuit, the suspect fled at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour and passed several vehicles on the shoulder as he drove erratically.  When given the opportunity to safely end the pursuit, Trooper Ray performed a Precision Immobilization Technique (PIT) on the fleeing suspect vehicle which was forced into a clockwise rotation into the westbound lanes.  Unfortunately, the suspect was able to regain control of his vehicle and began driving eastbound in the westbound lanes, posing an extreme danger to other motorists who were now meeting the fleeing suspect head-on.  The suspect traveled a short distance before he crossed the median and began traveling westbound in the eastbound lanes.

Trooper Ray, realizing he was running out of options to stop an extremely dangerous driver, drove west in the westbound lanes to get ahead of the fleeing driver who continued westbound in the eastbound lanes.

Trooper Ray was able to get ahead of the fleeing driver and crossed the median into the eastbound lanes, facing the direction he knew the suspect vehicle was traveling.

Using quick judgment, Trooper Ray stopped eastbound traffic, and began slowly driving eastbound as the suspect vehicle approached him traveling westbound.  Troper Ray knew that the next unit to be in a position on the eastbound side of the interstate was miles behind him.

Trooper Ray aimed his vehicle at the oncoming suspect and waited. He timed it perfectly, as suspect was passing in front of him, Trooper Ray accelerated quickly and crashed his vehicle into the front left corner of the suspect vehicle. This action forced the suspect vehicle into the median and disabled both vehicles.  Trooper Ray was able to safely place the suspect into custody, and miraculously, neither he nor the suspect had any major injuries.

Trooper Ray will be formally recognized in a national award ceremony later this year.

 

GOV. HUTCHINSON ANNOUNCES WINNERS OF STATE CODING COMPETITION
2021 Arkansas Computer Science Educator of the Year Also Announced
LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson is pleased to announce the winners of the Fifth Annual Governor’s All-State Coding Competition, which was held this past weekend at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock’s Donaghey Student Center. Students at the Don Tyson School of Innovation in Springdale received the first-place prize, students at Rogers New Technology High School in Rogers received second place, and a team from eStem High School in Little Rock received the third-place honor. 

“For the fifth straight year, this competition has inspired impressive solutions from Arkansas’ top computer science students,” Hutchinson said. “Their work reinforces my confidence that these students will be more than well prepared to take the reins of leadership. When you consider the caliber of the five teachers we recognized, it’s no surprise that we are seeing this excellence in our computer science students.”

The winning team from the Don Tyson School of Innovation (Lucas Kellar, Luke Lyons, and Drake Mayes) each received a 529 college savings plan prize worth $2,000. Students at Rogers New Technology High School (Joshua Willard, Aldan Garner, and David Daniel) each received a 529 college savings plan prize worth $1,000, and students at eStem High school (Elijah Keen, Spencer Knight, and Sergio Markin) each received a 529 college savings plan prize worth $500. In addition to the individual awards, winning schools received $10,000, $6,000, and $4,000, respectively, to support their computer science programs.

Since the contest’s 2016 inaugural year, Verizon has provided $225,000 in financial support for the competition. More than 100 teams from across the state participated in this year’s digital regional competition. The top 16 teams from that regional event along with a team from last year’s first-place school received invitations to compete in the 2021 competition.

2021 Computer Science Educator of the Year Named


In addition to announcing the contest winners at the event, Ashley Kincannon, a teacher at Lake Hamilton Junior High School in the Lake Hamilton School District, was named the 2021 Arkansas Computer Science Educator of the Year. In addition to receiving a $2,500 award when named a finalist, Kincannon received an additional $12,500 award from the Arkansas Department of Education’s Office of Computer Science.

Hutchinson also recognized the other four finalists at the event. 
Carl Frank - Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts
Kimberly Raup – Conway High School (Conway School District)
Stacy Reynolds – McGehee High School (McGehee School District)
Lauren Taylor - Dardanelle High School (Dardanelle School District)

 

NFIB FILES BRIEF IN CASE THAT WOULD PROVIDE VITAL TAX RELIEF TO AR SMALL BUSINESSES
LITTLE ROCK (May 3, 2021) — The NFIB Small Business Legal Center filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama supporting Arkansas in its challenge to the provision of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that would prevent states from using federal funds for state tax relief for small business owners.

“Small businesses are still struggling to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic and need as much financial relief as possible,” said Karen Harned, Executive Director of NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center. “Congress passed the American Rescue Plan to relieve some of the financial pressure caused by the pandemic, but a provision that blocks Arkansas and other states from cutting taxes is eroding state sovereignty and hurts local businesses.”

Earlier, state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge joined 12 other states in a lawsuit questioning Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen over part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act that prevents states from using the funds they receive from the law to offset tax cuts.

NFIB State Director Sylvester Smith said, “Arkansas’ small businesses are trying to recover from the economic slump created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials here are in the best position to know how to appropriate those federal dollars to help Arkansas get back on its feet.”

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 made funds available to states if and only if states agree to not pass any laws or take any administrative actions that decrease their net revenue, whether that decrease comes through tax credits, rebates, reductions in tax credits, or new or expanded deductions. NFIB believes the court should block this unprecedented tax mandate and grant the states’ motion for a preliminary injunction.

The NFIB Small Business Legal Center protects the rights of small business owners in the nation’s courts. NFIB is currently active in more than 40 cases in federal and state courts across the country and in the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

DEA AND PARTNERS ANNOUNCE RESULTS OF  20TH NATIONAL PRESCRIPTION DRUG TAKE BACK DAY
New Orleans Field Division contributes 45,603 pounds to the collection tally
NEW ORLEANS – DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day collected 829,543 pounds (419.7 tons) of unused, expired, and unwanted medications across the country.  The New Orleans Field Division (NOFD) collected 45,603 pounds of that grand total.  Americans once again showed their dedication toward helping prevent addiction and potential overdose by removing prescription pills from their homes.  Our April event included 4,425 community partners at 5,060 collection sites throughout the country.

“DEA’s biannual Take Back Day events are critical to helping reduce overdose deaths and alleviate addiction by safely disposing of prescription medications that sit idle in the home,” said DEA Acting Administrator D. Christopher Evans. “DEA is committed to providing a safe and secure method for the public to rid their homes of potentially dangerous drugs.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge Brad L. Byerley said, “DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day events continue to remove even-higher amounts of opioids and other medicines from the nation’s homes, where they could be stolen or abused.  Residents in this region took a vital step in reducing the risk of prescription drug diversion by turning in over 45,600 pounds of medications.  DEA thanks the citizens and community partners for their vast support in this crucial event.”  

DEA, along with its law enforcement partners, has now collected 14,670,240 million pounds of medications since the inception of the National Prescription Drug Take Back Initiative in 2010. On Oct. 24, 2020, the public turned in a record 985,392 pounds – almost 493 tons – of medication to DEA and 4,153 of its community partners at 4,587 collection sites nationwide, including 33 Bureau of Indian Affairs sites.

DEA’s NOFD, which covers Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, collected 45,603 pounds of potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs for disposal at collection sites throughout the division.  The amounts collected for each state within the division was the following: Louisiana – 6,050 pounds; Mississippi –5,748 pounds; Alabama – 5,100 pounds; and Arkansas – 28,705 pounds.  

For those who could not make it to a Take Back location, DEA reminds the community that every day is Take Back Day with more than 11,000 year-round authorized collection sites across the country. For more information, visit:

https://apps2.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubdispsearch/spring/main?execution=e1s1.

DEA also encourages the public to reach out to their local law enforcement to find out if they have any permanent drug disposal locations throughout their local community.

Complete results for DEA’s April 2021 Take Back Day are available at www.deatakeback.com.

Photos and video from Take Back Day are available at https://flic.kr/s/aHsmVkw4ra.

 

BOOZMAN HONORS ARKANSAS TEACHERS
Applauds Educators’ Resilience, Dedication for National Teacher Appreciation Week
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) praised Arkansas teachers in a speech on the Senate floor in commemoration of National Teacher Appreciation Week.

“It is clear that educators are in a class by themselves when it comes to resilience. Over the last 12 months, they have shown us what it means to be selfless and brave at a time when both were critically necessary,” Boozman said. “When we look back at the heroes of this tumultuous time, it is clear that teachers will be among those we honor as our society’s most valuable players.”

Boozman is a cosponsor of the Senate-passed resolution honoring the important work of our nation’s teachers. This week, the senator will celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week by visiting with educators across the state.

The following is Boozman’s speech as prepared for delivery:

Madam President, I rise today to recognize the extraordinary work of teachers in Arkansas and across the country.
As we prepare to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, it is clear that educators are in a class by themselves when it comes to resilience.

Over the last 12 months, they have shown us what it means to be selfless and brave at a time when both were critically necessary. 

I am especially proud of teachers in Arkansas who rose to the challenge of leading classes 100 percent virtually for the first time and then embraced re-opening our schools in August 2020.

The sudden transition to virtual learning was an extraordinary hurdle as educators had to learn new technology and new teaching techniques overnight.

For all of us who have learned to use Zoom, it is worth taking a moment to imagine an online classroom with 30 wiggling first graders who want to show you their pets. Or that you are teaching Calculus to high school students who are preparing for an AP exam while attending class from their car at a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Somehow, with great creativity and dedication, teachers embraced this mission and continued to do everything they could to reach each child.

And when Arkansas schools reopened in the fall, they were faced with tremendous new challenges from masks and social distancing, to teaching classes where some students were at their desks and others on a screen. Arkansas teachers once again did the impossible for their students. 

Over the last year, I’ve heard from educators who worried for their own health and safety, but said their dedication to their students was stronger than fear.

They learned new skills overnight, overhauled curriculum and re-imagined every aspect of their classroom to comply with COVID-19 guidelines. Somehow, they also made kids feel safe enough to learn, set an example with their positive attitudes and let students know how important they were, whether in a classroom or on a computer screen.

As they worked to maintain the academic progress of each child, they also provided a lifeline in an otherwise chaotic time. It is amazing to see the smiles on the faces of kids when they see their teachers. Even though nothing was normal, they gave students an escape back to normalcy by being there and continuing to do what they do best – teach.

When we look back at the heroes of this tumultuous time, it is clear that teachers will be among those we honor as our society’s most valuable players.

On behalf of the people of Arkansas, I want to thank our teachers for their great work this year, and every year, to bring out the best in each child and pave the way to a brighter future.

April 30, 2021

13 SCHOOLS, 2 DISTRICTS SELECTED FOR FIFTH PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITIES AT WORK® COHORT
Camden Fairview School District Included in Selections

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Department of Education’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education, in partnership with Solution Tree, a national professional development provider, announces the fifth cohort selected for the Arkansas Professional Learning Communities at Work® project. 

Thirteen schools and two districts from around the state were selected for the 2021-2022 school year and join 39 schools and five districts chosen over the last four years. Because of additional funding allocated by legislators, DESE was able to select additional schools and districts to participate this upcoming school year. 

As with the first four cohorts, each school and district in the fifth cohort will receive up to 50 days of training, coaching, and support to build and sustain a strong culture of collaboration that will enhance student learning. Those chosen completed a rigorous application and evaluation process. A panel of education professionals reviewed all applications and DESE selected the following schools and districts to receive support from Solution Tree. 
Arkansas High School, Texarkana School District
Booker Arts Magnet Elementary School, Little Rock School District
Camden Fairview Middle School, Camden Fairview School District
Glenview Elementary School, North Little Rock School District|
Hellstern Middle School, Springdale School District
Howard Elementary School, Fort Smith School District
Lake Hamilton Middle School, Lake Hamilton School District
Leverett Elementary School, Fayetteville School District

Magazine School District

Meekins Middle School, Stuttgart School District
Oaklawn STEM Magnet School, Hot Springs School District
Parson Hills Elementary School, Springdale School District

Searcy County School District

University Heights Elementary School, Nettleton School District
Washington Elementary School, Little Rock School District

“The PLC model has proven to be a successful best practice implemented in many schools around the state,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “Schools that have embraced the PLC partnership, teacher coordination, and student-focused learning have seen improved learning and a culture that breeds success. I am excited that additional schools and districts now have the opportunity to learn about the benefits associated with this highly-successful program.”

STATE POLICE COMMISSIONS 30 INTO TROOPER RANKS
Harmony Grove and Smackover Alumni Included

APRIL 29, 2021
Thirty Arkansas State Police Recruits received their trooper commissions tonight during a graduation ceremony that followed the conclusion of a 14 week training academy session.  The recruits were hired from a field of 172 applicants previously certified by the Commission on Law Enforcement Standards as Arkansas law enforcement officers.

The graduating class received 860 hours of specialized training and classroom instruction since reporting to the Arkansas State Police Training Academy in Little Rock on January 19th.

Governor Asa Hutchinson, Secretary Jami Cook, Arkansas Department of Public Safety, and Colonel Bill Bryant, Director of the Arkansas State Police, each addressed the recruit class during the graduation ceremony.

The recruit graduates among the Arkansas State Police 2021 Troop School are:
Austin Kennedy, 27, Recruit Class Leader, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop A, Pulaski County.  He is a graduate of Benton High School and Ouachita Baptist University.
Joe Willie Anderson, 41, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop F, Dallas County.  He is a graduate of Dollarway High School and Southern Arkansas College in Pine Bluff.
Adrienne Blecher, 26, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop J, Yell County.  She is a graduate of Russellville High School and Arkansas Tech University.
Britni Binam, 26, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop L, Benton County.  She is a graduate of Fort Zumwalt North High School and the University of Arkansas.
Clayton Bloch, 37, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop A, Pulaski County.  He is a graduate of Nettleton High School and Pulaski Tech College.
William Kade Cash, 26, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop A, Pulaski County.  He is a graduate of Maryville High School and the University of Central Arkansas.
Jackson A. Daniell, 29, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop K, Hot Springs County.  He is a graduate of Magnet Cove High School.
Jordan Drake, 23, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop G, Lafayette County.  He is a graduate of Columbia Christian School and the University of Arkansas in Hope-Texarkana.
Tyler Drum, 29, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop C, Clay County.  He is a graduate of Harrisburg High School.
Alexandria Duncan, 27, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop L, Benton County.  She is a graduate of Viola High School.
Rusty Ford, 33, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop J, Conway County.  He is a graduate of Cornerstone Christian School.
Gunner Bradley Fultz, 27, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop D, Crittenden County.  He is a graduate of Paragould High School.
Ronald Grace, 32, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop A, Pulaski County.  He is a graduate of Conway High School.
Tyler Grant, 24, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop F, Drew County.  He is a graduate of McGehee High School
Justin Edward Harper, 29, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop F, Calhoun County.  He is a graduate of Harmony Grove High School and Southern Arkansas Tech University.
James R. Harrell, 43, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop E, Jefferson County.  He is a graduate of Watson Chapel High School.
Blake Scott Irvin, 30, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop C, Mississippi County.  He is a graduate of Watson Chapel High School and Arkansas State University. Cody Martin, 30, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop A, Pulaski County.  He is a graduate of England High School.
Markeith Terrell Neal, 29, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop D, Monroe County.  He is a graduate of Watson Chapel High School.
Dwayne T. Niles, 29, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop A, Pulaski County.  He is a graduate of North Little Rock High School and Philander Smith College.
Keaton Ramsey, 25, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop L, Carroll County.  He is a graduate of Lamar High School and Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.
Kyle Robinson, 27, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop A, Pulaski County.  He is a graduate of Little Rock Central High School and Southern Arkansas University in Camden.
Zachary Rogers, 24, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop L, Washington County.  He is a graduate of Hebron High School and the University of Arkansas.
Kemp Smith, 25, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop A, Pulaski County.  He is a graduate of Arkadelphia High School.
Nicholas Smith, 35, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop A, Pulaski County.  He is a graduate of Parkview High School.
Mitchell Smothers, 28, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop L, Washington County.  He is a graduate of Springdale High School and the University of Arkansas.
Andrew C. Stovall, 30, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop A, Pulaski County.  He is a graduate of Poyen High School and Columbia Southern University.
Richard H. Surrette, 31, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop L, Benton County.  He is a graduate of Russellville High School and Bryan College University.
Trevoris Terrel Tatum, 27, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop F, Union County.  He is a graduate of Smackover High School and Southern Arkansas University.
Tyler Van Schoyck, 29, will be assigned to Highway Patrol Division, Troop A, Pulaski County.  He is a graduate of the Sylvan Hills High School and Arkansas Tech University.

Special recognition and awards were presented to the recruits who attained the highest overall academy scores within the respective curriculum and training categories:
ACADEMICS
1st place - Britni Binam
2nd place - Zachary Rogers
3rd place - Kade Cash

PHYSICAL FITNESS
1st place - Markeith Neal
2nd place - Austin Kennedy  
3rd place - Cody Martin 

FIREARMS
1st place - Ronald Grace
2nd place - Gunner Fultz
3rd place - Austin Kennedy

Over the next two weeks the trooper/recruits will report to their respective assigned Highway Patrol Division troop headquarters.  They will receive an additional five weeks of instruction working alongside a Field Training Officer before being released to work alone as an Arkansas State Trooper.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: HAVE YOU HEARD OF HEARING AID SCAMS?
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is warning consumers to be cautious of companies selling over-the-counter hearing aids, especially online or by mail order. Though hearing aids can be crucial for some Arkansans’ daily lives, many devices that are being sold over the counter are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are nothing more than poor quality sound amplifiers. Some unscrupulous companies have taken advantage of Arkansas consumers who need hearing aids by making false claims about the quality of the product and lying about its approval by the FDA.

“So many of our loved ones need hearing aids, including my wonderful mother-in-law, and it’s despicable that companies are taking advantage of consumers,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “This is an unacceptable business practice and if you have been a victim of deceptive trade practices, contact my office immediately.”

Attorney General Rutledge has provided these tips for Arkansans who are looking to purchase an over-the-counter hearing device:

The FDA has not approved over-the-counter hearing aids. Companies will deceptively state that they companies are “registered” implying they are approved or endorsed by the FDA.

Consider getting a screening and opinion from a licensed hearing specialist.

Research the hearing aid seller on the Better Business Bureau website or other impartial consumer review site.

Always keep in mind, if the deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

If you have any questions, contact the Attorney General’s Office at ArkansasAG.gov or by emailing at OAG@ArkansasAG.gov


JOSHUA JAMES DUGGAR ARRESTED FOR RECEIPT AND POSSESSION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY
FAYETTEVILLE – A Springdale man was arrested yesterday for receiving and possessing material depicting the sexual abuse of children.

According to court documents, Joshua James Duggar, 33, allegedly used the internet to download child sexual abuse material. Duggar allegedly possessed this material, some of which depicts the sexual abuse of children under the age of 12, in May 2019.

Duggar is charged by indictment with receiving and possessing child pornography. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years of imprisonment and fines up to $250,000.00 on each count.. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This case is being prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit: www.justice.gov/psc.

Acting U.S. Attorney David Clay Fowlkes of the Western District of Arkansas; and Acting Special Agent in Charge Jack Staton of Homeland Security Investigations New Orleans made the announcement.

This case is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations Fayetteville and the Northwest Arkansas Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carly Marshall and Dustin Roberts, and Trial Attorney William G. Clayman of the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
 

USACE VICKSBURG DISTRICT HOSTS AWARDS CEREMONY FOR MS SLOPES TEAM
VICKSBURG, Miss. – Regulatory Division team members from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) Vicksburg District were recently recognized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for their contributions to the MS SLOPES tool development.

USFWS presented the honorees with the Environmental Leadership Award, a distinction known as the Environmental Review and Permitting Champion. Their efforts were also recognized through the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Natural Resource Conservation Achievement Award.

First implemented in 2017, MS SLOPES, or the Mississippi Standard Operating Procedure for Endangered Species, is an interagency effort between USACE Vicksburg and Mobile districts and USFWS. The one-stop document allows USACE and USFWS to fulfill responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act, or ESA. Historically, standard procedure required the agencies to complete separate project-specific ESA evaluations and consultations for regulated activities.

The tool provides a step-by-step process to assess the potential effects of regulated activities on species and habitats protected under the Endangered Species Act using a programmatic framework. The implementation of MS SLOPES allows the Regulatory Division to complete evaluations and consultations with less deliberation time and provides a streamlined process for permit seekers across Mississippi.

Award recipients from the district included Regulatory Division Chief Jennifer Mallard, Permit and Evaluation Branch Chief Cori Carraway, senior environmental specialist Jennifer Brown and retired senior environmental specialist Mike Stewart.

Leadership in attendance included USACE Mississippi Valley Division (MVD) Commanding General Maj. Gen. Diana Holland, USACE Mobile District Commander Col. Sebastien Joly, and MVD Director of Programs Eddie Belk. Maj. Gen. Holland gave closing remarks and coined the award recipients.

“This effort couldn’t have been possible without our dedicated U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partners and USACE Regulatory personnel. Together, we created a lasting framework that USACE and the Service, will utilize for years to come,” said USACE Vicksburg District Commander Col. Robert Hilliard. 

USACE Mobile District Regulatory Division Chief Craig Litteken, South Mississippi Branch Chief Munther Sahawneh, South Mississippi Branch team lead Allison Monroe and Mississippi Branch senior project manager Amiee Parker-Smith were also recognized.

Awardees from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) included Southeast Region Program Supervisor Jeffrey Weller, Mississippi Ecological Services Office Field Supervisor Stephen Ricks, Supervisory Biologist David Felder, and GIS remote sensing analyst Ryan Theel.

“Consultations and evaluations are a major part of our mission to remain good environmental stewards and fulfill our responsibilities under the ESA. MS SLOPES is a major tool to help us achieve that effort, and we’re incredibly proud of the countless hours of work that made it a reality,” Regulatory Division Chief Jennifer Mallard said.

MS SLOPES includes 44 federally listed endangered and threatened species in Mississippi. The in-depth document provides biological information, suitable habitat information, and a dichotomous decision key for each species. While not unique to USACE or USFWS, the tool was the largest of its kind within USACE at the time of its deployment. In addition to USFWS MS-ESO, four USACE districts and three divisions utilize the framework.

The USACE Mobile District has completed a similar tool with partners in Alabama and northwest Florida.

The USACE Vicksburg District is engineering solutions to the nation’s toughest challenges. The Vicksburg District encompasses a 68,000-square-mile area across portions of Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana that holds seven major river basins and incorporates approximately 460 miles of mainline Mississippi River levees. The district is engaged in hundreds of projects and employs approximately 1,100 personnel.

 

CRESHELLE NASH, M.D., NAMED MEDICAL DIRECTOR FOR HEALTH EQUITY AND PUBLIC PROGRAMS AT ARKANSAS BLUE CROSS
Little Rock, Ark. (May 1, 2021) – Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield has  named Creshelle Nash, M.D., M.P.H., C.H.I.E., to serve in the company’s new position of medical director for Health Equity and Public Programs.

In her new role, Nash will lead the company’s efforts to address health disparities in Arkansas and support the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association on its recently launched National Health Equity Strategy. Arkansas Blue Cross leads most other health plans in the United States in designating a medical director position to address health equity.

“Dr. Nash has a passion for ensuring that every person we serve has equal opportunities for equitable care and outcomes,” said Curtis Barnett, president and chief executive officer of Arkansas Blue Cross. “Her deep experience as a public health advocate will be critical as she  provides oversight and guidance on  key public programs supported by our company.

A native Arkansan, Nash attended the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and received her medical degree in 1994. She served her medical residency at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C. She completed a residency in Primary Care Internal Medicine in 1997. She earned a master’s degree in public health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in 1998 and completed the Commonwealth Fund Harvard University Fellowship in Minority Health Policy.

In Arkansas, Nash has worked for the Clinton School of Public Service, the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine Department of General Internal Medicine. As a Certified Health Insurance Executive (CHIE) she helps lead healthcare innovations and transformation within organizations and communities.

COTTON, COLLEAGUES CONDEMN AMAZON FOR REMOVING JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS DOCUMENTARY
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), along with Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), today led a group of 19 senators in a letter to Jeffrey Bezos questioning why Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words, a documentary about the life of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was removed from Amazon’s streaming service. The film’s removal came during Black History Month.

In part, the senators wrote, “The film's popularity aside, Amazon's decision to pull this documentary came during Black History Month-a time when Amazon was celebrating its own effort to ‘Amplify Black Voices’ with a ‘collection of titles to honor Black History Month across four weekly themes (Black Love, Black Joy, Black History Makers, and Black Girl Magic).’”

“Amazon's decision to cancel from its streaming service a documentary that celebrates the longest-serving and highest-ranking African American public servant in America suggests that what Amazon actually seeks to do is ‘Amplify Liberal Black Voices,’ while silencing any who disagree-including and especially the great Justice Clarence Thomas, a genuine ‘Black History Maker,’” the senators continued.

Senator Cotton was joined on the letter by Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Mike Braun (R-Indiana), Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), Rick Scott (R-Florida), John Thune (R-South Dakota), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi). 

The full text of the letter is below.

Mr. Jeffrey Bezos
Chief Executive Officer
Amazon.com, Inc.
410 Terry Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98109

Dear Mr. Bezos:

We write concerning Amazon's latest effort to target conservative Americans. On February 8, 2021, in the middle of Black History Month, Amazon removed from its streaming service the critically acclaimed film, Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words-a documentary about the inspirational life of Justice Clarence Thomas, one of our greatest living Americans and the longest-serving African American in the history of the United States Supreme Court.

Created Equal tells the uniquely American story of Clarence Thomas's rise from poverty in rural Georgia to serving on the highest Court in the land, where he has spent three decades as the Constitution's staunchest defender. PBS broadcast the documentary nationally, and more than 92% of its 1600 Amazon reviews gave the documentary five stars. The documentary was significantly outperforming other comparable documentaries, including documentaries on liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Thurgood Marshall. The popular demand for Created Equal was so strong that, even after Amazon made the film unavailable to rent or buy through the streaming service, the film's DVD sales hit #1 in the "Documentary" category and #16 in the "Movies & TV" category.

The film's popularity aside, Amazon's decision to pull this documentary came during Black History Month-a time when Amazon was celebrating its own effort to "Amplify Black Voices" with a "collection of titles to honor Black History Month across four weekly themes (Black Love, Black Joy, Black History Makers, and Black Girl Magic)." Amazon's decision to cancel from its streaming service a documentary that celebrates the longest-serving and highest-ranking African American public servant in America suggests that what Amazon actually seeks to do is "Amplify Liberal Black Voices," while silencing any who disagree-including and especially the great Justice Clarence Thomas, a genuine "Black History Maker." 

Elsewhere in Amazon Prime's movie descriptions, Amazon celebrates the FBI's most wanted terrorist Joanne Chesimard, who murdered a state trooper in cold blood, as a "fantastic feminine freedom fighter" and hails the Weather Underground-a literal terrorist group-as "radical politics at its best[.]" Both films remain available for streaming today. 

These decisions suggest that Amazon removes documentaries that feature conservatives while keeping documentaries that celebrate criminals and terrorists. And despite repeated inquiries by media outlets, the filmmakers, and would-be viewers, Amazon appears to have made no effort to explain otherwise.

As members of the U.S. Senate, we have jurisdiction over issues relating to antitrust, technology, the First Amendment, and censorship. We therefore request answers to the following questions:
Why did Amazon remove Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words from its video streaming service?
When was the decision made to remove Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words from the video streaming service?
Who made the decision to remove Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words from the Amazon video streaming service? 

Please provide your written response as soon as possible, but no later than 5:00 PM on May 13, 2021. Please also arrange for a staff briefing on this matter by contacting Matt Downer at (202) 224-2353. Thank you for your attention to this concerning matter.

 

COTTON, BOOZMAN INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO PERMANENTLY EXPAND ACCESS TO TELEHEALTH
Washington, D.C. — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and John Boozman (R-Arkansas) today introduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technology (CONNECT) for Health Act, legislation to improve and expand access to telehealth services.

“Eliminating certain restrictions for telehealth services allows Arkansans greater access to healthcare without traveling long distances. Our bill will keep these services in place even after the public health emergency expires,” said Cotton.

“Telehealth was already a promising health care delivery option, but it quickly became essential amid the pandemic. Now, we must ensure it is widely accessible in the long term in order to more readily meet patients’ needs and give providers the ability to offer care to more Americans. Making these changes permanent and better understanding how to utilize this revolutionary tool is both common sense and profoundly important,” said Boozman.

The CONNECT for Health Act was first introduced in 2016 and has the support of more than 150 organizations including AARP, America’s Essential Hospitals, American College of Emergency Physicians, American Hospital Association, American Heart Association, American Medical Association, American Medical Group Association, American Nurses Association, American Telemedicine Association, Children’s National Hospital, eHealth Initiative, Federation of American Hospitals, Health Innovation Alliance, HIMSS, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Community Health Centers, National Association of Rural Health Clinics, National Rural Health Association, Personal Connected Health Alliance, and Teladoc Health.

The CONNECT for Health Act will:
Permanently remove all geographic restrictions on telehealth services and expand originating sites to include the home and other sites;
Allow health centers and rural health clinics to provide telehealth services, a provision currently in place due to the pandemic but on a temporary basis;
Provide the Secretary of Health and Human Services with the permanent authority to waive telehealth restrictions, a provision currently in place due to the pandemic but on a temporary basis;
Allow for the waiver of telehealth restrictions during public health emergencies; and
Require a study to learn more about how telehealth has been used during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

April 29, 2021

BOOZMAN STATEMENT ON THE PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS TO CONGRESS
WASHINGTON –U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement in response to President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress:

“President Biden claimed to be a consensus builder, but beyond getting his party to agree to his far-left proposals, he’s done little to unite Congress behind polices that bring our country together.

The president rejected Republican ideas for bipartisan COVID-19 relief and the parade of partisan priorities continues with his progressive wish list masked as an infrastructure plan which spends more taxpayer dollars on electric vehicles than roads, bridges, runways and water systems. It’s clearly a Democrat slush fund that has little to do with actual infrastructure and is paid for on the backs of businesses through higher taxes on job creators.

Instead of working across the aisle, the president is relying on executive orders to carry out a radical agenda that has halted immigration enforcement and led to a crisis on the southern border. He has also restricted the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, rolled back pro-life policies, and threatened to help end the filibuster and pack the Supreme Court.

President Biden’s first 100 days have not lived up to his rhetoric during the campaign and his own inaugural address. Instead of a unifying, pragmatic approach to governing, the Biden administration continues to roll out highly partisan policies and reject serious counter-offers made in an effort to find compromise. Instead of continuing down this path, the president and his administration must make good-faith efforts to work with Republicans on solutions that help put this pandemic behind us, get our lives back to normal and help our economy recover. That’s what hard-working Arkansans expect and deserve.”

BOOZMAN APPLAUDS SENATE PASSAGE OF BIPARTISAN WATER INFRASTRUCTURE BILL
Measure Reauthorizes Boozman-Authored Program Helping Rural Communities Modernize Drinking and Wastewater Systems
WASHINGTON–The U.S. Senate passed the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021, legislation to make federal investments to aging drinking and wastewater systems and strengthen the nation’s water infrastructure. The measure, passed with wide bipartisan support, includes reauthorization of a program U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) crafted to help rural and underserved communities access funding for water infrastructure projects.

“Republicans and Democrats agree that our drinking water and wastewater systems are in dire need of repair and modernization. This bill builds on that consensus and will create opportunities for communities in Arkansas and nationwide to make needed investments so that we ensure access to clean, reliable water systems is within reach,” Boozman said. “I’m also pleased the SRF WIN Act, which I authored and helped enact last Congress, was reauthorized as part of this package and will continue assisting rural communities’ efforts to upgrade their water infrastructure.”

The bill authorizes more than $35 billion for water resource development projects and makes significant investments in revolving loan funds that support our nation’s water infrastructure.

Provisions in the legislation address a number of priorities related to drinking and wastewater systems, including access to clean, safe drinking water; identification and prevention of water loss; water quality testing; increased resilience; and ensuring skilled professionals continue to be trained and available to maintain the water utilities we depend on.

The Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF WIN) Act, authored by Boozman in 2018, was reauthorized through 2026 as part of this package. The program offers an innovative approach to modernizing critical water infrastructure, especially for rural areas often unable to afford upgrades to aging water systems. It was supported by water infrastructure advocates in Arkansas and across the country, including the Arkansas Rural Water Association and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The initiative combines the best aspects of State Revolving Funds (SRFs) with the leveraging power of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) to make it easier and more affordable for states to meet underserved or unmet water infrastructure needs, and increases access to previously unavailable funding sources for small and medium-size communities while removing high application fees which often prevent access to funds for rural communities.

BOOZMAN URGES ACTION TO EXPAND BENEFITS TO MILITARY SURVIVORS AND FAMILIES
Arkansan Submits Testimony in Support of Legislation
WASHINGTON –U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is calling on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to pass legislation that would strengthen benefits to military survivors and families.

Boozman and Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced the Caring for Survivors Act of 2021 last month. The legislation aims to bring payments to Dependence and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) recipients in line with payments to surviving spouses of other federal employees. The rate of compensation paid to survivors of servicemembers who die in the line of duty or veterans who die from service-related injuries or diseases has been minimally adjusted since its establishment in 1993. DIC payments currently lag behind other programs’ payments by nearly 12 percent.

“We must better care for the loved ones of troops who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Increasing DIC benefits for military survivors to match benefits provided by other federal survivor programs will help us continue to honor the promise we made to servicemembers and their families. This legislation will deliver critical economic support, " said Boozman, a senior member of the VA Committee.

In written testimony submitted to the VA Committee in support of the Caring for Survivors Act of 2021, Arkansan Sharri Briley expressed her approval for the legislation.

“DIC is not enough to support the household expenses. If the DIC were increased as purposed, the survivor would be relieved of the worry of trying to make ends meet. My husband and I had planned to raise our daughter with me as a stay-home mom. The loss of my husband should not be the loss of that dream for my daughter and me,” she wrote in her testimony.

Sharri’s husband, Chief Warrant Officer Donovan Briley, was part of an elite military unit known as Night Stalkers that used black hawk helicopters to transport special operations forces into combat.

Deployed to Somalia with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Briley was killed on October 3, 1993 while serving with Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu.

Sharri and daughter Jordan, who was five at the time of her father’s death, relied on DIC benefits for financial support. Sharri continues to receive DIC payments, but only modest enhancements have been made since 1993.

“Here we are almost twenty years later and the DIC rates have failed to keep up with the cost of living,” Sharri wrote.

The Caring for Survivors Act of 2021 has the support of veterans organizations including the Gold Star Wives of America.

The Senate VA Committee also discussed Boozman’s bipartisan legislation to eliminate barriers to benefits for veterans who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War and were exposed to Agent Orange.

The VA currently awards service-connected benefits for exposure to toxic chemicals to veterans whose duties placed them on or near the perimeters of Thai military bases from February 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975. This restriction arbitrarily disqualifies veterans who may otherwise be able to prove their exposure, regardless of their assigned duties during their time stationed in Thailand.

Boozman’s legislation would allow Vietnam War-era veterans the opportunity to prove toxic exposure in order to qualify for Department of Veterans Affairs benefits.

Boozman initiated a legislative fix to correct this inequity after Mena, Arkansas veteran Bill Rhodes made him aware of the VA’s presumptions for toxic exposure.

April 28, 2021

LOCKHEED MARTIN SECURES MODIFICATION CONTRACT
Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Grand Prairie, Texas, was awarded a $214,708,838 modification (P00016) to contract W31P4Q-19-C-0077 for the M270A2 Multiple Launch Rocket System. Work will be performed in Grand Prairie, Texas; Camden, Arkansas and New Boston, Texas, with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2024. Fiscal 2021 missile procurement, Army funds in the amount of $214,708,838 were obligated at the time of the award. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the contracting activity.


AGHERITAGE FARM CREDIT SERVICES ANNOUNCES 2021 SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS
AgHeritage Farm Credit Services is proud to invest annually in the education of the next generation through our scholarship program.  In 2021, 11 scholarships are being presented – nine $1,000 Customer Scholarships, one $2,000 University Scholarship and one $1,000 Ken Shea Memorial Scholarship.  We offer our congratulations to this year’s scholarship recipients.

Customer Scholarship Program: The nine students receiving $1,000 Customer Scholarships from AgHeritage Farm Credit Services are: James Sims of Mountain View High School, Lindsey Lammers of Marvell Academy, Jase Wicker of Lonoke High School, Weston Cater of Monticello (homeschooled), Michayla Mears of Valley View High School in Jonesboro, Slayde Carter of Star City High School, Braden Glenn of Hillcrest High School in Strawberry, Lizzie Belew of Beebe High School, and Chandler Saul of Stuttgart High School.

The Customer Scholarship Program, which was established in 2001, is open to dependent children and grandchildren of AgHeritage Farm Credit Services stockholder customers.  Recipients were chosen for their outstanding academic performance and school-related extracurricular activities.

Ken Shea Memorial Scholarship: Allison Martin of Hamburg High School is the recipient of the $1,000 Ken Shea Memorial Scholarship. The Ken Shea Memorial Scholarship is open to dependent children and grandchildren of AgHeritage Farm Credit Services Southern Region stockholder customers. This year’s recipient was chosen for her outstanding academic performance and school-related extracurricular activities.  

University Scholarship Program: Benjamin “Caleb” Swears of Carlisle, currently attending the Dale Bumpers College of Agriculture, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas, is being awarded the $2,000 University Scholarship.

The University Scholarship Program is open to any current college student studying agriculture at an Arkansas university or college.  Applicants do not need to be a customer.

AgHeritage Farm Credit Services is a financial cooperative with owned and managed assets of approximately $1.82 billion as of December 31, 2020. The company provides credit and related services to more than 6,030 farmers, ranchers and producers or harvesters of aquatic products in 24 Arkansas counties. 

Branch offices are located in Batesville, Brinkley, Lonoke, McGehee, Newport, Pine Bluff, Pocahontas, Searcy and Stuttgart.

 

DESE LAUNCHES ACADEMY TO ADDRESS CRITICAL TEACHER SHORTAGES IN SPECIAL EDUCATION
LITTLE ROCK — Students deserve access to an equitable education led by the best teachers in the state. In some content areas, such as special education, school districts face challenges in finding teachers to meet these essential needs. To address this issue, the Arkansas Department of Education’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education is launching the Special Education Resource Teacher Academy.

The academy, which utilizes Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, gives licensed public school educators in grades K-12 the opportunity to earn an additional Special Education Resource endorsement and participate in job-embedded professional development while receiving graduate school credit hours - at no cost to them. For those who participate, DESE will pay tuition fees for up to 15 graduate school credit hours needed to obtain the endorsement, as well as licensure assessment fees. 

“The Special Education Resource Teacher Academy joins other Teach Arkansas recruitment efforts to address teacher shortages in critical subject areas,” ADE Secretary Johnny Key said. “This pathway helps educators achieve professional development goals while also meeting an essential need for quality educators in special education classrooms. I’m excited for the division to offer this opportunity to educators, and I am confident that students will greatly benefit from having these teachers in the classroom.” 

For more than a decade, special education has been designated as an academic critical shortage area. This new pathway is designed to address this issue by empowering and equipping content teachers with the knowledge necessary to provide students who have a variety of diverse learning needs, with and without disabilities, the support necessary to meet grade-level expectations.

Additionally, educators obtaining this endorsement will be able to provide special education services within the general education classroom, as supplementary supports, or in special education classrooms. This will expand the district's ability to consider and offer a variety of special education service delivery models. With the growing emphasis on inclusive practices, this opportunity will assist in preparing Arkansas school districts with the skilled staff needed to lead the nation in student-focused “inclusive” education. 

DESE is partnering with Harding University in Searcy, Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, and John Brown University in Siloam Springs to offer the academy. The first cohorts begin this summer, with educators receiving ongoing sessions and support throughout the school year as they apply new concepts in their classrooms.

Participating educators also will be part of the Novice Special Education Teacher Mentoring Program at their local education service cooperative, where they will receive additional coaching, professional development, regional networking opportunities, and support throughout the school year.

To participate in the academy, interested educators will apply with one of the partnering universities. The academy must be completed by July 31 of the year following acceptance into the program.

To learn more, go to https://bit.ly/2Pwqn4z. For more information about other Teacher Academies, visit https://bit.ly/2S0gKMb.
 

WESTERMAN INTRODUCES JUVENILE SENTENCING REFORMS
WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Reps. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Tony Cárdenas (D- CA), Karen Bass (D-CA), and David Trone (D-MD) introduced “Sara’s Law and the Preventing Unfair Sentencing Act.” This bill gives federal judges more discretion when sentencing juveniles and will allow for children, who have been caught up in the justice system, to have a second chance to succeed. 

“Sara’s Law and the Preventing Unfair Sentencing Act’ is named after Sara Kruzan and recognizes that children trapped in sex trafficking or sexual abuse may resort to violence to escape their abuse,” said Rep. Westerman. “It is unacceptable that current law requires that children forced to use violence to protect themselves against their abuser receive a harsh sentence, furthering their trauma. Discretion is needed when dealing with children to address the cause of the crime and the likelihood of rehabilitation. This bill works in a bipartisan basis to find appropriate sentencing for abused boys and girls, because justice is an American value.”

“It’s important for judges to consider and take a child's experience and other factors into consideration when sentencing juveniles," said Rep. Cárdenas. “Sara’s Law and the Preventing Unfair Sentencing Act is a step towards a balanced system centered on healing and rehabilitation, and one that is key to ensuring a child’s life is not thrown away in the juvenile justice system.”

“Studies have proven that punishing children the way we punish adults does not advance public safety,” said Rep. Karen Bass, co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. “After decades of increasingly punitive and failed juvenile justice policies, it’s time to take a step in a direction that recognizes that children are different than adults, that they have enormous potential for rehabilitation, change, and growth, and that we can do better to meet their developmental needs. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this vital piece of legislation.”

“We are one of few countries around the world that sentences children to die in prison. We ought to be ashamed of that," said Rep. Trone. "A sentence of life in prison without out any possibility of release is excessively harsh for children, who do not have the same capacity as adults. In many cases, these children are themselves victims of abuse or neglect. We need a justice system centered around rehabilitation, and banning this sentence for young people will provide them with a chance to grow, learn from their mistakes, and lead productive lives once they’ve served their time.”

Background
H.R. 2858 provides that juveniles found guilty of crimes against persons who sexually trafficked, abused, or assaulted them shall not be required to serve the mandatory minimum sentence otherwise associated with the crime. 

H. R. 2858 also allows judges to consider “the diminished culpability of juveniles compared to that of adults” when sentencing those who committed crimes as juveniles and allows federal judges to depart from mandatory minimum sentences by up to 35 percent if deemed appropriate based on the juvenile’s age and prospects for rehabilitation. The presiding judge may also suspend any portion of an otherwise applicable sentence if the circumstances so warrant.

Additionally, it prohibits federal judges from sentencing juveniles to life in prison without parole and brings federal law into compliance with the 2012 Supreme Court decision Miller v. Alabama. Juveniles sentenced to life in prison would be guaranteed a parole hearing after serving 20 years.

April 27, 2021

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON’S WEEKLY COVID-19 PRESS CONFERENCE – APRIL 27, 2021
Arkansas will resume distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, state health officials announced Tuesday

During the state's weekly COVID-19 Taskforce update, Arkansas Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero said the state was lifting the pause implemented last week on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The CDC and FDA recommended the pause after 15 people experienced blood clot issues connected to the vaccine. U.S. health officials lifted the pause late last week following a study determining the vaccine's benefits far outweighed its risks. 

The benefits include only needing one dose - compared to two with Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines - and its ability to be stored at room temperatures. This has made it easier to distribute to rural and smaller communities.

Romero said Arkansas health officials were joining those across the nation in again recommending the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. However, he added vaccine providers will continue to offer the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for those who prefer them.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson also spoke to urge those Arkansans hesitant to receive the vaccine, especially young people in good health, to reconsider. He said the state is only 40 percent vaccinated and the current goal is a minimum of 60. He urged schools, employers, doctors and other community figures to do their part in spreading word on the safety and effectiveness of the available vaccines.

In all, Arkansas has received nearly 2.5 million vaccines since December. Of those, around 1.6 million have been given, or around 66 percent currently. Over 707,000 Arkansans are now fully immunized, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. 

Looking at the statewide COVID-19 figures for Tuesday, Department of Health recorded an additional 229 cases of the virus across Arkansas. That raises the statewide cumulative total to just under 335,000 transmissions since the pandemic began. Active cases of COVID-19 increased by 39 on Tuesday to 1,844. Over the same period deaths increased by five to 5,725 since spring of 2020. Finally, hospitalizations fell by 13 to leave 157 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus.
 

THE HUB AND OUACHITA COUNTY EXTENSION AGENCY PUT “KIDS IN THE KITCHEN”
The Hub, along with Ouachita County Extension Agency, and other businesses and churches, will sponsor a summer cooking project called “Kids in the Kitchen”.  We are providing the cookbooks, food to prepare the items, measuring cups, spoons, aprons, etc. and videos for children to watch and learn.  The child can then follow along in their book while the recipe is read and then prepared.  They will learn to follow directions, work on their math (1/4 cup, 1/2 teaspoon, etc.) and work on their reading skills, plus enjoy the activity of preparing a recipe.  This will be for approximately 300 children going into the First and Second grades.  We will put this on our Google Classroom for access at their convenience through the summer.  

CAMDEN KIWANIS CLUB TO MEET
The Camden Kiwanis Club will meet this Thursday, April 29th, at Catherine's Bistro at 12:00 PM. The program will be presented by Danny Harrell from the Ouachita County Historical Society.

EL DORADO BRINGS OUT THE FUN AT MAY ON MAIN!
El Dorado, AR.,— Come out and enjoy the day in downtown El Dorado at May on Main. This inaugural event, presented by Main Street El Dorado and Murphy USA, will be held Saturday, May 1st from 11:00 am till 5:30 pm on the Square in Downtown El Dorado.“We are so excited to host this event and give the public a chance to experience our beautiful downtown and all it has to offer,” said Beth Brumley, executive director of Main Street El Dorado. “We had to cancel many of our planned events last year due to the pandemic, and we wanted to make sure that our first event has something for everyone to enjoy,” Brumley said.It will be a day of fun filled with live music, a chili cook-off, motorcycle poker run, games, inflatables, kid’s activities, AND MUCH MORE! Admission is FREE to the festival with some activities requiring a small fee.

Grill Wars Chili Cook-Off
The Grill Wars season kicks off with an ICS sanctioned Chili Cook-Off. The cooking starts at 9:00 am with judging starting at noon. Over $2,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded in 3 categories, with first place receiving $500 and a trophy. With this being an ICS Sanctioned event, the Top 3 cooks will receive an invitation to the 54th World Championship Chili Cook-Off in Myrtle Beach, SC.

From 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm, the public will have a chance to taste competition chili. $10 will allow a person to sample five separate pots of chili.

Registration for the event is going on now and will start at $35 dollars for the required traditional red chili, and optionally $25 for the Verde category and $30 for the Homestyle category. You and your team can register now at mainstreeteldorado.org.

Motorcycle Poker Run
The Hog Wild Motorsports motorcycle Poker Run will begin at 11:30 am. The poker run will start from the Northeast corner of the Murphy USA parking lot on Jefferson St. at the Mayhaw Festival. The last bike out will be at noon and all bikes must return by 1:30 pm.

Early registration is going on now through April 23rd at Noon. Registration is $30 per driver (includes a FREE t-shirt) and $20 per passenger (if the passenger is playing a hand). You can pre-register at mainstreeteldorado.org or by calling the Main Street El Dorado Office at 870-862-4747. Day-of registration will be held from 9am - 11am at the north east corner of Murphy USA HQ parking lot on Jefferson St at the Mayhaw festival. 

$1,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to the riders with the best poker hands, including $500 to first place!

Fun Zone
Festival-goers will have their pick of fun events and attractions that will fill downtown El Dorado. Kids will have a blast on
the inflatables, playing yard games featuring giant Jenga, giant Connect 4, kid’s Baggo & more! There will be Big Wheel
races for the kids from 12pm - 1pm. There is no entry fee required to enter the races.

There’s plenty of fun for the Adults too! Test your aim in the Epps Land Services Baggo Tournament. Baggo is a game that got its start at tailgating events and has grown in popularity in recent years. There’s a $10 fee per person to enter the tournament, and is available to ages 10 and up. First Place Prize for this Baggo Tournament will be $250 cash courtesy of Epps Land Services!

Adults can also enjoy The Kilt Axe Throwing booth. Have fun throwing axes at wooden targets and see if you can hit the bullseye. $10 per game or 2 games for $15.

Great Food
Come out to enjoy the best festival food in the region along with access to all of our wonderful Downtown restaurants!  Flossie’s will be here featuring, funnel cakes, corndogs, cotton candy, lemonade, and more. Cool off with a frozen treat from King Kone snow cones, and enjoy some delicious Pupps BBQ while you are waiting for the chili.
Live Music.

All afternoon, live music will be playing on the square featuring the region’s best acts! It all starts at 12:30 pm with the Karla Case Band, followed by Brody McKinney at 2:15 pm. At 3:00 pm Zach Abbott will take the stage and Blackstrap will take the stage at 4:00 pm to keep the party going before The Allman Betts Band takes the stage at the First Financial Music Hall at The Murphy Arts District! Get tickets for that event at eldomad.com.
To learn more about May on Main, or to register for an event, go online at mainstreeteldorado.org, you can also call the Main Street El Dorado offices at 870-862-4747.

LOCKHEED MARTIN CONTRIBUTES $500,000 GRANT TO PROJECT LEAD THE WAY TO EXPAND ACCESS TO CYBERSECURITY COURSE FOR AMERICA’S STUDENTS
50 U.S. high schools will benefit from funding to expand hands-on learning
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Lockheed Martin and Project Lead The Way (PLTW) today announced a $500,000 in grant support for schools seeking to implement PLTW’s Cybersecurity course, which engages students in grades 9-12 in real-world activities aligned with careers in the growing field of cybersecurity. Public high schools across the country may apply through PLTW’s website.

These grants will increase access to hands-on computer science learning experiences for hundreds of high school students in the 2021-22 school year by supporting their schools’ implementation of the Cybersecurity course.

“We should not underestimate the importance of computer and data science skills for America’s students,” said PLTW President and CEO Dr. Vince Bertram. “Lockheed Martin’s continued generosity and support has helped prepare students all across the country for opportunities to develop key subject matter and transportable skills enabling them to become inspired problem solvers and to pursue critical and enduring career paths.”

The PLTW Cybersecurity course allows students to establish an ethical code of conduct while learning to defend data in today’s complex cyberworld. This course introduces the tools and concepts of cybersecurity and encourages students to create solutions that allow people to share computing resources while protecting privacy. It raises students’ knowledge of and commitment to ethical computing behavior and aims to develop students’ skills as consumers, friends, citizens, and employees who can effectively contribute to communities with a dependable cybersecurity infrastructure that moves and processes information safely.

“Learning how to identify and respond to cyber threats is essential for both our personal and national security,” said Michael Gordon, Lockheed Martin Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer. “Our partnership with PLTW expands opportunity for more students to gain critical skills and see a future career for themselves in the growing field of cybersecurity.

PTLW provides PreK-12 schools, teachers, and students with hands-on, interdisciplinary STEM-based curriculum that uniquely prepares students for life and their future careers. Since 2007, Lockheed Martin has partnered with PLTW to address the nation’s critical need for future engineers, computer scientists, and math- and science-trained professionals, and to equip all students with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive.

CAMDEN KIWANIS CLUB TO MEET
The Camden Kiwanis Club will meet this Thursday, April 29th, at Catherine's Bistro at 12:00 PM. The program will be presented by Danny Harrell from the Ouachita County Historical Society.

April 26, 2021

GREATER ST. PAUL TO HOLD VACCINATION CLINIC
A Vaccination Clinic will be held May 1, 2021 at Greater St. Paul Baptist Church 896 S. Adams Ave from 9:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.

2021 REGULAR LEGISLATIVE SESSION UPDATE
Weekly Update Regular Session Week 15

The Arkansas General Assembly is down to its final few days of session, before gaveling out for an extended recess. Legislators wrapped up a busy week Thursday, and they are expected to recess on Tuesday of next week. However, they will not have a final sine die adjournment. Instead, they will reconvene in a few months, once the federal census data is available to allow lawmakers to address redistricting. They may also address state use of newly available federal COVID relief funds at that time.

Legislators made progress this week on some of the final hurdles of the session, including the Revenue Stabilization Act and proposed constitutional amendments to refer to the ballot. There have been 956 bills filed in the House, 710 bills filed in the Senate, and more than 830 measures have been signed into law. 

Revenue Stabilization Act/Surplus Spending
The Joint Budget Committee on Thursday advanced identical House and Senate versions of the proposed Revenue Stabilization Act , the measure that sets the state’s spending priorities for the state’s general revenue budget for 2022, which begins July 1. The measure places spending items in categories A-D, with “A” budget items considered most important. In the event of a revenue shortfall, lower category items would be cut. The projected available revenue for 2022 is $5.86 billion, with a surplus of $17 million. Most funding is allocated to human services programs, along with K-12 education, colleges and universities, and corrections. The measures are expected to receive final passage next week.

Senate Bill 375 also advanced out of the Joint Budget Committee Thursday. It allocates $600 million in expected surplus funding, with close to $450 million going to the state’s long-term reserve fund, taking that balance to around $711 million. 

Constitutional Amendments
The Legislature on Thursday gave final approval on two measures to be referred to the General Election ballot. House Joint Resolution 1005 by Rep. David Ray (R-Maumelle) would require 60% of voters to approve a ballot measure (whether constitutional amendment OR initiated act), instead of the simple majority currently required.

Senate Joint Resolution 10 by Senator Breanne Davis (R-Russellville) would allow legislators to call themselves into a special legislative session with a proclamation from both the Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tempore, with signatures of two-thirds of both the House and Senate. Currently, only the Governor can call a special session, and sets the agenda for a special session.

A third proposed constitutional amendment approved by the Senate Thursday will be considered by the House next week. Senate Joint Resolution 14 by Senator Jason Rapert (R-Conway) proposes an amendment to the state constitution stating the government is prohibited from “burdening a person’s freedom of religion” unless the government can show it furthers a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. 

Tax Cut Measures
The Senate on Thursday gave final approval to HB1912 by Rep. John Payton (R-Wilburn), to reduce the sales tax by 3% on used cars, trailers, and semitrailers priced between $4,000 and $10,000. Rep. Payton, a used car dealer, earlier in the session passed a more expansive tax cut measure in the House and described this bill as a compromise with the Senate. The measure reduces general revenue by $6.5 million in fiscal 2022 and by $13.1 million the following year. 

 House Bill 1456 by Rep. Jeff Wardlaw (R-Hermitage) would create an income tax credit for railroad and track maintenance, to equal 50% of the track maintenance costs. The expected impact is up to $4.9 million annually. House Bill 1196 by Rep. Craig Christiansen (R-Bald Knob) provides a sales tax exemption for water used exclusively in operation of a poultry farm. House Bill 1157 by Rep. David Tollett (R-Lexa) would increase the income tax deduction from $250 to $500 for classroom investment expenses by teachers. The House gave final approval to Senate Bill 181 by Sen. Trent Garner (R- El Dorado) to expand the current sales tax holiday to include electronic devices.

BILL STATUS REPORT:
HB 1017  
Rye, Johnny(R)
Provides that the General Assembly intends to adopt Daylight Saving Time permanently as soon as federal law is amended to permit that action and all border states have declared their intention to do so.
Bill History: 03-30-21 S Committee Motion for Do Pass Failed

HB 1027  
Cavenaugh, Frances(R)
Hill, Ricky(R)
Requires advertisement of the sale or removal of personal property from a self-service storage unit, stipulating that three independent bidders present meets the requirement of commercially reasonable advertising methods.
Bill History: 03-15-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 363)

HB 1033  
Jett, Joe(R)
Johnson, Mark(R)
Clarifies sales tax exemptions for car wash services of a car wash operator and certain sellers in the digital marketplace.
Bill History: 02-24-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 144)

HB 1056  
Fite, Lanny(R)
Creates an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act for electronic public meetings held during a declared disaster; requires such meetings to be recorded and retained for one year.
Bill History: 02-02-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 56)

HB 1139  
Vaught, DeAnn(R)
Exempts audit records of the Department of Insurance that relate to the State Board of Embalmers from the Freedom of Information Act and from subpoena.
Bill History: 01-14-21 H Withdrawn from further consideration

HB 1140  
Vaught, DeAnn(R)
Allows virtual instruction to satisfy funeral directors' continuing education requirements. Allows publication of notice for crematorium construction to be in the newspaper's print or digital edition, or both.
Bill History: 03-17-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 396)

HB 1256  
Boyd, Justin(R)
Ballinger, Bob(R)
Sets a 30-day period for a prosecutor to file with the court notice of opposition to a petition seeking to seal felony conviction records. The 30-day period begins upon the receipt of the petition or the filing of the petition, whichever is later.
Bill History: 03-15-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 341)

HB 1280  
Haak, Delia(R)
Eads, Lance(R)
Authorizes municipal governing bodies to enter into executive session for the purpose of considering economic development projects and other investments. Allows the body's attorney to be present.
Bill History: 04-08-21 S Committee Motion for Do Pass Failed

HB 1321  
Gazaway, Jimmy(R)
Lists types of enclosed areas that are considered critical infrastructure and adds those areas to criminal mischief and trespass offenses.
Bill History: 04-14-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 712)

HB 1329  
Bryant, Joshua(R)
Ballinger, Bob(R)
Changes procedures for sealing substance abuse possession convictions generally to apply only to felony substance abuse possessions.
Bill History: 04-13-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 690)

HB 1442  
Bentley, Mary(R)
Stubblefield, Gary(R)
Requires the Commissioner of State Lands to provide hardware and software systems to perform electronic acceptance, solicitation, payments, etc., and a website publishing all information and records, for natural resources extraction.
Bill History: 03-24-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 455)

HB 1443  
Bentley, Mary(R)
Stubblefield, Gary(R)
Makes various changes to the management and sale of tax-delinquent lands by the Commissioner of State Lands.
Bill History: 04-06-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 584)

HB 1547  
Lundstrum, Robin(R)
Davis, Breanne(R)
Prohibits schools, licensing entities, and employers (who are granted immunity from civil liability for injuries resulting from exposure) from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations through discrimination or coercion.
Bill History: 04-22-21 H Enrolled in the House - Sent to Governor

HB 1576  
Berry, Mark(R)
Permits a victim of violent or sex-offense felonies to petition the circuit court with jurisdiction to request the removal or redaction of their identifying information from all public documents and databases, with the exception of voter records.
Bill History: 03-01-21 H Introduced and referred to H-Judiciary

HB 1626  
Brooks, Keith(R)
Hammer, Kim(R)
Amends the Freedom of Information Act to allow a request for public records of a public employee's gross salary without prior notification to the public employee by the custodian of the records.
Bill History: 04-12-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 658)

HB 1635  
Milligan, Jon(R)
Irvin, Missy(R)
Exempts records that have been made part of a criminal investigation containing personal information about the victim or a member of the victim's family from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
Bill History: 04-19-21 H Committee motion for D.P. as amended Failed

HB 1647  
Evans, Brian(R)
Hill, Ricky(R)
Requires an interactive computer service or social media platform to act in good faith when applying the terms of service, restricting or labeling content, restricting access, etc.; a violation is deemed an unfair and deceptive act or practice.
Bill History: 04-12-21 H Committee Motion for Do Pass Failed

HB 1758  
Eaves, Les(R)
Amends the Freedom of Information Act with regard to bulk requests for public data to provide for reasonable fees within the limitations imposed by the act and the ability to extract records in the native electronic form.
Bill History: 04-12-21 H Meeting set for 9:30 a.m. - Room 151 - H-State Agencies

HB 1872  
Beaty, Howard(R)
Amends the FOIA to require a municipality to make and retain an audio recording of an executive session and maintain it for three years, to make a transcript within 30 days that is subject to disclosure, and publish the transcript in a local newspaper.
Bill History: 04-08-21 H Amendment 1 adopted

HB 1884  
Eaves, Les(R)
Dismang, Jonathan(R)
Requires a county or third-party provider with whom it contracts to provide upon request nonencrypted, bulk public records in the format requested; does not apply to audio or video file formats or redacted, proprietary or exempt data.
Bill History: 04-22-21 S Passed (Vote: Y: 32/N: 0)

HB 1886  
Gazaway, Jimmy(R)
Makes changes to laws governing access to medical records for a legal proceeding. Removes the process for doctors to withhold access to a patient's medical records. Provides for access to medical records in an electronic format.
Bill History: 04-19-21 H Motion to expunge vote failed

SB 28  
Garner, Trent(R)
Underwood, Kendon(R)
Makes the offense of rape of a child by forcible compulsion a capital offense with the available sentences being death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Bill History: 03-17-21 S Withdrawn from further consideration

SB 29  
Garner, Trent(R)
Makes the offense of trafficking the synthetic opioid known as fentanyl a capital offense. Adds fentanyl to criminal law provisions that pertain to cocaine and methamphetamine manufacture, delivery, and possession.
Bill History: 04-19-21 S Referred to interim committee - S-Judiciary

SB 74  
Hill, Ricky(R)
Evans, Brian(R)
Extends the definition of a government entity to include consolidated utility districts, authorizing utility districts to provide, directly or indirectly, voice, data, broadband, video or wireless telecommunications services.
Bill History: 02-04-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 67)

SB 166  
Clark, Alan(R)

Determines when and under what circumstances the public and media may attend hearings concerning child custody, paternity and matters heard under the Arkansas Juvenile Code and examine related documents and recordings.
Bill History: 04-16-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 738)

SB 194  
Sullivan, Dan(R)
Milligan, Jon(R)
Expands the Freedom of Information Act to permit copying public documents by taking a photograph of them.
Bill History: 03-09-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 310)

SB 195  
Sullivan, Dan(R)
Womack, Richard(R)
Extends the entities subject to Freedom of Information Act provisions to include those whose primary purpose is providing direct support to a governmental agency or public entity financially or with in-kind value of $1,000,000+.
Bill History: 02-24-21 S Amendment 4 adopted

SB 196  
Sullivan, Dan(R)
Milligan, Jon(R)
In Freedom of Information Act enforcement actions, provides that the plaintiff may be awarded attorney's fees and litigation expenses if he or she, after filing suit, has obtained a significant or material portion of the requested public information.
Bill History: 04-06-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 572)

SB 208  
Sullivan, Dan(R)
Bentley, Mary(R)
Redefines a 'meeting' for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act as a gathering of two or more persons in which any matter relating to a public entity is discussed in person, by telephone, electronically or by other means of communication
Bill History: 04-21-21 S Withdrawn from further consideration

SB 299  
English, Jane(R)
Amends provisions relating to the disclosure of confidential Division of Workforce Services records, adding informed consent disclosures to a third party. Exempts the information from the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
Bill History: 04-12-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 649)

SB 346  
Rapert, Jason(R)
Beck, Rick(R)
Revises provisions for counties and sheriff's offices' use of audiovisual media in criminal investigations and the maintenance of those criminal investigation records. Allows public entities to charge for fulfilling FOIA requests for audio/visual media.
Bill History: 04-20-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 778)

SB 355  
Teague, Larry(D)
Requires the Office of the Lottery, upon the request of a person winning more than $500,000, to keep that person's identity confidential for three years; such information is deemed exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.
Bill History: 04-21-21 S Enrolled in the Senate - Sent to Governor

SB 488  
Hammer, Kim(R)
Lowery, Mark(R)
Creates an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act for voted ballots for copying purposes until 30 days after the certification of an election by a county; the exemption does not apply to poll watchers as long as secrecy is maintained.
Bill History: 04-15-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 727)

SB 535  
Davis, Breanne(R)
Ray, David(R)
Prohibits state agencies from compelling persons or nonprofit entities to divulge personal or membership-related information; prohibits state agencies from releasing or publicly disclosing personal information in their possession.
Bill History: 04-22-21 S Reported from committee - Do pass S-State Agencies

SB 558  
Garner, Trent(R)
Levies a tax on social media platform advertising revenue, equal to seven percent of gross revenue for any platform with at least $500,000 in Arkansas-based revenue, plus $1.00 for each Arkansas account holder each year.
Bill History: 04-19-21 S Referred to interim committee - Joint Energy

SB 567  
Bledsoe, Cecile(R)
McCollum, Austin(R)
Makes coroner investigative records subject to release if they are reflected in the coroner's final report and certain information has been redacted.
Bill History: 04-05-21 S Amendment 2 adopted

SB 610  
Flippo, Scott(R)M
cCollum, Austin(R)

Requires specific statements in any required newspaper publication made by a county or municipality; statement must include which public entity paid for the required publication and the amount paid.
Bill History: 04-22-21 H Passed (Vote: Y: 85/N: 2)

SB 665  
Ballinger, Bob(R)
Gonzales, Justin(R)
Places limitations on the enforcement of covenant not to compete agreements and narrows the definition of the protectable business interest of the employer.
Bill History: 04-19-21 S Removed from committee agenda S-Insurance and Commerce

COSL ANNOUNCES POST-AUCTION SALES MOVING ONLINE
(Little Rock) – A big, welcome change is coming for many Arkansas property investors: the process is moving online.

Commissioner of State Lands Tommy Land announced that his office will begin offering certain parcels for online auction.

“These are properties that were offered at auction but did not sell,” Land said. “The post-auction sales list has always been posted on our website, but those properties could only be purchased by mail. We’re moving that process online.”

The COSL office will still hold live, in-person auctions for newly-available properties. The online sales are only for the properties listed on the post-auction sales list at www.cosl.org/postauction.aspx.

The online auction will go live July 1. Bidding on any parcel begins when the first offer is made, and the bidding period for that parcel remains open for 30 days from that date.  At the end of the 30 days, the winning bidder will be notified.

“The owner still has 10 business days to redeem the property after bidding ends,” Land said. “At the end of that time, if the owner has not paid the delinquent amount, we will issue the limited warranty deed to the new buyer.”

In the past, the COSL office has mailed forms to interested buyers, so they could submit an offer to purchase the post-auction properties. To accommodate the transition to online-only sales, the office will not mail those forms after April 30.

“That will give us time to conclude all pending offers before we begin the online auctions on July 1,” Land said.

He said his office is posting informational videos on its social media and website to demonstrate researching a property and how to bid in the online auctions.

“It’s a simple process, but it’s important that people do some research and understand what they’re bidding on,” Land said. “We’re offering free tutorial videos to help them learn more about this process.”

Post-auction sales are a big part of the COSL’s business. In 2020, when the office couldn’t hold public auctions due to the COVID pandemic, “we sold more than 5,400 parcels that had failed to sell at previous years’ auctions,” he said. In 2019, the last year of auctions, post-auction sales outnumbered auction sales by almost 3-to-1.

“By far, most parcels that are certified to us for delinquent taxes are redeemed by their owners,” Land said. “But for those that are not redeemed, the auction and post-auction sales process gets them back into active tax status, which benefits everyone. We’re excited about the new online auctions, and I’m looking forward to more people getting involved.”

 

BOOZMAN SHARES SERVICE MEMORIES OF SALINE COUNTY VETERAN OF AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ WARS
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of former Army Ranger Damon Helton, a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.

 Helton grew up in Little Rock. He was the youngest of four kids and had a typical childhood, but his family’s commitment to service was present throughout his early years. Helton fondly remembers the close-knit community the military gave his father and is proud to have continued his family’s service. 

 “From the Civil War on, we’ve always served our country,” he said of his family’s history.

 Helton graduated from J.A. Fair High School in Little Rock and briefly attended the University of Arkansas-Little Rock. After he decided college was not for him, he joined the military instead of returning home.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army on February 22, 2001 and, to the surprise of many, had an Army Ranger contract.

“I had a Ranger contract, so special operations. Dad loved it,” he said. “I can remember the rest of my family and all my friends, the look on their face of ‘you did what?’”

He trained at Fort Benning, Georgia and Fort Lewis, Washington. After a few months of service, Damon and his brothers-in-arms watched the attacks on September 11, 2001 unfold on live television.

 “I remember just getting pissed off,” Helton said. “We were all looking at each other like…we’re going to war.” 

 Helton deployed to Afghanistan with the 75th Ranger Regiment in early February 2002. He recalls being eager to go on missions and reacting to the intelligence on the ground.

When he returned home from his first deployment, Helton received a warm welcome home from family, friends and even strangers. That same night, he met his future wife, Jana.

“Honestly, you know, people say the ‘love at first sight’ thing, it’s real,” he said.

 Helton deployed to Iraq as a part of the initial Iraqi invasion in 2003. He recalled being more anxious before this deployment due to the potential of facing a more formalized fighting force like the Republican Guard, and the concern of confronting biological weapons.

During his four years of military service Helton deployed five times. He recalls the discipline and effectiveness of the Army Rangers and the positive influence his military training has provided in his civilian life.   

“My work ethic comes from my military service,” he said. “In my mind, to this day, I still represent the Ranger Regiment in everything I do and I live the Ranger creed. That’s what’s carried me this far. That’s what’s helped me be successful.

”He discovered a passion for agriculture, which allowed him to mentally and emotionally recover from the side-effects of war. Helton is a member of the Farmer Veteran Coalition of Arkansas. With his farm and various business ventures, he is very active in the veteran agriculture community, but no matter how busy he is, he always has time to help a fellow veteran.

Helton and his family now call Benton home. He is quick to share the role his wife, Jana, played and continues to play in his life. “Every great decision I’ve made and step forward in my life, Jana has been right there,” he said. She’s “the reason I’ve made it.”

“Damon Helton’s service in the U.S. Army, as well as his continued work on behalf of veterans, is an inspirational story of unyielding patriotism. Being an Army Ranger requires, above all, the fortitude to fight and complete the mission, and Damon has displayed this commitment time and time again. I am pleased to be able to collect and preserve his stories,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Helton’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.

April 23, 2021

LOCAL HEALTH UNITS STATEWIDE TO OFFER COVID-19 VACCINE
Little Rock, Ark.— Beginning next week, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) will begin offering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Local Health Units across the state.

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is available to anyone age 18 or older. The vaccine is given in two doses, one month apart. People will be scheduled for an appointment to return for the second dose when they receive the first dose.

Anyone interested in scheduling an appointment may call the health unit closest to them or the statewide vaccine call-line at 1-800-985-6030. After-hours appointments may be available on Tuesdays. Health units are in every county in the state. 

There is no out-of-pocket expense for the vaccine. People should bring their insurance cards to the health unit. If they do not have insurance, the vaccine will still be available at no charge.

The COVID-19 vaccines have undergone rigorous reviews that have proven them to be both safe and effective. The COVID-19 vaccine protects not only the person receiving the vaccine but the person’s family, friends, and community from getting COVID-19. If a person does get COVID-19, it will help prevent them from getting a severe case that could lead to hospitalization or even death. You can learn more about the vaccine and the ADH vaccination plan at healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/covid-19-vaccination-plan.

For more information, including health unit locations, phone numbers and services, visit healthy.arkansas.gov.
 

ARKANSAS PARTICIPATES IN NATIONAL WORK ZONE AWARENESS WEEK
LITTLE ROCK (4-23) – The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) is participating in 2021 National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW), April 26-30. This week is a national safety campaign observed each spring, the traditional start of construction season, to encourage safe driving through highway work zones. This year’s national theme is: “Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives.”

Preliminary data for 2020 crashes in work zones show that most crashes in work zones are rear-ending another driver (46%). ARDOT asks everyone to remember that construction zones can be dangerous for those in vehicles but also for those personnel building improvements for our highways; let 2021 be a year where we see fewer crashes in work zones than we did the year before.

As part of the NWZAW campaign bridges and buildings will be lit with orange lights, including Junction Bridge Pedestrian Walkway, Main Street Bridge, Clinton Presidential Park Bridge, Big Dam Bridge, Two Rivers Park Bridge, Union Plaza Building, and Simmons Bank Building in Little Rock’s River Market District. The Arkansas Heart Hospital in Saline County is also joining the orange this year!

Work Zones are constructed to enhance the safety of both drivers and workers while highways are improved. When traffic laws are not followed in work zones there is an increase in crashes, injuries, and fatalities. ARDOT and partners (Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, Pulaski County Road and Bridge, Union Plaza Building, Arkansas Heart Hospital, and Simmons Bank) hope to use the National Work Zone Awareness Week to bring attention to the life-saving importance of road user and worker safety in and around work zones.

National Work Zone Awareness Week was formed by the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (ASHTO), and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

 

HOT SPRINGS COUPLE SENTENCED TO 28 YEARS COMBINED IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR DRUG TRAFFICKING AND FIREARMS POSSESSION
Hot Springs, Arkansas – David Clay Fowlkes, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced that Steven Mark Zuber, age 57, of Hot Springs, Arkansas, was sentenced on April 20, 2021 to 216 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine and one count of Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime and Tammy Ronette Lent, age 54, of Hot Springs, Arkansas, was sentenced today to 120 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Distribution of Methamphetamine. The Honorable Chief Judge Susan O. Hickey presided over the sentencing hearings in the United States District Court in Hot Springs.

In August of 2018, investigators with the 18th Judicial Drug Task Force and agents with Homeland Security Investigations Little Rock launched an investigation into Zuber’s drug trafficking in the Western District of Arkansas. Over the course of the investigation, investigators and agents were able to conduct several controlled purchases of methamphetamine from Zuber and Lent. During the arrest of Zuber and Lent, a search of their residence was conducted by investigators and agents.  The search resulted in locating three firearms, methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and approximately $14,161.00.

Zuber and Lent were indicted by a federal grand jury in Dec. of 2018 and entered guilty pleas in Nov. of 2020.

This case was investigated by the 18th Judicial Drug Task Force and Homeland Security Investigations Little Rock. Assistant United States Attorney David Harris prosecuted the case for the Western District of Arkansas.

This case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.


MEMBERS OF ARKANSAS DELEGATION ANNOUNCE USDA RURAL DEVELOPMENT GRANTS FOR LOCAL FARMS AND SMALL BUSINESSES
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Bruce Westerman and Steve Womack—announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded over $90,000 in federal grants to Arkansas-based companies as part of the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The funding aims to help farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses develop renewable energy systems and improve energy efficiency at their operations.

The grants come on Earth Day, an annual event since 1970 now observed globally that highlights the importance of protecting and conserving the environment.

“As Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I am committed to helping grow and strengthen the economy in rural Arkansas. These grants are an example of how USDA partners with businesses in underserved areas to help them invest in their operations while also accomplishing the goal of increasing energy efficiency. I applaud the department and these Arkansas job creators for working together to enhance their outlooks and do their part to protect the environment,” Senator Boozman said.

“I’m pleased to see the Department of Agriculture investing in communities in Arkansas to help improve renewable energy technology. These partnerships will enhance projects already in place and provide an opportunity for Arkansans in rural areas to support renewable energy operations without costing jobs,” said Senator Cotton.

“Agriculture is Arkansas’ top industry and a way of life for so many. Our agriculture producers are active environmentalists because they understand healthy ground will enable them to continue feeding and clothing the world,” Congressman Crawford said. “These important USDA grants will help them further build upon their sustainable practices and ensure a healthy environment for generations to come.” 

“As we celebrate the 51st anniversary of Earth Day, I’m proud to join my colleagues in announcing the over $90,000 in grants to Arkansas’s businesses to improve energy efficiency at their companies. Through grants like these and technological innovation, we can build a cleaner energy future,” Congressman Hill said.

“I applaud USDA for joining with Arkansas businesses to develop renewable energy systems and improve energy efficiency. As Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, I understand how investments into rural businesses such as these will only benefit the national economy and contribute to a cleaner environment. I look forward to continued advancement in energy efficiency in Arkansas and around the country,” Congressman Westerman said.

Congressman Womack said, “These grants will help businesses and farmers in the Third District and throughout Arkansas. Modernizing these energy systems will support economic development, efficiency, and sustainability for the future. I thank the USDA for these strategic investments and their focus on driving growth and opportunity in Berryville and other rural communities.”

The following projects were awarded REAP funds:

Cox Pirani Farms (Osceola)

$15,786 to purchase and install a new grain drying system at this row crop farming operation in Mississippi County.

Black River Health Club (Pocahontas)

$20,000 to purchase and install a 41.3 kW rooftop solar array at this locally-owned health and wellness gym in Randolph County.

Sunset Lodge (Little Rock)

$20,000 to purchase and install a 44.6 kW rooftop solar array for the locally-owned and operated event center in rural Pulaski County.

Crow Group (Morrilton)

$12,255 to purchase and install a 19.4 kW rooftop solar array at the print shop of a local construction management and general contracting company owned by the Crow Group Inc. in Conway County.

Kerusso Activewear Inc. (Berryville)

$3,877 to purchase LED lighting and attic insulation to improve energy efficiency at its commercial manufacturing facility in Carroll County, which specializes in screen-printing textiles, T-shirts and sweatshirts.

Holt Builders Supply Inc. (Fordyce)

$19,573 to install a 36.21 kW solar array on the rooftop of this local builders supply business in Dallas County.


BOOZMAN APPLAUDS BIPARTISAN EFFORTS LEADING TO COMMITTEE PASSAGE OF GROWING CLIMATE SOLUTIONS ACT
WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, applauded the bipartisan efforts that led to the Committee passage of the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021 (S.1251).

The bill, introduced by Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) and Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), aims to break down barriers for farmers, ranchers and foresters interested in participating in voluntary greenhouse gas credit markets. Boozman worked closely with Braun and Stabenow to strengthen portions of the bill to benefit farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners and to garner increased support prior to its introduction. As a result, the bill garnered the support of over 40 cosponsors in advance of Committee consideration.

“The version of the Growing Climate Solutions Act that we overwhelmingly passed out of Committee demonstrates what can be accomplished if we take a bipartisan approach to legislating. By working together on the front end, we strengthened the bill’s appeal to reach a broader base of members from both sides of the aisle, as well as a wide-range of stakeholders from across the agriculture community,” Boozman said. “I offer my sincere gratitude to Senator Braun and Chairwoman Stabenow for their willingness to partner with me to make important improvements to the bill. This collaboration is a continuation of the long standing tradition that is expected of the Senate agriculture committee to develop practical, bipartisan policy.”

Boozman worked with the bill’s sponsors to include changes that ensure the Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2021 will not open the farm bill or threaten funding from its programs; require that a majority of the program’s advisory council be made up of farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners; and prevent the disclosure by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) of farmer-specific or confidential business information under the program.

“American agriculture has continually evolved and  reduced its environmental footprint. Many farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners are eager to learn about opportunities to tap into emerging voluntary markets that will compensate them for these efforts moving forward. As a result of our collaboration, the Growing Climate Solutions Act will direct USDA to develop resources to assist interested farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners in navigating some of the challenges preventing them from pursuing opportunities in voluntary greenhouse gas credit markets. Additionally, our bipartisan efforts will ensure that farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners have the strongest representation on the council and that their confidential information will be protected from disclosure under the program,” Boozman said.

April 22, 2021

THE HUB TO OFFER SUMMER READING PROGRAM
This summer, The Hub is teaming up with several local churches in hopes to reach children in the community through a reading program. Reading is such an important part of learning and our children have fallen behind in learning during this pandemic.

Our goal is to ask churches to set up tents in neighborhoods around their church and read to children.  This can be done daily, weekly or however the church would like to set it up.  This would be for the month of June, July and first two weeks in August.  We recommend reading and then feeding.  This can be in the form of snacks, sandwiches, canned goods to take home, or any ideas your church may come up with.

It would be helpful if the children had their own books to follow along while you read, then be able to take books home for their own library.  We understand this can be expensive so that will be left up to the individual churches.  We suggest occasionally having guest readers, such as police, fireman, etc.  

The idea is to have places that children can walk to in their neighborhood to hear books read.  If your church is not in a neighborhood, maybe you can pick one around town that does not have a church near.  If your church is interested, please let us know.  We will help you spread the word on social media and also keep a list of the neighborhoods that are being accessed.

Bishop Thompson (who has implemented these types of programs for many years) will have a workshop for anyone that would like more information or help with ideas.  Workshop is set for Saturday, April 24 at 10:00 a.m. at Zion Hill Baptist Church on Maul Road.  This workshop will last approximately one hour.  We will have more resources available at this meeting and more information concerning free books and/or purchasing books.  If your church would like to be involved, call 231-1111 or attend the April 24 meeting.
 

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: SCAMMERS ARE PHISHING FOR PERSONAL INFORMATION WITH TEXT MESSAGE CLICK BAIT
LITTLE ROCK – It is always exciting to get the text message alert that your package has arrived – but what if you didn’t order anything? The latest trend from pesky scam artists comes as a text message telling Arkansans a package is being delivered to their home and they must click on the link in the message. In reality, there is no package, the text does not come from a legitimate delivery company, and the scammer is just trying to hack into a user’s phone and steal personal information.

“Scam artists are using an old email scam to steal from Arkansans right from their phones,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “If you receive a phony text message that you did not sign up for, do not click on anything in the message and delete the message immediately.”

Attorney General Rutledge has provided these tips for Arkansans who have experienced phishing text message scams:

Do not reply to unsolicited text messages and do not click on the links in the message. If you are an AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon or Sprint subscriber, you can report spam texts to your carrier by copying the original message and forwarding it to the number 7726 (SPAM), free of charge.

If you find unauthorized charges on your cell phone bill, report those to your cell phone provider and ask that the charges be removed.

Check with your wireless carrier to see if it has options available to reduce text message spam, such as blocking all text messages that originate from a computer or the internet. Texts sent by an email address, as opposed to direct-dialed texts, are those most likely to be scams.

Apple iPhones and Google Android users have provided instructions for customers to block specific numbers.

Protect your phone by setting up software to update automatically. The software updates can give you critical protection against security risks.

Use a multi-factor authentication process to protect your accounts which offers extra security by requiring two or more login credentials to log in to an account on your phone. This could be a passcode, fingerprint, or your face.

Backing up your data is the most secure way to protect your information. Make a copy of your files, photos and other important data on your phone and make sure it is connected to a cloud storage device or external hard drive, not connected to your home network.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov.
 

USACE VICKSBURG, MEMPHIS DISTRICTS TO HOST VIRTUAL SMALL BUSINESS INDUSTRY DAY
VICKSBURG, Miss. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Vicksburg District and Memphis District will host their combined Virtual Small Business Industry Day Thursday, April 29, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The event is open to large and small businesses interested in opportunities with USACE. Attendees will hear from representatives of both districts as well as the USACE St. Louis District, the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). The event will include sessions on procurement opportunities, one-on-one sessions with government representatives, and networking opportunities. USACE Vicksburg District Commander Col. Robert Hilliard and USACE Memphis District Commander Col. Zachary Miller will provide opening remarks.

“We’re excited to partner with the Memphis District to host this virtual industry day,” said Hilliard. “Our connection and collaboration with our industry partners are crucial to the successful execution of our mission, and we look forward to continuing to grow and sustain these important relationships.”

Attendees can register for the event at the following link: https://bit.ly/31pRAYL. Attendees must provide their business’ capability statement, socioeconomic categories, primary NAICS codes, and a response to the optional one-on-one session. The deadline to register is April 23. Attendees will receive the event’s access information the week of the event.

For assistance or more information, contact Kimberly Daniel Ray at kimberly.s.danielray@usace.army.mil or 901-544-3358 or Demetric Erwin at Demetric.erwin@usace.army.mil or 601-631-5951.

USACE continues to fully support the federal government’s policy to provide maximum practicable opportunities in its acquisitions to Small, Small Disadvantaged, 8(a), Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned, Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone), and Women-Owned small businesses.

The USACE Vicksburg District is engineering solutions to the nation’s toughest challenges. The Vicksburg District encompasses a 68,000-square-mile area across portions of Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana that holds seven major river basins and incorporates approximately 460 miles of mainline Mississippi River levees. The Vicksburg District is engaged in hundreds of projects and employs approximately 1,100 personnel.

 

COTTON, COLLEAGUES INTRODUCE BILL TO RESTRICT CHINESE STEM GRADUATE STUDENT VISAS
Washington, D.C. – Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), and Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) introduced the SECURE CAMPUS Act, legislation that would secure American research from Chinese Communist Party espionage and influence. Bill text may be found here.

The bill would prohibit Chinese nationals from receiving visas to the United States for graduate or post-graduate studies in STEM fields and would ban participants in China’s foreign talent recruitment programs and Chinese nationals from taking part in federally-funded STEM research, along with other much-needed reforms.

Congressman David Kustoff (R-Tennessee) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Allowing China unfettered access to American research institutions is akin to granting Soviet scientists access to our critical laboratories during the Cold War. We shouldn’t allow the Chinese Communist Part to exploit the openness of American research institutions any longer. The SECURE CAMPUS Act will help stop Chinese nationals from stealing U.S. technology, which the CCP uses against our own troops and businesses,” said Cotton.

“Beijing is engaged in a complex influence operation against the United States. The Chinese Communist Party often sends its members to elite American universities where they gain highly sensitive skillsets, then return to China and use this knowledge to help the Chinese government. Our legislation will help secure American innovation by curtailing Beijing’s influence operations and preventing the CCP from utilizing the U.S. education system against us,” said Blackburn.

“China steals our intellectual property, seeks to destabilize our economy, and threatens our national security. The Chinese Communist Party is no friend of the American people. It makes sense to protect our tax-payer funded STEM research grants and secure our research enterprise. If the Biden Administration is serious about countering threats of Chinese aggression, this legislation is absolutely necessary,” said Tuberville.

“The SECURE CAMPUS Act will protect our national security from the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to exploit and steal our cutting-edge research and technology from inside our American universities. It is time we put an end to China’s abuse and ensure our intellectual property remains secured. I am proud to re-introduce this legislation with Senator Cotton," said Kustoff.

Background:
Bars Chinese nationals from receiving student or research visas to the United States for graduate or post-graduate studies in STEM fields.
U.S. institutions of higher education must annually certify their compliance with these STEM study restrictions in order to be approved for participation in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).
Prohibits Chinese nationals and participants in China’s foreign talent recruitment programs from receiving federal R&D grants in STEM fields or from being employed to carry out activities funded by those grants.
Mandates that participants in China’s foreign talent recruitment programs register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Expands the definition of “economic espionage” under U.S. Code (18 USC 1839) to more accurately reflect the range of institutions that the CCP uses to conduct economic espionage against the United States.
Mandates that the Secretary of State, in consultation with others, develop and publish a list of China’s foreign talent recruitment programs within 180 days.

 

BOOZMAN URGES PRESIDENT TO FOLLOW SENATE COMMITTEE’S EXAMPLE IN DEVELOPING INFRASTRUCTURE POLICY
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) called on President Joe Biden to follow the successful example of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee in crafting and passing infrastructure legislation through bipartisanship.

“My advice to President Biden is simple –– the path forward to achieve long-term infrastructure improvement is through bipartisanship,” Boozman said during a speech on the Senate floor. “The Senate EPW Committee has done the work. We have produced countless pieces of bipartisan infrastructure-related legislation, which can and should be the basis for any infrastructure proposal.”
Boozman highlighted the committee’s recent unanimous approval of the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, legislation to rebuild our nation’s water systems, as an example of bipartisanship.

“A bipartisan infrastructure bill is a way to demonstrate the president’s willingness to work across the aisle,” Boozman said.

Boozman has rejected the administration’s so-called “infrastructure” proposal because it lacks emphasis on infrastructure, advances partisan priorities and raises taxes.

The senator has a proven record of support for investing in upgrades for our drinking and wastewater systems, ports and waterways, energy grid and rural broadband deployment in addition to repairing and modernizing traditional infrastructure like roads, railways and runways.

Boozman authored a provision in America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 to update our water and wastewater infrastructure in an innovative way that makes improvements affordable for rural communities. He also consistently votes for federal funding to support programs that invest in infrastructure projects.

TOM COTTON’S STATEMENT ON RUSSIAN THREATS TO UKRAINE
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) released the following statement regarding Vladimir Putin’s recent comments warning the West not to “cross a red line” with Russia:

“As Russia encircles Ukraine on land and at sea, Vladimir Putin must understand that military aggression will be met with severe consequences. And it’s Joe Biden’s job to make Putin understand that—immediately.”

April 21, 2021

BOIL ORDER FOR FRENCHPORT LIFTED
The Boil Order for the Frenchport Water Association has been lifted!

COSL ANNOUNCES POST-AUCTION SALES MOVING ONLINE
(Little Rock) – A big, welcome change is coming for many Arkansas property investors: the process is moving online.

Commissioner of State Lands Tommy Land announced that his office will begin offering certain parcels for online auction.

“These are properties that were offered at auction but did not sell,” Land said. “The post-auction sales list has always been posted on our website, but those properties could only be purchased by mail. We’re moving that process online.”

The COSL office will still hold live, in-person auctions for newly-available properties. The online sales are only for the properties listed on the post-auction sales list at www.cosl.org/postauction.aspx.

The online auction will go live July 1. Bidding on any parcel begins when the first offer is made, and the bidding period for that parcel remains open for 30 days from that date.  At the end of the 30 days, the winning bidder will be notified.

“The owner still has 10 business days to redeem the property after bidding ends,” Land said. “At the end of that time, if the owner has not paid the delinquent amount, we will issue the limited warranty deed to the new buyer.”

In the past, the COSL office has mailed forms to interested buyers, so they could submit an offer to purchase the post-auction properties. To accommodate the transition to online-only sales, the office will not mail those forms after April 30.

“That will give us time to conclude all pending offers before we begin the online auctions on July 1,” Land said.

He said his office is posting informational videos on its social media and website to demonstrate researching a property and how to bid in the online auctions.

“It’s a simple process, but it’s important that people do some research and understand what they’re bidding on,” Land said. “We’re offering free tutorial videos to help them learn more about this process.”

Post-auction sales are a big part of the COSL’s business. In 2020, when the office couldn’t hold public auctions due to the COVID pandemic, “we sold more than 5,400 parcels that had failed to sell at previous years’ auctions,” he said. In 2019, the last year of auctions, post-auction sales outnumbered auction sales by almost 3-to-1.

“By far, most parcels that are certified to us for delinquent taxes are redeemed by their owners,” Land said. “But for those that are not redeemed, the auction and post-auction sales process gets them back into active tax status, which benefits everyone. We’re excited about the new online auctions, and I’m looking forward to more people getting involved.”

CAMDEN KIWANIS CLUB TO MEET
The Camden Kiwanis Club will meet this Thursday, April 22nd, at Catherine's Bistro at 12:00 PM. The program will be presented by Cecilia Davoren from Artesana Soaps.

COTTON, COLLEAGUES INTRODUCE BILL TO REPORT ILLEGAL ALIEN ATTEMPTS TO PURCHASE FIREARMS
Washington, D.C. — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), and Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) introduced the Illegal Alien NICS Alert Act. The bill would require the National Instant Criminal Background Check system (NICS) to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and relevant local law enforcement when a firearm transferee is illegally present in the United States.

“If someone in the country illegally tries to get a gun, immigration officials and the local authorities need to know. Our bill ensures that illegal aliens who attempt to purchase firearms are reported to the proper authorities,” said Cotton.

“The National Instant Criminal Background Check system is an important tool to ensure firearms stay out of the wrong hands, which is why I co-introduced the Fix NICS Act last Congress,” said Tillis. “It is already against the law for an illegal immigrant to purchase a firearm, and this legislation would notify the appropriate authorities when an illegal immigrant tries to break the law.”

“Illegal aliens have no right to be in this country let alone purchase a firearm here. Of course law enforcement should be notified when an illegal alien attempts to obtain a gun,” said Blackburn.

“Our local law enforcement and immigration officials should have the tools to know if folks that are in our country illegally attempt to purchase firearms unlawfully. This bill will help officials do their job and keep our communities safe,” said Ernst.  

“Enforcing our border laws is a crucial priority of any government. Equally important is protecting law-abiding Americans from those who break the law to enter the country, and then illegally seek firearms to commit crimes,” said Hawley.

Background:
Federal law already prohibits any persons from possessing or receiving a firearm if they are unlawfully in the United States.

NICS is not, however, currently required to notify immigration authorities if an applicant is in the country illegally.

Since November 30, 1998, NICS has issued denials for 36,189 attempted firearm purchases by illegal aliens.

Over the 15-month period from January 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021 NICS issued denials for 7,373 attempted purchases by illegal aliens.


COTTON, BOOZMAN SUPPORT LEGISLATION TO PROTECT ARKANSAS HOSPITALS PARTICIPATING IN DRUG DISCOUNT PROGRAM
Washington, D.C. — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and John Boozman (R-Arkansas) are supporting legislation to help Arkansas hospitals participate in the 340B drug discount program.

The 340B drug pricing program gives more than 40 Arkansas medical facilities access to lower prescription drug prices. But the coronavirus has caused many facilities to fall below the inpatient threshold required to remain in the program. Many hospitals were forced to reduce inpatient hospital admissions of low-income Medicare and Medicaid patients, a critical metric in determining eligibility for the 340B program.

The legislation the senators are supporting, S.773 would ensure that any previously eligible hospital will be deemed eligible for any cost reporting period during which the public health emergency occurred.

“The 340B program allows Arkansas hospitals to stretch resources to provide care for those in underserved areas. This bill will ensure rural hospitals can continue offering essential services and treatments to those most vulnerable, even though the pandemic has affected admission rates,” said Cotton.

“One of the top concerns I’ve heard from the Arkansas medical community is the need to protect the 340B drug pricing program. Extending eligibility to this lifeline is a commonsense step to ensure our hospitals and health care providers have the resources they need to care for low-income patients,” said Boozman.

COTTON, ERNST INTRODUCE BILL TO PROTECT AMERICAN AGRICULTURE FROM CHINESE ESPIONAGE
Washington, D.C. — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) introduced the Agriculture Intelligence Measures (AIM) Act, legislation to establish an Office of Intelligence within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This office would leverage the assets of the intelligence community to better protect U.S. agriculture from foreign threats posed by countries like China.

“The Chinese Communist Party wants to undermine vital American industries through sabotage and intellectual property theft—U.S. agriculture is no exception. Our bill will help safeguard the food and technology that our country depends on for its prosperity and freedom,” said Cotton.

“For too long, countries like China have taken advantage of Iowa farmers—stealing intellectual property and engaging in other nefarious activities. This bill will help protect our agriculture community in Iowa, and across the country, so they can continue their hard work of feeding and fueling the world,” said Ernst.  

Background:
In 2014, Chinese researchers were accused of stealing patented corn and later sentenced  to prison.
In 2018, a Chinese national was sentenced to 121 months in federal prison for attempting to steal rice research for China.
In 2019, a Chinese national who worked at Monsanto was indicted on economic espionage charges.

April 20, 2021

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON’S WEEKLY COVID UPDATE – APRIL 20, 2021
Public officials in Arkansas continue to express frustration that demand for COVID-19 vaccines in the state is not matching supply.

During a brief COVID-19 Taskforce press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state is lagging behind the national average in terms of vaccination rates. He said Arkansans remain hesitant of the vaccine but stressed the need to overcome those concerns to help ensure an end to the pandemic. He added the state is behind on its vaccination schedule which aimed to have 50 percent of the state fully vaccinated by the end of April.

Currently, 2.3 million COVID-19 vaccines have been received by the state. Of those, nearly 1.6 million - or around 68 percent - have been given. The state is reporting around 638,000 Arkansans are now fully immunized. 

Arkansas Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero briefly discussed the agency's focus on studying the spread of COVID-19 variants in Arkansas. In particular, he said the UK variant has seen a 70 percent increase in Arkansas over the past week. 

 

THE HUB AND LOCAL CHURCHES TEAM UP TO OFFER SUMMER READING PROGRAM
This summer, The Hub is teaming up with several local churches in hopes to reach children in the community through a reading program. Reading is such an important part of learning and our children have fallen behind in learning during this pandemic.

Our goal is to ask churches to set up tents in neighborhoods around their church and read to children.  This can be done daily, weekly or however the church would like to set it up.  This would be for the month of June, July and first two weeks in August.  We recommend reading and then feeding.  This can be in the form of snacks, sandwiches, canned goods to take home, or any ideas your church may come up with.

It would be helpful if the children had their own books to follow along while you read, then be able to take books home for their own library.  We understand this can be expensive so that will be left up to the individual churches.  We suggest occasionally having guest readers, such as police, fireman, etc.  

The idea is to have places that children can walk to in their neighborhood to hear books read.  If your church is not in a neighborhood, maybe you can pick one around town that does not have a church near.  If your church is interested, please let us know.  We will help you spread the word on social media and also keep a list of the neighborhoods that are being accessed.

Bishop Thompson (who has implemented these types of programs for many years) will have a workshop for anyone that would like more information or help with ideas.  Workshop is set for Saturday, April 24 at 10:00 a.m. at Zion Hill Baptist Church on Maul Road.  This workshop will last approximately one hour.  We will have more resources available at this meeting and more information concerning free books and/or purchasing books.  If your church would like to be involved, call 231-1111 or attend the April 24 meeting.

 

DEA TO HOLD 20TH NATIONAL PRESCRIPTION DRUG TAKE BACK DAY
Opportunity to clean out and secure home medicine cabinets
NEW ORLEANS – With opioid overdose deaths increasing during the pandemic, the 2020 Take Back Day brought in a record-high amount of expired, unused prescription medications, with the public turning in close to 500 tons of unwanted drugs. Over the 10-year span of Take Back Day, DEA has brought in more than 6,800 tons of prescription drugs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. has seen an increase in overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 87,200 Americans dying as a result of a drug overdose in a one-year period (Sept. 1, 2019 to Sept. 1, 2020), the most ever recorded in a 12-month period. The increase in drug overdose deaths appeared to begin prior to the COVID-19 health emergency, accelerating significantly during the first months of the pandemic.
“The rate of prescription drug abuse in the United States is alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs, said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brad Byerley.  “Unfortunately, these prescription drugs are most often obtained from friends and family, who leave them in home medicine cabinets.  Helping people dispose of potentially harmful prescription drugs is just one way DEA is working to reduce the addiction rates and overdose deaths plaguing this country.  Please do your part to keep these drugs off the streets and help spread awareness in your community.
“It’s important to keep our own homes safe by regularly cleaning out medicine cabinets and any other areas where we store our pharmaceuticals,” said Acting Administrator D. Christopher Evans. “Bringing unused or expired medications to a local collection site for safe disposal helps protect your loved ones and the environment.
The public can drop off potentially dangerous prescription medications at collection sites which will adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines and regulations in order to maintain the safety of all participants and local law enforcement.
DEA and its partners will collect tablets, capsules, patches, and other solid forms of prescription drugs. Liquids (including intravenous solutions), syringes and other sharps, and illegal drugs will not be accepted. DEA will continue to accept vaping devices and cartridges at its drop off locations provided. Lithium batteries are removed.
Learn more about the event at www.deatakeback.com, or by calling 800-882-9539.

 

BOOZMAN BACKS LEGISLATION TO PROTECT ARKANSAS HOSPITALS PARTICIPATING IN DRUG DISCOUNT PROGRAM
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is backing legislation to provide certainty to Arkansas hospitals participating in the 340B drug discount program during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The 340B drug pricing program is providing flexibility to more than 40 Arkansas medical facilities to help lower prescription drug prices. As a result of COVID-19, many hospitals were forced to reduce inpatient hospital admissions of low-income Medicare and Medicaid patients, a critical metric in determining eligibility for the 340B program.

Though hospitals have resumed elective procedures and patients are returning to seek care, there is concern that as a result of the pandemic slowdown, some hospitals may not meet the required inpatient admission threshold to remain in the program. The legislation Boozman is supporting, S.773, would ensure that any previously eligible hospital will be deemed eligible for any cost reporting period during which the public health emergency occurred.

“One of the top concerns I’ve heard from the Arkansas medical community is the need to protect the 340B drug pricing program. Extending eligibility to this lifeline is a commonsense step to ensure our hospitals and health care providers have the resources they need to care for low-income patients,” Boozman said.

“We appreciate Senator Boozman’s support of this legislation as it protects hospital eligibility in the 340B program. Hospitals use savings from the 340B program to increase access to care for patients and to enhance available health services. For these reasons, eligibility should not be terminated due to challenges posed by the pandemic,” said Arkansas Hospital Association President and CEO Bo Ryall.

Boozman has previously advocated support for the 340B program. In a speech on the Senate floor last year, Boozman shared the concerns of rural Arkansas hospital administrators about eligibility for continued participation in the 340B program. Boozman also joined a bipartisan group of senators in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services urging the department to take enforcement action to prevent pharmaceutical companies from undermining the 340B program and protect the ability of health care facilities to continue providing medications to their patients.



WESTERMAN LEADS BIPARTISAN INTRODUCTION OF THE TRILLION TREES ACT
WASHINGTON - House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) joined Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Committee on Agriculture Ranking Member Glenn 'GT' Thompson (R-Penn.), House Committee on Appropriations Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-Texas), House Committee on Energy and Commerce Ranking Member . lithium batteries are removed. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.) and 67 other members in introducing the Trillion Trees Act of 2021.

"Despite incredible improvements in technology, trees are still the most large-scale, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly carbon sequestration devices we have. Growing more trees to pull carbon from the atmosphere, scientifically managing our forests to mitigate catastrophic wildfires, and incentivizing the use of wood products as renewable resources provides a comprehensive, practical solution to the climate issues we're facing today. I'm a licensed forester, and I've spent years studying the best way to utilize forests to improve our economy and the environment at the same time. The Trillion Trees Act accomplishes both of those goals. These are the kinds of free market driven environmental solutions that conservatism is all about, ones that incentivize economical growth without sacrificing a healthy, thriving environment. I'm proud to introduce the Trillion Trees Act again this Congress, and I'm grateful to all my colleagues who have joined the effort. Let's plant some trees!" - House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.)

"The United States has led the world in reducing emissions in the past decade. From technology to investments in infrastructure, American leadership will make it possible to reduce emissions around the world. The same is true for conservation. We can build on our success in reducing emissions by planting trees around the world and better managing our forests here at home. I am proud to cosponsor the Trillion Trees Act because it provides actionable solutions to achieve cleaner air, reduce wildfires, and reverse the effects of deforestation. This legislation gives every American and their communities the chance to be a part of the solution, and sets an example for the rest of the world." - House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)

"By ramping up active management and tree planting, healthy forests will play an important role in the climate discussion as they become even stronger carbon sinks. While we continue to bring climate solutions to the table, the Forest Service, working together with states, and private landowners, must use every tool available to promote forest health and resiliency. I thank my colleague, Ranking Member Westerman, for his leadership on this creative legislation. I look forward to working with him to advance this proposal and other natural climate solutions within the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Committee put forward this week by our Republican colleagues." - House Committee on Agriculture Ranking Member Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-Penn.)

"We owe it to generations to come to be responsible stewards of our environment—as well as our economy. The Trillion Trees Act is sensible legislation that will lower carbon in our atmosphere by planting and protecting our forests, creating American jobs along the way. Planting a trillion trees would cut roughly two-thirds of all the man-made carbon emissions that have been created since the Industrial Revolution. As a conservation-minded Texan, I’m proud to be part of this incredible bipartisan effort that encourages all Americans to responsibly grow, use, and preserve our nation’s rich natural resources." - House Committee on Appropriations Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-Texas)

"To win the future we must embrace bold ideas and result-driven climate solutions. The goal of planting a trillion trees is an ambitious one that has the ability to change the world by sequestering 205 gigatons of carbon while supporting jobs, healthy forests, and advancements in clean energy. Eastern Washington’s forests are part of the solution for delivering results for the next generation."- House Committee on Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.)

Background
The Trillion Trees Act is a bipartisan bill that will solidify the United States as a global leader of the One Trillion Trees Initiative to conserve, restore and grow 1 trillion trees worldwide. Studies show that restoring 1 trillion new trees globally would sequester 205 gigatons of carbon, an amount equivalent to two-thirds of all manmade emissions remaining in the atmosphere today.

Arkansas is one of the United States’ leading producers in timber, harvesting more than 24 million tons per year, worth an estimated $445 million to landowners. The Trillion Trees Act uses a three-pronged approach of regeneration, management and utilization to grow more wood and store more carbon globally.

 By motivating the use of wood as a renewable resource through sustainable building tax credits and incentivizing the growth of more trees on the land currently utilized, new timber markets will be created in Arkansas and the nation. 

Original cosponsors: U.S. Reps. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Jim Baird (R-Ind.), Andy Barr (R-Ky.), Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.), Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Jerry Carl (R-Ala.), Earl L. "Buddy" Carter (R-Ga.), Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), John Curtis (R-Utah), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.), Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho), Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), Jenniffer González Colón (R-Puerto Rico), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Kay Granger (R-Texas), Garret Graves (R-La.), Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.), Clay Higgins (R-La.), French Hill (R-Ark.), Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), Young Kim (R-Calif.), Bob Latta (R-Ohio), Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), Tracey Mann (R-Kansas), Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), Dan Meuser (R-Penn.), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), Blake Moore (R-Utah), Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Jay Obernolte (R-Calif.), Burgess Owens (R-Utah), Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-American Samoa), Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), David Rouzer (R-N.C.), Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), Austin Scott (R-Ga.), Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), Pete Stauber (R-Minn.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Chris Stewart (R-Utah), Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), Glenn "GT" Thompson (R-Penn.), Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.), David Valadao (R-Calif.), Randy Weber (R-Texas), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and Don Young (R-Alaska).

April 18, 2021

ARKANSAS LEGAL SERVICES PLAN TO PROVIDE SERVICES IN CAMDEN
Attorneys or law firms interested in a FREE 1-hour CLE on Criminal Record Sealing the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, on April 30th from 8:30 am to 9:30 am for an in-person presentation at the First United Methodist Church located at 121 Harrison Street in Camden. If you would like to participate, email Sarah Logan at slogan@arkansaslegalservices.org. Those interested in helping with the clinic as well can indicate that to Sarah Logan.

A reminder that the Center for Arkansas Legal Services is kicking off its Rural Justice Days, where small towns will see big impacts this summer. Legal Services will be traveling across rural Arkansas providing a one-stop-shop for civil legal needs. Lawyers will be handling simple divorces, estate planning, powers of attorney, and criminal record sealing. However, walk-ins will be welcome to discuss any civil legal needs they have, such as public benefits problems, evictions, landlord-tenant disputes, or debt collection. On April 30th, from 10 am to 3 pm, Arkansas Legal Services will be at the First United Methodist Church located at 121 Harrison Street, in Camden. The Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Clerk's Office and Pastor Beth Waldrup are cohosting this clinic. 

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all participants will be required to wear a mask to receive service and must observe social distancing procedures. While walk-ins are welcome, it is strongly encouraged that you call the Helpline at 501-376-3423 to schedule an appointment and save your spot. Persons interested in criminal record sealing MUST call the Helpline for an appointment to ensure eligibility and obtain ACIC and Sentencing Reports prior to service. For more information about the Center for Arkansas Legal Services or the services provided, please visit www.arkansaslegal.org or follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/arkansaslegal.

CAMDEN FAIRVIEW BOARD OF EDUCATION TO MEET
The Camden Fairview Board of Education will meet in regular meeting Tuesday, April 20, 2021 AT 6:30 PM at Garrison Auditorium

The Agenda is as follows:
1.  Call to order.
2.  Approval of minutes of previous meetings.
3. UNFINISHED BUSINESS
     a. None
4. NEW BUSINESS
     a. Presentation by Gary Steelman regarding end of year CFHS events.
     b. Presentation by Johnny Embry regarding afterschool and summer school programs.
     c. Presentation and recommendation by Javana McCall regarding 2021-2022 Digital Learning Plan.
     d. Presentation and recommendation regarding Special Education Statement of Intent.
     e. Presentation regarding Legislative Joint Auditing Committee report for fiscal yearending June 30, 2020.
    f. Presentation and recommendation regarding 2021-2022 Classified and Licensed Salary Schedules.
     g.  Facility Rentals
5. Superintendent's report to the Board.
6. Financial report
7. Personnel
     a. Hiring
     b. Resignations
     c. Retirement
     d. Leave of Absence

 

DESE PARTNERS WITH SCHOOLHOUSE.WORLD TO OFFER FREE TUTORING TO STUDENTS
LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Department of Education’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education is pleased to partner with Schoolhouse.world to provide free online math, Advanced Placement exam, and ACT/SAT prep tutoring for middle-school and high-school students in Arkansas. 

Schoolhouse.world is a new nonprofit started by Sal Khan, the founder of the Khan Academy, and Shishir Mehrotra, cofounder and CEO of Coda, in an effort to help students during the pandemic. Students who need support in math (pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, precalculus, calculus, statistics), AP exam prep, and ACT/SAT prep can sign up for free tutoring. 

“We are excited about this new partnership, which brings high-quality tutoring to Arkansas students at no charge,” ADE Secretary Johnny Key said. “I want to also encourage Arkansas educators, students, and community members to consider signing up to become tutors. This platform offers a great opportunity not only for learners who need additional assistance but also Arkansans who can share their knowledge and expertise with students around the world.”

The online tutoring sessions generally range in size from two-to-six attendees and can be accessed during the school year and summer. All sessions are conducted through Zoom, and to maximize security, sessions and student interactions are recorded and monitored.  

“I’ve always believed that every child should have access to a free, world-class education,” Khan said. “Khan Academy has been doing this by offering free practice, instructional videos, and teacher tools. Now with Schoolhouse.world, we’re excited to work with the state of Arkansas to supplement that with free, live tutoring to students in the state. We already have several learners and tutors from Arkansas — indeed one of our top tutors is from the state — and so we're excited to now expand this to everyone.”

Learn more at https://bit.ly/2RDLMJN.

BLOOD DRIVE AT OUACHITA COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER
The Ouachita County Medical Center will be having a Lifeshare Blood drive on April 21st from 12 to 6 PM at the Puachita County Medical located at 426 Hospital Drive in Camden. Donors will receive a T-Shirt while supplies last. Choose to save lives! Go to lifeshare.org/ give to find a blood drive nearest you.  Contact Cathy Hailey at 836-1322 for more information.

 

SAU ASBTDC RETURNING TO OPED!
For the past year, the SAU ASBTDC has served the small business community of Ouachita and Calhoun counties through virtual meetings. We are happy to announce that beginning Tuesday, April 20, a consultant will be available for in-person consultations at the OPED facility located at 570 Ben Lane in Camden, AR. We look forward to returning to the community in person!

If you would like to schedule an appointment with a business consultant, please contact our office at 870.235.5033 or sau@asbtdc.org. You may also contact Dotty Harris, OPED Building Manager at 870.836.2210 ext. 101.

*Please note that safety protocols such as masks and social distancing will be followed.
Simply put, failing to plan is planning to fail.

Join ASBTDC Business Consultant, Kristen Cribb, as she helps you answer an important question for your business – why do I need a business plan?
The SAU ASBTDC will also continue to support the small business community via phone, email, and virtual Zoom meetings. Please contact us at sau@asbtdc.org or 870.235.5033 to schedule your free and confidential virtual meeting. C0-Sponsor is Team Camden.

 

HUB CONTINUES QUARANTINE RELIEF PROGRAM
The Hub continues to help those quarantined in our community that have no way to obtain groceries or personal care items.   The Quarantine Relief Program will deliver these necessities so individuals do not have to leave their home.  Call The Hub (231-1111) if you need assistance or for more information regarding this program.

CADC ANNOUNCES CLOSING OF 2021 WINTER LIHEAP UTILITY ASSISTANCE
Benton – The Central Arkansas Development Council (CADC) announced today the 2021 Winter LIHEAP Utility Assistance Program will end April 30, 2021.

For more information relating to CADC's utility assistance program visit: https://www.cadc.com/utility-assistance

CADC is a nonprofit Community Action Agency, an equal opportunity employer and a United Way Agency.  The mission of CADC is to alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty, to help vulnerable populations achieve their potential and to build strong communities in Arkansas through community action.

FEDERAL COVID FUNDS ELIGIBILITY AMOUNTS ANNOUNCED FOR NON-PUBLIC SCHOOLS
LITTLE ROCK — The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 provides $2.75 billion for the Emergency Assistance for Non-Public Schools program, which is part of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. Under the EANS program, non-public schools could apply for services and assistance to address the impact of COVID-19 on non-public school students and teachers in the state.

Based on applications received, the Arkansas Department of Education’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education has calculated eligibility amounts for non-public schools in the state. The list is available at https://bit.ly/32luSSo. To learn more about EANS, go to https://bit.ly/2RI73C3

SAAC MAKES AUDITION CALL FOR "STEEL MAGNOLIAS"
Once again and with great excitement, SAAC brings live theatre back to the stage! Production ramps back up with the classic Southern dramedy "Steel Magnolias," written by Robert Harling. A long-time favorite with audiences, the play explores the relationships of these unique Southern women who have bonded over years of good and bad times, tears and laughter and most importantly, love. Auditions will be held on Monday, April 26 and Thursday, April 29. Come be a part of this timeless and hilarious, yet moving production!

The beloved story centers on the lives of six women in the fictional Chinquapin, Louisiana beauty shop of Truvy Jones and her eager new assistant, Annelle. Her friends and clients include the eccentric millionaire Clairee, kindly curmudgeon Ouiser, social leader M'Lynn, and her daughter Shelby. Following their stories over several years, the play is built on a framework of love and resilience.

"Steel Magnolias is a remarkable play - a wonderful combination of comedy and drama (like life itself) - that offers rich and rewarding roles for six gifted actresses," said director Tripp Phillips. "There is a wide range of roles that gives actresses of all sorts great, nuanced, and very fun parts to play. One of the joys of producing and mounting the play is to dig deep into the wonderfully rich material that playwright Robert Harling has provided. In a nice bit of symmetry, the play calls for two younger women (late teens to late 20s), two middle-aged (late 40s to late 50s) and two seniors (who need to be believable as age 70ish ladies). We are looking for strong, enthusiastic actresses to embody these six wonderful roles. It's always a pleasure and a joy to welcome new faces to the stage of the SAAC and anyone in the area who is interested in auditioning is heartily encouraged to do so!"

Audition registration will open at 6:00pm both nights with auditions beginning at 6:30pm. Callbacks will be held on Saturday, May 1. The director will schedule individual times with anyone he needs to see for callbacks.

Callbacks are not an indication of casting. Rehearsal Begins May 3 with production dates scheduled for June 17-20 & 24-27.

There are roles for 6 women. Ages range from 19 to early 70s. Everyone who can look or act the part is welcome to audition. No restrictions on ethnic or racial background.

The SAAC lobby opens a half hour before auditions. Please arrive in time to fill out an audition form and get a head shot. Bring your calendar and provide a complete list of rehearsal conflicts. All auditioners will be asked to read a monologue from the show. The director has selected two options for each character. Select one of the monologues and note that you may be asked to read the second one as well. Monologues do not need to be memorized, but auditioners are welcome to do so. The director will provide scene readings at auditions and callbacks. No advance preparations are necessary. Auditioners are encouraged to read the script before auditions. Copies are available for a 48 hour check out at the SAAC office.

For more information on the auditions for "Steel Magnolias", please call the SAAC office at 870-862-5474 or visit the website at www.saac-arts.org. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas.

April 16, 2021


UAMS TO PROVIDE COVID-19 VACCINATIONS APRIL 22 IN CAMDEN
LITTLE ROCK — A University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Mobile COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., April 22 at Zion Hill Christian Academy Building, 117 Maul Road, in Camden.

The clinic is available to pre-registered patients only. No onsite registration will be allowed. There is no out-of-pocket cost to the patient. UAMS will administer the first dose of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine.

As of March 31, all Arkansans age 16 and older are eligible for vaccinations; the Pfizer vaccine is the only one approved for use in teens as young as 16. A parent or guardian must come to the vaccine appointment with patients under 18.

To pre-register online, go to: vaccinesignup.uams.edu/mobileclinic.

The vaccinations will be conducted by UAMS in cooperation with the Zion Hill Christian Academy, Planting the Seed Foundation, City of Camden, Arkansas Department of Veteran Affairs, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the Vaccinate the Natural State campaign and Bank of America Foundation.

To request a mobile vaccination clinic in an Arkansas city or town, please fill out a request form here: uamshealth.com/population-health-mobile-unit-visit-request/

Even if you don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms, wash your hands regularly and practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet away from other people not in your household, and wear a mask in public. An online screening tool is available at uamshealth.com/healthnow. Phone screening is available through the UAMS Health hotline at 800-632-4502.

UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS’ clinical enterprise including its hospital, regional clinics and clinics it operates or staffs in cooperation with other providers. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. U.S. News & World Report named UAMS Medical Center the state’s Best Hospital; ranked its ear, nose and throat program among the top 50 nationwide; and named six areas as high performing — COPD, colon cancer surgery, heart failure, hip replacement, knee replacement and lung cancer surgery. UAMS has 2,876 students, 898 medical residents and four dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.

CENTRAL ARKANSAS DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL TO DISTRIBUTE OVER 500,000 LBS. OF FOOD IN ITS 19-COUNTY SERVICE AREA DURING THE MONTHS OF APRIL AND MAY.
The Central Arkansas Development Council (CADC) whose mission is to alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty, to help vulnerable populations achieve their potential, and to build strong communities in Arkansas through community action will be holding an emergency food distribution in its 19-county service area during the months of April and May. CADC will be distributing nearly 9,200 food boxes that will contain over 50 pounds of food. Central Arkansas Development Council hopes that by holding this distribution, we can alleviate some of the uncertainties many in the community are currently facing at this time. Customers will be asked to show I.D. and will be limited to one box per family. Families will have to meet income eligibility guidelines to qualify and be limited to the county in which they live. Distributions will begin around 9 AM and proceed while supplies last. The locations and dates of local interest are as follows:

Thursday, April 29 - Prescott (Nevada County) - Potlatch Building 200 Mill Street, Prescott
Friday, April 30 - Hope (Hempstead County) - The Coliseum 800 S. Mockingbird, Hope
Tuesday, May 11 - Magnolia (Columbia County) - Columbia County Fairgrounds 200 Columbia RD 13
Wednesday, May 12 - El Dorado (Union County) - Eastside Fairgrounds 420 E 19th, El Dorado
Thursday, May 13 - Camden (Ouachita County) - Carnes Park 955 Adams SE, Camden
Thursday, May 18 - Fordyce (Dallas County) - Fordyce Civic Center HWY 79/167 Bypass, Fordyce
Thursday, May 18 - Hampton (Calhoun County) - First Baptist Church 205 Dunn St, Hampton
Thursday, May 20 - Arkadelphia (Clark County) - Arkadelphia Senior Center 1305 N. 10th St, Arkadelphia
CADC will also be distributing The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) USDA Commodities the same day in many locations. Customers may qualify for both programs.

CADC would like to invite all news and media outlets to join and share in this event as we intend to bring joy, happiness, and much needed food to families across Arkansas during this pandemic. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” Ghandi.

Founded in 1965, Central Arkansas Development Council is a private nonprofit community action agency operating in 19 counties in the state of Arkansas.  CADC is a local force in the War on Poverty providing a hand-up, promoting self-help in our neighborhoods and for our families. We are committed to providing opportunities for empowerment for individuals, families and communities. For more information on the distribution, visit our website at www.cadc.com, or contact your local CADC office.

ENTERGY ARKANSAS EARNS ENERGY STAR® AWARD, SAVES 290K MWH IN 2020
Entergy Solutions help customers manage energy consumption, save money
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – The Entergy Arkansas Entergy Solutions Programs have been awarded the prestigious ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the third year in a row for its exemplary commitment and dedication to energy efficiency.

Company officials said the Entergy Solutions programs are credited with saving over 290,000 megawatt hours last year alone, which is equal to avoiding greenhouse carbon dioxide emissions from 227 million pounds of burning coal or powering nearly 25,000 homes for one year.

“Entergy Arkansas is committed to offering our customers safe, reliable and affordable energy,” said President and CEO Laura Landreaux, “and Entergy Solutions helps us do that. We are happy to provide innovative technologies to ensure our customers are efficiently managing their energy usage and saving money on their bills while being good stewards of the environment, and we’re so pleased to be recognized by the EPA for our work.”

Entergy Solutions are energy-efficiency programs administered by Entergy Arkansas that help residential and business customers save energy and money by reducing the upfront cost of a variety of power-saving upgrades. The programs work with participating partners, local trade allies and retailers to help customers find new ways to save energy through installation or implementation of energy efficiency measures.

Programs for residential customers include comprehensive home assessments, air conditioner tune-ups, smart thermostats, and discounts on lighting and appliances. Deeper energy efficiency measures, like insulation, air sealing and duct sealing, are also available through Entergy Solutions. For businesses, Entergy Solutions provides cash incentives for completing energy efficiency improvements to existing and new buildings.

In 2020, Entergy Solutions helped increase the sale of ENERGY STAR certified LEDs and fixtures by 8% at retailers targeting hard-to-reach customers.

Recognizing the COVID-19 pandemic impact on customers, Entergy Arkansas launched an online marketplace - https://entergysolutionsar-marketplace.com/entergyarkansas/ - last fall featuring discounted products such as LED bulbs, smart thermostats, advanced power strips, dehumidifiers and air purifiers.

Additionally, Entergy Solutions partners weatherized 1,185 homes during 2020 and provided some 75,000 free energy efficiency kits to customers through schools, food banks and other nonprofits.

In total, some 970,000 Arkansans were served by the energy savings programs and offerings, including those outside the Entergy Arkansas service area. That figure represents 1,370 buildings encompassing almost 86 million square feet that were tracked and measured for a baseline of energy usage through the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager; 1,781 homes that earned the ENERGY STAR; and 114 commercial buildings that earned the ENERGY STAR, including 24 schools, two hotels, seven hospitals, 20 office buildings and one industrial plant.

“ENERGY STAR has all of the tools and resources we need to support our market transformation efforts,” said Denice Jeter, Entergy Solutions project manager. “Equally important, ENERGY STAR’s rigorous testing processes and warranty requirements give us confidence that the products we support with incentives will meet with our customer’s expectations as well.”

Since 2007, Entergy Arkansas has implemented improvements resulting in energy savings of 2.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity through Entergy Solutions. That is equivalent to removing 342,434 passenger vehicles from the road for one year, according to the EPA.

Arkansas is home to about 90 businesses and organizations that partner in the EPA ENERGY STAR program, which includes 12 manufacturers of ENERGY STAR-certified products and six companies that build ENERGY STAR-certified homes.

For more information about Energy Star products and programs, visit https://www.energystar.gov/about. For more information about residential and customer Entergy Solutions programs, visit https://www.entergy-arkansas.com/energy_efficiency/main/.

2021 REGULAR LEGISLATIVE SESSION UPDATE
Weekly Update Regular Session Week 14
Legislators wrapped the 14th week of the Regular Session Thursday, with 720 measures now signed into law. There have been 940 bills filed in the House, with 692 bills filed in the Senate. The General Assembly is still set to recess April 30, though leadership has said the session could possibly end a few days early.  An April 30 recess would put the session at 110 days. The longest session in recent years was 101 days in 2013. Lawmakers will reconvene in Little Rock Monday.

Class Protection Act
Governor Hutchinson this week signed Senate Bill 622 into law, a Class Protection bill that became one of the most debated and highly publicized measures of the session. The measure allows prosecutors to seek a delayed prison release for individuals who target crime victims simply because they belong to a certain identifiable group or class of people who share “mental, physical, biological, cultural, political, or religious beliefs or characteristics.” Those perpetrators would be required to serve 80% of their sentence. The measure is sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Jimmy Hickey, House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, Senator Alan Clark, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Representative Carol Dalby, chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Some opponents have criticized the measure, saying it's a hate crime bill and not needed. Others have criticized it, saying it doesn’t specifically name the groups it protects, and therefore doesn’t go far enough.   Supporters say the bill is needed to give prosecutors a tool to address crimes that target individuals simply because of who they are. They say it is also needed to ensure the state is able to attract new jobs and retain the ones we have. Arkansas was one of only three states without a similar measure on the books.

Used Car Tax Credit

The House approved a measure this week to raise the sales tax exemption on used cars. The current exemption is on cars sold for up to $4,000. HB1160, by Rep. John Payton, R-Wilburn, would raise that to exempting tax on vehicles sold up to $10,000. (It would go to $7,500 in the first to years, and then to $10,000 after that.) This would cut $24.4 million from state revenue each year once fully in effect. It would also cost $3.5 million to city and county sales taxes every year.

Teacher Pay Increase
Governor Hutchinson also signed a measure into law this week to raise the median pay of Arkansas teachers by $2,000. SB504 raises the median teacher salary from $49,822 to $51,822. The Governor said the state had raised pay for teachers through the years, but there’s still a significant gap in salaries from district to district. This measure establishes a new category of education funding in the state, the teacher salary equalization fund. Districts with below-average salaries could draw from the fund (based on a uniform multiplier). The fund includes $10 million from the education adequacy trust fund. The bill passed both chambers unanimously. 

Constitutional Amendments
One of the last issues legislators address each session is to decide which proposed constitutional measures to refer to the ballot. Legislators may refer up to three measures to voters each regular session. The House this week approved HJR1005 by Rep. David Ray (R-Maumelle). It would raise the threshold for passing a constitutional measure to 60% (instead of the simple majority currently required). Ray and proponents of the measure say it is currently too easy for groups to change the state’s constitution. Opponents say an initiated measure from voters shouldn’t have a higher standard of passing than ones passed by the legislature.

The Senate State Agencies Committee is expected to advance a proposed constitutional amendment Monday that would allow the General Assembly to call itself into a special session. Currently, the Governor calls a special legislative session.

BILL STATUS REPORT: (4-16-21)
HB 1017  Rye, Johnny(R)
Provides that the General Assembly intends to adopt Daylight Saving Time permanently as soon as federal law is amended to permit that action and all border states have declared their intention to do so.
Bill History: 03-30-21 S Committee Motion for Do Pass Failed

HB 1027  Cavenaugh, Frances(R) Hill, Ricky(R)
Requires advertisement of the sale or removal of personal property from a self-service storage unit, stipulating that three independent bidders present meets the requirement of commercially reasonable advertising methods.
Bill History: 03-15-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 363 )

HB 1033  Jett, Joe(R) Johnson, Mark(R)
Clarifies sales tax exemptions for car wash services of a car wash operator and certain sellers in the digital marketplace.
Bill History: 02-24-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 144 )

HB 1056  Fite, Lanny(R)
Creates an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act for electronic public meetings held during a declared disaster; requires such meetings to be recorded and retained for one year.
Bill History: 02-02-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 56 )

HB 1139  Vaught, DeAnn(R)
Exempts audit records of the Department of Insurance that relate to the State Board of Embalmers from the Freedom of Information Act and from subpoena.
Bill History: 01-14-21 H Withdrawn from further consideration

HB 1140  Vaught, DeAnn(R)
Allows virtual instruction to satisfy funeral directors' continuing education requirements. Allows publication of notice for crematorium construction to be in the newspaper's print or digital edition, or both.

Bill History: 03-17-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 396 )

HB 1256  Boyd, Justin(R) Ballinger, Bob(R)
Sets a 30-day period for a prosecutor to file with the court notice of opposition to a petition seeking to seal felony conviction records. The 30-day period begins upon the receipt of the petition or the filing of the petition, whichever is later.
Bill History: 03-15-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 341 )

HB 1280  Haak, Delia(R) Eads, Lance(R)
Authorizes municipal governing bodies to enter into executive session for the purpose of considering economic development projects and other investments. Allows the body's attorney to be present.
Bill History: 04-08-21 S Meeting set for 9:30 a.m. - Room 171 - S-City, County and Local Affairs

HB 1321  Gazaway, Jimmy(R)
Lists types of enclosed areas that are considered critical infrastructure and adds those areas to criminal mischief and trespass offenses.
Bill History: 04-14-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 712 )

HB 1329  Bryant, Joshua(R) Ballinger, Bob(R)
Changes procedures for sealing substance abuse possession convictions generally to apply only to felony substance abuse possessions.
Bill History: 04-13-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 690 )

HB 1442  Bentley, Mary(R) Stubblefield, Gary(R)
Requires the Commissioner of State Lands to provide hardware and software systems to perform electronic acceptance, solicitation, payments, etc., and a website publishing all information and records, for natural resources extraction.
Bill History: 03-24-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 455 )

HB 1443  Bentley, Mary(R) Stubblefield, Gary(R)
Makes various changes to the management and sale of tax-delinquent lands by the Commissioner of State Lands.
Bill History: 04-06-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 584 )

HB 1547  Lundstrum, Robin(R) Davis, Breanne(R)
Prohibits schools, licensing entities, and employers (who are granted immunity from civil liability for injuries resulting from exposure) from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations through discrimination or coercion.
Bill History: 04-14-21 S Received in the Senate - Referred to S-Public Health, Welfare and Labor

HB 1576  Berry, Mark(R)
Permits a victim of violent or sex-offense felonies to petition the circuit court with jurisdiction to request the removal or redaction of their identifying information from all public documents and databases, with the exception of voter records.
Bill History: 03-01-21 H Introduced and referred to H-Judiciary

HB 1626  Brooks, Keith(R) Hammer, Kim(R)
Amends the Freedom of Information Act to allow a request for public records of a public employee's gross salary without prior notification to the public employee by the custodian of the records.
Bill History: 04-12-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 658 )

HB 1635  Milligan, Jon(R) Irvin, Missy(R)
Exempts records that have been made part of a criminal investigation containing personal information about the victim or a member of the victim's family from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
Bill History: 04-19-21 H Meeting set for 9:30 a.m. - Room 151 - H-State Agencies

HB 1647  Evans, Brian(R) Hill, Ricky(R)

Requires an interactive computer service or social media platform to act in good faith when applying the terms of service, restricting or labeling content, restricting access, etc.; a violation is deemed an unfair and deceptive act or practice.
Bill History: 04-12-21 H Committee Motion for Do Pass Failed

HB 1758  Eaves, Les(R)
Amends the Freedom of Information Act with regard to bulk requests for public data to provide for reasonable fees within the limitations imposed by the act and the ability to extract records in the native electronic form.
Bill History: 04-12-21 H Meeting set for 9:30 a.m. - Room 151 - H-State Agencies

HB 1872  Beaty, Howard(R)
Amends the FOIA to require a municipality to make and retain an audio recording of an executive session and maintain it for three years, to make a transcript within 30 days that is subject to disclosure, and publish the transcript in a local newspaper.
Bill History: 04-08-21 H Amendment 1 adopted

HB 1884  Eaves, Les(R)
Requires a county or third-party provider with whom it contracts to provide upon request nonencrypted, bulk public records in the format requested; does not apply to audio or video file formats or redacted, proprietary or exempt data.
Bill History: 04-14-21 S Received in the Senate - Referred to S-City, County and Local Affairs

HB 1886  Gazaway, Jimmy(R)
Makes changes to laws governing access to medical records for a legal proceeding. Removes the process for doctors to withhold access to a patient's medical records. Provides for access to medical records in an electronic format.
Bill History: 04-15-21 H 1 Amendment(s) Filed

SB 28  Garner, Trent(R) Underwood, Kendon(R)
Makes the offense of rape of a child by forcible compulsion a capital offense with the available sentences being death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Bill History: 03-17-21 S Withdrawn from further consideration

SB 29  Garner, Trent(R)
Makes the offense of trafficking the synthetic opioid known as fentanyl a capital offense. Adds fentanyl to criminal law provisions that pertain to cocaine and methamphetamine manufacture, delivery, and possession.
Bill History: 03-29-21 S Committee Motion for Do Pass Failed

SB 74  Hill, Ricky(R) Evans, Brian(R)
Extends the definition of a government entity to include consolidated utility districts, authorizing utility districts to provide, directly or indirectly, voice, data, broadband, video or wireless telecommunications services.
Bill History: 02-04-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 67 )

SB 166  Clark, Alan(R)
Determines when and under what circumstances the public and media may attend hearings concerning child custody, paternity and matters heard under the Arkansas Juvenile Code and examine related documents and recordings.
Bill History: 04-12-21 S Enrolled in the Senate - Sent to Governor

SB 194  Sullivan, Dan(R) Milligan, Jon(R)
Expands the Freedom of Information Act to permit copying public documents by taking a photograph of them.
Bill History: 03-09-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 310 )

SB 195  Sullivan, Dan(R) Womack, Richard(R)
Extends the entities subject to Freedom of Information Act provisions to include those whose primary purpose is providing direct support to a governmental agency or public entity financially or with in-kind value of $1,000,000+.
Bill History: 02-24-21 S Amendment 4 adopted

SB 196  Sullivan, Dan(R) Milligan, Jon(R)
In Freedom of Information Act enforcement actions, provides that the plaintiff may be awarded attorney's fees and litigation expenses if he or she, after filing suit, has obtained a significant or material portion of the requested public information.
Bill History: 04-06-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 572 )

SB 208  Sullivan, Dan(R) Bentley, Mary(R)
Redefines a 'meeting' for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act as a gathering of two or more persons in which any matter relating to a public entity is discussed in person, by telephone, electronically or by other means of communication
Bill History: 02-24-21 S Amendment 4 adopted

SB 299  English, Jane(R)
Amends provisions relating to the disclosure of confidential Division of Workforce Services records, adding informed consent disclosures to a third party. Exempts the information from the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
Bill History: 04-12-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 649 )

SB 346  Rapert, Jason(R) Beck, Rick(R)
Revises provisions for counties and sheriff's offices' use of audiovisual media in criminal investigations and the maintenance of those criminal investigation records. Allows public entities to charge for fulfilling FOIA requests for audio/visual media.
Bill History: 04-15-21 S Passed (Vote: Y: 27/N: 1)

SB 355  Teague, Larry(D)
Requires the Office of the Lottery, upon the request of a person winning more than $500,000, to keep that person's identity confidential for three years; such information is deemed exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.
Bill History: 03-17-21 H Reported from committee - Do pass H-Rules

SB 488  Hammer, Kim(R) Lowery, Mark(R)
Creates an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act for voted ballots for copying purposes until 30 days after the certification of an election by a county; the exemption does not apply to poll watchers as long as secrecy is maintained.
Bill History: 04-15-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 727 )
SB 535  Davis, Breanne(R) Ray, David(R)
Prohibits state agencies from compelling persons or nonprofit entities to divulge personal or membership-related information; prohibits state agencies from releasing or publicly disclosing personal information in their possession.
Bill History: 04-15-21 H Amendment 1 adopted

SB 558  Garner, Trent(R)
Levies a tax on social media platform advertising revenue, equal to seven percent of gross revenue for any platform with at least $500,000 in Arkansas-based revenue, plus $1.00 for each Arkansas account holder each year.
Bill History: 03-29-21 S Re-referred to committee Joint Energy

SB 567  Bledsoe, Cecile(R) McCollum, Austin(R)
Makes coroner investigative records subject to release if they are reflected in the coroner's final report and certain information has been redacted.
Bill History: 04-05-21 S Amendment 2 adopted

SB 610  Flippo, Scott(R) McCollum, Austin(R)
Requires specific statements in any required newspaper publication made by a county or municipality; statement must include which public entity paid for the required publication and the amount paid.
Bill History: 04-12-21 H Received in the House - Referred to H-City, County and Local Affairs

 

COTTON, CRUZ, YOUNG, AND SCOTT INTRODUCE BILL SANCTIONING FOREIGN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS WHO HOLD AMERICANS HOSTAGE
Washington, D.C. — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Todd Young (R-Indiana), and Rick Scott (R-Florida) re-introduced The Global Hostage Act, a bill that would require the president to impose sanctions on foreign government officials responsible for taking Americans hostage. It would also bar those officials and their families from receiving U.S. visas. The bill text is available here.

“If you take an American hostage – it won’t only be the hostage that will suffer. America must never accept extortion by hostage-taking as the cost of doing business. It warrants severe consequences, and that’s what this bill delivers,” said Cotton. 

"I am proud to once again join this effort to ensure brutal regimes and terrorists are sanctioned if they seize Americans as hostages. This is a battle I have been waging throughout my service in the Senate, including against Iranian regime officials who seized our diplomats in 1979. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to swiftly take up and pass this bill to defend our national security interests abroad and hold these corrupt actors accountable for their malign actions," said Cruz.

“The Global Hostage Act will send a message to the world that anyone who takes an American hostage will pay a severe price for their actions. As President Reagan famously proclaimed to hostage takers in 1985, ‘America does not make concessions to terrorists, to do so would only invite more terrorism.’ This bill is about making sure that promise remains true today and in the future,” said Young.

“Under no circumstance should terrorists or our adversaries be allowed to hold Americans hostage and still reap benefits from the United States. This legislation sends a clear message: if you kidnap Americans, you can expect severe consequences,” said Scott.

Specifically, the bill:
Requires that the executive branch impose mandatory sanctions on foreign government officials and other foreign persons responsible for taking U.S. hostages.
Denies U.S. visas to sanctioned hostage-takers and their family members.
Creates a mechanism for Congress to require that the executive branch review specific foreign government officials for hostage-taking sanctions eligibility.
States that it is U.S. policy to not pay ransoms to secure the release of U.S. citizens or aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence who are taken hostage abroad.
Expresses a Sense of Congress that the United States must take all measures to prevent foreign governments or non-state actors from engaging in hostage-taking, including prosecuting and extraditing those responsible and encouraging allies and partners to do the same.

April 15, 2021

CITY OF CAMDEN BOARD OF ALDERMEN MEET
The City of Camden Board of Aldermen met in regular session on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 in the Municipal Building located at 206 Van Buren NE. Social distancing was practiced and masks were required

Mayor Lott called the meeting to order at 7: 03 PM. The Invocation was given by Rev. James Manley who is the Associate Pastor at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, located at 247 Buchanan St. SE in Camden. The Invocation was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
City Clerk, Donna Stewart, called the roll. Alderman Joe Askew and Alderman Cecil McDonald were absent. Aldermen Chris Aregood, James Bell, William McCoy, Marvin Moore, Terry Smith and L.E. Lindsey were present.

The Minutes and Financial Reports from the Regular Meeting of March 9, 202 I were approved by unanimous vote.
During the Audience Participation segment of the meeting, Girlies Sinclair an Agee Street resident would like to have a Dog Park. People have been using a soft ball field at Carnes Park. She supplied information as well as stated that there is one field at Carnes Park not currently being used.

Mary Gilmore, an Alpha Street resident stated that there is a problem with water running across the street and property when there is heavy rain. Children get out and play in the water where snakes are a problem. According to Mrs. Gilmore, the City says it’s County problem and the County says it’s a City problem. Alderman Moore said this has been a problem for a long time. Water is not draining and the problem is getting worse. The Mayor said that Alpha is right on the line and the City and County should work together to correct this drainage issue.

During the Mayor’s Report Mayor Lott talked about the big storm. He spoke to the extensive power outages. He also expressed thanks to City Employees. He stated that yard waste can be dumped free at the land fill for. Residents should take their own waste to the landfill. The Mayor reported that he would be having a meeting on Wednesday morning Tomorrow to get an answer on what's going on at Garden Walk. Sewage back-up has been an issue for several years. The city has gone so far as to shut the water off to get the attention of the owners but even that didn’t solve the problem. Residents at Garden Walk apartments deserve better and the City is doing what they can do within city power to help solve this issue.  On Friday Buckshot will get an award from the National Black Officers Association. The Mayor continues to work on getting job descriptions for City Employees. The mayor said that Interviews to start for permanent Fire Chief.
There was no Old Business.

There were four Resolutions listed under New Business.

Resolution No. 20-21 was a resolution expressing the willingness of the City Council to utilize Federal-Aid Transportation Alternative Program Funds for Adams Avenue sidewalks. Motion was made and seconded and discussion ensued. Alderman Moore wanted more details. Lindsey said he had just got details today. It was finally clarified that the State wants a resolution stating that the City would be interested in applying for the grant before awarding grants. After the clarification, the Resolution passed.

Resolution No. 21-21 was a resolution expressing support for the passage of legislation imposing enhanced sentencing for convictions of misdemeanors and felonies associated with crimes committed against victims with actual or perceived characteristics (Hate Crime); and for other purposes. Motion made and seconded to table indefinitely. Resolution was tabled.

Resolution No. 22-21 was a resolution amending the budget for 2021; and for other purposes. Motion wasmade and seconded. This Resolution addressed the cost of waste. Alderman Bell asked if this was one year or indefinite. The increase was significant. It was noted that the Rate is not changing just the volume. The Resolution passed

Resolution No. 24-21, a resolution amending the budget for 2021; Appropriating funds for the Code Enforcement Department; and for other purposes. Motion made and seconded. The Resolution passed.

HARMONY GROVE HIGH SCHOOL TO HOST BLOOD DRIVE
The Harmony Grove High School is hosting a Blood Drive on friday, April 16th from 9:00 am until 02:00 pm. The Drive will be held at 401 Ouachita 88 in the Harmony Grove High School Auditorium.

All donations go towards a scholarship and each donor is entered into a weekly drawing for $250. Each Donor will receive a T-Shirt while supplies last.

The best reward, helping a person in need by giving the gift of hope. Schedule your appointment today!

SAU TECH ROCKETS HEAD TO NJCAA NATIONAL TOURNAMENT
Help send-off the Men's Basketball Team as they Head to the NJCAA National Tournament in Danville, Illinois. Line up at the entrance to the SAU Tech Campus on Sunday at 12:45 pm to send them on their way at 1:00 pm. Go Rockets!!

ARKANSAS LAW ENFORCEMENT PART OF FIVE STATE FORCE DIRECTING PATROLS TO REDUCE DRUG IMPAIRED DRIVING
Arkansas State Troopers and law enforcement officers across the state will intensify their patrols next week looking for drivers who are impaired by drugs.  The special operation is part of a five state plan directed toward the dangerous practice of driving while under the influence of both illegal and legal drugs.

If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. Drive High, Get a DWI, will kick-off Sunday, April 18th and continue through next Tuesday, April 20th.  Law enforcement agencies in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska are participating in the coordinated operation to get drug impaired drivers off the streets and highways.

During the If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. Drive High, Get a DWI effort in Arkansas, state troopers, local police officers and sheriff’s deputies will intensify enforcement of drug impaired driving laws.  Just as drunk driving is caused by the consumption of alcohol, driving while intoxicated by drugs is illegal in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C.  Officers will stop and arrest anyone they find to be impaired by drugs or alcohol.

It’s an erroneous presumption by many that driving while high won’t diminish their judgement or ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.  Studies have proven that THC, the active component of marijuana, slows the mind’s reaction time, impairs cognitive performance, and challenges the ability of a driver to safely hold their position inside a traffic lane.

The simple truth is it doesn’t matter what term is used, anyone who is high, stoned, wasted, or drunk, is impaired.  Driving while impaired is illegal and can be deadly to the driver and others on the road.

 “Operating any kind of vehicle while under the influence of a drug is dangerous and can lead to injury or death on the roadways,” said Colonel Bill Bryant, Arkansas State Police Director and the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative.

“It doesn’t have to be an illegal substance to cause impairment, it can be medicine for a cold or a sleep aid,” Colonel Bryant continued.  “Many over the counter and prescribed medications, as well as illegal substances like marijuana or cocaine can lead to impaired driving that will result in a DWI charge against the driver.  Our state troopers and law enforcement partners will make no exceptions.”

A driver should always remember to never over medicate themselves, never drive after being prescribed a new medication until its known what effect it might have on their judgment, coordination, and reaction time.  While particular medications may not necessarily impair a driver, the combination of a second or third medicine or the consumption of alcohol can often lead to impairment.  Any form of impaired driving is illegal and can result in the arrest of a driver.

When travel is necessary and someone is impaired, there are options to get to a destination that should be considered.  Ask a sober driver for help, use public transportation, a rideshare service or call a friend before trying to drive while impaired.  The extra time it might take could save someone’s life.

More information about impaired driving can be found at https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drug-impaired-driving or call the Arkansas Highway Safety Office at (501) 618-8136.  A recorded video statement from Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA Acting Administrator, speaking about the drug impaired driving operation, can be accessed at http://bit.ly/420VideoMessaging2021.  Additional state specific video messages are also available at the web site. 
Additional information regarding Arkansas’ Toward Zero Deaths campaign to eliminate preventable traffic fatalities can be obtained at www.TZDArkansas.org.

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: STATEWIDE DRUG TAKE BACK DAY SCHEDULED FOR APRIL 24
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is encouraging Arkansans to clean out their medicine cabinets and bring any unused or expired medications to one of the state’s more than 250 Prescription Drug Take Back Day drop-off locations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 24.

“Cleaning out medicine cabinets and turning the expired, unused medications over to law enforcement during a Drug Take Back event will save lives,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “It is important now more than ever that we continue to properly dispose of these prescription drugs.”

The Arkansas Attorney General’s Office hosts Prescription Drug Take Back Day twice a year in partnership with Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Department of Human Services, Arkansas National Guard, Arkansas Rotary Clubs, Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy, DEA, FBI, Office of the State Drug Director and over 100 additional law enforcement and government agencies, community organizations and public health providers.

Event sites are held at various locations across the State but year-round locations are also available and can be found at ARTakeBack.org. The Attorney General’s office also hosts take back events at mobile offices around the State. Since the program began, more than 206 tons of medication have been collected in Arkansas, which is over 412,600 thousand pounds of individual pills.

FEMA COVID-19 FUNERAL ASSISTANCE
How to apply?
Applications begin on April 12, 2021 - At this time there is no deadline to apply

COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Line Number
844-684-6333 | TTY: 800-462-7585
Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday  9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern Time
The call will take about 20 minutes.
No online applications will be accepted.

Documentation Needed for Phone Call
It is important to gather all necessary information and documentation before applying for assistance. This will help them take the application and process it in a timely manner.

The applicant responsible for COVID-19 funeral expenses will need to provide the following information below when they call FEMA to register for assistance. They recommend gathering this information before placing your application call.
Social Security number for the applicant and the deceased individual
Date of birth for the applicant and the deceased individual
Current mailing address for the applicant
Current telephone number for the applicant
Location or address where the deceased individual passed away
Information about burial or funeral insurance policies
Information about other funeral assistance received, such as donations
CARES Act grants and assistance from voluntary organizations
Routing and account number of the applicant's checking or savings account (for direct deposit, if requested)
Documentation to Send to FEMA
After the application call, you must provide a copy of
the death certificate,
proof of funeral expenses incurred,
and proof of assistance received from any other source.

USACE VICKSBURG DISTRICT PRESENTS DISTRICT COLORS FOR THE FIRST TIME TO COMMEMORATE PAST, FUTURE CONTRIBUTIONS
VICKSBURG, Miss. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Vicksburg District unveiled its inaugural, district flag, March 29, 2021, during the annual Women’s History Month program and town hall at district headquarters.

The new district flag is one of the first to be uncased, or formally unveiled, across USACE. Also referred to as colors or unit standards, the flag represents the district’s lineage since it was permanently established in 1884. The colors also symbolize past and present employees’ contributions to the district and the nation. Previously, only USACE divisions were authorized their own colors.

Vicksburg District Leadership Development Program member, Wesley Miller, served as the color bearer for the ceremony and presented the flag to Col. Robert Hilliard, USACE Vicksburg District Commander, and Deputy District Engineer Pat Hemphill, who uncased the colors. Miller’s role represented the district’s future endeavors and commitment to service.

“Every unit regards their colors with a sense of community, shared pride, and commitment to the mission. These flags represent the victories of all who serve under them, whether they’re soldier or civilian, and we’re proud to finally have a visible representation of our dedicated personnel,” said Col. Hilliard.

Traditionally, unit flags served as a rallying point for soldiers during battle and helped maintain cohesiveness. Commanders entrusted unit flags to their most trusted officers until U.S. Army regulations changed in 1813, after which the duty was performed by color sergeants or sergeants major. Colors are no longer used for identification on the modern battlefield, but instead as a tangible source of unit pride during official ceremonies.

The USACE Vicksburg District is engineering solutions to the nation’s toughest challenges. The Vicksburg District encompasses a 68,000-square-mile area across portions of Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana that holds seven major river basins and incorporates approximately 460 miles of mainline Mississippi River levees. The Vicksburg District is engaged in hundreds of projects and employs approximately 1,100 personnel.

COTTON, COLLEAGUES CALL ON PRESIDENT TO SHUN “GREEN” TECH PRODUCED BY SLAVE LABOR
Washington, D.C. – Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Rick Scott (R-Florida), Bill Hagerty (R-Tennessee), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), and John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) released the following statement on “green” products purchased as a part of President Biden’s infrastructure plan:

“Products stained with the blood of slave labor will never be clean or green. Any infrastructure proposal from President Biden must bar U.S. taxpayer support of products like solar panels that are made in camps by Uyghurs and other groups held hostage by the Chinese Communist Party. The United States government should play no role in subsidizing or partaking in this barbaric treatment of ethnic groups in Xinjiang.”

Background: 
China’s Xinjiang region produces 71 percent of the world’s photovoltaic solar modules – and Xinjiang silicon is contained in at least 95 percent of silicon-based solar modules.

BOOZMAN, COTTON SUPPORT ALLOWING MILITARY SPOUSE OCCUPATIONAL LICENSES TO FOLLOW SERVICE FAMILIES
WASHINGTON–U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) joined a number of their Senate colleagues to introduce the Military Spouse Licensing Relief Act, bipartisan legislation that would give military spouses with valid professional licenses in one state reciprocity in the state where their spouse is currently serving on military orders.

The bill is sponsored by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and, in addition to Boozman and Cotton, is cosponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Barrasso (R-WY), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Steve Daines (R-MT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Braun (R-IN), Rand Paul (R-KY), John Thune (R-SD), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Jim Risch (R-ID).

“Our servicemembers’ spouses make tremendous sacrifices in support of their loved ones’ service to our country, and we owe them a great debt. One way to convey our gratitude is to make their lives easier in simple, but meaningful ways. Our legislation seeks to cut red tape so military spouses can more seamlessly continue their careers after relocating to a new duty station,” Boozman said.

“Military families sacrifice so much for our country, yet military spouses face hurdles when seeking employment—especially after their families move from base to base. This bill will ensure spouses with professional licenses have reciprocity across state lines so they can pursue their careers uninterrupted,” said Cotton.

Military spouses who work in fields that require professional licenses are forced to spend great amounts of time and money to obtain licensure each time they move to a new state under military orders. Under this legislation, military spouses would qualify for licensure reciprocity if their license is in good standing and the spouse is in compliance with the state’s standards of practice, discipline and fulfillment of any continuing education requirements. As a state function, protected under the Tenth Amendment, the bill does not preempt states’ rightful authority to set their own licensing standards.

Rep. Mike Garcia (R-CA) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

COTTON, MCCAUL ASK ADMINISTRATION TO RESTRICT SALE OF CHIP-MAKING SOFTWARE TO CHINA
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo urging tighter restrictions on the sale of chip-making tools to China.

The members argue that electronic design automation (EDA) tools, which are used to design semiconductor chips, should require a license for all end-users under the ownership, influence, or control of the People’s Republic of China.

In part, Cotton and McCaul wrote:
“According to a recent report by The Washington Post, sophisticated U.S. EDA software was sold to an ostensibly civilian PRC company, Phytium Technology. Phytium then used this software to design advanced semiconductor chips for supercomputers at a hypersonic weapons research and testing facility run by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). This facility, the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Center (CARDC), has been on the Commerce Department’s Entity List for more than two decades. Despite Phytium’s deep ties to PRC military research and its sales to the CARDC, Phytium was only added to the Entity List after The Washington Post report. We find it deeply troubling that the Department of Commerce allowed such a critical U.S. technology to be harnessed to design weapons targeting American servicemembers operating in the Indo-Pacific.”

The full text of the letter is below.
The Honorable Gina Raimondo
Secretary
Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20230

Dear Secretary Raimondo, 

We write to urge you to designate electronic design automation (EDA) tools as a foundational technology and require a license for all end-users under the ownership, influence, or control of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). There is clear evidence that companies linked to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) military are using this software technology to develop advanced weaponry.

According to a recent report by The Washington Post, sophisticated U.S. EDA software was sold to an ostensibly civilian PRC company, Phytium Technology, to design advanced semiconductor chips that would beused in supercomputers at a PRC military-run hypersonic weapons research and testing facility. This facility, the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Center (CARDC), has been on the Commerce Department’s Entity List for more than two decades. Despite Phytium’s deep ties to PRC military research and its sales to the CARDC, Phytium was only added to the Entity List after The Washington Post report. We find it deeply troubling that the Department of Commerce allowed such a critical U.S. technology to be harnessed to design weapons targeting American servicemembers in the Indo-Pacific.

As you know, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is executing a strategy called “Military-Civil Fusion” (MCF) which seeks to eliminate the distinction between its defense and civilian sectors. The goal of this strategy to ensure that the People’s Liberation Army can rapidly develop and field cutting-edge military platforms. Because the MCF is turning the PRC economy into a military-driven ecosystem that is centrally coordinated by the CCP, many American and other non-PRC businesses are knowingly or unknowingly exporting sensitive technologies that are promptly handed over to the CCP military or intelligence services.

This recent Phytium example is not the first time a CCP military company has been documented relying on U.S. EDA tools to design advanced semiconductors. In 2019, Commerce took the decisive step of effectively banning the export of EDA tools to HiSilicon, a Huawei subsidiary that designs their advanced semiconductors. This ban on exports of EDA tools to Huawei was intended to impede HiSilicon’s ability to design semiconductors that are used to further the CCP’s ambitions of dominating global 5G telecommunications networks. 

The Huawei Entity Listing and ban on EDA software has done nothing to restrict other PRC companies from buying EDA software licenses from the two dominant suppliers, Cadence and Synopsys. According to reports, hundreds of companies run by PRC regional governments poured investents into fabless semiconductor producers and mass purchased EDA software licenses from these two U.S. companies. This has contributed to significant sales growth of EDA tools in the PRC by Cadence and Synopsys. Synopsys even hosted a design training session at the PLA National University of Defense and Technology on integrated circuit and field programmable gate array, semiconductors with clear military applications.

The U.S. government’s recent strategy against Huawei and Phytium’s sale to CARDC demonstrates the distinct drawbacks of a end-user based approach to export controls when dealing with the CCP. It must be presumed that any PRC company that accepts state-directed investments to purchase semiconductor technologies, including EDA software licenses, could easily be coerced or induced to perform the functions for Huawei or the CCP military that HiSilicon had, before it was targeted by U.S. export bans. The export of advanced dual-use U.S. technology to any PRC entity is effectively a direct delivery to the People’s Liberation Army. Our export control system should reflect this reality.

Accordingly, we urge you to take the following actions to ensure U.S. companies as well as those from parter and allied countries are not permitted to sell the communists the rope they will use to hang us all. 

While we support reports that the Department of Commerce is placing Phytium on the Entity List—we hope with a licensing policy of a presumption of denial—the Commerce Department must supplement this action with a Foreign-Direct Product Rule (FDPR) Footnote number 1. An entity listing would restrict sales of EDA tools to Phytium, but a FDPR Footnote number 1 would require any fab globally that uses American tools to obtain a Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) license to fabricate a Phytium-designed semiconductor chip. Anything short of using the FDPR would be a half measure masquerading as a forceful action.

The Department of Commerce should immediately designate EDA software as a Foundational Technology, which would require all U.S. EDA companies to get a BIS license before exporting any product to the PRC. The Department of State and Commerce should also propose similar controls at the Wassenaar Arrangement.

BIS should also develop a FDPR footnote number 1 that applies to any PRC company designing semiconductor chips at or below 14nm. This would ensure that no fab with American tools could make a 14nm or below chip for any PRC company without first obtaining a BIS license.

The Department of State and Commerce must engage the Taiwanese government to develop a more effective end-user screening system to mitigate the risk of Taiwanese companies providing services and technologies to entities of concern. It is not in the security interests of Taiwan or the United States for companies like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation to make advanced semiconductor chips for the PRC’s military.

Thank you for considering this important matter of national security. We look forward to hearing from you.

April 14, 2021

2021 LEGISLATIVE REGULAR SESSION UPDATE
Weekly Update Regular Session Week 13:
Lawmakers ended the thirteenth week of the session, with more than 600 bills now signed into law. There have been more than 1,500 bills filed for consideration in both chambers. Members have begun discussions on the Revenue Stabilization Act, which prioritizes state spending to ensure a balanced budget. That is typically one of the last issues addressed in a session. The session can continue until April 30, though some in leadership have said they hope to wrap business ahead of that date. An April 30 end date will put the session at 110 days.  

Class Protection Bill:
Senate Bill 622, a Class Protection Bill, advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee Thursday. The measure allows prosecutors to seek a delayed prison release for individuals who target crime victims simply because they belong to a certain identifiable group or class of people who share “mental, physical, biological, cultural, political, or religious beliefs or characteristics.” Those perpetrators would be required to serve 80% of their sentence. The measure is sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Jimmy Hickey, House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, Senator Alan Clark, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Representative Carol Dalby, chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Some opponents have criticized the measure, saying it's a hate crime bill and not needed. Others have criticized it, saying it doesn’t specifically name the groups it protects, and therefore doesn’t go far enough.   Supporters say the bill is needed to give prosecutors a tool to address crimes that target individuals simply because of who they are. They say it is also needed to ensure the state is able to attract new jobs and retain the ones we have. Arkansas is one of only three states without a similar measure on the books.

Tax Cut Measures/Tax Extension: 
The House Revenue and Tax Committee approved several tax measures this week, including a bill to repeal the state’s soft drink tax, and a measure to expand the used car sales tax exemption. Those will now go to the full House for consideration. The used car tax measure allows a sales tax exemption on used cars costing between $4,000 and $7,500, expanding to $10,000 in two years. The fiscal impact is $9.4 million in year one and $28.4 million by year four. The soft drink tax has been in place since 1992 to supplement the state’s Medicaid funding. General revenue would replace that funding for Medicaid. It will eliminate $9 million from state revenue in the first year and $38.2 million by year three. 

 Another large tax measure, SB 236 was signed into law earlier in the session and exempts state taxes on unemployment benefits from 2020 and 2021. The fiscal impact of that law is $54.1 million. Committee Chairman Joe Jett said there has been talk of a special session later this year to address a larger scale income tax cut.

 Alcohol/Sunday Sales /Delivery:
A bill to allow local governments to call a referendum on Sunday sales of alcohol passed the House Thursday 54-28. The bill would allow a county quorum court or a city council to place a Sunday alcohol sales vote on the ballot. Under current law, that can only be done through petition. The bill now goes to a Senate committee for consideration. Also, this week, legislators gave final approval to a bill to allow restaurants to deliver beer, wine and mixed drinks with food orders. The legislation makes permanent an executive order in place during the pandemic.

Confirmation of Health Department Director:
The Senate voted 25-8 Thursday to confirm Dr. Jose Romero as Director of the Arkansas Department of Health. Earlier in the day, the Senate Rules Committee had held a meeting voting 7-3 to forward his confirmation to the full Senate. A handful of Republican Senators expressed concerns with the Governor’s executive authority and with some of Dr. Romero’s decisions during the pandemic. Bi-partisan supporters testified Dr. Romero’s credentials, character, and qualifications to lead the Department are stellar. Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R-Rogers), chair of the Senate Public Health Committee, said to not allow Dr. Romero to continue leading the Department, “…would be a travesty to him, ADH and the citizens of Arkansas.” She added that “He has an impeccable work ethic, and his moral character is above reproach.”

BILL STATUS REPORT:
HB 1017  Rye, Johnny(R)
Provides that the General Assembly intends to adopt Daylight Saving Time permanently as soon as federal law is amended to permit that action and all border states have declared their intention to do so.
Bill History:
03-30-21 S Committee Motion for Do Pass Failed

HB 1027  Cavenaugh, Frances(R) Hill, Ricky(R)
Requires advertisement of the sale or removal of personal property from a self-service storage unit, stipulating that three independent bidders present meets the requirement of commercially reasonable advertising methods.
Bill History:
03-15-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 363 )

HB 1033  Jett, Joe(R) Johnson, Mark(R)
Clarifies sales tax exemptions for car wash services of a car wash operator and certain sellers in the digital marketplace.
Bill History:
02-24-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 144 )

HB 1056  Fite, Lanny(R)
Creates an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act for electronic public meetings held during a declared disaster; requires such meetings to be recorded and retained for one year.
Bill History:
02-02-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 56 )

HB 1139  Vaught, DeAnn(R)
Exempts audit records of the Department of Insurance that relate to the State Board of Embalmers from the Freedom of Information Act and from subpoena.
Bill History:
01-14-21 H Withdrawn from further consideration.

HB 1140  Vaught, DeAnn(R)
Allows virtual instruction to satisfy funeral directors' continuing education requirements. Allows publication of notice for crematorium construction to be in the newspaper's print or digital edition, or both.
Bill History:
03-17-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 396 )

HB 1256  Boyd, Justin(R) Ballinger, Bob(R)
Sets a 30-day period for a prosecutor to file with the court notice of opposition to a petition seeking to seal felony conviction records. The 30-day period begins upon the receipt of the petition or the filing of the petition, whichever is later.
Bill History:
03-15-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 341 )

HB 1280  Haak, Delia(R) Eads, Lance(R)
Authorizes municipal governing bodies to enter into executive session for the purpose of considering economic development projects and other investments. Allows the body's attorney to be present.
Bill History:
04-08-21 S Meeting set for 9:30 a.m. - Room 171 - S-City, County and Local Affairs

HB 1321  Gazaway, Jimmy(R)
Lists types of enclosed areas that are considered critical infrastructure and adds those areas to criminal mischief and trespass offenses.
Bill History:
04-08-21 H Reported from committee - Do pass H-Judiciary

HB 1329  Bryant, Joshua(R) Ballinger, Bob(R)|
Changes procedures for sealing substance abuse possession convictions generally to apply only to felony substance abuse possessions.
Bill History:
04-09-21 H Enrolled in the House - Sent to Governor

HB 1442  Bentley, Mary(R) Stubblefield, Gary(R)

Requires the Commissioner of State Lands to provide hardware and software systems to perform electronic acceptance, solicitation, payments, etc., and a website publishing all information and records, for natural resources extraction.
Bill History:
03-24-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 455 )

HB 1443  Bentley, Mary(R) Stubblefield, Gary(R)
Makes various changes to the management and sale of tax-delinquent lands by the Commissioner of State Lands.
Bill History:
04-06-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 584 )

HB 1547  Lundstrum, Robin(R) Davis, Breanne(R)
Prohibits schools, licensing entities, and employers (who are granted immunity from civil liability for injuries resulting from exposure) from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations through discrimination or coercion.
Bill History:
04-08-21 H 1 Amendment(s) Filed

HB 1576  Berry, Mark(R)
Permits a victim of violent or sex-offense felonies to petition the circuit court with jurisdiction to request the removal or redaction of their identifying information from all public documents and databases, with the exception of voter records.
Bill History:
03-01-21 H Introduced and referred to H-Judiciary

HB 1626  Brooks, Keith(R). Hammer, Kim(R)
Amends the Freedom of Information Act to allow a request for public records of a public employee's gross salary without prior notification to the public employee by the custodian of the records.
Bill History:
04-08-21 H Enrolled in the House - Sent to Governor

HB 1635  Milligan, Jon(R) Irvin, Missy(R)
Exempts records that have been made part of a criminal investigation containing personal information about the victim or a member of the victim's family from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
Bill History:
04-12-21 H Meeting set for 9:30 a.m. - Room 151 - H-State Agencies

HB 1647  Evans, Brian(R) Hill, Ricky(R)
Requires an interactive computer service or social media platform to act in good faith when applying the terms of service, restricting or labeling content, restricting access, etc.; a violation is deemed an unfair and deceptive act or practice.
Bill History:
04-12-21 H Meeting set for 9:30 a.m. - MAC Room C - H-Insurance and Commerce

HB 1758  Eaves, Les(R)
Amends the Freedom of Information Act with regard to bulk requests for public data to provide for reasonable fees within the limitations imposed by the act and the ability to extract records in the native electronic form.
Bill History:
04-12-21 H Meeting set for 9:30 a.m. - Room 151 - H-State Agencies

HB 1884  Eaves, Les(R)
Requires a county or third-party provider with whom it contracts to provide upon request nonencrypted, bulk public records in the format requested; does not apply to audio or video file formats or redacted, proprietary or exempt data.
Bill History:
04-07-21 H Introduced and referred to H-City, County and Local Affairs

HB 1886  Gazaway, Jimmy(R)
Makes changes to laws governing access to medical records for a legal proceeding. Removes the process for doctors to withhold access to a patient's medical records. Provides for access to medical records in an electronic format.
Bill History:
04-07-21 H Introduced and referred to H-Judiciary

SB 28  Garner, Trent(R) Underwood, Kendon(R)
Makes the offense of rape of a child by forcible compulsion a capital offense with the available sentences being death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Bill History:
03-17-21 S Withdrawn from further consideration

SB 29  Garner, Trent(R)
Makes the offense of trafficking the synthetic opioid known as fentanyl a capital offense. Adds fentanyl to criminal law provisions that pertain to cocaine and methamphetamine manufacture, delivery, and possession.
Bill History:
03-29-21 S Committee Motion for Do Pass Failed

SB 74  Hill, Ricky(R) Evans, Brian(R)
Extends the definition of a government entity to include consolidated utility districts, authorizing utility districts to provide, directly or indirectly, voice, data, broadband, video or wireless telecommunications services.
Bill History:
02-04-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 67 )

SB 166  Clark, Alan(R)
Determines when and under what circumstances the public and media may attend hearings concerning child custody, paternity and matters heard under the Arkansas Juvenile Code and examine related documents and recordings.
Bill History:
04-08-21 H Passed (Vote: Y: 95/N: 0)

SB 194  Sullivan, Dan(R) Milligan, Jon(R)
Expands the Freedom of Information Act to permit copying public documents by taking a photograph of them.
Bill History:
03-09-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 310 )

SB 195  Sullivan, Dan(R) Womack, Richard(R)
Extends the entities subject to Freedom of Information Act provisions to include those whose primary purpose is providing direct support to a governmental agency or public entity financially or with in-kind value of $1,000,000+.
Bill History:
02-24-21 S Amendment 4 adopted

SB 196  Sullivan, Dan(R) Milligan, Jon(R)
In Freedom of Information Act enforcement actions, provides that the plaintiff may be awarded attorney's fees and litigation expenses if he or she, after filing suit, has obtained a significant or material portion of the requested public information.
Bill History:
04-06-21 G Signed by the Governor (Act: 572 )

SB 208  Sullivan, Dan(R) Bentley, Mary(R)
Redefines a 'meeting' for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act as a gathering of two or more persons in which any matter relating to a public entity is discussed in person, by telephone, electronically or by other means of communication
Bill History:
02-24-21 S Amendment 4 adopted

SB 299  English, Jane(R)
Amends provisions relating to the disclosure of confidential Division of Workforce Services records, adding informed consent disclosures to a third party. Exempts the information from the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
Bill History:
04-07-21 S Enrolled in the Senate - Sent to Governor

SB 346  Rapert, Jason(R) Beck, Rick(R)
Revises provisions for counties and sheriff's offices' use of audiovisual media in criminal investigations and the maintenance of those criminal investigation records. Allows public entities to charge for fulfilling FOIA requests for audio/visual media.
Bill History:
04-08-21 S Received from House as amended - referred to S-Judiciary

SB 355  Teague, Larry(D)
Requires the Office of the Lottery, upon the request of a person winning more than $500,000, to keep that person's identity confidential for three years; such information is deemed exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.
Bill History:
03-17-21 H Reported from committee - Do pass H-Rules

SB 488  Hammer, Kim(R) Lowery, Mark(R)
Creates an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act for voted ballots for copying purposes until 30 days after the certification of an election by a county; the exemption does not apply to poll watchers as long as secrecy is maintained.
Bill History:
04-12-21 H Meeting set for 9:30 a.m. - Room 151 - H-State Agencies

SB 535  Davis, Breanne(R) Ray, David(R)|
Prohibits state agencies from compelling persons or nonprofit entities to divulge personal or membership-related information; prohibits state agencies from releasing or publicly disclosing personal information in their possession.
Bill History:
04-07-21 H Received in the House - Referred to H-State Agencies

SB 558  Garner, Trent(R)
Levies a tax on social media platform advertising revenue, equal to seven percent of gross revenue for any platform with at least $500,000 in Arkansas-based revenue, plus $1.00 for each Arkansas account holder each year.
Bill History:
3-29-21 S Re-referred to committee Joint Enertgy

SB 567  Bledsoe, Cecile(R) McCollum, Austin(R)
Makes coroner investigative records subject to release if they are reflected in the coroner's final report and certain information has been redacted.
Bill History:
04-05-21 S Amendment 2 adopted

SB 610  Flippo, Scott(R) McCollum, Austin(R)
Requires specific statements in any required newspaper publication made by a county or municipality; statement must include which public entity paid for the required publication and the amount paid.
Bill History:
04-08-21 S Reported from committee - Do pass S-City, County and Local Affairs

CAMDEN KIWANIS CLUB TO MEET
The Camden Kiwanis Club will meet this Thursday, April 15th, at Catherine's Bistro at 12:00 PM. The program will be presented by The Region 2 Division II Coach of the Year Marty Levinson. 

You are required to wear a mask was entering and leaving the building, if you do not have one they will provide you with one. Your temperature will be taken, and you'll sign in and report your temp. All the chairs in the meeting room will be spaced out as required.

 

WESTERMAN, O’HALLERAN INTRODUCE BILL TO IMPROVE RURAL ROAD SAFETY
WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Reps. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) introduced the High Risk Rural Roads Safety Grant Program Act of 2021. Westerman and O’Halleran issued the following statements:

“As co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Road Safety Caucus, I am proud to be an original cosponsor of bipartisan, common sense solutions such as this,” said Westerman. “Rural infrastructure is a critical facet of economic growth and quality of life for those who live in rural and tribal communities. All Americans rely on safe roads to go about their daily lives, and in rural areas, dangerous roads often cannot be avoided. Investing in road safety has significant potential to save lives.”

“Rural Arizonans are forced to drive on some of the most dangerous, outdated roads in America, putting First District families at risk every day on their way to work and school,” said O’Halleran. “I’m proud to introduce this urgently-needed, bipartisan legislation that invests in the safety and economic growth of rural and tribal communities by providing the resources and funding necessary to complete critical high-risk rural road projects.”

Background
Through the Highway Trust Fund, funds made available by the High Risk Rural Roads Safety Grant Program Act of 2021 can be used for 20 eligible safety improving items including road safety audits, intersection safety improvements, the installation of rumble strips or other warning devices, improvement for pedestrian safety, guardrails or barriers, and shoulder widening.

The High Risk Rural Roads Safety Grant Program Act of 2021 authorizes $750 million per year for five years for rural road safety improvements, with $150 million set aside for tribal governments.

COTTON, GRASSLEY CALL FOR HEARING ON HATE CRIMES AGAINST ASIAN AMERICANS
Washington, D.C. – Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today called for the committee to convene a hearing on hate crimes against Asian Americans.

“We are concerned to see that such an important issue has not already received Committee or Subcommittee attention. Instead, S. 937, the ‘COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act,’ has been moved to the Senate floor with little commentary, factfinding, or Committee consideration. We believe the Senate should have the benefit of hearing from the Department of Justice before blindly acting on this issue,” the senators wrote in a letter to committee chairman Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and subcommittee chairman Cory Booker (D-New Jersey).

Last month, Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered a 30-day review of how hate crimes are tracked and prosecuted amid an uptick in crimes targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The Senators called on the committee Democrats to convene a hearing as soon as the Justice Department’s review is completed to examine its findings.

 

Text of the letter is below.

Dear Chairman Durbin and Chairman Booker:

We write today to request a hearing of the full Committee or the Crime Subcommittee related to the rise in violent crime across the country, in particular the surge in violent crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).

Every one of us is horrified to see incidents in which our fellow Americans are attacked because of their race or ethnicity. We understand that Attorney General Garland is conducting a 30-day review of violence against AAPI Americans, which we hope will improve the federal government’s capacity to track and identify hate crimes, review civil enforcement authorities, and assess whether additional resources are needed to support law enforcement’s response to this violence. This review is scheduled to be completed in the coming weeks.

Congress’s attention to the findings of this review, including whether there is a need for additional resources or to adjust relevant legal authorities, will be necessary. We request a hearing on this issue at the earliest possible opportunity after that review is completed.

We are concerned to see that such an important issue has not already received Committee or Subcommittee attention. Instead, S. 937, the “COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act,” has been moved to the Senate floor with little commentary, factfinding, or Committee consideration. We believe the Senate should have the benefit of hearing from the Department of Justice before blindly acting on this issue. As we know that each of you believes very strongly in the importance of Committee process, we hope you will support this request.

Sincerely,

APRIL 13, 2021

BOIL ORDER AS OF April 12, 2021
The Arkansas State Health Deptartment has put all of Frenchport Water System on a boil order until further notice. A 6" main water line was cut on Monday.

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON WEEKLY COVID UPDATE – APRIL 13, 2021
Arkansas public health officials said the state is joining the nationwide pause on Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine following complications related to that vaccine in recent days. 

In national reporting on Tuesday, the FDA and CDC were both calling for a pause on distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six people developed blood clots, with one death, after receiving the vaccine. All six were women between the ages of 18 and 48. None were Arkansans.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Arkansas would join the pause until additional information is available. Clinics and providers in Arkansas are asked not to distribute Johnson & Johnson's vaccine at this time. 

During his weekly COVID-19 Taskforce press conference Tuesday afternoon, Hutchinson agreed with the FDA's recommendation but urged people not to delay on receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Upcoming vaccine clinics with plans to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be provided Pfizer or Moderna varieties instead, said state officials. Hutchinson said six complications out of 6.8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines distributed so far is an incredibly low ratio and shouldn't erode confidence in the two other vaccines. 

Hutchinson then announced that, beginning this weekend, the Arkansas Department of Health will partner with pharmacies across the state to bring vaccines to homebound Arkansans. Anyone in Arkansas unable to leave their homes can call the Arkansas COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 1-800-985-6030 to schedule a home vaccination.

Regarding the state's COVID-19 figures, the Arkansas Department of Health reported 224 new cases of the virus on Tuesday for a cumulative total of more than 332,000 since the pandemic began. A net increase of 23 active cases raises the current total to 1,663 currently confirmed and probable active cases in Arkansas. An additional eight days were reported Tuesday for a statewide total of 5,673 since last May. Hospitalizations fell by eight to leave 148 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus. 


CAMDEN’S FIRST FRIDAY MONTHLY MARKET RETURNS MAY 7TH TO DOWNTOWN CAMDEN
Camden, AR - First Friday Monthly Market in Camden, AR announces their plans for the 2021 Season!  We are excited to kick off the 2021 season in May this year and proceed each month through November.

Lots of fun and activities are planned, just as you came to expect from our past seasons.

The dates and themes for this year are:
May 7th-  Cinco De Mayo
June 4th - Jugglin’ June – with special Circus Performers
July 2nd - “Camden Cook-Out”
August 6th - Take Flight Camden” will bring a Literacy Emphasis as well as Autism Awareness.
September 3rd - “Off to the Fair” as we prepare for our own Ouachita County Fair
October 1st - “Downtown Get Down”
November 5th- “Flannel and Frost” as we close out our 2021 season and prepare for the holidays.

Join us May 7th from 6PM until 9PM in downtown Camden as First Friday Monthly Market kicks off it’s 2021 season. This year will start of celebrating with the theme “Cinco De Mayo”.  

Be sure to get your shopping in with a vast array of vendors set up along Washington St and Adams Ave selling everything from wood workings to jewelry. Special nonprofit groups and local organizations will be there to provide all kinds of entertaining games, snow cones, special dog treats and dog tags.

Enjoy the special Sock Hop Soda Shoppe, a 50s style soda fountain for all your ice cream creations or grab a funnel cake and hot dog from Lee’s Concessions.  Of course with our “Cinco de Mayo” theme we will have street tacos and a special taco truck will be located at the Native Dog Brewery.
 

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE SEEKS TIPS FROM THE PUBLIC TO AID HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION IN HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK
Special Agents of the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch are seeking tips from the public to determine the circumstances related to the homicide of Paige Autumn White, a 32-year-old Caucasian female with a missing right eye and an anchor tattoo on her right foot. White’s remains were found off of Blacksnake Road in Hot Springs National Park on March 27, 2021.

The investigation is ongoing and there is no indication that this was other than an isolated incident. National Park Service investigators are working with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Hot Springs Police Department, Arkansas State Police, and Garland County Sheriff’s Department to find out more about the days leading up to White’s death.

Though no further details about this incident are available at this time, investigators are gathering more information every day to move this case forward and the community’s continued assistance is appreciated. Sometimes, people with knowledge about an incident may not initially come forward because they do not realize its importance, because of their relationships to people involved, or they have concerns for their safety. However, information from family, friends, acquaintances, or others who may have seen White recently is often very helpful.

If you may have information about White or her death – no matter how insignificant it may seem – please contact us. You may remain anonymous. You don’t have to tell us who you are, but please tell us what you know:

 

AIRPORT COMMISSION TO MEET
The Airport Commission will have their regularly scheduled meeting on Friday, April 16, 2021 at 11:30 at the Airport.

SURVEY: SMALL BUSINESS OPTIMISM IMPROVES, BUT OWNERS STRUGGLE TO FIND QUALIFIED WORKERS 
LITTLE ROCK (April 13, 2021) – The NFIB Small Busines Optimism Index rose 2.4 points in March to 98.2. March’s reading is the first return to the average historical reading since last November. The NFIB Uncertainty Index increased six points to 81, which was primarily driven by owners being more uncertain about whether it is a good time to expand their business and make capital expenditures in the coming months.  

“Main Street is doing better as state and local restrictions are eased, but finding qualified labor is a critical issue for small businesses nationwide,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Small business owners are competing with the pandemic and increased unemployment benefits that are keeping some workers out of the labor force. However, owners remain determined to hire workers and grow their business.” 

State-specific data isn’t available, but NFIB State Director Sylvester Smith said, “Our Arkansas members say they’re hiring, but it’s hard for them to find candidates with the right skills and experience.”

Key findings include: 
Seven of the 10 Index components improved and three declined.  
Sales expectations over the next three months improved eight points to a net 0% of owners, a historically low level. 
Earnings trends over the past three months declined four points to a net negative 15%. 

As reported in NFIB’s monthly jobs report, 42% of owners reported job openings that could not be filled, a record high reading. Owners continue to have difficulty finding qualified workers to fill jobs as they compete with increased unemployment benefits and the pandemic keeping some workers out of the labor force. 

A net 28% of owners reported raising compensation (up three points) and the highest level in the past 12 months. A net 17% plan to raise compensation in the next three months, down two points. 

Seven percent of owners cited labor costs as their top business problem and 24% said that labor quality was their top business problem. Finding eligible workers to fill open positions will become increasingly difficult for small business owners.  

Fifty-nine percent of owners reported capital outlays in the next six months, up two points from February. Of those making expenditures, 41% reported spending on new equipment, 26% acquired vehicles, and 14% improved or expanded facilities. Six percent acquired new buildings or land for expansion and 11% spent money for new fixtures and furniture.  

Twenty percent of owners plan capital outlays in the next few months, down three points from February. Owners are not planning on investing in their businesses as expected future sales and business conditions remain below average.  

A net negative 6% of all owners (seasonally adjusted) reported higher nominal sales in the past three months, down eight points from February. The net percent of owners expecting higher real sales volumes improved eight points to a net negative 0%.  

The net percent of owners reporting inventory increases decreased two points to a net negative 5%. A net 3% of owners view current inventory stocks as “too low” in March, down two points but remaining at historically high levels. A net 4% of owners plan inventory investment in the coming months, up two points from February.   

The net percent of owners raising average selling prices increased one point to a net 26% (seasonally adjusted). Eight percent of owners reported lower average selling prices and 36% reported higher average prices. Price hikes were the most frequent in wholesale (65% higher, 5% lower) and retail (48% higher, 5% lower). A net 34% (seasonally adjusted) plan price hikes. 

The frequency of reports of positive profit trends declined four points to a net negative 15% reporting quarter on quarter profit improvements. Sales have not yet improved enough for owners to report higher earnings. 

Among those owners reporting lower profits, 46% blamed weaker sales, 15% cited the usual seasonal change, 10% cited a higher cost of materials, 5% cited labor costs, 5% cited lower prices, and 4% cited higher taxes or regulatory costs. For owners reporting higher profits, 68% credited sales volumes, 12% cited usual seasonal change, and 7% cited higher prices.  

Two percent of owners reported that all of their borrowing needs were not satisfied. Twenty-seven percent reported all credit needs were met and 59% said they were not interested in a loan. A net 1% reported that their last loan was harder to get than in previous attempts. One percent of owners reported that financing was their top business problem. The net percent of owners reporting paying a higher rate on their most recent loan was 0%, up two points from February. 

 

COTTON INTRODUCES BILL TO MAKE STATES THAT SEND CASH TO ILLEGAL ALIENS INELIGIBLE FOR FEDERAL FUNDS
Washington, D.C. – Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today introduced the No Bailouts for Illegal Aliens Act,   legislation that amends the American Rescue Plan Act to make states and localities ineligible for federal funds until they certify they aren’t offering bailouts specifically to illegal aliens.

“Some local governments are offering illegal immigrants thousands of dollars for jobs they lost during the pandemic—jobs that belong to Americans in the first place. The federal government shouldn’t subsidize state efforts to send cash to illegal immigrants,” said Cotton.

Background:
Last week, it was reported that New York would offer one-time payments of up to $15,600 to illegal immigrants who lost work during the pandemic.
States and municipalities that refuse to comply with the certification requirement will not be eligible for American Rescue Plan Act funds.
The bill will not affect any of the Paycheck Protection Program loans offered to companies and nonprofit organizations.
The bill also will not affect the unemployment provisions or the relief checks offered to Americans under the American Rescue Plan Act.

Cotton, Hagerty Lead Senators Asking FBI to Investigate Whether Colin Kahl Improperly Disclosed Classified Information
 

REQUEST SCHUMER NOT ADVANCE NOMINEE UNTIL FBI COMPLETES INVESTIGATION
Washington, D.C. – Led by Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Bill Hagerty (R-Tennessee), 18 senators have written to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seeking an immediate investigation into whether Dr. Colin Kahl, President Joe Biden’s nominee to be Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, after leaving government employment, publicly disclosed classified information and controlled unclassified information; discussed classified information and controlled unclassified information with U.S. government officials; or solicited U.S. government officials to provide, or otherwise received, classified information and controlled unclassified information.

The senators believe an FBI investigation is warranted given Kahl’s evasive written response on March 23, 2021, which raised more questions than it answered and may even further implicate the nominee in the mishandling of classified information and controlled unclassified information. The letter’s signatories include Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Mike Braun (R-Indiana), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), Rick Scott (R-Florida), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), and James Lankford (R-Oklahoma).

“Kahl’s growing record of apparent mishandling of classified information and controlled unclassified information and his evasive response regarding this issue fall short of the standard required for holding one of our nation’s top national security positions. By apparently soliciting or otherwise receiving classified information and controlled unclassified information from U.S. government officials serving in national security roles and repeatedly posting such information on social media websites, Kahl demonstrated disregard for security protocols that are designed to protect our national security interests,” the senators wrote.

 The senators have also sent a copy of this request to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and requested that he not advance the Kahl nomination until the FBI has completed its investigation.

 

April 12, 2021

CITY OF CAMDEN BOARD OF ALDERMEN TO MEET
The City of Camden Board of Aldermen will have their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. in the Municipal Building located at 206 Van Buren NE. We are continuing to social distance. Please wear your masks.

The agenda is as follows:
A. CALL TO ORDER
B. INVOCATION -Rev. James Manley, Assoc. Pastor- Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, 247 Buchanan St. SE, Camden, AR
C. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
D. ROLL CALL
E. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
     1. Minutes Regular Meeting of March 9, 202 I
F. ACCEPTANCE OF FINANCIAL REPORT
     1. Financial Report for March 2021
G. AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION
H. MAYOR'S REPORT
I. OLD BUSINESS
J. NEW BUSINESS
    1. Resolution No. 20-21, a resolution expressing the willingness of the City Council to utilize Federal-Aid Transportation Alternative Program Funds for Adams A venue sidewalks.
    2. Resolution No. 21-21, a resolution expressing support for the passage oflegislation imposing enhanced sentencing for convictions of misdemeanors and felonies associated with crimes committed against victims with actual or perceived characteristics (Hate Crime); and for other purposes.
    3. Resolution No. 22-21, a resolution amending the budget for 2021; and for other purposes.
    4. Resolution No. 24-21, a resolution amending the budget for 2021; Appropriating funds for the Code Enforcement Department; and for other purposes.
K. OTHER BUSINESS
L. ADJOURNMENT

OPED REPORTS ON PROGRESS AT NEW DOLLAR GENERAL
The new Dollar General store in Camden at the corner of Cash & Washington is taking shape! The steel framework is up.  Ouachita Partnership Economic Development (OPED) was happy to have been the facilitator between Dollar General and the property owners in locating at this site in Camden and also the new store in Chidester. It is always good to see new investment and job creation in the communities that we serve. Economic Development-it's what we do!

SOUTHERN ARKANSAS UNIVERSITY TECH PREPARES FOR DELIVERY OF TRANSFER UNIVERSITY MODEL FOR FALL 2021
Southern Arkansas University, Camden-SAU Tech announced today, April 9, 2021, that it will begin providing a new academic transfer delivery model for fall 2021.

Rocket University, developed by SAU Tech, is built on the premise that students seeking bachelor's degrees can obtain the first two years of a degree at a lower cost with individualized support services without giving up the freshman college experience.

While the state of Arkansas has a transfer system in place between two-year and four-year state colleges, SAU Tech has taken the transfer process a step further with Rocket University to ensure that students have a seamless transfer process. SAU Tech's transfer process now includes university transfer agreements with in-state and out-of-state universities. Partner universities include Arkansas Tech University, Arkansas State University-Jonesboro, Henderson State University, John Brown University, Southern Arkansas University, the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, Columbia College, Columbia Southern University, and Purdue Global University. 

The real advantages of Rocket University lie in the flexibility for the individual student. Students can participate in the "freshman experience" they expect from colleges such as NJCAA athletics, student housing, student organizations, scholars programs, leadership and volunteer opportunities, choir, and support services to help them succeed academically and personally in their first two years.

SAU Tech did not limit the transfer options under Rocket University to students seeing bachelor of science or arts degrees; the College also included transfers for bachelor of applied science degrees. Students or alumni who have degrees in technical fields can now obtain bachelor's degrees.

The delivery of transfer options was also a consideration when creating the Rocket University model. The College wanted to provide students with alternate delivery options. Many of the articulations include online degrees. This is especially important to students balancing their personal and work lives while working on a college degree.

Dr. Jason Morrison, SAU Tech Chancellor, said that "We wanted to take transfer options for our students and make them accessible to our students with this model we created. Providing clear articulated agreements between SAU Tech and partner universities removes the stress from the process for students and college advisors. It opens up the world of education for two-year college students. Our vice chancellor for academics and planning, Dr. Valerie Wilson, is developing transfer pathways to include more university partners for our students. We want to give the freshman college experience to our students and make the process of obtaining a bachelor's degree a reality for them."

SAU Tech will formally begin the program in the fall of this academic year. For more information on Rocket University, go to www.sautech.edu/transfer or call 870-574-4558.
 

HOT SPRINGS MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO CHARGES IN CONNECTION WITH OBTAINING CORONAVIRUS RELIEF FUNDS
Hot Springs, Arkansas – David Clay Fowlkes, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced that James Heritage, age 38, of Hot Springs, Arkansas, pleaded guilty today to two charges stemming from his attempts to unlawfully obtain COVID-19  relief funds. The first count charged Heritage with making a false statement on a loan application to obtain money through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the second count is one count of mail fraud, in connection with a scheme to collect Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a form of supplemental unemployment insurance, from various state PUA administrators.

According to the plea agreement, Heritage received a PPP loan of approximately $180,000 by representing to the Small Business Administration that he was the owner of a Hot Springs business in need of financial assistance. Law enforcement discovered that the represented business did not exist, and the information in Heritage’s loan application was false.

Heritage’s sentencing will be determined by the court at a later date, following the U.S. Probation Office’s completion of a presentence investigation. Based on his guilty plea, the maximum penalty on Count 1 includes imprisonment up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000, and on Count 2 includes up to 30 years imprisonment and a fine of $1,000,000.

The PPP allows qualifying small-businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of 1%. PPP loan proceeds must be used by businesses on payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. The PPP allows the interest and principal on the PPP loan to be forgiven if the business spends the loan proceeds on these expense items within a designated period of time after receiving the proceeds and uses at least a certain percentage of the PPP loan proceeds on payroll expenses. 

The case was investigated by the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Small Business Administration’s Office of the Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorney Hunter Bridges is prosecuting the case for the United States.
 

HOT SPRINGS MAN SENTENCED TO 18 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR DRUG TRAFFICKING AND FIREARMS POSSESSION
Hot Springs, Arkansas – David Clay Fowlkes, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced that Robert Arthur Blackstead Jr., age 56, of Hot Springs, Arkansas, was sentenced today to 216 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine and one count of Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime. The Honorable Chief Judge Susan O. Hickey presided over the sentencing hearing in the United States District Court in Hot Springs.

In January of 2019, investigators with the 18th Judicial Drug Task Force and agents with Homeland Security Investigations Little Rock launched an investigation into Blackstead’s drug trafficking in the Western District of Arkansas. Over the course of the investigation, investigators and agents were able to conduct several controlled purchases of methamphetamine from Blackstead.

During the arrest of Blackstead, a search of his residence was conducted by investigators and agents.  The search resulted in locating three firearms, a distribution amount of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

Blackstead was indicted by a federal grand jury in March of 2019 and entered a guilty plea in September of 2019.

This case was investigated by the 18th Judicial Drug Task Force and Homeland Security Investigations Little Rock. Assistant United States Attorney David Harris prosecuted the case for the Western District of Arkansas.

This case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

STATE CAPITOL WEEK IN REVIEW FROM SENATOR TRENT GARNER
April 9, 2021
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas became the first state in the nation to prohibit physicians from performing gender transition procedures on minors, either through surgery or hormone therapy.

Sponsors of the bill said that children needed protection from experimentation. They said that minors are too young to make such important decisions as choosing a sex change, which has long-term health effects that can be irreversible.

The governor vetoed the legislation, House Bill 1570, saying that it put government between physicians and young people and their parents. He also noted that some young people in Arkansas are currently undergoing a gender change and will not be allowed continued treatment.

The legislature voted to override the veto. The Senate vote was 25-to-8 and in the House it was 71-to-24.

HB 1570 is one of several bills this legislative session that affect transgender people.

Act 461 effectively prohibits transgender boys who identify as girls from competing in sports. It allows a civil action by girls who are deprived of athletic opportunities because the school allowed a boy to compete instead. In the lawsuit, the girl could seek monetary damages for any psychological, emotional or physical harm.

A similar measure, Senate Bill 450, has been approved by the Senate. It requires schools to designate their varsity sports programs for girls, boys or coed. If a boy is allowed to play a girls sports, the girl can file a lawsuit to stop it, and the school could lose its public funding.

In other news the Senate approved SB 622, a version of what is has been labelled as a “hate crimes” bill. It mandates longer prison sentences for violent offenders who target someone who is in a “recognizable and identifiable group or class who share mental, physical, biological, cultural, political, or religious beliefs or characteristics.”

Under SB 622, offenders would not be eligible for parole until they have served at least 80 percent of their original sentence if they purposely chose a victim because of the victim’s class or group.

Prosecutors would have to ask for delayed release during the initial trial. The judge or jury would determine whether the offender’s release should be delayed because of the aggravating circumstances.

According to the FBI, in 2019 there were nine crimes committed in Arkansas whose causes were related to bias. However, not all of the state’s law enforcement agencies reported to the FBI.

Also last week, the Senate approved HB 1614 to raise teacher salaries in districts where they earn less than the state average. Disparities in salaries is one of the major obstacles in recruiting and retaining good teachers in small, rural and isolated districts.

According to state education officials, the gap in salaries between the richest and the poorest school districts is more than $21,000 a year.

HB 1614 creates a special “equalization” fund that will start with about $25 million, which will be distributed to schools that now pay less than the state average teacher salary.

It’s estimated that the money will increase average teacher salaries in those districts by about $2,000 over the next two years. Last year the average teacher salary for Arkansas was $49,822.

Over the next two years, the goal of HB 1614 is to bring the average salary up to $51,822.

April 08, 2021

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: ARKANSAS EXTENDS STATE INCOME TAX FILING DEADLINE
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is issuing a notification to Arkansans that the deadline for filing state individual income tax has been extended until May 17, 2021 to coincide with the extended federal deadline.

“This year, the date might have changed, but the responsibility remains – tax time has arrived,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “We have dealt with tough situations, heartache, and a difficult year, but I want Arkansans to know their options when safely filing their taxes.”

Attorney General Rutledge has provided these tips for Arkansans still working on filing their federal and state taxes this year:
Compare the prices and fees of multiple preparers. Prices can vary significantly.
Check the qualifications and reputation of the person handling your personal information. You are responsible for the information submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Make sure the preparer has a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) from the IRS.
Make sure that your tax return shows your address and that your refund is direct deposited into YOUR bank account.  Be wary of a tax return preparer who insists that you use his or her address and bank account.  You may not get all that you are entitled to receive.
AARP Foundation Tax Aide program offers free assistance to Arkansas seniors filing their taxes online or by calling 888-OUR-AARP (888-687-2277).
Tax help is available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week on IRS.gov.
Visit the IRS website to see if you qualify for free federal tax filing preparation.
Information for filing state taxes can be found online on dfa.arkansas.gov/income-tax or by calling (501) 682-1100.

Governor Hutchinson issued a proclamation to announce that he had signed Executive Order 21-06, which grants the extension for filing an Arkansas tax return or payment until May 17, 2021. The proclamation can be viewed here.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or OAG@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov.

LOCAL FOOD, GROWN FOR LOCALS
Camden Downtown Farmer’s Market Provides Fresh and Tasty Food
The downtown farmer’s market will open for the 2021 season on Friday, April 16th from 5PM till 7PM.  The market throughout the season will feature vendors selling produce fruits, jams, jelly, eggs, meat, honey, fresh flowers, baked goods, and more! This year’s market will be a walk-through market in front of First Methodist Church on Harrison Avenue. The farmer’s market will take place on the 3rd Friday of each month through the summer.

EL DORADO BRINGS OUT THE FUN AT MAY ON MAIN!
El Dorado, AR., - Come out and enjoy the day in downtown El Dorado at May on Main. This inaugural event, presented by Main Street El Dorado and Murphy USA, will be held Saturday, May 1st from 11:00 am till 5:30 pm on the Square in Downtown El Dorado.

“We are so excited to host this event and give the public a chance to experience our beautiful downtown and all it has to offer,” said Beth Brumley, executive director of Main Street El Dorado.

“We had to cancel many of our planned events last year due to the pandemic, and we wanted to make sure that our first event has something for everyone to enjoy,” Brumley said.

It will be a day of fun filled with live music, a chili cook-off, motorcycle poker run, games, inflatables, kid’s activities, AND MUCH MORE! Admission is FREE to the festival with some activities requiring a small fee.

Grill Wars Chili Cook-Off
The Grill Wars season kicks off with an ICS sanctioned Chili Cook-Off. The cooking starts at 9:00 am with judging starting at noon. Over $2,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded in 3 categories, with first place receiving $500 and a trophy. With this being an ICS Sanctioned event, the Top 3 cooks will receive an invitation to the 54th World Championship Chili Cook-Off in Myrtle Beach, SC.

From 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm, the public will have a chance to taste competition chili. $10 will allow a person to sample five separate pots of chili.

Registration for the event is going on now and will start at $35 dollars for the required traditional red chili, and optionally $25 for the Verde category and $30 for the Homestyle category. You and your team can register now at mainstreeteldorado.org.

Motorcycle Poker Run
The Hog Wild Motorsports motorcycle Poker Run will begin at 11:30 am. The poker run will start from the Northeast corner of the Murphy USA parking lot on Jefferson St. at the Mayhaw Festival. The last bike out will be at noon and all bikes must return by 1:30 pm.

Early registration is going on now through April 23rd at Noon. Registration is $30 per driver (includes a FREE t-shirt) and $20 per passenger (if the passenger is playing a hand). You can pre-register at mainstreeteldorado.org or by calling the Main Street El Dorado Office at 870-862-4747. Day-of registration will be held from 9am - 11am at the north east corner of Murphy USA HQ parking lot on Jefferson St at the Mayhaw festival.

$1,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to the riders with the best poker hands, including $500 to first place!

Fun Zone
Festival-goers will have their pick of fun events and attractions that will fill downtown El Dorado. Kids will have a blast on the inflatables, playing yard games featuring giant Jenga, giant Connect 4, kid’s Baggo & more! There will be Big Wheel races for the kids from 12pm - 1pm. There is no entry fee required to enter the races.

There’s plenty of fun for the Adults too! Test your aim in the Epps Land Services Baggo Tournament. Baggo is a game that got its start at tailgating events and has grown in popularity in recent years. There’s a $10 fee per person to enter the tournament, and is available to ages 10 and up. First Place Prize for this Baggo Tournament will be $250 cash courtesy of Epps Land Services!

Adults can also enjoy The Kilt Axe Throwing booth. Have fun throwing axes at wooden targets and see if you can hit the bullseye. $10 per game or 2 games for $15.

Great Food
Come out to enjoy the best festival food in the region along with access to all of our wonderful Downtown restaurants! Flossie’s will be here featuring, funnel cakes, corndogs, cotton candy, lemonade, and more. Cool off with a frozen treat from King Kone snow cones, and enjoy some delicious Pupps BBQ while you are waiting for the chili.

Live Music
All afternoon, live music will be playing on the square featuring the region’s best acts! It all starts at 12:30 pm with the Karla Case Band, followed by Brody McKinney at 2:15 pm. At 3:00 pm Zach Abbott will take the stage and Blackstrap will take the stage at 4:00 pm to keep the party going before The Allman Betts Band takes the stage at the First Financial Music Hall at The Murphy Arts District! Get tickets for that event at eldomad.com.

To learn more about May on Main, or to register for an event, go online at mainstreeteldorado.org, you can also call the Main Street El Dorado offices at 870-862-4747.

Sponsors for this year’s event include; Hepco-Budweiser, Murphy Sumac Mart, Epps Land Services, Hog Wild Motorsports, Noalmark Broadcasting, Judge Mike and Phena Loftin, and the El Dorado A&P Commission.

SAAC ANNOUNCES TRIPP PHILLIPS AS VISITING DIRECTOR FOR "STEEL MAGNOLIAS"
The South Arkansas Arts Center will welcome El Dorado native and Broadway professional Tripp Phillips as the visiting director for "Steel Magnolias," the first production of their 2021-2022 season. A New York-based production stage manager and assistant director with an abundance of shows to his credit, Phillips was first introduced to the theatre as a child at SAAC, and he is enthusiastic about this chance to reconnect with his roots.
"I knew at ten years old that theatre was what I wanted to do with my life," said Phillips, "and I am one of those lucky people who got to do it. But I never would have known that without the arts center."
Raised in El Dorado, Phillips began his theatre work as a child actor and then a young director at SAAC, first appearing in a 1971 production of "The Wizard of Oz" as the Mayor of Munchkins. Over the next decade, he was instrumental in nearly 40 productions on the SAAC stage, appearing as an actor, designing and building sets, working behind the scenes, and stage managing. His first directing credit was for a children's production, "The Ugly Duckling," in 1976, and he continued directing shows through the early 1980s, including summer musicals "My Fair Lady" and "Funny Girl."
Phillips holds a B.A. in Theatre from Centenary College of Louisiana and an M.F.A. in Directing from the University of Mississippi, from which he graduated with honors in 1986. From 1986 to 1994, before beginning his work on Broadway, he was the Artistic/Managing Director of the York Little Theatre in York, Pennsylvania, an acclaimed and successful community theatre. With Broadway credits including "Plaza Suite," "All My Sons," "Carousel," "War Paint," "42nd Street," "Finian's Rainbow," "Pal Joey," "The King and I," and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," Phillips has worked on a diverse and exciting range of shows, as well as national tours, off-Broadway, and regional theatre productions.
When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the shutdown of the live theatre industry, including Broadway, Phillips saw an opportunity to spend some time with his family in El Dorado. As he looks toward returning to New York in the late summer, he is excited to have the time to return to his home stage at SAAC as the director of the upcoming production of "Steel Magnolias," which debuts SAAC's 2021-2022 season and marks the first full-scale production since the pandemic began.
"'Steel Magnolias' is a story about love and resilience," said Phillips, "which I think is very appropriate right now. It's a much-loved ensemble show, shared by the six remarkable women who tell the enduring story, and I think it's a great way to welcome audiences back to the world of live theatre."
Steel Magnolias is sponsored by Murphy USA and will run June 17-25, with auditions scheduled for April 26 and 29. Phillips has prepared audition materials and suggested readings, which are available now at SAAC. For more information, please call 870-862-5474 or visit the website at www.saac-arts.org. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas.

 

HISTORIC LEGISLATION!

ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE VOTES TO OVERRIDE GOVERNOR’S VETO OF SAFE ACT AT AFA’S URGING
American Family Association Commends Arkansas Legislature for Their Courageous Vote
Little Rock, Ark. – This week, the Arkansas Legislature voted to override Governor Hutchinson’s veto of H.B. 1570, the Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act.

 This legislative override is a direct result of an American Family Association (AFA, www.AFA.net) action alert campaign, sent to Arkansas voters, urging them to contact their legislature to override the Governor’s veto. The AFA action alert read in part, “The Arkansas legislature needs to protect children from regressive liberals who insist on harming children by advocating for gender-reassignment surgeries that can leave children sterilized and scarred for life. Medical researchers do not know the long-term effects these procedures and therapies can have on kids. That is why many people equate them with experimenting on children.”

 Key points of the SAFE ACT include:

“Gender transition” is an experiment; no “treatment” can change a person’s genetic composition, and no studies have demonstrated long-term benefits.

The government should not force taxpayers to fund it, insurers to cover it, or children to be subjected to it.

The SAFE Act also provides legal remedies for minors who have been permanently disfigured and/or sterilized.

 “Arkansas legislators voting to override Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto should be commended for making the right decision,” stated Rob Chambers, Vice President for AFA Action (www.afaaction.net), a division of the American Family Association. “Their courageous vote will help prevent irreparable, physical harm done to children. Surgical mutilation of a child’s genitalia for sex reassignment purposes is destructive and irreversible—this is not healthcare.”

 Family Council President Jerry Cox issued a statement saying, “This is really good news. Gender-reassignment surgeries can leave children sterilized and scarred for life. Medical researchers do not know the long-term effects these procedures and therapies can have on kids. That is why many people equate them with experimenting on children. This good legislation will protect Arkansas’ children from sex-reassignment procedures.”

 For over 40 years, AFA has operated within the mission to inform, equip and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture and give aid to the church here and abroad in its task of fulfilling the Great Commission. Find AFA Action Alerts here.

 AFA—founded in 1977—has long been on the front lines of America’s culture war. Today, AFA is one of the largest and most effective pro-family organizations in the country, with nearly a million online supporters and approximately 160,000 subscribers to the AFA Journal, the ministry’s monthly magazine. In addition, AFA owns and operates nearly 180 radio stations across the country under the American Family Radio banner.

 View the media page for AFA here. For more information on American Family Association, visit www.afa.net or follow AFA on Facebook or Twitter @AmericanFamAssc.

April 07, 2021

DEFRANCE TO HOST FOOD PANTRY BENEFIT AT CAMDEN’S FIRST FRIDAY MONTHLY MARKET
Hometown favorites deFrance return to Camden on Friday, May 7 for the city’s very first First Friday Monthly Market of the year. deFrance will take the stage in the Stinson’s Jewelry parking lot downtown at 6:00 p.m. and while admission is free, the band will be raising money for the First United Methodist Church food pantry.

“Not only are we excited to get back to the community, but we are excited to give back to the community, and try to help raise some money for the FUMC food pantry that fed an overwhelming number of folks in the area last year. As a lifelong member of FUMC and growing up in Camden, I’m proud of the work they’ve done and it’s the least we could do to help,” states Drew deFrance.

The First United Methodist Church food pantry is open Monday, Tuesday, and Friday from 9:00-11:00 a.m. and due to COVID-19 has been operating in a drive-through method. To donate online visit tithe.ly/give_new/www/#/tithely/give-one-time/452672. The food pantry will also have a table setup at the concert on Friday, May 7 for those who wish to make donations in person. Learn more about the First United Methodist Church food pantry at CamdenFUMC.com.

Three of the five members of deFrance are Camden natives and as drummer Daniel Stratton Curry puts it, are “excited to play again in our hometown, it’s been too long!” Guitarist Mitchell Lowe is “honored to give back to the community that raised me. To support the kids of Camden is to support Camden’s future.”

Camden’s First Friday Monthly Market takes places every month and features local vendors, live music, booths from community organizations, children’s activities, book signings, and more. Friday, May 7 is the market’s first time back since 2019. Learn more about Camden’s First Friday Monthly Market at FirstFridayCamden.com.

Learn more about deFrance at deFranceMusic.com.

AIRPORT COMMISSION CALLS SPECIAL MEETING
The City of Camden Airport Commission will be having Special Called Meeting at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, April 9th, 2021. The purpose of the meeting is to open any Bids that have been received for the Job Application for the opening at the Airport.  

OUACHITA COUNTY FAIR BORD TO HOST CRAWFISH COOKING CONTEST
The Ouachita County Fair Board is hosting a Crawfish Cooking Contest on Saturday, April 24th at the Ouachita County Recreational Center. Entry fee for a team of 4 is $75.00. Payout is based on how many teams compete. If we have 10 teams 1st place $500.00, 2nd place 300,00 and 3rd place $200.00

The gates will open to the public for "all you can eat crawflsh and flxin’s" at 5:00 p.m. Advanced tickets are $20,00. Tickets the day of will be $25.00.

For an application or more Info contact Ricky Cummings at 870-397-3471, Keith Ballard at 870-818-7444, or Stephanie Cummins at 870-397-3468

There will also be a Cornhole Tournament onSaturday, April 24th at the Ouachita County Recreational Center beginning at 1:00 p.m. Entry fee is $40.00. First place will win $100.00 and 2nd place will win $50.00.  For more information contact Ricky Cummings 870-397-3471 or Ryan Wages 870-818-8086.

CITY OF CAMDEN TO CELEBRATE EARTH DAY
Earth Day is April 22, 2021. The week of April 19th thru April 24th the Keep Camden Beautiful Committee and the Camden Public Works Department are teaming to offer free Yard Waste and Yard Debris Dumping.

The week of April 19th thru April 24th you can clean your yard, clean your neighbors’ yard. There will be no charge to bring your Yard Waste Materials (yard debris as in; limbs, leaves, grass clippings and pine straw) free!!!

Camden-City Landfill is located at 2463 Country Club Road The City of Camden Transfer Station-Sanitation Department- Earth Week Hours will be Monday through Friday from 8 am until 4 pm and Saturday April 24th from 9 am until 3 pm.

CAMDEN KIWANIS CLUB TO MEET
The Camden Kiwanis Club will meet this Thursday, April 8th, at Catherine's Bistro at 12:00 PM. The program will be presented by The Workforce Training Department. You are required to wear a mask was entering and leaving the building, if you do not have one they will provide you with one. Your temperature will be taken, and you'll sign in and report your temp. All the chairs in the meeting room will be spaced out as required.

 

ARORA PARTNERS WITH GIRL SCOUT DIAMONDS TO RAISE AWARENESS FOR ORGAN DONATION
Arkansas Life Rock Challenge highlights April’s National Donate Life Month
LITTLE ROCK, Ark.— ARORA--the agency coordinating organ, eye and tissue donation in Arkansas--will celebrate National Donate Life Month in April with events and activities honoring those who have saved lives through the healing gift of donation and encouraging Arkansans to register as donors.

“Becoming an organ donor is simple, and it’s the gift of a lifetime. It takes less than a minute and gives hope to the more than 100,000 individuals who are waiting on life-saving transplants,” said Alan Cochran, president and executive director of ARORA.

This year, ARORA will raise awareness of the need for organ donor registration through an engaging statewide initiative in partnership with the Girl Scouts–Diamonds of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Participating Girl Scouts will decorate “Life Rocks” with the Donate Life message, affix a QR code, hide the rocks throughout the state and leave clues on social media. The Girls will challenge friends, family and followers to find their rocks and log them on a special Finder’s page, as well as post selfies with their finds on social media.

“We’re pleased to partner with ARORA to bring this life-saving mission to light in Arkansas,” said Sharon Lynch, chief mission delivery officer for the Girl Scouts Diamonds. “This initiative gets Girls active, gets Girls outside, gets Girls informed and gets Girls engaged. We’re hopeful we’ll have dozens of troops and hundreds of girls across Arkansas bringing awareness to the life-saving imperative of registering as an organ and tissue donor.”

The Girls will hide and hashtag their rocks throughout the month, and the seeking will continue as long as interest, engagement and rocks remain, according to Audrey Coleman, director of Communications for ARORA.

Interested observers can follow along and join the Arkansas Life Rock Challenge by following the hashtag #LifeRockChallenge on social media channels. 

ARORA’s National Donate Life Month celebration will culminate in a virtual version of its annual Donor Zoo Family event. Donors, donor families and transplant recipients will participate in an evening in their honor at the Little Rock Zoo on April 30. Due to Covid, the event will be a virtual experience this year.

ARORA also will participate in National Donate Life Month events listed here.
Living Donor Day ‒ April 7 Recognizing living donors for their life-saving generosity.
National Donate Life Blue & Green Day – April 16 The public is encouraged to wear blue and green and to promote the importance of registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor.
Blue & Green Spirit Week – April 10 - 16 Each day of the week leading up to National Donate Life Blue & Green Day is dedicated to a special theme, and will include recognizing donors, volunteers and healthcare heroes; giving hope to those waiting; and engaging the public in fun, at-home activities.
National Pediatric Transplant Week ‒ April 18 - 24 National Pediatric Transplant Week focuses on the powerful message of ending the pediatric transplant waiting list.

Many Arkansans are aware that they can register to become an organ donor when renewing their driver’s licenses at the DMV. A trip to the DMV doesn’t happen every day of course, so it’s worth noting that it’s equally fast and easy to register online at www.donatelifearkansas.org.

For more information on organ donation, ARORA and its National Donate Life Month events, go to www.arora.org or follow ARORA on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

FACTS & STATISTICS
Arkansas statistics:
● Roughly 300 Arkansans are on the transplant waiting list
● 64% of eligible Arkansas residents are registered as organ donors, the 16th highest registration rate in the nation

U.S. statistics:
● Another person is added to the nation’s organ transplant waiting list every 10 minutes.
● One organ donation can save 8 lives.
● In 2020, more than 39,000 transplants brought renewed life to patients and their families and communities (from nearly 12,600 deceased and nearly 5,750 living donors).
● 7,000 people die each year (on average 20 people each day — almost one person each hour) because the organs they need are not donated in time.

About ARORA
ARORA was established in 1987 as a nonprofit, independent organ procurement agency. Serving 64 counties across the state, ARORA is headquartered in Little Rock and has a satellite office in northwest Arkansas. ARORA’s mission is to restore lives through the recovery of organs and tissue for transplant.

About National Donate Life Month
National Donate Life Month (NDLM) was established by the nonprofit Donate Life America and its partnering organizations in 2003. Observed in April each year, National Donate Life Month helps to encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and to honor those that have saved lives through the gift of donation.

April 06, 2021

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON’S WEEKLY COVID UPDATE – APRIL 06, 2021
An increasing number of Arkansans are getting vaccinated for COVID-19, but minority communities are apparently falling behind when it comes to the state's vaccine rollout effort. 

During his weekly COVID-19 Taskforce update, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Arkansas' minority groups are not receiving COVID-19 vaccines at the same rate as the state's white population. He said the state has partnered with the Arkansas Minority Health Commission and other minority advocacy groups to ensure the vaccine is reaching all communities in Arkansas.

Hutchinson added that more and more messaging on the effectiveness and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines currently available is being focused on communities of color in Arkansas. 

Hutchinson then explained that, despite the increasing number of vaccines available to the public, community spread of COVID-19 remains a concern. He encouraged Arkansans to remain vigilant against COVID-19 and get their vaccine as soon as possible to help bring the current pandemic to an end.

Finally, the Arkansas Department of Health updated the state's COVID-19 figures as of Tuesday. New cases increased by 163 over the past 24-hour period for a total of more than 331,000 COVID-19 transmissions in Arkansas since the pandemic began. Deaths increased by five over the same period to 5,653. Active cases fell by five to leave 1,602 currently confirmed and probable active cases in Arkansas. Hospitalizations saw a slight increase, raising by seven for a total of 152 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus.

GRAND OPENING OF THE HUB'S SWEET REPEATS SHOP
The Hub has announced the opening of Sweet Repeats – a Resale Shop. Sweet Repeats will open Friday, April 23rd from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and Saturday, April 24th from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. The new resale shop is located off Mt. Holly Road on Tate Street in the oasis Church, formerly Immanuel Baptist Church Building.

OUACHITA COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER HOSTS VACCINE CLINICS
The Ouachita County Medical Center will host COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics later this week. The Pfizer Vaccination will be offer at the Clinics.

The first clinic will be held in Chidester at 118 Willow Street on Thursday, April 8th. You can receive your vaccine at the Green Center at the Hospital next Friday, April 9th.

You will need an appointment. To schedule your vaccination, call 836-5015. If you are an employee or volunteer at OCMC contact Employee Health to get your vaccine.

STATE TO HOST PUBLIC HEARING REGARDING THE 2021 ANNUAL ACTION PLAN
The State Consolidated Plan Board is hosting a public hearing to obtain citizen comments on the draft 2021 Annual Action Plan for the period of July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022. The hearing will be held Thursday, April 15, 2021, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

 During this meeting, state agencies will obtain public comments regarding the allocation of approximately $32 million in funds for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG), Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA), and National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) programs for the 2021 program year beginning July 1.

A draft of the proposed 2021 Annual Action Plan may be viewed online for public comment at www.arkansasedc.com/grants. The comment period will extend for 30 days beginning on April 5 and will end at 4:30 p.m. on May 5, 2021. Public comments will be considered in the final draft of the Consolidated Plan, which will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on May 14, 2021. To be considered in the final plan, written comments must be received during the 30-day public comment period.

A virtual public hearing to obtain citizen comments on the draft 2021 Annual Action Plan will be held Thursday, April 15th, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The public comment period will extend for 30 days beginning on April 5 and will end at 4:30 p.m. on May 5, 2021.

Date: April 15, 2021 
Location:  Virtual
Time: 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Platform: Zoom
Meeting ID:  826 3032 8371
Meeting Link: https://arkansas-gov.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYrdOmrrDMpHdWOeGLMJzVxyd-3ub_OEEKt

 If you are unable to attend the meeting, written comments may be addressed to: Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Attn: Grants Division, 1 Commerce Way, Ste. 601, Little Rock, AR 72202, or by email to Jean Noble, Plan Coordinator, at JNoble@ArkansasEDC.com. The deadline to submit comments at the above address is 4:30 p.m. on May 5, 2021.

 Persons needing interpreters or other accommodations are requested to telephone the Arkansas Economic Development Commission at 501-682-7682 so arrangements may be made in advance.

AGHERITAGE FARM CREDIT SERVICES TO HOLD ANNUAL STOCKHOLDERS MEETING
The AgHeritage Farm Credit Services Annual Stockholders meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, for the purpose of presenting the reports of the association and opening the election process for directors and the nominating committee. The meeting will be at the Arkansas Waterfowl Association Event Center, located at 8088 Highway 31 North in Lonoke, and will begin at 2:00 P.M.

 The Annual Meeting Information Statement was mailed to stockholders on or about March 26.

 AgHeritage Farm Credit Services is a financial cooperative with owned and managed assets of approximately $1.82 billion as of December 31, 2020. The company provides credit and related services to more than 6,030 farmers, ranchers and producers or harvesters of aquatic products in 24 Arkansas counties.

Branch offices are located in Batesville, Brinkley, Lonoke, McGehee, Newport, Pine Bluff, Pocahontas, Searcy and Stuttgart.
 

April 05, 2021

FAIRVIEW UNITED METHODIST MEN FISH FRY
The Methodist Men are at it again!!! The Fairview United Methodist Men are Frying Catfish this Saturday, April 10th from   until 5 pm. Fish and all the trimmings - $12 a ticket! The Fish Fry will be held at the Fairview United Methodist Church located at 2603 Mt. Holly Road in Camden. Call 231-4383 for more information. Tickets may be purchased at the Fish Fry. The Fairview United Methodist Men - Supporting Church and Community Projects!

 

WELDING ACADEMY OF SOUTH ARKANSAS-WELDING COMPETITION
The Welding Academy of South Arkansas is have a Welding Competition on April 24th from 9:00 AM until 12:00 PM at the SAU Tech Campus.
You can register for the competition at https://sautech.formstack.com/forms/welding_competition_registration
There is no entry fee and the Competition is open to all ages.

 

SAAC ANNOUNCES UPCOMING EVENTS
After a year marked by COVID-19-related delays and performance restrictions, the South Arkansas Arts Center is excited to announce a full season of live theatrical events, with performances beginning this summer. While the center has remained open throughout the year for classes, exhibits, small performances, and lectures, community theatre productions have been delayed throughout the pandemic. After consultation with the Arkansas Department of Health, the SAAC theatre steering committee and board of directors has crafted an extended 2021-2022 theatrical season, with performances of "Steel Magnolias" kicking off the season in early summer. 
"Because of restrictions on live singing and audience size, operations at the SAAC theatre have been greatly reduced over the last year," said theatre steering committee chairman Jim Yates. "Our volunteer-led group is extremely ready to get back on the stage in a way that will keep both our actors and our audience safe and entertained."
The season will begin with a two-week run of the classic Southern dramedy "Steel Magnolias," written by Robert Harling. Sponsored by Murphy USA, the show will run June 17-20, 24-27. The beloved story centers on the lives of six women in the fictional Chinquapin, Louisiana beauty shop of Truvy Jones and her eager new assistant, Annelle. Her friends and clients include the eccentric millionaire Clairee, kindly curmudgeon Ouiser, social leader M'Lynn, and her daughter Shelby. Following their stories over several years, the play is built on a framework of love and resilience. 
In October 2021, mystery is afoot at SAAC with the production of "Clue," based on Jonathan Lynn's screenplay for the 1985 movie and inspired by the classic board game of the same name. Join Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock and Wadsworth the butler to solve the eternal question of whodunit...and where...and with what. The show will run October 22-24, 29-31.
Spring 2022 will see an all-star SAAC revival of "Nunsense," March 4-6, 10-12. A madcap romp through a fundraiser produced by the fictional Little Sisters of Hoboken, the show combines zany comedy with stellar musical numbers-all performed by just five actresses. First performed in SAAC's Callaway Theatre in 1997, the show holds a special place in the heart of our community and will feature several members of the original cast.
Finally, the season will close with a spectacular summer musical, when "Mamma Mia!" takes the stage July 14-17, 20-24, 2022. The jukebox musical featuring the songs of ABBA has been long-anticipated by the area's singers, dancers, and musicians, and will be sponsored by Murphy USA.
As large group events relaunch throughout the region, SAAC will continue to consult with the Arkansas Department of Health and follow their guidance when planning for the safety of everyone involved in each production, including staff, volunteers, and audience.
For more information, please contact the SAAC office at 870-862-5474 or visit the website at www.saac-arts.org. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas. 

April 02, 2021

OUACHITA COUNTY QUORUM COURT TO MEET IN REGULAR SESSION
The Ouachita County Quorum Court will meet in regular session on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 at 6:30 P.M. The meeting will be held in the District Courtroom located at 109 Goodgame Street in Camden. The agenda is as follows:
1.  Roll call
2. Invocation

3. Pledge of Allegiance

4. Approval of Minutes

5. Approval of Treasurer's Report

6. Audience Participation

7. New Business
     1. An Appropriation Ordinance to Appropriate Funds in The Circuit Clerk's Automation Fund, Circuit Clerk's        Automation Budget
     2. An Appropriation Ordinance to Appropriate Funds in the Jail Operating Fund, Jail Budget.
     3. An Appropriation Ordinance to Appropriate Funds in the Road Fund, Highway Budget.
     4. An Appropriation Ordinance to Appropriate Funds in the 2020 Opera Ting Budget for Various Funds.
     5. An Appropriation Ordinance to Appropriate Funds in the 2020 Operating Budget for Various Funds.
     6. An Appropriation Ordinance to Appropriate Cares Act Funds in the 2021 Operating Budget for Various Funds.

8. Unfinished Business
9. Adjournment

 

FARM BUREAU AWARDS OUTDOOR GARDEN MINI-GRANTS
Eight schools, including Hampton, receive grant funds to develop outdoor classroom gardens
LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation has awarded a total of $4,000 in Outdoor Classroom Garden Mini-Grants to 10 schools and FFA Programs.

Six schools received grants in the amount of $500. They are:
Valley View High School (Craighead County)
Charleston Middle School (Franklin County)
Maynard FFA (Randolph County)
Pangburn FFA (White County)
Cabot FFA (Lonoke County)
Hampton FFA (Calhoun County)

Alma FFA, Bay FFA, Mulberry High School and the Hope Academy of Public Service received grants in the amount of $250.

“Arkansas Farm Bureau established the Outdoor Classroom Garden Mini-Grant Program more than 15 years ago and to date has awarded more than $75,000 for the development of 150 school gardens across the state,” said Matt Jackson, Arkansas Farm Bureau’s Director of Education.

“It’s exciting to see teachers utilize this program to teach students about food production so they will gain a deeper understanding about agriculture and how it is an integral part of their everyday lives.”
 

CADC CONTINUES FRESH START PROGRAM
Rental Assistance program will pay up to two and a half months of past due rent
Central Arkansas Development Council is continuing the Fresh Start Program for the counties of Calhoun, Clark, Columbia, Dallas, Hempstead, Hot Spring, Howard, Lafayette, Little River, Lonoke, Miller, Montgomery, Nevada, Ouachita, Pike, Pulaski, Saline, Sevier, and Union counties. The Fresh Start Program is a rental assistance program that will pay up to two and a half months of past due rent for families that are affected by covid-19. Applications will be accepted Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:00 AM until 12:00 PM only. Applicants who have already received funds through the Fresh Start Program may be ineligible for additional funds. Applications are accepted at https://arfreshstart.com/ Once applicant sign into the system, they must wait to be accepted to further their application.

In addition to the Fresh Start Program, Central Arkansas Development Council will have additional rental assistance to help the citizens of the city of Little Rock. Residents must reside within the incorporated City Limits of the City of Little Rock.  Have a current family income that does not exceed the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) established "Moderate-Income" limits for Little Rock.  Family income eligibility is based on the following two (2) factors:  1) Total number of people residing in the housing unit and 2) Total amount of current annual family income as stated in the Program Application and confirmed by supporting documentation.  Applicant must have experienced an economic-impact because of the COVID-19 pandemic such as job loss, lay off, furloughed, or reduction in salary.  A current lease agreement for a housing unit in the City of Little Rock is required.   Applicants who have already received funds through the Arkansas Fresh Start Program may be ineligible for the funds provided for the City of Little Rock rental assistance program.  The application process will be the same as the Fresh Start Program.  Applications are accepted at https://arfreshstar.com/.
 For more information visit www.cadc.com

 

EAST CAMDEN CITY WIDE YARD SALE SCHEDULED
The City of East Camden will hold its annual City-Wide Garage Sale on Saturday, May 1st, beginning at 8:00 a.111. A listing of all sales can be picked up at the East Camden Fire Station next door to city hall at 7:45 a.m. that morning. Fried Fish and chicken plates bake sale and cold drinks will be sold at the fire station with all proceeds benefiting the East Camden Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary.

All East Camden residents having a sale are urged to contact City Hall at 574-2900 to register their sale. Outdoor spaces are available for nonresidents and organizations who wish to have a sale by calling city hall and reserving a space for $10. Mark your calendars and make plans to come shop our sales!

For more information, contact Mayor Angie McAdoo at (870) 833-2196
 

FARM CREDIT ASSOCIATIONS OF ARKANSAS ANNOUNCE SPONSORSHIP OF THE NATIONAL MINORITIES IN AGRICULTURE, NATURAL RESOURCES AND RELATED SCIENCES CONFERENCE AND FARM CREDIT VIP SCHOLARS PROGRAM
Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas are proud to announce their sponsorship of the 2021 National Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) Conference, April 6-9, 2021, and of the Farm Credit VIP Scholars program. 

MANRRS is an organization for minority college students and professionals interested in careers in agriculture and related fields. MANRRS is changing the face of agriculture, natural resources and related sciences by supplying the industry with a diverse pool of talented leaders. 

Scholarship recipients receive a $1,000 academic scholarship and the opportunity to participate in the Farm Credit VIP Track of the 2021 National MANRRS Conference.

The VIP Track provides the scholars with meaningful interactions with Farm Credit leadership. It also exposes students to information about careers at Farm Credit in fields including finance, credit, capital markets, informational technology, marketing, etc. Students benefit from leadership development and training to better prepare them to find and succeed in a career in the agriculture industry.

About Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas: 

With more than $4.6 billion in assets, the Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas (AgHeritage Farm Credit Services, Farm Credit Midsouth, Farm Credit of Western Arkansas and Delta Agricultural Credit Association) support agriculture and rural communities across the state. More information available at ARFarmCredit.com.

About Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Science (MANRRS): Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, MANRRS promotes academic and professional advancement by empowering minorities in agriculture, natural resources and related sciences. It is our goal to provide the student members (junior high school through doctoral programs) of our organization with the support to become productive citizens by engaging them in leadership development activities, educational opportunities, job readiness training, and facilitating internship placement and permanent employment, with special emphasis on agriculture, natural resources, and related sciences. MANRRS encourages and promotes Agriculture, Natural Resources, and related STEM programs in an effort to interest and attract underrepresented students and professionals into pursuing educational and career opportunities in these respective areas.
 

ENTERGY ARKANSAS GIVES MORE THAN $1.7M CASH, IN-KIND DONATIONS IN 2020
Employees, retirees volunteer 23K hours, valued at $639K
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – Entergy Arkansas helped power stronger, healthier communities in 2020 by contributing $1,075,608 to nearly 90 nonprofit organizations statewide. Coupled with 23,501 hours of volunteer service last year, the total impact is approximately $1.7 million.

“We Power Life is more than a tagline in Arkansas and across our service areas,” said Entergy Arkansas President and CEO Laura Landreaux, “as giving back throughout the year to our communities is one of our most important corporate values. And this was a year like no other.

“We’re particularly proud of how some grants were in direct response to the changing needs of our partners due to COVID-19 and its effects on their organizations and clients,” she continued. “For example, our donation to the Arkansas Community Action Agencies was used to purchase and install personal protective equipment so applications for emergency assistance with rent, transportation, food and more in the midst of the global health crisis could continue safely – for those in need and the people who serve them.”

In addition to awarding grants, the 23,501 hours of volunteer service from Entergy employees and retirees to a variety of charitable causes were valued at approximately $639,227.

“Our goal is to serve people and help provide a higher quality of life,” Landreaux said, “not only with reliable and safe energy but also through programs that sometimes provide for basic needs but always enrich their lives.”

Additional contributions supported broad-based initiatives ranging from education and workforce development, poverty solutions, the arts and community improvement initiatives, aiding families and aging individuals, and environmental protection.

The funding is part of the Entergy Corporation and the Entergy Charitable Foundation contributions to nonprofit organizations across the company’s service area and come from shareholder profits. For more information about Entergy grants, including application, deadline and eligibility details, visit the Entergy Corporate and Foundation Giving webpage at www.entergy.com/csr/giving/.

ABOUT ENTERGY ARKANSAS AND ENTERGY CORPORATION
Entergy Arkansas provides electricity to approximately 715,000 customers in 63 counties and is a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation (NYSE: ETR). For more than 100 years, Entergy has powered life in our communities through strategic philanthropy, volunteerism and advocacy. Entergy’s corporate social responsibility initiatives help create and sustain thriving communities, position the company for sustainable growth and are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Our top CSR priorities are education/workforce development, poverty solutions/social services and environmental programs.

Entergy Corporation is an integrated energy company engaged in electric power production, transmission and retail distribution operations. Entergy delivers electricity to 3 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Entergy owns and operates one of the cleanest large-scale U.S. power generating fleets with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, including 8,000 megawatts of nuclear power. Headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana, Entergy has annual revenues of $10 billion and more than 13,000 employees. Learn more at entergy.com and follow @Entergy on social media.
 

SAAC TO OFFER ZOOM ACRYLIC WORKSHOP FOR ADULTS
The South Arkansas Arts Center invites you to sign up for a new acrylic painting workshop, The Acrylics Experience: Methods and Techniques, taught by well-known local artist Maria Botti Villegas. Hosted on Zoom, the classes will be held on Tuesday and Thursday nights, with the first class experience beginning on April 27 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. 

Acrylic is a fascinating medium to explore. From translucent to opaque finishing, acrylics are a very versatile medium. Acrylic paint techniques are full of possibilities. Because acrylics dry fast, the results are more immediate, perfect for fine sketches or for a fast and spontaneous gesture. Also, acrylic paint is more forgiving than watercolor because it can be layered and layered over and over again like in oil paint. 

This workshop is appropriate for a wide range of students. From beginners to experienced painters, the two part workshop will introduce new techniques to the more experienced and curious artist, as well as the beginner. 

The first part of the workshop will include basic notions of brushing, color palettes, value, and basic composition styles. Even more experienced painters will benefit from adventurous study of color palettes, layering through brushstrokes, and abstract styles. The second part begins on May 6 and will focus on the use of acrylic techniques like underpainting, mixed media, and canvas textured surfaces.

Cost for the Zoom workshop is $125 for an individual part or $200 for both. Take either part, depending on your comfort level working with acrylics or take both for the full experience. Part one will be held on April 27, 29 and May 4 with part two on May 6, 11, and 13. 

The flexibility of a well-planned Zoom workshop can create a variety of benefits for participants who would like to learn an artistic technique from home. "I find the format can be more accessible for my students," said Maria, "because they don't have to pack away their project at the end of each class. They can continue their work after the meeting ends, and continue to communicate with with me by text or email." Plus, the format can bring together students from different geographic locations to learn together virtually.

Villegas, a muralist, illustrator, and multidisciplinary artist, was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She holds a 5 -year degree from Pueyrredón School of Fine Arts in her native country, Argentina. In 1992, she moved to El Dorado and became an Arkansas Arts Council Artist-in-Education (AIE artist). As a working artist, she has participated in numerous exhibits and competitions in Arkansas, Louisiana and other states, winning many awards including the 2001 scholarship from the Committee of The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. She has also painted 30 public murals in Arkansas and Louisiana.

For more information about the acrylic workshop for adults, please call the SAAC office to register at 870-862-5474, or visit the website at www.saac-arts.org. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas. 


WEIGHTED COURSES THE FOCUS OF NEW CAMPAIGN
LITTLE ROCK — Working to make students and their families aware of a slate of approved weighted courses that are career- and workforce-focused, rigorous, and demanding is the centerpiece of a new, statewide Arkansas Department of Education public awareness initiative. This campaign will be highlighted on ADE’s social media platforms and websites and will continue through mid-May.

These courses have been approved by an internal team at ADE’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education and Division of Career and Technical Education and will be available to students during the 2021-2022 school year. The classes are weighted, which means that due to the increased course rigor, students are graded on a 5.0 scale instead of the regular 4.0 grading scale. This gives students the opportunity to increase their grade point average while learning and gaining real-world skills, which will help them gain entry-level employment or pursue a two- or four-year degree after high school graduation. 

“Act 623 of 2019 and the leadership of the General Assembly gave DESE and DCTE the tools needed to collaborate on offering these courses,” Dr. Ivy Pfeffer, deputy commissioner of DESE, said. “These classes will give our students more learning opportunities that are rigorous and challenging. At the same time, these class also allow students to explore and learn about careers they may be interested in pursuing. This demonstrates how our students and schools can benefit when committed and focused professionals work together.” 

The courses cover a wide-range of offerings, including career and technical courses and newly-adopted computer science and computing courses. For instance, higher-level computer science classes include cyber security, game design, and computer programming. Other classes include civil engineering, agriculture, and aerospace engineering. The courses may replace students’ math and science graduation credits.

Understandably, not all classes will be available at each high school, but ADE is actively encouraging interested students and their families to contact their high school counselor to learn what will be offered at their local school. To learn more, go to https://bit.ly/2PHyxH4.
 

MEMBERS OF THE ARKANSAS DELEGATION ANNOUNCE $4.9 MILLION FOR TEXARKANA REGIONAL AIRPORT-WEBB FIELD
WASHINGTON –U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), along with U. S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), announce the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded over $4.9 million in federal funds to Texarkana Regional Airport-Webb Field.

“The investment in Texarkana Regional Airport-Webb Field will greatly benefit the Texarkana community and Arkansas as a whole,” said Rep. Westerman. “The FAA’s $4.9 million investment to reconstruct the terminal will be an important part of bolstering Southwest Arkansas‘s economy through commerce, tourism, and access.”

“Modernizing this terminal will help ensure we can meet the future needs of travelers in and around Texarkana. I’m proud to support infrastructure investments like this that encourage economic growth and development,” said Senator Boozman.

“Regional airports play a critical role in their local economies and serve as a gateway to the community,” said Senator Cotton. “This investment will help modernize the Texarkana Regional Airport-Webb Field and improve service for those traveling to southwest Arkansas.”

Background

The DOT, through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), is distributing $4,960,000 to the Texarkana Airport Authority for the purpose of reconstructing its terminal building. This funding is awarded through the FAA’s second round of FY21 Airport Improvement Program grants.

The purpose of the Airport Improvement Program is for the planning and development of public-use airports that are included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems.
 

COTTON INTRODUCES BILL TO SOLVE THE BORDER CRISIS
Washington, D.C. – Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today introduced the End the Border Crisis now act, legislation to reverse President Biden’s harmful immigration policies and strengthen asylum protocols to help combat the crisis at our southern border.

“President Biden’s reversal of President Trump’s immigration policies has caused a surge of illegal migrants at our southern border who are seeking better jobs—not fleeing from harm. My bill would require migrants seeking asylum to apply for protection before making the dangerous trek to our southern border. President Biden must change course and secure our borders now.”

The End the Border Crisis Now Act:

Requires that migrants seeking refugee or asylum protection in the United States first apply through the refugee program abroad, with asylum claims in the United States limited to those who were lawfully admitted into the country.

Requires that migrants who travel through safe third countries on their way to the United States first apply for asylum or equivalent protection in those countries before they can apply for asylum or refugee status in the United States.

April 01, 2021

DISTRACTED DRIVING IS A KILLER: LAW ENFORCEMENT OPERATION TO REMIND DRIVERS: U DRIVE. U TEXT. U PAY
 APRIL 1, 2021 
Distracted driving is on the rise and leaving a deadly wake across the nation’s roads and highways.  Beginning next week Arkansas law enforcement officers will join other police and sheriff’s authorities across the nation to stop drivers who exhibit the telltale signs of driving while distracted.

A nationwide stepped-up enforcement operation begins April 5th and continues through the following Monday (April 12th).  The U Drive. U Text. U Pay is an annual high visibility effort led by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Using a phone or other device to send text messages or post social media comments are among the leading causes of distracted driving and a violation of Arkansas law.  However, anything that might cause a driver to take their eyes off the road and veer into another traffic lane or off the roadway could result in a traffic stop by a law enforcement officer.
During an eight year span between 2012 – 2019, NHTSA officials reported 26,004 people died in motor vehicle crashes that involved distracted drivers.  While motor vehicle crash fatalities nationally decreased slightly during 2019, there was a 10 percent increase in crashes involving drivers who had been distracted.  Nine percent of all traffic fatalities were linked to distracted driving.  The figures represent a 10% increase, 284 deaths, over the previous year and accounts for the largest increase among contributing factors in traffic crash deaths reported.

 “Typing a text message or reading one while driving and all the other distractions occurring inside a moving vehicle have become lifestyle practices leading to life threatening consequences,” said Colonel Bill Bryant, Director of the Arkansas State Police and the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative.  “A driver taking their eyes off the road for five seconds while traveling at 55 miles per hour covers the length of a football field,” Colonel Bryant stated.  “The time and distance factors create a deadly formula, leaving a driver with little if any time to safely avoid a collision.”

 Colonel Bryant has pledged the concerted effort of every Arkansas State Trooper patrolling the highways to take enforcement action when they witness distracted driving violations.

 Millennials and Gen Z drivers are statistically more prone to talk, text and scroll through social media posts on their phones while operating a motor vehicle.  According to a NHTSA study, drivers 16 to 24 years old, were observed using handheld electronic devices more frequently than older drivers.  During 2019, drivers 15 – 19 years old comprised 9% of those killed in vehicle crashes while driving distracted.

 The Arkansas Highway Safety Office and NHTSA urge drivers to put their phones away when behind the steering wheel.  Whether traveling across town or cross country, drivers are encouraged to practice these tips when it comes to electronic messaging:
•  If you’re expecting a text message or need to send one, get off the road or highway.  Pull into a safe location away from traffic, then handle your messaging.
•  Ask a passenger to be your “designated texter.”  Allow the passenger to access to your phone for calls or messages.
•  Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving.
•  Cell phone use is habit forming.  If you struggle with the practice of avoiding text messaging while driving, activate the device “Do Not Disturb” feature, or place the phone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of the vehicle until arriving at your destination.

 Texting while driving is not only dangerous, it’s illegal.  No text or social media post is worth ruining someone’s day — or taking a life.  Always remember, U Drive. U Text. U Pay.

 For more information, visit www.nhtsa.gov/campaign/distracted-driving or call the Arkansas Highway Safety Office at (501) 618-8136. For more on Arkansas’ ongoing Toward Zero Deaths campaign to eliminate preventable traffic fatalities, visit www.TZDArkansas.org .

 

APRIL IS CHILD ABUSE AWARENESS MONTH
Little Rock, AR – Approximately 25% of children in Arkansas suffer from abuse, yet many of them are suffering in silence. April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, held to shine a spotlight on abuses that often go unseen or without intervention.

 “It’s sad to know that one in every four children you see is likely to be experiencing abuse in some fashion,” said Elizabeth Pulley, executive director of Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas. “Unfortunately, those cases probably grew during the isolation caused by COVID-19 because child abuse happens in secrecy. The signs of abuse go undetected when children are not seen regularly by others outside the home.”

 Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas has 17 centers located throughout Arkansas that provide a safe place for children and non-offending family members. Services include advocacy, mental health therapy, medical exams and a one-time forensics interview for victims with law enforcement. Centers also employ prevention education specialists to offer free school and community resources.

 “We never once closed our centers during the pandemic,” Pulley noted. “In fact, our mission became even more important during that time because we saw an even higher number of reported physical abuse cases than before. As in-person learning resumes in schools, we expect reported cases to continue to grow.”

 The National Children’s Advocacy Center states that physical abuse and neglect are most affected by socioeconomic status, which was widely impacted by COVID-19 as families lost employment. By contrast, sexual abuse occurs equally across all levels of society. 

 Arkansas’s First Lady Susan Hutchinson has long been a champion for children suffering through abuse.

 “When my husband became Governor in 2015, I was committed to use my unique platform to help make a difference for children,” said Ms. Hutchinson. “Children rarely tell someone that they are being abused, so it is critical that we, as adults, recognize the signs and be courageous enough to do something about it.”

 On April 2, Arkansans are encouraged to wear blue in support of Child Abuse Awareness Month.

 To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline at 1.844.SAVE.A.CHILD or 1.800.482.5964. To locate a Children’s Advocacy Center, visit www.cacarkansas.org.

ARKANSAS STATE TREASURER AND CALS TO OFFER FREE FINANCIAL EDUCATION SERIES
Partnership Promotes Financial Literacy Month
Little Rock, Ark. – In recognition of April as Financial Literacy Month, Arkansas Treasurer of State Dennis Milligan’s office is teaming up with the Central Arkansas Library System to host a free virtual financial education series. The partnership will feature four weekly sessions that begin Tuesday, April 20. The sessions will be presented by local financial experts. Topics will include budgeting, saving money on taxes, preparing for a child’s education, and navigating finances during major life challenges such as illness or aging parents.

“We’re excited to join the Central Arkansas Library System in offering this unique program. It seemed like a natural fit since my office and CALS share a common responsibility to make information available to Arkansans,” Milligan explained. “Our goal with this series is to help take the fear out of finances, especially for those who’ve been putting off educating themselves about saving and budgeting.”

The four-week financial education series runs each Tuesday through May 11. Sessions are presented live on the library system’s Zoom virtual platform and will be recorded for later viewing.

Each session begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be approximately one hour in length. Although they are free to attend, registration is required for each presentation.

“Regardless of where we are in life, at times we can all use a little advice from experts on how to get the most out of what we earn and save,” said Nate Coulter, executive director for Central Arkansas Library System. “Treasurer Milligan and I believe that one hour a week for four weeks is a small investment of time for what could be life-changing information.”

The schedule is as follows:
April 20: “Understanding Financial Basics” presented by BankOn Arkansas+
April 27: “Basics of Budgeting & Saving” presented by Orion Federal Credit Union
May 4: “Basics of Financial Planning” presented by StrongTower Wealth Management
May 11: “Planning for Major Life Changes” presented by The Wilson Law Group

To register, visit the library’s website at https://cals.org/financial-literacy-month-workshops/  or the Treasury’s website at https://www.artreasury.gov/events-feed/.

“We want to encourage people to keep learning so they can better navigate everyday life, no matter their age,” Coulter said.

“In the end, we hope these sessions inspire people to take charge of their financial wellbeing regardless of their economic position,” Milligan added.

THE ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE HOSTS “FREE TREE FRIDAYS” IN HONOR OF ARBOR DAY
LITTLE ROCK – In recognition of National Arbor Day, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division will be hosting drive-through giveaways of bare root seedlings at various locations across the state each Friday in April.

“Adding trees to your yard or to a community forest is beneficial to all Arkansans, and Spring is an excellent time to plant trees,” said Kristine Kimbro, Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator for the Forestry Division. “What better way to recognize National Arbor Day, which is celebrated annually on the last Friday of April, than to provide free trees all month long.”

The Forestry Division will be hosting giveaways at various locations across the state. Following is a listing of locations and times.
April 2 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at the Wilmar Post Office, 2617 Highway 278 West, Wilmar
April 2 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at the Dardanelle Walmart, 1172 AR-7, Dardanelle
April 9 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at the Nashville Cash-Saver, 628 South Main Street, Nashville
April 9 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Sheridan Walmart, 1308 South Rock Street, Sheridan
April 9 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Riverside Park in Batesville, 1420 South 20th Street, Batesville
April 16 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at the Rison City Hall, 405 Main Street, Rison
April 16 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Word’s Clothing Parking Lot in Fordyce, 1008 West 4th Street, Fordyce
April 16 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Midway Forestry Division Office in Gassville, 5300 Highway 126 North, Gassville
April 23 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Garland County Library in Hot Springs, 1427 Malvern Avenue, Hot Springs
April 23 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Riverside Park in Batesville, 1420 South 20th Street, Batesville
April 23 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Searcy Lowe’s, 3701 East Race Avenue, Searcy
April 23 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at the Washington County Forestry Division Office in Fayetteville, 2752 North Garland Avenue, Fayetteville
April 30 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Greenbrier City Hall, 11 Wilson Farm Road, Greenbrier
April 30 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Midway Forestry Division Office in Gassville, 5300 Highway 126 North, Gassville

Additional locations may be added throughout the month. Visit agriculture.arkansas.gov/forestry/urban-community-forestry/free-tree-friday-2021/ for giveaway locations and times or contact Kristine Kimbro, Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator, at Kristine.kimbro@agriculture.arkansas.gov.

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is dedicated to the development and implementation of policies and programs for Arkansas agriculture and forestry to keep its farmers and ranchers competitive in national and international markets while ensuring safe food, fiber, and forest products for the citizens of the state and nation. Visit agriculture.arkansas.gov/. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability and is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
 

BIRDERS ATTEND CONVENTION FROM SAFETY OF THEIR NESTS - ARKANSAS AUDUBON SOCIETY TO CONVENE VIRTUALLY MAY 8
Safely engage with fellow birders across the state at the 2021 Arkansas Audubon Society (AAS) Spring convention, which will meet virtually Saturday, May 8 via the Zoom video conferencing application. The convention will feature independent birding field trips and special presentations. Additionally, participants may win small prizes for notable bird observations and will enjoy opportunities to engage with other wildlife enthusiasts. Attendees will need to register ahead of time to receive a link to the Zoom meetings; registration information will be available on our website (www.arbirds.org).  

Saturday morning will begin with independent birding field trips. We encourage you to bird your favorite local spots wherever you live in the state! Birding can begin as early as sunrise, but we ask that birders complete their outings by 2 PM to return home for the afternoon symposium in time. A few small prizes will be awarded to birders who observed the most species, most individuals, and the “best” bird.

The afternoon presentations will occur from 4–5:30 PM. These will include a seminar on the status of bobwhite quail in Arkansas by Marcus Asher from the AR Game and Fish Commission as well as student research presentations.

After dinner on your own, Saturday evening’s highlight at 7 PM is “101 Ways to Help Birds” by guest speaker Laura Erickson, who was the 2014 recipient of the American Birding Association’s Roger Tory Peterson Award. Laura is also an author, photographer, educator, blogger, and wildlife rehabilitator. After this keynote presentation, birders will have time to share bird observations from this event and the prior week’s CAW event (see our website for more info about this event).

Registration is now open online through the end of the day Friday, May 7. Participation in the meeting is free of charge and open to members and non-members alike, but registration is required. Further information and a complete meeting agenda are available at www.arbirds.org.  

If you have questions about the convention, please contact AAS vice-president Megan Foll at auntm13@gmail.com.

Find us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ArkansasAudubonSociety), Twitter (@ArAudubon), and Instagram (@araudubonsociety).

The Arkansas Audubon Society, a nonprofit all-volunteer organization founded in 1955, aims to foster a greater knowledge of Arkansas’s natural history through observation, investigation, education and publication; and to be a potent force in the conservation of all of the state’s natural resources.

COVID-19 UPDATE – APRIL 01, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,291
Confirmed Cases: 1,919
Probable Cases: 372
Total Active Cases: 4
Active Confirmed Cases: 4
Active Probable Cases: 0
Total Recovered Cases: 2,227
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,872
Recovered Probable Cases: 355
Total Deaths: 60
Confirmed Deaths: 43
Probable Deaths: 17

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,938
Confirmed Cases: 2,912
Probable Cases: 1026
Total Active Cases: 10
Active Confirmed Cases: 9
Active Probable Cases: 1
Total Recovered Cases: 3,817
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,826
Recovered Probable Cases: 991
Total Deaths: 110
Confirmed Deaths: 76
Probable Deaths: 34

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,321
Confirmed Cases: 1,357
Probable Cases: 964
Total Active Cases: 6
Active Confirmed Cases: 3
Active Probable Cases: 3
Total Recovered Cases: 2,260
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,319
Recovered Probable Cases: 941
Total Deaths: 55
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 20

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 756
Confirmed Cases: 664
Probable Cases: 92
Total Active Cases: 1
Active Confirmed Cases: 1
Active Probable Cases: 0
Total Recovered Cases: 740
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 652
Recovered Probable Cases: 88
Total Deaths: 15
Confirmed Deaths: 11
Probable Deaths: 4

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 409
Confirmed Cases: 305
Probable Cases: 104
Total Active Cases: 0
Active Confirmed Cases: 0
Active Probable Cases: 0
Total Recovered Cases: 409
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 303
Recovered Probable Cases: 103
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 1

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 330,998
Confirmed Cases: 259,357
Probable Cases: 71,041
Recovered Cases: 323,032

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/
For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

March 31, 2021

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: UTILITY COVID-19 DISCONNECTION MORATORIUM ENDING MAY 3, 2021
LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Public Service Commission (PSC) announced on March 26, 2021 the COVID-19 disconnection moratorium for its regulated utility services is ending on May 3, 2021. Consumers with past due balances will now begin receiving disconnection notices to their mailing addresses from their utility companies providing at least a 35-day grace period before shut-off notices will be sent. This applies to customers of Entergy, OG&E, SWEPCO, Liberty Utilities, CenterPoint Energy, Black Hills, Arkansas Oklahoma Gas, and the Electric Cooperatives.

“We are over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and Arkansas is recovering in more ways than one,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “I want folks who are going back to work, but still struggling to pay their bills, to know they have options.”

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released the following information for consumers who receive a notice from the utility company.
It is important to take action immediately to seek assistance to avoid disconnection.
Verify what you owe directly with your utility company. Information, including what is owed, must be provided in writing to each customer with a past due balance.
Contact the utility company and discuss a payment plan if your bill is unaffordable.
Utility companies are required to provide information regarding available payment options on their website and social media platforms.
Utility companies are required to offer plans which provide a minimum of 18 months to repay any past due balances with no down payment required.
Utility companies must also provide information regarding funds that may be available through assistance agencies or the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
Don’t fall for fake calls about utility bills!

Verify the status of your account directly with the utility company. You should contact them. Do not assume that someone who contacts you works for the utility company. It could be a scam.

Make all payments directly to the utility company.
Drop off the payment at the utility company’s office or an authorized payment location.
Pay online on the utility company’s website with a credit card or call the company directly.
Consider participating in an automated bank account draft system if it is offered.
Mail the payment to the utility company directly.
Remember, a legitimate utility company will not pressure you to pay through a wire transfer, gift card, or prepaid debit card.
The Public Service Commission does not regulate municipal utilities or private water companies, and customers of those utility companies are not affected by the PSC’s order.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or OAG@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov.
 

COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 31, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,291
Confirmed Cases: 1,919
Probable Cases: 372
Total Active Cases: 4
Active Confirmed Cases: 4
Active Probable Cases: 0
Total Recovered Cases: 2,227
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,872
Recovered Probable Cases: 355
Total Deaths: 60
Confirmed Deaths: 43
Probable Deaths: 17

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,936
Confirmed Cases: 2,910
Probable Cases: 1026
Total Active Cases: 9
Active Confirmed Cases: 8
Active Probable Cases: 1
Total Recovered Cases: 3,936
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,910
Recovered Probable Cases: 991
Total Deaths: 110
Confirmed Deaths: 76
Probable Deaths: 34

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,314
Confirmed Cases: 1,355
Probable Cases: 959
Total Active Cases: 5
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 3
Total Recovered Cases: 2,254
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,318
Recovered Probable Cases: 936
Total Deaths: 55
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 20

 

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 756
Confirmed Cases: 664
Probable Cases: 92
Total Active Cases: 2
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 0
Total Recovered Cases: 739
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 651
Recovered Probable Cases: 88
Total Deaths: 15
Confirmed Deaths: 11
Probable Deaths: 4

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 409
Confirmed Cases: 305
Probable Cases: 104
Total Active Cases: 1
Active Confirmed Cases: 0
Active Probable Cases: 1
Total Recovered Cases: 405
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 303
Recovered Probable Cases: 102
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 1

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 330,186
Confirmed Cases: 259,223
Probable Cases: 70,963
Recovered Cases: 322,809

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/


MISSOURI SUSPECT WOUNDED BY POLICE IN MOUNTAIN HOME INCIDENT
MARCH 31, 2021 
A man wanted by Missouri law enforcement officers was shot and wounded by a Mountain Home police officer late yesterday (Tuesday, March 30th) after the suspect is said to have pointed a gun and fired at a bail bondsman.  The incident occurred outside two Mountain Home businesses in the 800 block of U.S. Highway 62.

Kevin Lee Donovan, 41, of Adrian, Missouri remains hospitalized in Springfield, Missouri and is reported to be in critical condition.  Neither the Mountain Home police officer nor the bail bondsman were injured.

Mountain Home police authorities have requested the Arkansas State Police to investigate the incident.

Donovan was wanted in Missouri on charges of possession of controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and unlawful use of a weapon.  A bail bondsman had located Donovan in Mountain Home and called local police to assist him in taking Donovan into custody.

When the bondsman and police officer confronted Donovan about 7:30 PM outside a convenience store, Donovan brandished a gun and began to back away.  As the standoff moved off the store parking lot, Donovan raised the gun and fired at the bondsman.  The Mountain Home officer then fired, wounding Donovan.

Special Agents of the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division will continue their work today questioning witnesses and submitting evidence to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory.

An investigative case file will be prepared by state police special agents and turned-over to the Baxter County prosecuting attorney who will consider the findings to determine whether the officer’s use of deadly force was consistent with Arkansas laws.

Questions relating to the identity of the Mountain Home police officer or the administrative status of the officer should be directed to the Mountain Home Police Department.
 

ROSS WHITE NAMED NEW CTE DIRECTOR  
LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Department of Education Secretary Johnny Key is pleased to appoint Ross White as the new director of the ADE Division of Career and Technical Education. White, who is the current vice principal at Siloam Springs High School, will assume his new role on May 1.

“Having been a CTE teacher and an administrator, Mr. White brings a wealth of CTE experience and knowledge to the division,” Key said. “I look forward to the contributions he will make to Arkansas’ strong CTE program. I also want to thank Dr. Angela Kremers who served in the interim role of CTE director during the government transformation process. I am so pleased that she will stay with the division as an associate director. With Dr. Kremers’ expertise and Mr. White’s exceptional qualifications, Arkansas’ CTE program will continue to lead the nation in student-focused CTE education.”

Prior to serving as vice principal at Siloam Springs High School, a position he has held since July 2019, White was the director of the school’s CTE program. From August 2008 to July 2018, he was a member of the career development and marketing faculty for the Alma School District.

White earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Education in May 2008 and a Master of Education in Educational Leadership in May 2012 from Arkansas Tech University at Russellville. He received an Education Specialist in Educational Leadership degree in August 2020 from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. 

White also is a member of several professional organizations, including the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators, Arkansas Association of Career and Technical Education Administrators, and Arkansas Association for Career and Technical Education. He currently serves as a board member for the Arkansas Tech University Alumni Board.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT WARNS ABOUT FAKE POST-VACCINE SURVEY SCAMS 
WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice has received reports that fraudsters are creating fraudulent COVID-19 vaccine surveys for consumers to fill out with the promise of a prize or cash at the conclusion of the survey. In reality, the surveys are used to steal money from consumers and unlawfully capture consumers’ personal information.

Consumers receive the surveys via email and text message, and are told that, as a gift for filling out the survey, they can choose from various free prizes, such as an iPad Pro. The messages claim that the consumers need only pay shipping and handling fees to receive their prize. Victims provide their credit card information and are charged for shipping and handling fees, but never receive the promised prize. Victims also are exposing their personally identifiable information (PII) to scammers, thereby increasing the probability of identity theft.

Unless from a known and verified source, consumers should never click on links in text messages or emails claiming to be a vaccine survey.

Schemes that use links embedded in unsolicited text messages and emails in attempts to obtain personally identifiable information are commonly referred to as phishing schemes. Phishing messages may look like they come from government agencies, financial intuitions, shipping companies, and social media companies, among many others. Carefully examine any message purporting to be from a company and do not click on a link in an unsolicited email or text message. Remember that companies generally do not contact you to ask for your username or password. When in doubt, contact the entity purportedly sending you the message, but do not rely on any contact information in the potentially fraudulent message. 

If you receive a text message or email claiming to be a COVID-19 vaccine survey and containing a link or other contact information, please report the communication to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) by calling 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud. Intellectual property crimes such as these also may be reported to federal law enforcement at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) at http://www.IPRCenter.gov.

If you believe you may have entered information into a fraudulent website, you can find resources on how to protect your information at: www.identitytheft.gov.

To learn more about identifying and protecting yourself from phishing attempts, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-recognize-and-avoid-phishing-scams or https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/spoofing-and-phishing.

Further information about major scams targeting American consumers can be found at the Justice Department’s Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force website: https://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch/transnational-elder-fraud-strike-force.

This alert is provided by the IPR Center and the Consumer Protection Branch of the department’s Civil Division.

For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch, visit http://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.

March 30, 2021

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON’S COVID UPDATE – MARCH 30, 2021
Arkansas' enforceable face mask mandate officially ended Tuesday afternoon. The announcement to lift the mandate was made during Gov. Asa Hutchinson's weekly COVID-19 Taskforce press conference and comes more than a year into the ongoing pandemic. Arkansas now joins several other states, including neighboring Texas and Mississippi, in ending the requirement to wear face masks in public settings. 

Hutchinson said the decision was made after Arkansas hit the target set by the state earlier this year. That included fewer than 750 Arkansans hospitalized as of March 31. Currently just 170 people are receiving treatment for COVID-19 in an Arkansas medical facility.

Arkansas restaurants, hotels, healthcare clinics, government offices, schools and other facilities may continue to enforce their own face mask requirements, Hutchinson said. He urged Arkansans to respect the decisions made by these entities when it comes to face mask usage.

Hutchinson then announced the state was opening up eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to all Arkansans aged 16 and older. This eliminates all eligibility restrictions in Arkansas save those set by the vaccine manufacturers.

Arkansans can call the Arkansas Department of Health's vaccine hotline at 1-800-985-6030 to find their nearest vaccine distribution site.

Finally, Hutchinson provided an update on Arkansas' statewide COVID-19 figures and vaccine distribution effort. As of Tuesday the state had received 1.6 million vaccines. Of those, 1.2 million have been given, a current rate of around 69 percent. Over 407,000 Arkansans are now fully immunized, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

On Tuesday, the state reported an additional 178 new cases of COVID-19 across Arkansas. That raises the statewide cumulative total to more than 330,000 transmissions since the pandemic began. Active cases fell by 56 to 1,717 currently. Deaths increased by 15 over the same period for a total of 5,616. Hospitalizations increased by six to leave 170 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus. 
 

CAMDEN DOWNTOWN NETWORK ANNOUNCES THE OPENING OF THE 2021 DOWNTOWN FARMER’S MARKET
The downtown farmer’s market will open for the 2021 season on Friday, April 16th.  The market throughout the season will have vendors selling produce, fruit, jam, jelly, eggs, meat, honey, fresh flowers, baked goods, etc.

Changes to this year’s market will be that it will be a walk-through market on Harrison Ave, in front of First Methodist Church.  The times this year will be 5PM till 7PM.  The farmer’s market will take place on the 3rd Friday Of each month through the summer.

For more information follow the Camden Downtown Network Facebook page.  Questions can be emailed to:  director@camdendowntownnetwork.org
 

THE ARKANSAS MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. COMMISSION
LITTLE ROCK- The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, a division of the Arkansas Department of Education works with the communities of Arkansas, encouraging them to embrace alternatives to violence and to discover their common humanity, through activities that stress history, education, racial and cultural diversity. Once again, the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission has implemented a program that is designed to promote the tenets of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and honor his life and legacy.   

April 4, 1968, was a day that will forever live in infamy as it was the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated at the Loraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.  The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, a division of the Arkansas Department of Education, announces a series of cross-generational virtual events to commemorate this day, the 53rd Anniversary of the Passing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  “The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr., a division of the Arkansas Department of Education, makes every effort to be inclusive and provide opportunities to promote the King legacy across generations. While it is important to focus on youth, we also want to provide a platform for them to hear from individuals, our senior citizens who witnessed these events they (children) read about in their history books,” says DuShun Scarbrough, Executive Director of the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission. “If there are people who are living who can recount those experiences, we want to seize every opportunity to capture that oral history.”

 Tune in to watch virtually: Facebook: @AMLKC and @ArkansasED Twitter: @AMLKC and @ArkansasED Instagram: @AMLKC and @Arkansas_ED

YouTube: AMLKC and    www.ARKingDream.org

April 2, 2021, 12:00 PM Nonviolence Youth Summit: Next Generation
Crucial Community Conversations with Youth
Partners:  Arkansas Department of Human Service, Coca-Cola, Arkansas Department of Education

The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission will host a virtual conversation with youth from across the country to discuss the King's legacy, nonviolence, and social change. Guest moderator, Vivica A. Fox, Actress

Youth Appearing in Panel Discussion
South Dakota, Jacobi, and Kashera Jones
Mason Pleas, Miami, Florida
Layier Sherman, Omaha, Nebraska
Kaysha Gulley, Prescott
Michaela Stevens, Hot Springs, High School Winner of the 2021 MLK Essay contest
Emily Davis, Gurdon, Middle School Winner, 2021 MLK Essay Contest
Sydney “ABC Girl” Hopson, Conway, 2021 Suzie Everett Youth Community Service Award Winner
Braxton and Kennedy Scarbrough, Little Rock
Adriana Rivera, Little Rock
Ta-Tionne Pettus-Jones, Little Rock

 April 2, 2021 12:00 PM
“Youth Tour of the National Civil Rights Museum”
In partnership with the National Civil Rights Museum, The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission hosts a tour of the Museum and children’s reactions to exhibits covering the struggle for Civil Rights and its origins.
(Program will precede the Nonviolence Youth Summit)

 April 5, 2021 “The Day That King Died” 12:00 PM
The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission captures memories and reflections from leaders to share their memories of April 4, 1968. The program will include interviews with Judge Barry Hyde, Pulaski County Judge, Retired Judge, and Pastor Reverend Marion Humphrey, Sr., Colonel Nate Todd, Arkansas Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and Dr. John Colbert, Superintendent of Fayetteville Public Schools.

 

COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 30, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,286
Confirmed Cases: 1,918
Probable Cases: 368
Total Active Cases: 5
Active Confirmed Cases: 5
Active Probable Cases: 0
Total Recovered Cases: 2,221
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,870
Recovered Probable Cases: 351
Total Deaths: 60
Confirmed Deaths: 43
Probable Deaths: 17

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,913
Confirmed Cases: 2,908
Probable Cases: 1005
Total Active Cases: 8
Active Confirmed Cases: 8
Active Probable Cases: 0
Total Recovered Cases: 3,794
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,823
Recovered Probable Cases: 971
Total Deaths: 110
Confirmed Deaths: 76
Probable Deaths: 34

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,314
Confirmed Cases: 1,355
Probable Cases: 959
Total Active Cases: 5
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 3
Total Recovered Cases: 2,254
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,318
Recovered Probable Cases: 936
Total Deaths: 55
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 20

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 756
Confirmed Cases: 664
Probable Cases: 92
Total Active Cases: 2
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 0
Total Recovered Cases: 739
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 651
Recovered Probable Cases: 88
Total Deaths: 15
Confirmed Deaths: 11
Probable Deaths: 4

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 409
Confirmed Cases: 305
Probable Cases: 104
Total Active Cases: 1
Active Confirmed Cases: 0
Active Probable Cases: 1
Total Recovered Cases: 405
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 303
Recovered Probable Cases: 102
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 1

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 330,008
Confirmed Cases: 259,120
Probable Cases: 70,888
Recovered Cases: 322,590

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

 

BOOZMAN LAUNCHES ‘SHOTS IN ARMS’ TOUR TO PROMOTE COVID-19 VACCINATION EFFORT IN ARKANSAS
LITTLE ROCK – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is encouraging Arkansans to get Shots In ARms as he highlights and discusses vaccine distribution efforts in the Natural State this week.

“I hope every Arkansan who is eligible to receive a vaccine will get one,” Boozman said. “This is important for the health of every resident and the eagerness we all share to return to normal as quickly as possible.”

This morning, Boozman will meet with Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) Dr. José Romero and Arkansas Division of Emergency Management (ADEM) Director AJ Gary to tour a vaccine receiving area in central Arkansas. Later, he will sit down with Arkansas Department of Education Secretary Johnny Key to discuss how vaccine distribution is going for teachers and how students are doing in this pandemic school year.

 Boozman will continue the tour with visits to vaccine distribution sites at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health facilities, retail pharmacies, hospitals, community events and local clinics. The tour will include opportunities for Boozman to discuss the challenges and successes local government and health care leaders have experienced during the vaccination push.

 The emphasis on COVID-19 vaccination efforts comes on the heels of Boozman’s bipartisan Strengthening and Amplifying Vaccination Efforts to Locally Immunize all Veterans and Every Spouse (SAVE LIVES) Act being signed into law last week. The legislation allows the VA to vaccinate all veterans, their spouses, caregivers and some dependents to the extent that vaccines are available, as well as urges the federal government to allocate more doses to the department based on this increased eligibility.

 “I am proud of the tremendous effort by health care professionals in every corner of our state to find the most effective ways to deliver vaccines quickly to Arkansans,” Boozman said. “I look forward to meeting with them to get a better idea of what they need from the federal government to best support their efforts.”

 Stay up-to-date with Boozman’s Shots in ARms events online by searching the hashtag #ShotsinARms and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

GRIFFIN APPLAUDS HOUSE PASSING HB1446, MAKING MILITARY FAMILIES ELIGIBLE FOR THE ARKANSAS SUCCEED SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
Griffin says, '...this bill gives military families more freedom and choice in education.'
LITTLE ROCK – Lt. Governor Tim Griffin issued the following statement regarding the House's passage of HB1446:

"I applaud Rep. David Ray (R-Maumelle) and the House of Representatives for passing HB1446. Often military families have little or no say where their service member will be stationed, and this bill gives military families more freedom and choice in education. This bill reflects Arkansas's support and appreciation for the men and women of our armed forces and addresses the unique educational challenges that military families face. I hope the Senate also takes action to pass this long-overdue bill.

March 29, 2021

FATAL CRASHES ON STATE HIGHWAYS OVER THE WEEKEND
Three people died in highway crashes in Arkansas on Saturday, according to preliminary fatality reports by the Arkansas State Police.

A 53-year-old Chidester woman died in an ATV crash on Arkansas 76 at approximately 5:37 p.m. in Ouachita County, according to one report. Nenita Willis was a passenger on a 201 O Polaris when it made a U-turn in a ditch on Arkansas 765 and overturned onto the passenger side, the report said. Willis was partially ejected, and the vehicle came to rest on her, according to the report. Conditions were cloudy and wet at the time of the crash, the report said.

An unnamed McRae woman died at approximately 7:28 p.m. in a head-on collision on Arkansas 155 in Union County. according to a report. The 35-year-old woman was a passenger in a 2004 Pontiac that crossed the centerline and struck a 2015 Toyota head-on, the report said. James Williams, 30, of Ward, who was listed as the driver of the Pontiac, and Shawn Strickland, 25, of El Dorado, who was listed as the driver of the Toyota, were both injured in the crash, the report said. Conditions were rainy and wet at the time of the crash, according to the report.

OUACHITA COUNTY EASTER SCHEDULE
The Ouachita County Courthouse and the Ouachita County Extension office will be closed on Friday, April 2, 2021 for Good Friday Holiday. The Sanitation is NOT Running!

ARMTEC AWARDED CONTRACT
Armtec Countermeasures Co., Coachella, California, has been awarded a $250,000,000, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the MJU-75/B countermeasure flare. This contract provides a magnesium Teflon Viton countermeasure flare, which is utilized on rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft such as C-130, C-17, F-16 to protect against infrared missiles. Work will be performed in Camden, Arkansas, and is expected to be completed March 2027. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and two offers were received. Fiscal 2020 ammunition procurement funds in the amount of $3,000 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is the contracting activity.

USACE VICKSBURG DISTRICT TO RESUME FEE COLLECTION FOR SELECT RECREATION AREAS AT LAKE GREESON
VICKSBURG, Miss. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Vicksburg District will resume fee collection at Lake Greeson through an electronic program on Thursday.

Affected areas include Bear Creek, Arrowhead Point and Star of the West campgrounds. Fees will be collected through Scan and Pay, a no-contact QR code-based feature of the Recreation.gov mobile app, which will allow campers to pay for their campsites on a first come, first served basis only. Scan and Pay does not allow reservations. To claim and purchase their campsite, visitors must be physically present and use the app to scan the QR code at the campground. The QR code and confirmation number will serve as a proof of purchase throughout their stay.

The Recreation.gov app is free to download through all major app stores. For questions about fee collection, contact the Lake Greeson Field Office at 870-285-2151.

Due to COVID-19 precautions, fee collections were suspended in 2020 to minimize contact between park rangers and visitors. The district first used Scan and Pay in November 2020 for recreation areas at Lake Ouachita.

The USACE Vicksburg District owns and operates more than 100 recreation areas across Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana where millions of visitors enjoy fishing, camping, hunting, boating, hiking, swimming, geocaching and more every year. The Vicksburg District’s 10 flood control reservoirs across Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana provide numerous benefits to the region, including flood risk management, hydropower, water supply, wildlife management and recreation.

The USACE Vicksburg District is engineering solutions to the nation’s toughest challenges. The Vicksburg District encompasses a 68,000-square-mile area across portions of Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana that holds seven major river basins and incorporates approximately 460 miles of mainline Mississippi River levees. The district is engaged in hundreds of projects and employs approximately 1,100 personnel.

ANNUAL ‘DANCING WITH OUR STARS’ FUNDRAISER RETURNS FOR STAR-STUDDED EVENING TO RAISE MONEY FOR THE CHILDREN’S TUMOR FOUNDATION
Little Rock community leaders partner with local dance instructors for 14th annual gala event
Central Arkansas celebrities will show off their dance moves as they compete for the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy at the 14th Annual ‘Dancing with Our Stars’ Gala. Months of rehearsals with local dance instructors will culminate in a one-time only performance that raises money to fund critical neurofibromatosis (NF) research, support local NF clinics, and send Arkansas teens to NF Camp. Since its inception, the Dancing with Our Stars Gala has raised over $2 million for NF research. Local participating stars will be announced shortly.

The event will be held at the Robinson Center Ballroom located at 426 W Markham Street in Little Rock on September 9th, 2021 beginning at 6:30 PM.  Ballroom tickets will be available and the event will also be livestreamed.

Neurofibromatosis is an under-recognized genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. NF affects 1 in every 3,000 people; currently there is no treatment or cure. Money raised at the Dancing with Our Stars Gala supports the Children’s Tumor Foundation, the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to driving research, expanding knowledge, and advancing care for the NF community.


COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 29, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,286
Confirmed Cases: 1,918
Probable Cases: 368
Total Active Cases: 7
Active Confirmed Cases: 7
Active Probable Cases: 0
Total Recovered Cases: 2,219
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,868
Recovered Probable Cases: 351
Total Deaths: 60
Confirmed Deaths: 43
Probable Deaths: 17

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,913
Confirmed Cases: 2,908
Probable Cases: 1005
Total Active Cases: 9
Active Confirmed Cases: 9
Active Probable Cases: 0
Total Recovered Cases: 3,794
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,822
Recovered Probable Cases: 972
Total Deaths: 109
Confirmed Deaths: 76
Probable Deaths: 33

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,314
Confirmed Cases: 1,355
Probable Cases: 959
Total Active Cases: 6
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 4
Total Recovered Cases: 2,253
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,318
Recovered Probable Cases: 935
Total Deaths: 55
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 20

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 756
Confirmed Cases: 664
Probable Cases: 92
Total Active Cases: 2
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 0
Total Recovered Cases: 739
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 651
Recovered Probable Cases: 88
Total Deaths: 15
Confirmed Deaths: 11
Probable Deaths: 4

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 409
Confirmed Cases: 305
Probable Cases: 104
Total Active Cases: 1
Active Confirmed Cases: 0
Active Probable Cases: 1
Total Recovered Cases: 405
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 303
Recovered Probable Cases: 102
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 1

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 329,929
Confirmed Cases: 259,061
Probable Cases: 70,868
Recovered Cases: 322,345
For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/


2021 SPECIALTY CROP BLOCK GRANT PROGRAM PROPOSALS DUE APRIL 16
LITTLE ROCK, AR – The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is now accepting applications for the 2021 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP). These grants are funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to enhance the competitiveness of the Arkansas specialty crop industry. Specialty crops are defined by USDA as fruits, vegetables, horticulture, floriculture, and tree nuts.

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture uses a two-phase application process for administering the grant funds. Project concept proposals outlining the project’s goals, tasks, and budget requirement must be submitted by April 16 through this link: https://www.cognitoforms.com/ArkansasAgriculture1/SpecialtyCropBlockGrant2021ProjectConceptProposal

After all concept proposals are reviewed by an advisory committee, selected projects will be invited to submit detailed project proposals.

Applicants are encouraged to develop projects pertaining to the following issues affecting the specialty crop industry:
Increasing sales and marketability and driving demand for specialty crops;
Increasing consumption of specialty crops in Arkansas’s schools by expanding child knowledge and/or improving access to the nutritional benefits of specialty crops;
Increasing access to local healthy foods;
Research projects focused on helping specialty crop growers reduce financial costs, improve pest and disease management, and/or value-added products; and
Enhancing specialty crop food safety.

More information about the grant is available in the full Request for Applications (RFA) at https://www.agriculture.arkansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/ADA-SCBGP-RFA-2021.pdf. For additional information, contact Amy Lyman, amy.lyman@agriculture.arkansas.gov.

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is dedicated to the development and implementation of policies and programs for Arkansas agriculture and forestry to keep its farmers and ranchers competitive in national and international markets while ensuring safe food, fiber, and forest products for the citizens of the state and nation. Visit www.agriculture.arkansas.gov/. The Arkansas Department of Agriculture offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability and is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

CAMDEN KIWANIS CLUB TO MEET
The Camden Kiwanis Club will meet this Thursday, April 1st, at Catherine's Bistro at 12:00 PM. The program will be presented by Mike Smith and Charlotte Young who will be talking about First Friday and Camden Downtown Network. You are required to wear a mask was entering and leaving the building, if you do not have one they will provide you with one. Your temperature will be taken, and you'll sign in and report your temp. All the chairs in the meeting room will be spaced out as required.

BOX OFFICE OPEN FOR "SINGIN' IN THE RAIN"
The South Arkansas Arts Center will bring the magic of live theatre directly into your home with a special, limited-run screening of the community theatre's 2018 production of "Singin' in the Rain". Recorded live during its summer musical run onstage in El Dorado, the show features a cast of talented local dancers, singers, and actors performing the beloved songs and famous dance sequences of the classic Hollywood film. Each unforgettable scene, song and dance is accounted for, including the show-stopping title number, complete with an onstage rainstorm! The production, made possible by sponsor Murphy USA, will be screened via SAAC's website through a special arrangement with Music Theatre International on April 16-18. 
"Live theatre has been put on hold for almost a year now because of the COVID-19 pandemic," said SAAC's executive director Laura Allen. "While it isn't quite the same as an in-person experience, we hope that the opportunity to watch the recording of SAAC's beloved production from the safety of our own ‘pods' will spark wonderful memories and entertain our audience all over again." 
Directed by visiting artist Lisa Newton of Texarkana, the show was originally staged at SAAC in July 2018. The recorded performance includes each unforgettable scene, song and dance in the original film, complete with the show-stopping title number and an onstage rainstorm! Inspired by the Technicolor movie musical of Hollywood's golden years, Newton endeavored to re-create that feeling in a live performance setting. 
"Directing ‘Singin' In The Rain' at SAAC in El Dorado was one of the highlights of my directing career," said Newton. Everyone involved in the production, from the staff at SAAC to the talented cast and crew, was wonderful to work with on this production and the community support for the arts in El Dorado was evident from the very beginning."
The production will be presented for three screenings with show times schedule to begin at the regular time SAAC would have a performance if it were in El Dorado - Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with Sunday at 2:30 p.m. on April 16-18. The musical will be streaming, but not "on-demand". The audience will have to watch it live at time scheduled. Tickets can be purchased via www.saac-arts.org, and ticketholders will be provided a direct link to view the streamed performance. Individual tickets are available for $5, and "pod party" tickets, designed for multiple viewers of the same screen, are available for $20.

For more information on the streaming platform or how to purchase tickets, call 870-862-5474 or visit the website at www.saac-arts.org. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas.

COTTON STATEMENT ON CHINESE SANCTIONS AGAINST U.S. RELIGIOUS FREEDOM GROUP
Washington, D.C. – Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) released the following statement in response to the Chinese Communist Party’s announcement that it will impose sanctions on the Chair and Vice Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF):

“The Chinese Communist Party is committing genocide against religious minorities in Xinjiang, so it’s no surprise that China targeted the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which fights for the rights of the faithful worldwide. In addition to further sanctioning complicit Chinese companies, and officials, the United States ought to ban imports from Xinjiang and U.S. companies should move their supply chains out of China. Further, the IOC should move the 2022 Olympics to a nation that’s not imprisoning more than a million people in concentration camps.”
 

COTTON, BOOZMAN, HYDE-SMITH, TUBERVILLE INTRODUCES BILL TO ALLOW FISH FARMERS TO PROTECT PONDS FROM PREDATORY BIRDS
Washington, D.C. – Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), and Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) introduced teh Cormorant Relief Act, legislation that would fully restore the ability of catfish farmers and other aquaculture producers to cull predatory double-crested cormorant populations. The legislation would restore U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations to allow producers to fight the cormorants, which threaten the livelihoods of aquaculture operations in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and other states.

"Double-crested cormorants pose a significant threat to Arkansas's fish farmers, but unnecessary regulation currently prevents them from taking additional steps to protect their ponds. Our bill would once again give fish farmers the ability to adequately defend their fish populations from the birds that are eating into their bottom line," said Cotton.

“Arkansas’s aquaculture industry deserves protection from avian predators as well as regulatory burdens that harm their livelihoods. Fish farms lose millions of dollars each year as a result of cormorant predation, and it’s time to ensure they can combat this threat sufficiently. I’m proud to join my colleagues to give Arkansas’s fish farmers the tools to safeguard against this costly menace,” said Boozman.

“Bird predation costs producers millions of dollars every year. More must be done to give catfish growers and other aquaculture producers greater flexibility to undertake responsible management activities to control cormorant populations. This legislation would allow producers to stem losses associated with these birds,” said Hyde-Smith.

“Cormorants are a major source of frustration for Alabama catfish producers, impacting both their fish population and income,” said Tuberville. “Catfish farmers should have the ability to address the damage these predators cause without federal regulations tying their hands and limiting what they can do to protect their business. I am proud to join my colleagues in supporting our catfish farmers against this predatory bird.”

Background:
Cormorant populations have increased dramatically in recent decades to an estimated 1,031,757 birds.  These large water birds that feast primarily on fish cause substantial damage and disruption to aquaculture and fishery operations. Ironically, efficient production practices by fish farmers make the ponds highly susceptible to bird predation, particularly by cormorants.

A two-year study published in 2012 of double-crested cormorant feeding on farm-raised catfish in Mississippi during the winter months found that cormorant depredation represents an annual estimated economic loss of $34.3 million to $73.4 million. A Government Accountability Office report noted: “Fish-eating birds (e.g., cormorants, herons, egrets, and pelicans) can cause severe damage at aquaculture farms, eating catfish, crawfish, salmon, bass, trout, and ornamental fish. According to a USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) survey of catfish producers from 15 states, 69 percent reported some wildlife-caused losses, with a financial loss of $12.5 million to wildlife predation in 1996.” Absent a proper aquaculture depredation order many fish farms will continue to face significant economic losses.

March 26, 2021

COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 26, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,285
Confirmed Cases: 1,917
Probable Cases: 368
Total Active Cases:10
Active Confirmed Cases: 9
Active Probable Cases: 1
Total Recovered Cases: 2,215
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,865
Recovered Probable Cases: 350
Total Deaths: 60
Confirmed Deaths: 43
Probable Deaths: 17

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,909
Confirmed Cases: 2,904
Probable Cases: 1005
Total Active Cases: 12
Active Confirmed Cases: 9
Active Probable Cases: 3
Total Recovered Cases: 3,788
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,818
Recovered Probable Cases: 970
Total Deaths: 108
Confirmed Deaths: 76
Probable Deaths: 32

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,313
Confirmed Cases: 1,355
Probable Cases: 958
Total Active Cases: 11
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 9
Total Recovered Cases: 2,247
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,318
Recovered Probable Cases: 929
Total Deaths: 55
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 20

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 756
Confirmed Cases: 664
Probable Cases: 92
Total Active Cases: 3
Active Confirmed Cases: 3
Active Probable Cases: 0
Total Recovered Cases: 738
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 650
Recovered Probable Cases: 88
Total Deaths: 15
Confirmed Deaths: 11
Probable Deaths: 4

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 409
Confirmed Cases: 305
Probable Cases: 104
Total Active Cases: 1
Active Confirmed Cases: 0
Active Probable Cases: 1
Total Recovered Cases: 405
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 303
Recovered Probable Cases: 102
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 1

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 329,177
Confirmed Cases: 258,517
Probable Cases: 70,660
Recovered Cases: 321,446

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

MEMBERS OF ARKANSAS DELEGATION SECURE $1.4 MILLION FOR STATE AIRPORTS 
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Bruce Westerman and Steve Womack—announced the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded over $1.4 million in federal grants to airports and airfields in Arkansas to offset costs and maintain jobs as a result of COVID-19 as well as provide for increased sanitization to combat the spread of pathogens at these facilities.

 The DOT, through the Federal Aviation Administration, is distributing the funds appropriated through the Coronavirus Relief and Response Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, which passed with the support of the entire Arkansas Congressional Delegation in December 2020.

 “Our local airports connect our communities, residents and businesses. These grants will ensure operations continue to run smoothly and help provide a safe environment for travelers and personnel. As we turn the corner on the pandemic, we look forward to seeing travel steadily increase,” members said.

The following awardees are recipients of CRRSA funding:

Texarkana Regional-Webb Field (Miller County)

$1,020,766 to the Texarkana Airport Authority

§ Including an additional CRRSA concessions grant to provide economic relief from rent and minimum annual guarantees to on-airport car rental, on-airport parking and in-terminal concessions.

 Drake Field (Washington County)
$57,162 to the City of Fayetteville

West Memphis Municipal (Crittenden County)
$23,000 to the City of West Memphis

Saline County Regional (Saline County)

$23,000 to the County of Saline
South Arkansas Regional at Goodwin Field (Union County)

$23,000 to the City of El Dorado

North Little Rock Municipal (Pulaski County)
$23,000 to the City of North Little Rock

 Batesville Regional (Independence County)
$23,000 to Batesville Regional Airport

 Bentonville Municipal/Louise M. Thaden Field (Benton County)
$23,000 to the City of Bentonville

Baxter County Airport (Baxter County)
$23,000 to the County of Baxter

 Smith Field (Benton County)
$13,000 to the City of Siloam Springs

Morrilton Municipal (Conway County)
$13,000 to the City of Morrilton

Hope Municipal (Hempstead County)
$13,000 to the City of Hope

Russellville Regional (Pope County)
$13,000 to the City of Russellville

Sheridan Municipal (Grant County)
$13,000 to the County of Grant

Pocahontas Municipal (Randolph County)
$13,000 to the City of Pocahontas

Melbourne Municipal – John E Miller Field (Izard County)
$13,000 to the City of Melbourne

Clinton Municipal (Van Buren County)
$13,000 to the City of Clinton

Pine Bluff Regional/Grider Field (Jefferson County)
$13,000 to the City of Pine Bluff

Corning Municipal (Clay County)
$13,000 for the City of Corning

 Bearce Airport (Montgomery County)
$9,000 to the City of Mount Ida

McGehee Municipal (Desha County)
$9,000 to the City of McGehee

Harrell Field (Ouachita County)
$9,000 to the City of Camden

Ralph C Weiser Field (Columbia County)
$9,000 to the City of Magnolia
Clarksville Municipal (Johnson County)
$9,000 to the City of Clarksville

In recent weeks, members of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation have announced more than $10 million in CRRSA funding awarded to state airports and airfields by the DOT. CRRSA was signed into law by former President Donald Trump on December 27, 2020. The deadline to apply for the program’s grants is June 30, 2021.

 

WESTERMAN INTRODUCES BILLS ENSURING BENEFITS FOR VETERANS EXPOSED TO AGENT ORANGE
WASHINGTON – Today, Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AR) introduced two bipartisan bills to ensure veterans who were exposed to chemical herbicides while serving their country receive the benefits they have earned. The Keeping Our Promises Act is co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and 18 colleagues, and a second bill extending benefits to Vietnam War-era veterans stationed in Thailand is co-sponsored by 37 House colleagues and is a companion bill to Senator John Boozman’s (R-AR) S. 657.

“Our United States veterans were promised upon their retirement from service that they would be provided benefits and care for life, but they have often been denied benefits despite ample evidence of a connection between their time in service and their health status,” said Congressman Westerman. “It is our responsibility to make good on our word. Those who served during the Vietnam War in Vietnam and Thailand deserve care for exposure to Agent Orange, which they endured in service to our nation. These bills set a precedent for all veterans that their country has their backs and will keep its promises. I was grateful to champion this effort in the 116th Congress and see three of the presumptive service-connected diseases signed into law as part of the 2021 NDAA, but our work is not done.”

“It’s our responsibility to ensure that our veterans have the benefits and health care they have earned. Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam and Thailand have not been able to get the care they need to help recover from this toxic exposure,” said Congressman Thompson. “I’m proud to coauthor these bipartisan bills to ensure these veterans aren’t left behind and allow them to access care and benefits needed to treat these service-connected illnesses. I urge Congress to take up these bills and fulfill our duty to our nation’s veterans.”

“Veterans who honorably served during the Vietnam War-era in Thailand to this day are paying a high price as a result of having been carelessly hindered by the limitations on the presumption of toxic exposure to Agent Orange, but they aren’t forgotten. I’m grateful for Congressman Westerman’s leadership in the House of Representatives to ensure these veterans get the benefits they’ve earned,” said Senator John Boozman (R-AR), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Background:
The Keeping our Promises Act follows the science by adding six diseases to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) list of medical conditions eligible for benefits due to exposure to Agent Orange. Additionally, the bill allows 120 days for the Secretary of the VA to determine adding future diseases following a published National Academy of Medicine report. The bill will also require the VA to report in the Federal Register and to Congressional Committees its reasons for adding or denying the addition of diseases to the Agent Orange list of presumptives and explicitly prohibits cost as a factor for making these determinizations.

The second bill will ensure all veterans who served on a base in Thailand during the Vietnam War, regardless of rank or position, and were presumed exposed to herbicides will be provided with the benefits and care they have earned. It also extends the date of recognized service in Thailand through June 30, 1976.

 

COTTON, BOOZMAN, HYDE-SMITH, TUBERVILLE INTRODUCES BILL TO ALLOW FISH FARMERS TO PROTECT PONDS FROM PREDATORY BIRDS
Washington, D.C. – Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), and Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) introduced the Cormorant Relief Act, legislation that would fully restore the ability of catfish farmers and other aquaculture producers to cull predatory double-crested cormorant populations. The legislation (S.1050) would restore U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations to allow producers to fight the cormorants, which threaten the livelihoods of aquaculture operations in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and other states.

"Double-crested cormorants pose a significant threat to Arkansas's fish farmers, but unnecessary regulation currently prevents them from taking additional steps to protect their ponds. Our bill would once again give fish farmers the ability to adequately defend their fish populations from the birds that are eating into their bottom line," said Cotton.

“Arkansas’s aquaculture industry deserves protection from avian predators as well as regulatory burdens that harm their livelihoods. Fish farms lose millions of dollars each year as a result of cormorant predation, and it’s time to ensure they can combat this threat sufficiently. I’m proud to join my colleagues to give Arkansas’s fish farmers the tools to safeguard against this costly menace,” said Boozman.

“Bird predation costs producers millions of dollars every year. More must be done to give catfish growers and other aquaculture producers greater flexibility to undertake responsible management activities to control cormorant populations. This legislation would allow producers to stem losses associated with these birds,” said Hyde-Smith.

“Cormorants are a major source of frustration for Alabama catfish producers, impacting both their fish population and income,” said Tuberville. “Catfish farmers should have the ability to address the damage these predators cause without federal regulations tying their hands and limiting what they can do to protect their business. I am proud to join my colleagues in supporting our catfish farmers against this predatory bird.”
Background:
Cormorant populations have increased dramatically in recent decades to an estimated 1,031,757 birds.  These large water birds that feast primarily on fish cause substantial damage and disruption to aquaculture and fishery operations. Ironically, efficient production practices by fish farmers make the ponds highly susceptible to bird predation, particularly by cormorants.

A two-year study published in 2012 of double-crested cormorant feeding on farm-raised catfish in Mississippi during the winter months found that cormorant depredation represents an annual estimated economic loss of $34.3 million to $73.4 million. A Government Accountability Office report noted: “Fish-eating birds (e.g., cormorants, herons, egrets, and pelicans) can cause severe damage at aquaculture farms, eating catfish, crawfish, salmon, bass, trout, and ornamental fish. According to a USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) survey of catfish producers from 15 states, 69 percent reported some wildlife-caused losses, with a financial loss of $12.5 million to wildlife predation in 1996.” Absent a proper aquaculture depredation order many fish farms will continue to face significant economic losses.

 

COTTON, MCCONNELL, ERNST, GRASSLEY SEND LETTER TO BUSINESSES REGARDING DEMOCRATS’ THEFT OF IOWA HOUSE SEAT
Washington, D.C. – Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today sent a letter to trade associations, firms, and businesses who spoke out about Republicans objecting to the electoral college. The letter asks these businesses to hold the Democrats attempting to overturn the election results in Iowa’s second congressional district to the same standard. 

“In January, Democrats and their corporate sponsors attacked the Republicans who questioned state-certified election results. Now, Democratic party leadership is stealing a state-certified election in Iowa’s 2nd congressional district. If the businesses who condemned Republicans in January don’t condemn Democrats for doing the same, everyone will question whether these companies are truly committed to free elections,” said Cotton.

“I remember way back when Democrats and the elite establishment said it was dead-wrong for Washington D.C. to overturn state-certified election results. No, wait, that was two months ago,” said McConnell. “Iowans have spoken. State officials did their jobs. But now Washington Democrats want to use brute political power to overturn a democratic result because they lost. It’s absurd, but not surprising from the same party that’s currently pushing legislation that would turn the F.E.C. into a partisan body and let Washington Democrats rewrite all 50 states’ election laws.”

McConnell concluded: “There’s no excuse why anyone who was outraged in January shouldn’t be sounding the same alarms right now.”

“D.C. Democrats are working to unseat a duly-elected and certified winner of Iowa’s second congressional district election: Congresswoman Miller-Meeks. Let’s get the facts straight: Iowans elected Congresswoman Miller-Meeks; the votes were recounted and every county in the district canvassed; and the results were certified by a bipartisan board of Iowans. Rita Hart chose not to follow Iowa law and rather appealed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi to overturn Iowans’ votes and voices. This is a total power grab by Washington Democrats and a slap in the face to Iowans and the nonpartisan elections process that is best kept at the state level,” said Ernst.

“Representative Miller-Meeks won fair and square, as certified by Iowa’s bipartisan Election Board. Now Democrats want to ignore the voices of Iowa voters and the state’s own laws to reverse the election results. This failure to accept the certified outcome of a free and fair election is an affront to democracy itself. If you were outraged by threats of similar behavior a few months back, you cannot stay silent about Democrats’ actions today. If anyone is curious about what a Washington takeover of elections would look like, look no further than what Speaker Pelosi is doing to voters in Iowa-02,” said Grassley.

In part, the Senators wrote:

“Just a few weeks ago, much of corporate America publicly condemned the actions of members of Congress who voted to overturn a certified election, and even in some cases promised to stop supporting those members. We write to ask if you are taking the same position with respect to members of the House of Representatives who are poised to overturn a state-certified election in the second Congressional district in Iowa.”

“We are asking you to apply the same standard to this attempt to overturn an election that you applied to the Republicans who objected to certain states’ electoral votes, and publicly condemn the actions of the Democrats who are seeking to overturn the state-certified election of Representative Miller-Meeks. If you decide to not speak out about this brazen attempt to steal an election, some may question the sincerity of your earlier statements and draw the conclusion that your actions were partisan instead of principled.”

The letter will be sent to Marriott, Hallmark, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Best Buy, Amazon, Dell, AirBNB, The Chamber of Commerce, AT&T, Verizon, Dow Chemical, Walt Disney, Intel, Cisco, Mastercard, Nike, and Edison.

To all companies that support free and fair elections,

Just a few weeks ago, much of corporate America publicly condemned the actions of members of Congress who voted to overturn a certified election, and even in some cases promised to stop supporting those members. We write to ask if you are taking the same position with respect to members of the House of Representatives who are poised to overturn a state-certified election in the second Congressional district in Iowa.

Last fall, Republican State Senator Mariannette Miller-Meeks defeated Democrat Rita Hart to represent Iowa’s second district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Under Iowa law, this result was confirmed after multiple recounts by bipartisan election officials. Iowa’s bipartisan Board of Canvass unanimously certified Miller-Meeks as the winner.

Instead of accepting this certified result, Democrat Rita Hart refused to go to the Iowa courts to present evidence of legal irregularities before a panel of impartial judges. Instead, she appealed directly to the only partisan actor with the power to overturn the results of a certified election: Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who is moving forward with a process in which the House may “exercise its discretion to depart from Iowa law.”

 Speaker Pelosi should have declined to get involved and applied the same standard that she stated just a few weeks ago: certified elections need to be honored. Instead, Speaker Pelosi started the process to take the election away from the people of Iowa to allow the House of Representatives to vote on a party-line basis on who should fill the seat.

 This effort to overturn a free, fair, and certified election is an unacceptable attempt to undermine a legitimate democratic process. The people—not politicians—are responsible for electing their representatives. Our democracy depends on this. 

 We are asking you to apply the same standard to this attempt to overturn an election that you applied to the Republicans who objected to certain states’ electoral votes, and publicly condemn the actions of the Democrats who are seeking to overturn the state-certified election of Representative Miller-Meeks. If you decide to not speak out about this brazen attempt to steal an election, some may question the sincerity of your earlier statements and draw the conclusion that your actions were partisan instead of principled. 

March 25, 2021

COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 25, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,276
Confirmed Cases: 1,908
Probable Cases: 368
Total Active Cases: 8
Active Confirmed Cases: 6
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 2,208
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,859
Recovered Probable Cases: 349
Total Deaths: 60
Confirmed Deaths: 43
Probable Deaths: 17

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,907
Confirmed Cases: 2,903
Probable Cases: 1004
Total Active Cases: 13
Active Confirmed Cases: 9
Active Probable Cases: 4
Total Recovered Cases: 3,786
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,817
Recovered Probable Cases: 969
Total Deaths: 107
Confirmed Deaths: 76
Probable Deaths: 31

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,312
Confirmed Cases: 1,355
Probable Cases: 957
Total Active Cases: 11
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 9
Total Recovered Cases: 2,246
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,318
Recovered Probable Cases: 928
Total Deaths: 55
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 20

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 756
Confirmed Cases: 664
Probable Cases: 92
Total Active Cases: 3
Active Confirmed Cases: 3
Active Probable Cases: 0
Total Recovered Cases: 738
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 650
Recovered Probable Cases: 88
Total Deaths: 15
Confirmed Deaths: 11
Probable Deaths: 4

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 409
Confirmed Cases: 305
Probable Cases: 104
Total Active Cases: 2
Active Confirmed Cases: 0
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 404
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 303
Recovered Probable Cases: 101
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 1

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 329,177
Confirmed Cases: 258,517
Probable Cases: 70,660
Recovered Cases: 321,446

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

 

BOOZMAN-LED INITIATIVE TO EXPAND ACCESS TO VA COVID-19 VACCINE SIGNED INTO LAW
SAVE LIVES Act to provide no-cost vaccination services at VA to all veterans, veteran spouses, caregivers and CHAMPVA recipients
WASHINGTON– More veterans will have the ability to access the COVID-19 vaccine administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) following the signing of U.S. Senator John Boozman’s (R-AR) Strengthening and Amplifying Vaccination Efforts to Locally Immunize all Veterans and Every Spouse (SAVE LIVES) Act into law.

The Boozman-led initiative was the result of input Arkansas veterans shared with the senator about their experience with the VA’s COVID-19 vaccination effort. The senator shared the concerns of Natural State veterans with a VA official during a committee hearing last month. Under questioning from Boozman, Dr. Richard Stone, Acting Under Secretary for Health, Veterans Health Administration (VHA), testified that legislation is needed to authorize an expansion of the VA’s vaccine distribution beyond individuals enrolled in VHA programs.

“This is a great legislative victory for the veteran community. We’ve seen how the VA is establishing a high standard for distributing and administering the COVID-19 vaccine to veterans in rural and underserved areas. The SAVE LIVES Act will allow the VA to expand the great work it’s doing to get shots in the arms of more veterans, their loved ones and caregivers. This is a good example of how Arkansans play a role in shaping federal policies. I appreciate the input from Natural State veterans who provided insights about how the VA’s work could be improved and made even more effective. Their feedback helped pave the way for expanded eligibility for spouses and caregivers through the VA,” Boozman said.

The SAVE LIVES Act introduced by Boozman, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT), Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) would allow the VA to provide no-cost COVID-19 vaccination services to all veterans, veteran spouses, caregivers and Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) recipients to the extent that such vaccines are available. It also urges the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to adjust VA’s vaccine allocation based on this increased eligibility pool, as much as the supply chain allows. The SAVE LIVES Act builds upon legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives.

 The SAVE LIVES Act will expand VA’s authority to provide vaccines to: 
Veterans who are not eligible for enrollment in VA’s health care system, including veterans without compensable service-connected disabilities and veterans who have incomes above a certain threshold;
Caregivers of veterans who are enrolled in various VA home-based and long-term care programs;
Veterans living abroad who rely on the Foreign Medical Program;
Spouses of veterans; and
CHAMPVA recipients (spouses or children of permanently and totally disabled veterans or of veterans who have died from service-connected disabilities).

Members of the Senate and House of Representatives unanimously advanced the legislation last week.

 

COTTON INTRODUCES BILL TO COMBAT RACIST TRAINING IN THE MILITARY
Washington, D.C. – Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today introduced the Combatting Racist Training in the Military Act, , a bill to prohibit the United States Armed Forces from promoting racist theories, most notably Critical Race Theory.

“Our military’s strength depends on the unity of our troops and the knowledge that America is a noble nation worth fighting for. Critical Race Theory teaches that race is a person’s most important characteristic, and that America is an evil, oppressive place. That idea may be fashionable in left-wing circles and college classrooms, but it has no place in our military. Not only will such racist ideas undermine our troops’ faith in each other, they’ll also erode their trust in our country’s guiding principles. The United States military shouldn’t be promoting such divisive, un-American ideas,” said Cotton.

Additional background:
Last month, the Navy released a recommended reading list to facilitate the “growth and development” of sailors. One of the books on this list is Ibram X. Kendi’s bestseller advocating Critical Race Theory and discrimination on the basis of race.

Separately, the Navy’s Second Fleet created a book club for sailors to read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, a book that claims white people are inherently racist, whether consciously or subconsciously, and that race is the insidious subtext for virtually all human interactions.

The Combatting Racist Training in the Military Act would prohibit the United States Armed Forces and educational institutions operated or controlled by the Department of Defense—such as Service Academies—from promoting the following un-American and racist theories:

Any race is inherently superior or inferior to any other race.
The United States is a fundamentally racist country.
The Declaration of Independence or the United States Constitution are fundamentally racist documents.
An individual’s moral worth is determined by his or her race.
An individual, by virtue of his or her race, is inherently racist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
An individual, because of his or her race, bears responsibility for the actions committed by members of his or her race.

This bill would prevent the military from including such theories in trainings or other professional settings, if their inclusion would reasonably appear as an endorsement. It also would prohibit the military from hiring consultants to teach such theories, compelling individuals to profess belief in such theories, or segregating individuals on the basis of race in any setting.

The bill would not prevent any individual from accessing materials that contain such theories or otherwise exercising their lawful, protected speech. The bill also would not prevent the military from describing these theories or assigning works that advocate such theories in educational contexts that make clear the military does not sponsor, approve, or endorse them.

 

COTTON, BOOZMAN, MURKOWSKI ANNOUNCE RESOLUTION URGING EUROPEAN UNION TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM ONLINE SEXUAL EXPLOITATION
Washington, D.C. – Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today announced they will reintroduce a resolution urging the European Union to amend its ePrivacy Directive to assure tech companies may continue to use technology that identifies and combats child exploitation online. In its current form, the ePrivacy Directive outlaws critical tools used to combat the sexual manipulation of children.

“A world that turns a blind eye to child sexual exploitation has lost its way. This Directive allows undetected proliferation of online child exploitation at alarming rates. And because this material can’t be detected, reports of online child exploitation in the EU are down by 51 percent compared to the same period last year. But the EU can still fix it. My resolution will urge the European Parliament to pass critical changes that prioritize our children’s safety. Closing our eyes to child exploitation doesn’t mean it stops—we must fight this evil together,” said Cotton.
“Abuse and exploitation of children anywhere is a tragedy that must be actively combated. The flawed EU Directive must be corrected swiftly in order to help crack down on the mistreatment of children online and root out those engaged in the practice now and in the future. This serious violation of young people’s privacy, innocence and dignity is urgently in need of rectifying and I am pleased to join Senators Cotton and Murkowski in calling for exactly that,” Boozman said.

“The European Union’s ePrivacy Directive creates unnecessary barriers in international efforts to combat Internet crimes against children. Their policy restricts the use of software that scans for child sexual abuse imagery—scanning that is largely responsible for collecting and reporting online child sexual abuse,” said Senator Murkowski. “Our resolution urges the European Parliament to advance legislative changes that support efforts to eliminate online child predators. Protecting our children from online exploitation must be a top priority, but this can only be done in full if we work collaboratively at the global level to stop these horrific crimes.”

Background:
Several tech companies voluntarily use certain technologies—including hashing, PhotoDNA, and anti-grooming tools—to detect child sexual abuse material and grooming behavior on their platforms.

These technologies identify millions of instances of child exploitation online, which are then reported to the CyberTipline, a global hotline for online child exploitation operated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In 2019 alone, the CyberTipline received reports of 69 million images, videos, and files related to child sexual abuse, and more than 3 million of these images and videos originated from offenders in the EU.

The ePrivacy Directive, which took effect just before Christmas, made it illegal for tech companies to use this technology in the EU. In its current form, this Directive threatens our ability to protect children from online exploitation—not just in the EU, but globally.

Since the Directive took effect, reports to the Cybertipline from the EU decreased by 51% during the 6-week period immediately following the Directive’s implementation, compared to the same period in 2020.

The European Commission recently noted that the EU “has become the largest host of child sexual abuse material globally.” If this problem goes unaddressed, internet predators in the EU will abuse children all over the world, including freely trading illegal images of American children without consequences.

It is still unclear whether tech companies will continue to use these technologies in other countries if forced to exclude users in the EU, a devastating blow to child safety everywhere.

March 24, 2021

The Boil Order for Highway 4-24 Water

Association has been lifted.

 

COVID-19 VACCINATION CLINIC
UAMS will be conducting a COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic on Thursday, April 1, 2021 FROM 10:00 a.m. UNTIL 2:00 p.m.  at the Zion Hill Christian Academy, 117 Maul Road, Camden.  You must pre-register, no onsite registration will be allowed. Call 501-526-2211 to pre-register. There is no out-of-pocket cost to the patient. If you receive a vaccine that requires a second dose, you will be given a 2nd dose appointment as well.

NEW AEDC INITIATIVE PARTNERS WITH COLLEGES TO PROMOTE DESIRED INDUSTRY SKILLS
New AEDC initiative partners with colleges to promote desired industry skills
Little Rock, Ark. (March 24, 2021) – The Arkansas Department of Commerce today launched a new initiative to designate high-achieving state college workforce training programs that meet specific regional workforce needs in high-demand fields as “Centers of Excellence.” The initiative, implemented through the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), was recommended by several two-year colleges throughout the state earlier this year and is intended to strengthen partnerships between colleges and industry.

To achieve designation as a Center of Excellence, participating colleges must undergo a rigorous certification process that will strengthen already existing partnerships between local colleges and industry. Colleges that attain this designation will not only create a brand that students will recognize as a trusted pathway to quality employment but will also signal to businesses that program graduates have the skills required of specific industries in their communities.

“When several two-year colleges from different regions across the state approached us about launching this initiative, we immediately saw the value,” Governor Asa Hutchinson said. “Employers deciding whether to expand or relocate their businesses almost always make their decisions based on access to talented, skilled labor. The initiative to designate qualifying two-year colleges as Centers of Excellence creates pathways for role-model institutions to affirmatively respond to local and regional workforce demand.”

To ensure that the evaluations are conducted objectively and measured against the highest standards, the Center of Excellence examination and assessment process will utilize criteria established by the Baldrige Excellence Framework, a trusted and comprehensive assessment standard created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

“This initiative benefits businesses, students, and educational institutions,” Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said. “This initiative is a win-win for all parties and will ultimately help drive our economy by better meeting industry demand.”

This initiative will be implemented in partnership with the Arkansas Institute for Performance Excellence (AIPE), a branch of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. The AIPE provides training and assessments for businesses that wish to improve their organizational performance. Annually, representatives of more than 60 businesses across the state participate in AIPE examiner training to learn how to identify key practices for business excellence.

“At the request of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the recommending two-year institutions, we were happy to make available concepts from the nationally recognized Baldrige Excellence Framework,” Trish Villines, Executive Director of the Arkansas Institute for Performance Excellence said. “The Framework is a proven tool in assessing the quality of processes, programs, and businesses. We are pleased to partner in the assessment process for designating Centers of Excellence.”

The Center of Excellence designation process will require that applying colleges align with program credentials required by the Department of Commerce Office of Skills Development under Act 1079. Each institution that seeks designation as a Center of Excellence must also show proof of outstanding ongoing workforce training unique to the industry needs of its community. Colleges that apply will be evaluated by independent industry specialists, a panel of public- and private-sector manufacturing, workforce, and business specialists, and the Department of Commerce.

About the Arkansas Economic Development Commission
The Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), a division of the Arkansas Department of Commerce, seeks to create economic opportunity by attracting higher-paying jobs, expanding and diversifying local economies in the state, increasing incomes and investment, and generating growth throughout The Natural State. Arkansas is a pro-business environment operating leaner, faster and more focused through a streamlined state government designed to act on corporate interests quickly and decisively. For more information, visit www.ArkansasEDC.com. The Arkansas Department of Commerce is the umbrella department for workforce and economic development drivers. Its divisions and regulatory boards include Division of Aeronautics, Waterways Commission, Wine Producers Council, Division of Workforce Services, Office of Skills Development, State Bank Department, Insurance Department, Securities Department, Economic Development Commission and Development Finance Authority. It was established July 2019 as part of Governor Asa Hutchinson’s wide-sweeping efficiency and transformation efforts to reduce 42 cabinet agencies to 15 while maintaining services for all Arkansans.

ADE PROVIDES ADDITIONAL $23.2 MILLION IN COVID FEDERAL FUNDS TO 39 DISTRICTS  
LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Department of Education Secretary Johnny Key is pleased to announce that an additional $23.2 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief II funds will be awarded to 39 districts that received limited funds under a previous allocation.

As required under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, ESSER II allocations were distributed based on Title I funds from Fiscal Year 2020. As a result of these calculations, some Arkansas school districts with smaller numbers of high-poverty students received limited relief funding from the $500 million that ESSER II provided to Arkansas schools.

“As with every district in the state, these 39 districts have faced unprecedented challenges related to COVID; however, due to federal requirements regarding how the funding amounts were calculated and distributed, many districts received significantly-lower amounts compared to other schools,” Key said. “We are pleased to use state set-aside ESSER II funds to help meet the COVID-related needs of these districts as they continue to face challenges in providing essential resources and services to students."

“School administrators appreciate the assistance as they deal with issues related to COVID-19,” said Dr. Mike Hernandez, the executive director of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators. “The federal formula for ESSER funds certainly provided limited relief for a subset of districts. We appreciate ADE for taking this approach to support the districts with these types of needs."

Any district that received less than $600 per student in ESSER II funds was awarded a portion of the overall state set-aside funds to bring the district up to a levelized base amount. Allowable uses of the funds include preventing, preparing for, and responding to COVID-19, as well as mitigating learning loss and restoring high-quality learning environments.

Supplemental ESSER II allocations awarded under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act are posted on the website at https://bit.ly/2NwTovO.

COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 24, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,272
Confirmed Cases: 1,908
Probable Cases: 364
Total Active Cases: 9
Active Confirmed Cases: 7
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 2,203
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,858
Recovered Probable Cases: 345
Total Deaths: 60
Confirmed Deaths: 43
Probable Deaths: 17

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,879
Confirmed Cases: 2,897
Probable Cases: 982
Total Active Cases: 13
Active Confirmed Cases: 8
Active Probable Cases: 5
Total Recovered Cases: 3,758
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,812
Recovered Probable Cases: 946
Total Deaths: 107
Confirmed Deaths: 76
Probable Deaths: 31

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,304
Confirmed Cases: 1,351
Probable Cases: 953
Total Active Cases: 14
Active Confirmed Cases: 3
Active Probable Cases: 11
Total Recovered Cases: 2,235
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,313
Recovered Probable Cases: 922
Total Deaths: 55
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 20

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 754
Confirmed Cases: 663
Probable Cases: 91
Total Active Cases: 2
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 0
Total Recovered Cases: 737
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 650
Recovered Probable Cases: 87
Total Deaths: 15
Confirmed Deaths: 11
Probable Deaths: 4

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 408
Confirmed Cases: 305
Probable Cases: 103
Total Active Cases: 3
Active Confirmed Cases: 0
Active Probable Cases: 3
Total Recovered Cases: 402
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 303
Recovered Probable Cases: 99
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 1

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 328,946
Confirmed Cases: 258,353
Probable Cases: 70,563
Recovered Cases: 321,093

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/
For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

MARCH 22, 2021

NEWS FLUSH

Camden Water Utilities will conduct its annual city-wide system flush starting Monday, March 29 and running through Friday, April 2. Caution should be used when washing clothes as sediment will be present from time to time during this period. Camden Water Utilities would like to apologize for any inconvenience this may cause its customers and to say thank you for your patience and understanding during this time frame.

The Harmony Grove Water Association will flush their water lines on April 5. This process will take 7 to 10 working days to complete. When washing white clothes please take precaution, because this process could stir up sediment in the pipes until this process to complete. The HGWA is sorry for the inconvenience this may cause but it is a process designed to give the customer the best water quality possible. If you have questions, contact Mike Gairich by phone at 870-807-0641.

March 19, 2021

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: SCAMMERS ARE THREATENING PROFESSIONAL LICENSE HOLDERS AND DEMANDING PAYMENTS
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is issuing an alert to state licensing boards and professional license holders throughout the state. Scam callers are targeting Arkansans who hold a professional license and claiming their license is under investigation and at risk of being immediately suspended if they don’t make an immediate payment. The scammers have even transferred the license-holders by phone to divisions pretending to be law enforcement.

“If something doesn’t seem quite right, say something,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Arkansas’s professional licensing boards will never call their license holders and demand immediate payment by gift cards or threaten members.”

The scam callers have been posing as agents for the licensing office claiming the licensee is under an “investigation” and the license has been suspended. The license-holder’s caller ID may even display the legitimate licensing office’s phone number that has been spoofed by the scam callers. To further attempt to appear legitimate, the caller may pretend to be a law enforcement officer or transfer the call to another person posing as a law enforcement officer or federal agent. The scammer then offers to fix the problem or issue a temporary license by asking for personally identifiable information and payment, usually by purchasing gift cards, for a bond, such as $5,000.

If any consumer receives any of the scam calls described above, we request that they contact our office at:  imposterreports@arkansasag.gov.  An investigator will respond to request any additional information needed.

If you have any questions, contact the Attorney General’s Office at ArkansasAG.gov or by calling (800) 482-8982.

 

COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 19, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,270
Confirmed Cases: 1,906
Probable Cases: 364
Total Active Cases: 8
Active Confirmed Cases: 6
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 2,204
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,859
Recovered Probable Cases: 345
Total Deaths: 58
Confirmed Deaths: 41
Probable Deaths: 17

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,868
Confirmed Cases: 2,891
Probable Cases: 977
Total Active Cases: 27
Active Confirmed Cases: 13
Active Probable Cases: 14
Total Recovered Cases: 3,735
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,802
Recovered Probable Cases: 933
Total Deaths: 105
Confirmed Deaths: 75
Probable Deaths: 30

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,295
Confirmed Cases: 1,349
Probable Cases: 946
Total Active Cases: 9
Active Confirmed Cases: 1
Active Probable Cases: 8
Total Recovered Cases: 2,231
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,313
Recovered Probable Cases: 918
Total Deaths: 55
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 20

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 750
Confirmed Cases: 659
Probable Cases: 91
Total Active Cases: 2
Active Confirmed Cases: 1
Active Probable Cases: 1
Total Recovered Cases: 733
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 647
Recovered Probable Cases: 86
Total Deaths: 15
Confirmed Deaths: 11
Probable Deaths: 4

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 406
Confirmed Cases: 305
Probable Cases: 101
Total Active Cases: 3
Active Confirmed Cases: 1
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 400
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 302
Recovered Probable Cases: 98
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 1

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 328,045
Confirmed Cases: 257,799
Probable Cases: 70,246
Recovered Cases: 319,771

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/


SAAC TO HOST ANNUAL BANKER'S BLOOD DRIVE MARCH 23
Once again, the South Arkansas Arts Center will be the host location for the annual Banker's Blood Drive on Tuesday, March 23, from 9:00-6:00pm. Guests are asked to enter through the large gallery access doors to sign-in on arrival, then will move to the theatre where LifeShare staff will set-up to take donations. Participating banks sponsors are BancorpSouth, First Financial Bank, Regions Bank, Simmons Bank, Smackover State Bank and Southern Bancorp.
Donors names will be put into a drawing for a $600 Walmart gift card and door prizes will be given away every hour. T-shirts will be given to the donors and food is provided by the banks and generous community businesses. There will be food donations from local pizza restaurants, The Spudnut Shop, and homemade cookies from local bakeries.

Not only are the banks' employees the organizing force for the annual blood drive, they are donors as well. "The El Dorado Bankers host the largest LifeShare event hosted in Arkansas," said Doug Bryant, LifeShare account manager. "In the past years, the community has donated between 95-125 units at the Bankers drive. They have set a new goal for 2021 for 150 units."
The SAAC staff had to find a way to host the event, but still follow the covid safety guidelines. This year SAAC will host a streaming performance of the 2018 "Singin' in the Rain" musical video revival, instead of a full on stage play. Without a play in rehearsal this year due to covid restrictions, the stage is open and available to use for the blood drive, hence the name of this year's event, "Back Stage Tour".

"The first decision was to schedule the event during spring break so we could spread the event out throughout the building. We knew that would mean some people who regularly donate would be out of town, but it allowed us to increase the number of people who could attend. With the donors arriving in shifts throughout the day and only a few staff members working in each room, guests can expect plenty of room for physical distancing. This will be the largest event SAAC has hosted since the Covid pandemic started," said SAAC's Colleen Means.

"Traditionally this event is hosted in the SAAC Gallery, but in order to allow for maximum physical distancing, each step of the process is being hosted a different room. Guests are asked to enter through the large gallery access doors to sign-in on arrival. Registration is in the gallery, sign-up for the door prize in the lobby, waiting area in the auditorium, donation stations on the stage, refreshments in the art room, and exit out the front door. With separate doors designated for entrance and exit, the guests will follow a one-way path through the building." It will be like donors are getting a full tour of the building and be able to get the full backstage experience - lighting, rigging, etc., as well as see behind the scenes from the actors' point of view.

Donors are invited to make a reservation for a time-slot. Appointments are not required, but it will save time. To make an appointment in advance visit the LifeShare website -https://donor.lifeshare.org/donor/schedules/drive_schedule/221740. For more information call 1-800-256-4533. For assistance on the day of the Banker's Blood Drive, please call the SAAC office at 870-862-5474. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas .

BOOZMAN, COTTON BACK TOUGHER PENALTIES FOR ATTACKS ON POLICE
WASHINGTON–U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) have helped reintroduce the Protect and Serve Act, legislation to create federal penalties for individuals who deliberately target local, state or federal law enforcement officers with violence.

“Law enforcement officers risk their lives every day to help keep our communities safe and secure. It is alarming to see them increasingly targeted with violence as they perform their duties, adding to the dangers they must account for and reminding us of the serious threats they face. I am proud to join Senator Tillis and my colleagues to send a clear message that we stand with our police and will hold those who perpetrate attacks against them accountable,” said Boozman.

“Law enforcement officers face enough job hazards already, so attacking these men and women simply for doing their jobs is inexcusable,” said Cotton. “Our bill will help protect police by increasing penalties for the criminals who target them.”

The legislation is sponsored by Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and, in addition to Boozman and Cotton, was cosponsored by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Rick Scott (R-FL), Mike Braun (R-IN), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Thune (R-SD), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

According to the National Fraternal Order of Police, in 2020 more than 300 officers were shot in the line of duty and 47 officers were shot and killed including Helena-West Helena Police Officer Travis Wallace, Pine Bluff Police Detective Kevin Collins and Hot Springs Police Officer Brent Scrimshire. Additionally, more than 300 officers lost their lives to COVID-19 last year.

FBI data indicates 14 officers have been killed by others in the line of duty in 2021, including Capitol Hill Police Officer Brian David Sicknick.

The Protect and Serve Act would support law enforcement officers by:
Making it a federal crime to knowingly cause, or attempt to cause, serious bodily injury to a law enforcement officer.
Offenders are subject to imprisonment for up to 10 years.
Ensuring an offender could receive a life sentence if a death results from the offense, or the offense includes kidnapping, attempted kidnapping or attempted murder.

This law would apply in injuries or deaths of federal law enforcement officers, as well as state and local officers in circumstances where the federal government can establish jurisdiction over the case.

Boozman and Cotton were original cosponsors of the legislation when it was first introduced in 2020.

The legislation has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations, Sergeants Benevolent Association (NYPD), Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, National Sheriffs Association, Major Cities Chiefs Association and the Major

WESTERMAN, HOULAHAN, BROWNLEY, AND FITZPATRICK INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN READ ACT TO IMPROVE LITERACY RATES ACROSS THE COUNTRY
WASHINGTON – Today, Representative Bruce Westerman introduced the bipartisan READ Act with Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Julia Brownley (D-CA), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).

“As co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Dyslexia Caucus, preparing educators by supporting science-based instruction is one of my top priorities,” said Rep. Westerman, Co-Chair of the Congressional Dyslexia Caucus. “The bipartisan READ Act focuses on early learning intervention and helps identify those with reading disabilities. Arkansas and Pennsylvania have set the example for how to properly implement reading curriculum into our schools, rendering great results. The federal grant program created by the READ Act will allow other states to adopt these programs and help end illiteracy in America. I am proud to work with my friends across the aisle on this important step forward for those struggling with dyslexia.”

“The need for this legislation during this COVID crisis cannot be overstated,” said Rep. Houlahan. “We are seeing early childhood literacy rates  drop in PA and across the country. For years, the data  has been clear: ‘A student who can’t read on grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time.’ As we work to get kids safely back in school, one of our first priorities needs to be addressing any loss of learning, particularly around literacy. What people must remember is that without literacy, learning other subjects becomes nearly impossible. Prior to serving in Congress, I was a chemistry teacher in north Philadelphia to amazingly engaging 11th grade students. Chemistry is already a complicated subject, but it’s made all the more difficult if you are reading at a 3rd or 4th grade level, as many of my students were. And the implications stretch beyond education. Over $200 million in health care costs is linked to illiteracy each year: when individuals can’t understand their prescription bottle, how can we expect them to stay healthy? We need aggressive action to combat the literacy crisis in our country, and as someone with a background in early childhood literacy, I’m proud to lead the charge. Our READ Act makes clear that we’re fighting to make sure every child learns how to read, and consequently, can find success in their education and livelihoods.”

“I first entered public service as a way to advocate for a better education for my daughter, who has dyslexia, and for other students with special needs,” said Rep. Brownley, Co-Chair of the Congressional Dyslexia Caucus. “As co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Dyslexia Caucus, I know that childhood literacy is an essential component of an all-encompassing educational experience, and we must do everything we can to ensure that our schools have the resources necessary to identify gaps in literacy and intervene early for students who are struggling. In this way, we can ensure that all children, regardless of their learning ability, have equitable footing in their education. I’m pleased to join Reps. Houlahan, Westerman, and Fitzpatrick in introducing this legislation to help children with dyslexia and other literacy limitations achieve academic success.”

“Reading is a critical skill that can make all the difference in one’s life, and with more than 30 million adults in the United States who cannot read or write above a third-grade level, we must do more to ensure that every child and adult is literate. Pennsylvania has been a pioneer in addressing this literacy crisis; in 2014, Pennsylvania launched its Dyslexia Screening and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot Program, establishing a three-year early literacy intervention and dyslexia pilot program that uses evidence-based screening, instruction, and intervention for at-risk students. The READ Act is modeled after PA’s pilot program and will further build on these ideas by creating a grant program that enables states to provide teachers with the necessary tools to detect and support early reading deficiencies and dyslexia,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “I am proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan bill that will help ensure every student of our next generation and beyond can reach their full potential.”

Background:
More than 30 million adults in the United States cannot read or write above a third-grade level. Both Pennsylvania and Arkansas have been pioneers in addressing the literacy crisis, implementing programs instructing teachers in the science of reading. The bipartisan READ Act creates a grant program allowing other states to capitalize on what we have learned about how to best support educators in teaching students how to read.

WESTERMAN AND WILD SEND LETTER TO OMB ON MSA RULE CHANGE
WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) and Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA) sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) along with 51 colleagues requesting a reversal of the proposed rule to reduce the population threshold for a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).

 “I am proud to come together with 51 of my colleagues to strongly oppose the proposed OMB rule change that would strip 144 communities in 45 states and Puerto Rico of their status as a Metropolitan Statistical Area,” said Rep. Westerman. “OMB provided no reasonable justification for changing 70 years of precedent in a manner that could detrimentally hinder the economic development of many communities across America. I am glad to work with my friends across the aisle to voice our opposition against this unacceptable rule change.” 

“The classification of our smaller cities is hugely important in funding streams, especially as we look towards our recovery from the pandemic,” said Rep. Wild. “I urge Acting Director Fairweather to keep in mind the needs of our communities at this critical juncture and rethink any move to reclassify cities from around the country, including those in my district.”

Stakeholder Support:
“In economic development and site selection for job creating projects, the conversation begins with MSAs,” said Gary Troutman, CEO and President, Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce. “If Hot Springs and Garland County were no longer an MSA, we would no longer even be considered for the many economic development projects that originate in this way. That would be devastating for our community. For the state of Arkansas to lose four of its seven MSAs would greatly reduce the state’s ability to attract economic development projects.”

Background:
On January 19, 2021, the Office of Management and Budget published a proposal in the Federal Register to change the population threshold for a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The current population threshold, which has been unchanged since 1950, is 50,000 or more persons. The proposed new threshold will be 100,000 or more persons. This change will cause 144 of the 392 MSAs to lose their designation.

 Declassified cities will either lose access to some federal programs or see greatly diminished federal funding from those using the MSA designation as a qualifying factor. Some programs, like the Community Development Block Grant, Federal Transit Administration grants, and Medicare’s prospective payment system for acute care hospital inpatients could be inaccessible to these communities.


BOOZMAN TOUTS REMEDY FOR PHYSICIAN SHORTAGE IN ARKANSAS
Bill Comes as ‘Match Day’ Unfolds for U.S. Medical School Students

WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) introduced the bipartisan Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2021, legislation to significantly increase Medicare-supported doctor training slots to help address the growing shortage of primary and specialty care physicians in Arkansas.

 “We know that adequate access to primary and specialty doctors results in longer lives and better health care outcomes. Smaller, more rural states like Arkansas face an acute need for medical providers and the shortage will only increase in the coming years. In fact, the Natural State ranks among the lowest states in the number of available physicians per capita. Our legislation builds on the increased cap we passed last year and represents another meaningful step to ensure Americans in every community are able to seek care from trusted health providers,” said Boozman.

The Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2021 would lift the arbitrary cap on the number of Medicare-funded graduate medical education (GME) positions and increase the number of GME positions nationwide by an additional 14,000 over seven years. That’s on top of a 1,000-slot increase Congress allotted as part of the Fiscal Year 2021 omnibus year-end funding bill, for a total increase of 15,000 slots. The legislation prioritizes increasing positions in states with new medical schools, hospitals training physicians in excess of their cap, hospitals that partner with VA medical centers, as well as hospitals focusing on community-based training.

 Today, March 19, is “Match Day,” when tens of thousands of medical students will find out where they will begin their residency training. Without a residency, they can’t go on to become a licensed physician in the United States. After four years of medical school, these graduates will spend typically three to five more years learning and practicing as residents in their desired specialties.  

Arkansas ranks among the lowest states in active patient care physicians per 100,000 persons. Between one-third and one-half of medical school graduates leave Arkansas for residency training. In recent years, there were nearly half as many available residency positions as medical school graduates in the state, meaning a large share of prospective residents are forced to continue their medical training elsewhere. The effect of this displacement is the loss of future physicians in the Natural State given residents’ tendency to practice close by the communities in which they complete their training.

“The shortage of residency positions is something that is particularly threatening to the health of rural states like Arkansas because it keeps medical schools from being able to train enough physicians to meet the needs of our citizens,” said University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA. “I am so grateful to Sen. John Boozman for his continued leadership on this issue.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, medical schools and teaching hospitals were forced to rely on a patchwork of short-term solutions to ensure that their communities had access to needed health care—including graduating students early from medical schools, calling up retired physicians and relocating physicians from other geographic regions to staff their inpatient units. As the immediate crisis subsides, demand for care will continue to far outpace supply as the nation’s population continues to grow and age, in addition to grappling with the potential long-term term effects of COVID-19. 

 “The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the vital role that physicians and other health care providers play in our nation’s health care infrastructure. The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act would help expand the physician workforce to address the estimated shortage of physicians and serve as an essential component of our efforts to address current and future public health crises, as well as to bolster our nation’s health care infrastructure and ensure access to high-quality health care for all,” said David J. Skorton, MD, AAMC president and CEO. \

Boozman joined U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to introduce the Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2021.

“Since day one, hundreds of thousands of physicians from across the country have been on the front lines of the fight against the most serious public health crisis in our lifetimes – and our nation has desperately needed every single one of them,” said Menendez.  “The fact is, we were already facing a physician shortage crisis before the pandemic hit.  We will not be prepared to respond to a future public health crisis – let alone the health needs of an aging population – if we don’t act now to significantly increase the number of medical school students and physician residents in the training pipeline. Lifting this arbitrary cap would make a big difference in providing access quality health care in every community.”

Boozman and Menendez introduced  similar legislation in 2019 that sought to gradually lift the caps on Medicare-supported doctor training slots by 3,000 per year over five years.

March 18, 2021

CADC TO DISTRIBUTE USDA COMMODITIES MARCH 23 & 24, 2021 IN OUACHITA COUNTY
Camden –Central Arkansas Development Council will distribute USDA Commodities in Ouachita County Tuesday, March 23 and Wednesday, March 24, 2021 in Camden.  Distribution will begin at 9 am. Food Items may Include: Apple Juice, Garbanzo Beans, Dried Blueberries, Rice Cereal, Instant Milk, Spaghetti, Raisins, Spaghetti Sauce, Orange Juice, Split Peas, Applesauce

In Ouachita County, commodities will be distributed at the following location:
Ouachita County:
Carnes Park, 955 Adams SE, Camden
ID must be present in order to receive commodities.

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English. To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: How to File a Complaint, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by: (1) mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights 1400 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; (3) email: program.intake@usda.gov. (2) fax: (202) 690-7442; or This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

 

COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 18, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,267
Confirmed Cases: 1,904
Probable Cases: 353
Total Active Cases: 7
Active Confirmed Cases: 4
Active Probable Cases: 3
Total Recovered Cases: 2,202
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,859
Recovered Probable Cases: 343
Total Deaths: 58
Confirmed Deaths: 41
Probable Deaths: 17

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,862
Confirmed Cases: 2,890
Probable Cases: 972
Total Active Cases: 32
Active Confirmed Cases: 17
Active Probable Cases: 15
Total Recovered Cases: 3,725
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,798
Recovered Probable Cases: 927
Total Deaths: 105
Confirmed Deaths: 75
Probable Deaths: 30

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,294
Confirmed Cases: 1,349
Probable Cases: 945
Total Active Cases: 9
Active Confirmed Cases: 1
Active Probable Cases: 8
Total Recovered Cases: 2,230
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,313
Recovered Probable Cases: 917
Total Deaths: 55
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 20

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 750
Confirmed Cases: 659
Probable Cases: 91
Total Active Cases: 7
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 732
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 647
Recovered Probable Cases: 85
Total Deaths: 14
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 4

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 406
Confirmed Cases: 305
Probable Cases: 101
Total Active Cases: 4
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 399
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 301
Recovered Probable Cases: 98
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 1

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 327,781
Confirmed Cases: 257,629
Probable Cases: 70,152
Recovered Cases: 319,445

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/


USACE VICKSBURG DISTRICT ANNOUNCES PURCHASE POLICY CHANGES FOR RECREATION PASSES
VICKSBURG, Miss. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Vicksburg District has announced changes to its purchase policies for annual USACE and America the Beautiful recreation passes.

Due to COVID-19 precautions, purchase protocol has been updated to limit contact between visitors and USACE personnel across recreation sites in Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. Rangers and park attendants will not sell passes in the field at any location. America the Beautiful passes can still be purchased online at https://store.usgs.gov/pass.

Purchase policies for the Mississippi lakes include:
Arkabutla Lake:
Passes can be purchased at the Arkabutla Lake Field Office by appointment only. Visitors can call 662-562-6261 or 662-292-1992 to make their appointment. Face masks are required.
Sardis Lake:
Passes can be purchased at the Sardis Lake Field Office by appointment only. Visitors can call 662-563-4531 to make their appointment and are required to meet a ranger outside the field office to complete purchase. Face masks are required.
Enid Lake:
Passes can be purchased at the Enid Lake Field Office by appointment only, Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Visitors must call the field office at 662-563-4571 to schedule an appointment and arrive with the required documentation and correct cash or check for payment. Credit and debit cards are not accepted. USACE personnel will meet visitors outside the office. A doorbell and instruction sheet have also been placed on the front door of the field office if visitors need assistance during office hours. Face masks are required.
Grenada Lake:
Passes can be purchased by calling the Grenada Lake Visitor Center at 662-226-5911 and scheduling an appointment. An attendant will meet visitors outside to complete the purchase. Face masks are required.

Policies for the Arkansas lakes include:
Lake Ouachita:
Passes can only be purchased at the Lake Ouachita Field Office front desk from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and appointments are not required. Cash or card payments only are accepted. Face masks are required. For more information, contact the field office at 501-767-2101.
DeGray Lake:
Passes can be purchased by calling the DeGray Lake Visitor Center at 870-246-5501. Transactions can be completed over the phone or by mailing a $40 check to 729 Channel Road, Arkadelphia, Arkansas, postal code 71923. No in-person payment will be accepted. Passes will be mailed to customers upon transaction completion.
Lake Greeson:
Passes can be purchased at the Lake Greeson Field Office by appointment only. Visitors can call 870-285-3700 to schedule an appointment. Face masks are required.

Passes for Louisiana projects can only be purchased at the Louisiana Field Office in Monroe, Louisiana. Visitors must call the field office at 318-324-5482 to schedule an appointment, and face masks are required.

For more information or question about purchasing a pass, contact Aaron Posner at 601-631-5287.

Annual USACE recreation passes cost $40 and grant visitors access to all day use areas. The passes are valid for one calendar year from the month of sale. Customers will receive a plastic hang tag for their vehicles as proof of purchase.

America the Beautiful passes grant visitors access to national parks and wildlife refuges, and cover day use fees at national forests, grasslands and property managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Recreation and USACE. This includes the entrance, standard amenity and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas, or up to four adults at sites that charge per person.

For more information about specific pass policies, visit https://www.mvk.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/Passes.aspx.

Arkabutla, Sardis, Enid and Grenada lakes, the four Mississippi flood control reservoirs in the Vicksburg District’s area of responsibility, were authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1936, which provided a plan designed to address flooding that originated in the Yazoo Basin. The four reservoirs are used to hold runoff, or excess rainwater, as a flood-prevention measure. With approximately 3.2 million visitors each year, the north Mississippi lakes also contribute approximately $82 million into the local economy.
The USACE Vicksburg District is engineering solutions to the nation’s toughest challenges. The Vicksburg District encompasses a 68,000-square-mile area across portions of Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana that holds seven major river basins and incorporates approximately 460 miles of mainline Mississippi River levees. The Vicksburg District is engaged in hundreds of projects and employs approximately 1,100 personnel.

 

COTTON, INHOFE, SCOTT INTRODUCE BILL TO END CHINA’S PERMANENT NORMAL TRADE STATUS
Washington, D.C. – Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), and Rick Scott (R-Florida) introduced the China Trade Relations Act to strip China of its Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status and return to the pre-2001 system. If passed, the legislation would require China to obtain Most Favored Nation (MFN) status through annual presidential approval, per the requirements of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. The bill would also expand the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to include human rights and trade abuses as disqualifying factors for MFN status. Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Chris Smith (R-New Jersey).

“For twenty years, China has held permanent most-favored-nation status, which has supercharged the loss of American manufacturing jobs. It’s time to protect American jobs and hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for their forced labor camps and egregious human rights violations,” said Cotton.

“I said it 20 years ago and I will say it again: we cannot allow the pursuit of trade to blind us to certain realities about the ruling Communist regime in China. China repeatedly threatens the United States and Taiwan. With an increasingly hostile military modernization effort, and the stealing of U.S. nuclear secrets and other critical technologies, China has made numerous attempts to corrupt the U.S. political system. Not to mention, they have violated far too many international agreements and are known globally for their brutal repression of dissidents and disregard for human rights. To continue to ignore these actions as if they can be separated from what we do in our trading relationship is dangerously misguided. Ending China’s permanent preferential trade relationship will send a strong message to the Chinese Communist Party and will support American workers,” said Inhofe.

“The Obama/Biden appeasement of Communist China did nothing but bolster General Secretary Xi’s power and kill American jobs. I have fought every day since being elected to the Senate to promote human rights and make sure Communist China faces consequences for its aggression. I am proud to join my colleagues to continue this important work of protecting Americans from the threat of Communist China and its unfair trade practices, and holding General Secretary Xi accountable for his horrific human rights abuses,” said Scott.
Background
The Senate voted to give China permanent most-favored-nation status on September 19, 2000. This vote paved the way for China’s accession to the World Trade Organization.

Granting China this trade status contributed to the “China Trade Shock” that destroyed 2 million American jobs after 2001. It also led to a surge of business investment in China that made the CCP stronger and more dangerous.

The China Trade Relations Act
The China Trade Relations Act would revoke China’s permanent most-favored-nation status and return to the pre-2001 status quo, whereby China’s MFN status must be renewed each year by presidential decision. Congress could override the president’s extension of MFN by passing a joint resolution of disapproval.

The bill also would expand the list of human-rights and trade abuses under the Jackson-Vanik Amendment that would disqualify China for MFN status, absent a presidential waiver. The abuses that would make China ineligible for MFN status, absent a presidential waiver, are as follows:
Uses or provides for the use of slave labor;
Operates ‘vocational training and education centers’ or other concentration camps where people are held against their will;
Performs or otherwise orders forced abortion or sterilization procedures;
Harvests the organs of prisoners without their consent;
Hinders the free exercise of religion;
Intimidates or harasses nationals of the People’s Republic of China living outside the People’s Republic of China; or
Engages in systematic economic espionage against the United States, including theft of the intellectual property of United States persons.


BOOZMAN: BECERRA IS UNQUALIFIED, TOO EXTREME FOR HHS SECRETARY
WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement on the confirmation of Xavier Becerra to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in the Biden administration:

“Xavier Becerra’s lack of subject matter expertise was reason enough to be troubled by his nomination. His extreme views on socialized medicine and abortion as well as his past attempts to impede religious liberty rights were further cause for me to oppose his confirmation. Arkansans are rightly concerned by his track record and I share their misgivings about his ability to lead HHS in a fair, non-ideological manner. I intend to join my colleagues in holding him accountable during his tenure at the department.”
 

COTTON STATEMENT ON BECERRA CONFIRMATION
Washington, D.C. – Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) released the following statement on the confirmation vote for Xavier Becerra to be U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services:
“Becerra is an unrepentant advocate of California-style lockdowns, socialized medicine, and abortion on demand. His confirmation will damage the country.”

March 17, 2021

BOIL ORDER ISSUED FOR HIGHWAY 4/24 CUSTOMERS
The Highway 4 and 24 Water Operator has issued a precautionary boil order for all water customers North of Highway 278 due to numerous breaks due to lightening strikes.

Water used for drinking and cooking should be boiled for at least one minute at rapid boil before use.

If you have questions contact the office at 870-685-2902 or call Roger Brewer (Operator) at 870-310-0849. The Highway 4 and 24 Water Association apologizes for any inconvenience. The order will be lifted as soon as possible.
 

COVID-19 VACCINATION CLINIC IN OUACHITA COUNTY MARCH 18TH
There will be a Covid-19 Vaccination Clinic at the Ouachita County Health Department located at 740 California Avenue in Camden on Thursday, March 18th. Call 1-800-985-6030 to make a reservation.
The vaccine will be available for no out-of-pocket expense to eligible Arkansans. Please bring an 
insurance card if you have one. To see if you are eligible, please visit healthy.arkansas.gov.

For more information contact the Arkansas Department of Health at 1-800-803-7847 or visit www.ADH.CoronaVirus@arkansas.gov
 

OPED PRESENTS INCENTIVE CHECK TO LOCKHEED MARTIN AND SAU TECH
Representatives from the Ouachita Partnership for Economic Development (OPED) board of directors, SAU Tech, and Lockheed Martin officials met at the Lockheed Martin administrative offices for a check presentation ceremony on Tuesday March 16th. The ceremony reflected the payment of workforce training incentives to SAU Tech/ Lockheed Martin under an agreement executed with the company in 2019 by the OPED Board of Directors. 

On August 2, 2019 Lockheed Martin executed an economic development incentives contract with OPED to create three hundred twenty-six (326) net new jobs at their Camden, Arkansas facility in conjunction with new investment in building construction and equipment. Under the terms of OPED’s Industry Incentive Program, OPED agreed to pay to Lockheed Martin within the six-year term of the contract, for workforce training provided by SAU Tech. The OPED Board of Directors at their regular meeting of December 16, 2020 approved the expenditure of the incentive in the amount of $84,625.66 to Lockheed Martin for workforce training. The workforce training incentive from OPED was a part of the overall incentive package offered to Lockheed Martin by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), Calhoun County and OPED. The expansion by Lockheed Martin and the incentives were announced on June 17, 2019 by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and Lockheed Martin officials at the Paris Air Show in Paris France.       

OPED Executive Director James Lee Silliman commented “statistics have proven that most new jobs are created in a community from existing business and industry expanding their operations versus locating a new manufacturing facility in the community. Therefore, it is important that our community support its existing business and industry to retain jobs and expand their operations locally and assisting companies with workforce training is one way we can do that”.  

Jim Golden, OPED Board President stated “Lockheed Martin has created new jobs at their Camden, Arkansas facility in conjunction with new investment in building construction and equipment. The company and SAU Tech have provided adequate documentation to OPED to substantiate the company has completed the workforce training agreed to under the contract. We are pleased to present them with this incentive payment”. Silliman added “the total number of employees trained by SAU Tech for Lockheed Martin was 144”.
 

UAMS TO PROVIDE COVID-19 VACCINATIONS MARCH 24TH AT MAGNOLIA
LITTLE ROCK — A University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Mobile COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., March 24th at Southview Church of Christ, Multipurpose Building, 234 Fairview St., in Magnolia.

The clinic is available to pre-registered patients only. No onsite registration will be allowed. There is no out-of-pocket cost to the patient. UAMS will administer the vaccinations.

Vaccinations are currently only available to individuals in the following phases:

Phase 1-A: Health care workers, long-term care residents and staff, EMS, fire and law enforcement who serve as first responders and other high priority groups.

Phase 1-B: People age 65 years and older, educators, food and agriculture, essential government and others. Please bring proof of employment for verification.

Phase 1-C: Arkansans aged 16 to 64 with health conditions that increase their risk for severe COVID-19; people residing in high-risk settings, including those who are incarcerated or detained, those living in group homes, congregate settings or crowded housing and student housing such as dorms, and fraternity and sorority housing; and essential workers in a variety of fields.

To pre-register online, go to: vaccinesignup.uams.edu/mobileclinic.

The vaccinations will be conducted by UAMS in cooperation with the City of Magnolia, Arkansas Department of Veteran Affairs, Magnolia Community Awareness Council Logo, Magnolia Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., West Side Church of Christ, Southview Church of Christ, Columbia County United Community Organization, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the Vaccinate the Natural State campaign and Bank of America Foundation.

To request a mobile vaccination clinic in an Arkansas city or town, please fill out a request form here: uamshealth.com/population-health-mobile-unit-visit-request/

Even if you don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms, wash your hands regularly and practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet away from other people not in your household, and wear a mask in public. An online screening tool is available at uamshealth.com/healthnow. Phone screening is available through the UAMS Health hotline at 800-632-4502.

UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS’ clinical enterprise including its hospital, regional clinics and clinics it operates or staffs in cooperation with other providers. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. U.S. News & World Report named UAMS Medical Center the state’s Best Hospital; ranked its ear, nose and throat program among the top 50 nationwide; and named six areas as high performing — COPD, colon cancer surgery, heart failure, hip replacement, knee replacement and lung cancer surgery. UAMS has 2,876 students, 898 medical residents and four dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube or Instagram.  


DEADLINE APPROACHING IN ARKANSAS FOR SBA WORKING CAPITAL LOANS DUE TO SEVERE STORMS AND STRAIGHT-LINE WINDSSACRAMENTO, Calif. – Director Tanya N. Garfield of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Disaster Field Operations Center-West today reminded Arkansas private nonprofit organizations of the April 12, 2021, deadline to apply for an SBA federal disaster loan for economic injury caused by severe storms and straight-line winds that occurred April 12, 2020. Private nonprofits that provide essential services of a governmental nature are eligible for assistance.

 According to Garfield, eligible private nonprofits of any size may apply for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. “Economic Injury Disaster Loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that cannot be paid because of the disaster’s impact. Economic injury assistance is available regardless of whether the private nonprofit suffered any property damage,” Garfield said.

 These low-interest federal disaster loans are available in Arkansas, Bradley, Cleveland, Dallas, Desha, Drew, Grant, Jefferson, Lincoln, Monroe, Ouachita and Phillips counties.

 The interest rate is 2.75 percent with terms up to 30 years. Loan amounts and terms are set by SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.

 Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at https://disasterloanassistance.sba.gov/. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX  76155.


FIVE TEACHERS NAMED 2021 COMPUTER SCIENCE EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR FINALISTS  
LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Department of Education is pleased to announce the five educators selected as finalists for the 2021 Arkansas Computer Science Educator of the Year award.

“The ADE Office of Computer Science received many quality applications,” Anthony Owen, the state director of Computer Science Education, said. “This year’s applications were some of the most competitive we have seen in the three years of this award. Unfortunately, our team could only select five, and we selected the educators who best demonstrated both a long-term and ongoing commitment to, passion for, and impact on computer science education in Arkansas and the nation. These educators have earned and deserve this recognition."

The 2021 Arkansas Computer Science Educator of the Year Finalists are as follows.
Carl Frank - Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts
Ashley Kincannon – Lake Hamilton Junior High School (Lake Hamilton School District)
Kimberly Raup – Conway High School (Conway School District)
Stacy Reynolds – McGehee High School (McGehee School District)
Lauren Taylor - Dardanelle High School (Dardanelle School District)

Each finalist will receive a $2,500 award from the ADE Office of Computer Science. A panel of representatives from the ADE Computer Science Unit, the 2020 Arkansas Computer Science Educator of the Year, external industry leaders, and other education experts will review the finalists’ applications and select the 2021 Arkansas Computer Science Educator of the Year based on a rubric scoring system. The winner, who will be announced at a later date, will receive an additional $12,500 award.

To learn more about the ADE Office of Computer Science Education, go to https://bit.ly/30Ngi56.  


COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 17, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,260
Confirmed Cases: 1,902
Probable Cases: 358
Total Active Cases: 5
Active Confirmed Cases: 3
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 2,197
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,858
Recovered Probable Cases: 338
Total Deaths: 58
Confirmed Deaths: 41
Probable Deaths: 17

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,856
Confirmed Cases: 2,886
Probable Cases: 970
Total Active Cases: 33
Active Confirmed Cases: 18
Active Probable Cases: 15
Total Recovered Cases: 3,718
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,793
Recovered Probable Cases: 925
Total Deaths: 105
Confirmed Deaths: 75
Probable Deaths: 30

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,294
Confirmed Cases: 1,349
Probable Cases: 945
Total Active Cases: 13
Active Confirmed Cases: 3
Active Probable Cases: 10
Total Recovered Cases: 2,226
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,311
Recovered Probable Cases: 915
Total Deaths: 55
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 20

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 749
Confirmed Cases: 658
Probable Cases: 91
Total Active Cases: 3
Active Confirmed Cases: 1
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 732
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 647
Recovered Probable Cases: 85
Total Deaths: 14
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 4

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 406
Confirmed Cases: 305
Probable Cases: 101
Total Active Cases: 4
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 399
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 301
Recovered Probable Cases: 98
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 1

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 327,456
Confirmed Cases: 257,449
Probable Cases: 70,007
Recovered Cases: 319,067

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/


SAAC TO PRESENT "SINGIN' IN THE RAIN" STREAMING IN APRIL
The Theatre Steering Committee of the South Arkansas Arts Center announced today that they will offer an online streaming performance of "Singin' in the Rain" in the time period traditionally reserved for a live spring production. Recorded live during its summer musical run onstage in 2018, the show features a cast of talented local dancers, singers, and actors performing the beloved songs and famous dance sequences of the classic Hollywood film. Hilarious situations, snappy dialogue and a hit-parade score of Hollywood standards make "Singin' in the Rain" the "Greatest Movie Musical of All Time". Each unforgettable scene, song and dance is accounted for, including the show-stopping title number, complete with an onstage rainstorm! The production, made possible by sponsor Murphy USA, will be screened via web through a special arrangement with Music Theatre International on April 16th through April 18th.

"Our long-running, volunteer-run community theatre has been put on hold for almost a year now because of the COVID-19 pandemic," said SAAC's executive director Laura Allen. "Theatres across the country have been in the same position, and in response, theatrical licensing agent MTI has created the unprecedented opportunity to stream archival recordings of a few select productions. Typically, these are shows that could only be seen live, so the chance to re-watch this production, from the safety of our own pods, is truly extraordinary!"

The talented local cast includes many SAAC stage veterans and familiar faces. Alexander Jeffery can be seen as the suave Hollywood leading man Don Lockwood, originally portrayed by Gene Kelly. Brandon Wallace plays Cosmo Brown, Don's wacky and playful best friend and former dance partner. Laura Purvis portrays the upcoming, strong-willed actress Kathy Seldon, who emerges as Don's saving grace in his talkies. Hali Pinson is featured as Lina Lamont, a tone-deaf singer who fails to transfer from silent films and causes Don great distress. Successful, magnanimous, film producer R. F. Simson will be played by Corey Sublett, high strung, frustrated director Roscoe Dexter by Mike Means, and young starlet and Lina's best friend Zelda Zanders by Lainey Walthall.
The show also features Don Lockwood and Cosmo Brown throughout their lives. Meredith Stone and Rusty Orrell can be seen as Don and Cosmo in their Vaudeville years, respectively. Maggie Meyer and Jace Waters play young Don and Cosmo in their childhood years. Rounding out the cast are Hannah Davis, Abby Cate, Brandy Walthall, Savannah Reynolds and Addie Bosanko.

The ensemble is filled by Brooklyn Alexander, Armani Amos, Lyric Amos, Joanna Benson, Thomas Brewster, Carmelo Brown, Alex Brummett, Kenny Burns, Emma Daniel, Josie Denson, Tiffanie Duke, Blake Goff, Bill Meyer, Madelyn Poss, Holland Ruff, Steve Shofner, Bob Stephenson and Justin Yates.
The musical will be available for three screenings: Friday, April 16 and Saturday, April 17 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 18 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets will be sold online, and ticketholders will be provided a direct link to view the streamed performance. Individual tickets are available for $5, and "pod party" tickets, designed for multiple viewers of the same screen, are available for $20.

For more information, please contact the SAAC office at 862-5474 or visit www.saac-arts.org. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas.

 

CAMDEN KIWANIS CLUB TO MEET
The Camden Kiwanis Club will meet this Thursday, March 11th at Catherine's Bistro at 12:00 PM. The program will be a tour of Elite Fitness led by Nick May. Attendees will eat at Catherine’s then head to the gym around 12:30. You are requested to arrive in enough time to order and eat your food. You are required to wear a mask was entering and leaving the building, if you do not have one they will provide you with one. Your temperature will be taken, and you'll sign in and report your temp. All the chairs in the meeting room will be spaced out as required.

 

BOOZMAN, COTTON AND COLLEAGUES: BIDEN ESCALATING BORDER CRISIS BY UNLAWFULLY FREEZING BORDER WALL FUNDING
Senators seek Government Accountability Office ruling on infringement of Congress’s constitutional power of the purse
WASHINGTON – Amid the rapidly escalating crisis along the southern border, U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) joined dozens of their GOP colleagues in sending a letter to Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comptroller Gene L. Dodaro highlighting President Joe Biden’s suspension of border wall funding and construction without lawful justification, as required by the Impoundment Control Act.

“On January 20th, in one of the first official acts of his presidency, Joseph Biden suspended border wall construction and ordered a freeze of funds provided by Congress for that purpose,” the senators wrote. “In the weeks that followed, operational control of our southern border was compromised and a humanitarian and national security crisis has ensued. The President’s actions directly contributed to this unfortunate, yet entirely avoidable, scenario. They are also a blatant violation of federal law and infringe on Congress’s constitutional power of the purse.

The senators continued, “We write regarding these actions. We believe they violated the Impoundment Control Act (ICA), as interpreted by your office, and we request your legal opinion on the matter. Prompt action to end these violations is required to restore order at the border.”

Due to efforts by the Trump administration to secure the southern border with new infrastructure, illegal crossings in the Yuma Sector decreased by 87 percent from Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) to FY20 in areas with new border wall system. In the Rio Grande Valley Zone 1, an area that did not previously have border infrastructure, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) saw a 79 percent decrease in apprehensions and a 26 percent decrease in narcotics seizures after completion of the border wall. Additionally, in El Paso Zone 14 and 15, CBP saw 60 percent and 81 percent decreases in apprehensions, respectively, when comparing the second half of FY20 to the first half of FY20.

Since President Biden’s election in November 2020, CBP encounter and apprehension numbers have increased significantly. In February 2021, CBP had 100,441 border encounters, amounting to a 39 percent increase from 71,946 encounters in October 2020 and a 173 percent increase from the 36,687 encounters in February 2020 – just one year prior. Additionally, there have been 325,012 border encounters since November 2020, while there were only 220,563 in the four months prior – a 68 percent increase.

Currently, CBP is overwhelmed and over capacity. Reports indicate that nearly all border patrol sectors are above 100 percent capacity, with some sectors double, triple, or even at significantly higher levels exceeding its ability to process and hold migrants.

The letter was led by Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. In addition to Boozman and Cotton, it was also signed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL), John Barrasso (R-WY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mike Braun (R-IN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Cornyn (R-TX), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), John Hoeven (R-ND), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), John Kennedy (R-LA), James Lankford (R-OK), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rand Paul (R-KY), Rob Portman (R-OH), Jim Risch (R-ID), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Rick Scott (R-FL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Thune (R-SD), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Todd Young (R-IN).

March 16, 2021

GOVERNOR HUTCHINSON’S COVID UPDATE – MARCH 16, 2021
An increasing number of Arkansans are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination following an announcement by Gov. Asa Hutchinson Tuesday afternoon. 

During his weekly statewide COVID-19 Taskforce update, Hutchinson said Arkansas is ready to launch Phase 1C of the state's vaccine rollout plan. This phase includes all Arkansans aged 16 to 64 who possess health conditions which put them at increased risk to COVID-19. Phase 1C also opens up vaccinations for essential workers in the state, including those in energy, finance, food service, IT and media. 

Other essential workers now eligible for the vaccine are those engaged in transportation and logistics as well as the legal, public health and housing fields. Finally, Arkansans residing in high-risk settings due to the proximity to other people are also able to now get the vaccine. This includes inmates of correctional facilities in addition to residents of student housing and group homes.

Hutchinson said the early-than-expected rollout of Phase 1C was made possible because of the growing number of vaccines reaching Arkansas. 

Hutchinson did warn, however, that Phase 1C will likely stimulate considerable demand for the virus in the coming days and weeks. He said Arkansans may need to remain patient as supply of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines continue to increase to meet the additional demand. 

So far, the state has received nearly 1.5 million vaccines since December. Of those around 864,000 have been given. Nearly 304,000 Arkansans have received both doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and are now fully immunized. That equals around 10 percent of the population.

Statewide, the Arkansas Department of Health reported 396 new cases of the virus on Tuesday. That raises the state's cumulative total of COVID-19 transmissions to more than 327,000 since the pandemic began. Deaths increased by 12 over the 24-hour period for a total of 5,493. Active cases saw a net increase of 12 for a current total of 2,875 confirmed and probable active cases currently in Arkansas. Hospitalizations increased by seven to leave 257 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus. 


FIVE STATES JOIN FORCES TO CAUTION AGAINST EXCESSIVE SPEEDING 
Enduring the year of COVID-19 has proven to be the fastest year on the highways in recent memory
MARCH 15, 2021
Five neighboring statewide law enforcement agencies are sending a unified message urging drivers to slow down.  The warning follows a year best described by highway patrol troopers in each state reporting excessive highway speeding across the central U.S. region.
The Arkansas State Police, Iowa State Patrol, Kansas Highway Patrol, Missouri State Highway Patrol, and Nebraska State Patrol all report a substantial increase in speeding violations that began to occur coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We communicate regularly with our law enforcement partners in neighboring states, and the increase in excessive speeding has been a common theme in those conversations over the last year,” said Colonel John Bolduc, Superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol.  “NSP is proud to partner with these neighboring states in reminding motorists of the dangers of excessive speeding and the need for us to all work together to make our states safe.”

Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska comprise Region 7 of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Each state tracked the increase of excessive speeding in different ways, but every method told the same story: A year that felt incredibly long was also the fastest on the roads in recent memory.
“We communicate regularly with our law enforcement partners in neighboring states, and the increase in excessive speeding has been a common theme in those conversations over the last year,” said Colonel John Bolduc, Superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol.  “NSP is proud to partner with these neighboring states in reminding motorists of the dangers of excessive speeding and the need for us to all work together to make our states safe.”

Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska comprise Region 7 of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Each state tracked the increase of excessive speeding in different ways, but every method told the same story: A year that felt incredibly long was also the fastest on the roads in recent memory.


As the winter months give way to more favorable driving conditions and busiest travel seasons, each agency is asking all motorists to do their part to keep the roads safe.  Obey the posted speed limits, eliminate distractions, never drive impaired, and always buckle up. Troopers in each state will continue to patrol day and night to enforce traffic safety laws and assist any motorist.

 

CADC TO DISTRIBUTE USDA COMMODITIES MARCH 23 & 24, 2021 IN CALHOUN COUNTY
Hampton –Central Arkansas Development Council will distribute USDA Commodities in Calhoun County Tuesday, March 23, 2021 and Wednesday, March 24, 2021 in Hampton.  Distribution will begin at 9 am. 

Food Items May Include: Apple Juice, Garbanzo Beans, Dried Blueberries, Rice Cereal, Instant Milk, Spaghetti, Raisins, Spaghetti Sauce, Orange Juice, Split Peas, Applesauce

In Calhoun County, commodities will be distributed at the following location: CADC Office, 210 South Lee Street, Hampton, AR (870) 798-2457. ID must be present in order to receive commodities. All customers receiving commodities must present identification. A Photo ID is preferred.

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English. To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: How to File a Complaint, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by: (1) mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights 1400 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; (3) email: program.intake@usda.gov. (2) fax: (202) 690-7442; or This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

 

ARKANSAS INSURANCE DEPARTMENT OFFERS TIPS FOR ARKANSANS FACING SEVERE WEATHER
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (March 16, 2021)– Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Alan McClain released the following tips for Arkansas consumers ahead of the next bout of severe weather in the forecast:

“Arkansas is again under the threat of severe weather,” said Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Alan McClain. “ I strongly encourage Arkansans to follow these simple steps to ensure that any loss or damage they may suffer can be handled as quickly as possible.  The Arkansas Insurance Department (AID) is ready to help any consumer requiring assistance with the insurance needs following severe weather.”

Arkansans needing assistance can call AID’s Consumer Services Division toll free at 1-800-852-5494.

Do you have the right insurance?
This is the main question Arkansas consumers should ask themselves.  McClain encourages Arkansans to check their coverage.  Not all policies cover water damage, debris or tree removal, sewer backups due to flooding, or additional living expenses if disaster forces you to be displaced from your home.  You should also check limits, including coverage for contents.

Federal Flood Insurance
Homeowners and Renters insurance does not cover flooding. Consider buying federal flood insurance if damage from rising water is possible.  Keep in mind that federal flood insurance takes 30 days to take effect.

Auto Policy
Check your auto policy. Comprehensive coverage (other than collision) pays if a storm or flood damages your car.

Inventory Your Personal Property
Photograph and videotape each room and the exterior of your home. List model and serial numbers and attach sales receipts. Safeguard your records. Keep copies of both, including receipts, somewhere other than your home.

 

COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 16, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,259
Confirmed Cases: 1,903
Probable Cases: 356
Total Active Cases: 6
Active Confirmed Cases: 5
Active Probable Cases: 1
Total Recovered Cases: 2,195
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,857
Recovered Probable Cases: 338
Total Deaths: 58
Confirmed Deaths: 41
Probable Deaths: 17

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,852
Confirmed Cases: 2,883
Probable Cases: 969
Total Active Cases: 33
Active Confirmed Cases: 16
Active Probable Cases: 17
Total Recovered Cases: 3,714
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,792
Recovered Probable Cases: 922
Total Deaths: 105
Confirmed Deaths: 75
Probable Deaths: 30

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,294
Confirmed Cases: 1,349
Probable Cases: 945
Total Active Cases: 16
Active Confirmed Cases: 6
Active Probable Cases: 10
Total Recovered Cases: 2,224
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,308
Recovered Probable Cases: 916
Total Deaths: 54
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 19

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 749
Confirmed Cases: 658
Probable Cases: 91
Total Active Cases: 4
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 731
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 646
Recovered Probable Cases: 85
Total Deaths: 14
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 4

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 404
Confirmed Cases: 304
Probable Cases: 100
Total Active Cases: 3
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 1
Total Recovered Cases: 398
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 300
Recovered Probable Cases: 98
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 1

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 327,060
Confirmed Cases: 257,238
Probable Cases: 69,822
Recovered Cases: 318,695

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

March 15, 2021

LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTING INVESTIGATION UNDERWAY; STATE POLICE HANDLING CASE
MARCH 14, 2021
The Lonoke County Sheriff’s Department and Austin Police Department have requested the Arkansas State Police investigate an officer involved shooting incident occurring Saturday evening (March 13th) outside an Austin residence.

Dustin Black, 24, of Beebe, died after he was shot by a Lonoke County Sheriff’s Deputy and an Austin Police Officer.

Lonoke County authorities had been searching for Black who had reportedly fired at shotgun at a woman in Austin about 8 PM.  Black had fled on foot from the crime scene at 24 Seminole Circle.  The woman was not struck by the gunshot.

Shortly before 10:30 PM Black was located, outside near the same home where the shooting had occurred earlier in the evening.  He was still armed with a shotgun.  A local police officer and sheriff’s deputy gave repeated orders for Black to drop the gun.  Black reportedly then raised the gun toward the law enforcement officers who fired their guns, wounding him.  An ambulance was called to the scene by the officers who then approached Black and began providing life-sustaining aid.  Neither of the law enforcement officers who had confronted Black were injured.

Black died at 11:33 PM while being treated at a North Little Rock hospital.  His body has been transported to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory where a manner and cause of death will be determined.

Questions relating to the identity of the deputy and local police officer, and their administrative status, should be directed to the respective departments employing them.

Special Agents of the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division are preparing an investigative case file that will be turned over to the Lonoke County Prosecuting Attorney who will determine whether the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers was consistent with Arkansas laws.

 

COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 15, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,257
Confirmed Cases: 1,901
Probable Cases: 356
Total Active Cases: 7
Active Confirmed Cases: 6
Active Probable Cases: 1
Total Recovered Cases: 2,192
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,854
Recovered Probable Cases: 338
Total Deaths: 58
Confirmed Deaths: 41
Probable Deaths: 17

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,851
Confirmed Cases: 2,882
Probable Cases: 969
Total Active Cases: 35
Active Confirmed Cases: 16
Active Probable Cases: 19
Total Recovered Cases: 3,711
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,791
Recovered Probable Cases: 920
Total Deaths: 105
Confirmed Deaths: 75
Probable Deaths: 30

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,291
Confirmed Cases: 1,348
Probable Cases: 943
Total Active Cases: 16
Active Confirmed Cases: 6
Active Probable Cases: 10
Total Recovered Cases: 2,221
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,307
Recovered Probable Cases: 914
Total Deaths: 54
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 19

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 749
Confirmed Cases: 658
Probable Cases: 91
Total Active Cases: 5
Active Confirmed Cases: 3
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 730
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 645
Recovered Probable Cases: 85
Total Deaths: 14
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 4

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 404
Confirmed Cases: 304
Probable Cases: 100
Total Active Cases: 3
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 1
Total Recovered Cases: 398
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 300
Recovered Probable Cases: 98
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 1

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 326,943
Confirmed Cases: 257,143
Probable Cases: 69,800
Recovered Cases: 318,363

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

 

SHERIDAN STUDENT WINS ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES OF ARKANSAS STATE SPELLING BEE
Little Rock, Ark. — March 13, 2021 — Avery Grayson Williams of Grant County is the winner of the 2021 Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas State Spelling Bee. The Sheridan Middle School student is the son of Nick and Summer Williams.

Williams competed with 47 other students from across Arkansas at the event that was held on Saturday, March 13 at the Arkansas 4-H Center in Little Rock.

Second place was won by the 2020 Winner Thomas Sinclair of Garland County. There was a three-way tie for third place between Charles Akin Johnson of Washington County, Sanjay Vontala of Benton County and Aiden Watson of Columbia County.

Approximately 42,243 students from 294 schools in 57 counties across Arkansas participated in local and county contests that leading up to the State Spelling Bee contest. Williams, the Arkansas winner, will proceed to The Scripps National Spelling Bee, the nation’s largest and longest-running educational program.

The purpose of the Scripps National Spelling Bee is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them throughout their lives.

For additional images and to learn more about the Arkansas State Spelling Bee visit: www.aecc.com/spellingbee

The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas comprise 17 electric distribution cooperatives; Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI), a Little Rock-based cooperative that provides services to the distribution cooperatives; and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC), a generation and transmission cooperative. The distribution cooperatives provide electricity to approximately 500,000 homes, farms and businesses in Arkansas and surrounding states.

 

SMELLS LIKE SPRING STORM SEASON: PREPARE NOW FOR POTENTIAL THUNDERSTORMS
Entergy Arkansas prepares year-round for storm-related outages
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas –Chirping birds, blooming flowers and rising temperatures this week may lift spirits, but a whiff of something more ominous is also in the air: spring storm season.

As the seasons change, wild and wooly weather can pop up with little warning, instantly transforming a sunny spring day to one marked by tornadoes, hail, lightning, severe thunderstorms, flash flooding and high winds.

Extreme, unpredictable weather can also cause power outages and downed power lines. Entergy Arkansas employees plan and train year-round, ready to respond and restore power when severe weather strikes. Our perpetual cycle of planning, preparation and training ensures we are Operation Storm Ready for every weather situation.

 “We continually watch the weather and put our plan in action as soon as a severe weather threat emerges,” said Michael Considine, Entergy Arkansas vice president of customer service. “These storms develop quickly and can be deadly. We encourage customers to form a storm-preparedness plan before severe weather appears. Waiting until a storm springs up may be too late.”

Prepare for extreme weather in advance by assembling an emergency kit of basic supplies. Make sure your family knows what to do and where to go if disaster strikes. Entergy can help you prepare with these tips on how to make a plan and a kit.  Knowing exactly when and where severe weather will occur is unlikely, so consider keeping an emergency kit at home. Also keep one in your vehicle that prepares you for the weather outside, not inside, should you become stranded during an emergency. After stocking up, ensure that you have several ways of getting severe weather warnings:

Install a smart phone app that will alert you to severe weather in the area or sign up for emergency alerts on your smart phone.

Have a weather radio with a loud alarm that will wake you when severe weather threatens at night.
Know how to communicate with Entergy Arkansas if you need help after a storm hits. There are several ways to report outages or downed power lines:
Download our free app for your smartphone at
entergy.com/app.
Sign up for text alerts by texting REG to 36778 and have your account number and ZIP code handy. The registration pattern is as follows including spaces: REG (account number) (ZIP code). Once registered, text OUT to 36778 to report an outage. You can also report an outage online as a guest..

Visit the Entergy Storm Center website and our View Outages page. Call us at 800-9OUTAGE (800-968-8243).

 “We prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” said Considine. “While we work hard to prevent disruptions, unpredictable and powerful storms can still cause power outages. Being prepared and having everything you need in one location can help you weather the storm with greater peace of mind while we work to safely restore your service.”

Entergy Corporation renewed its partnership in 2020 with the American Red Cross Disaster Responder Program by committing $500,000 to help our communities better prepare for and recover from potential disasters. The contribution will help streamline the response process in times of disaster, allowing funds to arrive more quickly to help those affected across our four-state service area.

ABOUT ENTERGY ARKANSAS
Entergy Arkansas provides electricity to approximately 715,000 customers in 63 counties. Entergy Corporation (NYSE: ETR) is an integrated energy company engaged in electric power production, transmission and retail distribution operations. Entergy delivers electricity to three million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Entergy owns and operates one of the cleanest large-scale U.S. power generating fleets with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, including 8,000 megawatts of nuclear power. Headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana, Entergy has annual revenues of $10 billion and more than 13,000 employees.

 

BOOZMAN SHARES GULF WAR VETERAN’S SERVICE MEMORIES IN RECOGNITION OF WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH
WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of Gulf War veteran Master Sergeant (retired) Marilyn (Sue) Newton in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans. 

Newton grew up in Clarendon, Arkansas. As the daughter of a farmer who served in World War II and a factory worker, Sue understood the importance of patriotism, public service and hard work from a very young age. 

After hearing the Arkansas Army National Guard would be training in Germany, she became interested in joining.

 We wanted to go to Germany,” she laughed.

 Her desire to travel led to a successful military career with the Arkansas Army National Guard that started on September 16, 1977.

Newton began her service as an automotive and fire control instrument repairman. She recalled the resentment she initially experienced from some of her colleagues.

“Some [men] were not very accepting of women being in the guard; some were, but you just had to kind of prove yourself and eventually I guess we did.”

A few years later, Sue went to Officer Candidate School. By the time she graduated, she was working full-time as an enlisted member with the Arkansas National Guard and she and her husband were expecting their first child. Sue decided not to accept her commission, because she would have to give up her job to do so.

After over a decade of continued service in the Arkansas Army National Guard, her unit, the 224th Maintenance Company, was called up for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. While deployed, Sue’s primary job was to order needed automotive repair parts. She shared how peaceful it could be in the desert drinking a cup of coffee and watching the sunrise. But it did get noisy. Sue recalled how her unit was located near a fuel point, and things changed when the battle started.

“It was just convoy after convoy after convoy after convoy going north,” she recalled. “We had this little hill we could sit up on top at night and look and all you could see were headlights going north. Then two to three days later everyone was coming back because the ground war was over.”

Sue returned home to her family in May of 1991 and continued her service. Later, she completed the Sergeants Major Academy, achieving the rare accomplishment of graduating from both the Officer Candidate School and the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy. Though Sue was qualified to be a commissioned officer and a Sergeant Major, she was never able to reap the benefits of her efforts due to being a working mother and the lack of opportunities available to her at that time and place in her career.

Newton was a dedicated member of the National Guard who loved her job, so much so she was reluctant to leave. She continues to laugh about her constantly changing retirement date.

“I am probably the only person in the Arkansas National Guard, maybe in the whole United States, that retired three times,” she joked.

Newton ultimately retired in 2011 after serving 34 years in the Arkansas National Guard and is enjoying her well-deserved retirement in North Little Rock.

“I’m proud to recognize the military service of Sue Newton. Throughout her career she demonstrated her commitment, dedication and willingness to serve her state and nation. We will always be thankful for her sacrifice and contributions while in uniform. I am pleased to have the opportunity to preserve her memories,” Boozman said.

Boozman will submit Newton’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans. The interview was conducted by Conway High School sophomore Jack Ghormley who was inspired to participate in the program and preserve the memories of veterans.

March 12, 2021

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: SCAMMERS USE COVID-19 MISINFORMATION TO TARGET HISPANIC POPULATION
LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Attorney General’s Office has received recent reports of vaccine misinformation, fake COVID-19 testing and treatment targeting Arkansas’s Hispanic population. Scam artists will always take advantage of a tough situation and attempt to steal from hard-working Arkansans. The Arkansas Department of Health has provided a list of trusted vaccine clinics in each region of the state where Arkansans can receive their vaccine on a first-come, first-served basis if they qualify. 

“I urge Arkansans to never give any personal information over the phone,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “If you believe a con artist is attempting to spread fake COVID-19 information, don’t hesitate to contact my office and let us do the fighting for you.”

Attorney General Rutledge has offered the following tips for consumers about fraudulent COVID-19 vaccines and treatments:

Do not pay exorbitant fees for COVID-19 vaccinations. Instead, visit the Arkansas Department of Health’s website to find locations of regional testing and clinics offering COVID-19 tests at no cost to consumers.

Be cautious of health providers who claim they can cure, prevent, or lessen the effects of COVID-19 while charging high fees for their false claims.

For questions about COVID-19, including where to find testing locations, call the Arkansas Department of Health at 1-800-803-7847.

Find accurate information about COVID-19, including information about how it spreads, symptoms, prevention and treatment, what to do if you are sick and frequently asked questions, on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. 

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov.
 

COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 12, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,246
Confirmed Cases: 1,900
Probable Cases: 346
Total Active Cases: 12
Active Confirmed Cases: 9
Active Probable Cases: 3
Total Recovered Cases: 2,177
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,850
Recovered Probable Cases: 327
Total Deaths: 57
Confirmed Deaths: 41
Probable Deaths: 16

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,839
Confirmed Cases: 2,879
Probable Cases: 960
Total Active Cases: 39
Active Confirmed Cases: 21
Active Probable Cases: 18
Total Recovered Cases: 3,699
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,784
Recovered Probable Cases: 915
Total Deaths: 101
Confirmed Deaths: 74
Probable Deaths: 27

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,284
Confirmed Cases: 1,346
Probable Cases: 938
Total Active Cases: 20
Active Confirmed Cases: 8
Active Probable Cases: 12
Total Recovered Cases: 2,210
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,303
Recovered Probable Cases: 907
Total Deaths: 54
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 19

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 747
Confirmed Cases: 658
Probable Cases: 89
Total Active Cases: 9
Active Confirmed Cases: 7
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 725
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 641
Recovered Probable Cases: 84
Total Deaths: 13
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 3

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 404
Confirmed Cases: 304
Probable Cases: 100
Total Active Cases: 5
Active Confirmed Cases: 3
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 396
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 299
Recovered Probable Cases: 97
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 1

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 326,040
Confirmed Cases: 256,519
Probable Cases: 69,521
Recovered Cases: 317,465

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

 

MEMBERS OF ARKANSAS DELEGATION SECURE $4.9 MILLION FOR STATE AIRPORTS 
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill and Bruce Westerman—announced the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded over $4.9 million in federal grants to airports and airfields in Arkansas to off-set costs and maintain jobs as a result of COVID-19 as well as provide for increased sanitization to combat the spread of pathogens at these facilities.

The DOT, through the Federal Aviation Administration, is distributing the funds appropriated through the Coronavirus Relief and Response Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, which passed with the support of the entire Arkansas Congressional Delegation in December 2020.

“Air travel has been drastically impacted by the pandemic. Supporting the airline and aviation-related industries with these federal funds is important to our economic recovery. We are pleased Arkansas communities’ opportunities for commerce will continue with the help of these DOT awards,” members said.

The following awardees are recipients of CRRSA funding:
Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Filed  - $4,770,746 to City of Little Rock-Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission Including an additional CRRSA concessions grant to provide economic relief from rent and minimum annual guarantees to on-airport car rental, on-airport parking and in-terminal concessions.Jonesboro Municipal (Craighead County)  - $57,000 to the City of Jonesboro
Memorial Field Airport (Garland County)  - $23,000 to the City of Hot SpringsSearcy Municipal Airport (White County)  - $23,000 to the City of SearcyArkansas International Airport (Mississippi County)
$13,000 to the Blytheville-Gosnell Regional Airport Authority
Monticello Municipal/Ellis Field Airport (Drew County)  - $13,000 to the City of Monticello
Newport Regional Airport (Jackson County)  - $13,000 to the City of Newport
Ozark-Franklin County Airport (Franklin County)  - $9,000 to Franklin County

Last month, members of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation announced more than $4.5 million in CRRSA funding was awarded to state airports and airfields by the DOT. CRRSA was signed into law by former President Donald Trump on December 27, 2020. The deadline to apply for the program’s grants is June 30, 2021.

March 11, 2021

STONE COUNTY HOMICIDES BEING INVESTIGATED BY STATE POLICE CID
MARCH 10, 2021
The discovery of two apparent murder victims inside a home north of Mountain View yesterday (Tuesday, March 9th) has led to Special Agents of the Arkansas State Police being requested to investigate the homicides.
Stone County Sheriff’s Deputies contacted state police shortly after the bodies of a man and woman were found at a residence on Chateau Pointe Loop off Arkansas Highway 87 shortly before 2:52 PM.
Ronald Calkins, 64, who lived at the house, and Brandy Patrick, 40, both of Mountain View have been identified as the homicide victims.  Their bodies have been transported to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory where the state medical examiner will determine when the deaths occurred, along with the manner and cause of death.
Early in the investigation, a suspect was identified as a person who may have taken a truck from the crime scene.  About 9:30 last night, state police CID special agents and the Stone County Sheriff’s Department developed information the suspect was possibly in the Fifty-Six community, north of Mountain View.  Deputies were able to locate Royce Calkins, 43, the son of the murder victim.  The younger Calkins lived with his father at the Chateau Pointe Loop home.
Royce Calkins was arrested and is being held at the Stone County Detention Center on a charge of first degree murder.

 

TEXAS MAN SENTENCED TO 10 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR POSSESSING OVER 20 POUNDS COMBINED OF FENTANYL AND COCAINE
Hot Springs, Arkansas – David Clay Fowlkes, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced today that Johnny Rodriguez, age 22, of Houston, Texas, was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release on one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute more than 400 grams of Fentanyl. The Honorable Chief Judge Susan O. Hickey presided over the sentencing hearing in the United States District Court in Hot Springs.

In August 2019, an Arkansas State Police Trooper stopped a vehicle operated by Rodriguez, for a traffic offense. After receiving consent and searching the vehicle, the Trooper discovered a false compartment in the vehicle.  A search of the compartment resulted in the Trooper locating approximately 12 kilograms of a controlled substance that field tested positive for cocaine.  Rodriguez was arrested without incident.

The substance was submitted to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Crime lab for testing and tested positive for 4909 grams of fentanyl and 4469 grams of cocaine.

Rodriguez plead guilty to an information in June of 2020. 

This case was investigated by the Arkansas State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Assistant United States Attorney Bryan Achorn prosecuted the case for the Western District of Arkansas.

 

COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 11, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,245
Confirmed Cases: 1,899
Probable Cases: 346
Total Active Cases: 14
Active Confirmed Cases: 10
Active Probable Cases: 4
Total Recovered Cases: 2,169
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,848
Recovered Probable Cases: 326
Total Deaths: 57
Confirmed Deaths: 41
Probable Deaths: 16

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,837
Confirmed Cases: 2,878
Probable Cases: 959
Total Active Cases: 51
Active Confirmed Cases: 34
Active Probable Cases: 17
Total Recovered Cases: 3,685
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,770
Recovered Probable Cases: 915
Total Deaths: 101
Confirmed Deaths: 74
Probable Deaths: 27

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,284
Confirmed Cases: 1,346
Probable Cases: 938
Total Active Cases: 20
Active Confirmed Cases: 8
Active Probable Cases: 12
Total Recovered Cases: 2,210
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,303
Recovered Probable Cases: 907
Total Deaths: 54
Confirmed Deaths: 35
Probable Deaths: 19

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 747
Confirmed Cases: 658
Probable Cases: 89
Total Active Cases: 9
Active Confirmed Cases: 7
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 725
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 641
Recovered Probable Cases: 84
Total Deaths: 13
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 3

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 404
Confirmed Cases: 304
Probable Cases: 100
Total Active Cases: 5
Active Confirmed Cases: 3
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 396
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 299
Recovered Probable Cases: 97
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 1

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 325,700
Confirmed Cases: 256,269
Probable Cases: 69,431
Recovered Cases: 317,070

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

BOOZMAN HIGHLIGHTS AG COMMUNITY’S EFFORTS TO ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE AND UNDERSCORES HOW TO BUILD FROM SUCCESSES WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, touted the progress American agriculture has made in reducing its environmental impact while stressing that new programs must be flexible, voluntary and farmer-focused.

During the Senate Agriculture Committee’s hearing on the efforts of farmers and foresters to lead in tackling climate change, Boozman highlighted how the agriculture community has tapped innovative strategies to promote environmental sustainability and conserve natural resources while continuing to increase yields and remain prosperous. He highlighted how chicken, beef, dairy and rice industries have increased production with a significantly reduced environmental impact over recent decades. 

“Every crop grown in the U.S. has similar success stories that demonstrate their environmental gains. And U.S. farmers will continue to lead the world in making advancements to improve the environmental sustainability of our food system,” Boozman said.

Boozman noted how “exciting new opportunities to compensate farmers and foresters for these environmental gains hold promise,” but he cautioned there are complex barriers that must be eliminated in this uncertain marketplace.

“There are costs associated with verification, validation, technical services, new technologies and equipment, and often times costs associated with reduced yields. These costs add up, and can become prohibitive. For this new opportunity to be viable for producers and forest owners, the benefits must outweigh the risks and costs they take on,” he said.

Boozman stressed the proper way forward is to ensure that climate change policies pursued by Congress are not mandatory, overly burdensome or cost prohibitive. 

“While protecting our climate is critical, we must avoid a heavy-handed government approach that could place unbearable requirements on our small farmers in particular, and likely drive concentration within the agriculture sector,” Boozman said.

March 10, 2021

HOT SPRINGS MAN SENTENCED TO OVER 10 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR DRUG TRAFFICKING
Hot Springs, Arkansas – David Clay Fowlkes, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced today that Mark Joseph Geurin, age 32, of Hot Springs, Arkansas, was sentenced to 130 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine. The Honorable Chief Judge Susan O. Hickey presided over the sentencing hearing in the United States District Court in Hot Springs.

In February 2018, a Hot Springs Police Officer attempted to stop a vehicle operated by Geurin, for a traffic offense. A high-speed chase ensued, and officers had to execute a pit maneuver to terminate the pursuit. Geurin then fled on foot and was apprehended by officers. A search of Geurin’s person revealed a glass pipe with methamphetamine residue. Officers conducted an inventory search of the vehicle Geurin was driving and located a black jacket behind the driver's seat. Inside the jacket a baggie of methamphetamine was located, which contained approximately 25 grams of methamphetamine. Geurin was transported to the Garland County Detention Center and an additional 10.5 grams of methamphetamine were located on his person.

The suspected methamphetamine was submitted to the Arkansas State Crime lab for testing and tested positive for methamphetamine.

In August 2018, after posting bond from the February incident, Geurin led Troopers with the Arkansas State Police on a second high-speed chase, reaching speeds of up to 144 miles per hour and nearly colliding with another motorist.   

Geurin was indicted by a federal grand jury in December of 2018 and entered a guilty plea in May of 2020. 

This case was investigated by the Hot Springs Police Department and the Arkansas State Police. Assistant United States Attorney David Harris prosecuted the case for the Western District of Arkansas.

 

COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 10, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,243
Confirmed Cases: 1,899
Probable Cases: 344
Total Active Cases: 18
Active Confirmed Cases: 13
Active Probable Cases: 5
Total Recovered Cases: 2,169
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,845
Recovered Probable Cases: 324
Total Deaths: 56
Confirmed Deaths: 41
Probable Deaths: 15

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,798
Confirmed Cases: 2,869
Probable Cases: 929
Total Active Cases: 44
Active Confirmed Cases: 35
Active Probable Cases: 9
Total Recovered Cases: 3,653
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,760
Recovered Probable Cases: 893
Total Deaths: 101
Confirmed Deaths: 74
Probable Deaths: 27

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,283
Confirmed Cases: 1,346
Probable Cases: 937
Total Active Cases: 36
Active Confirmed Cases: 20
Active Probable Cases: 16
Total Recovered Cases: 2,194
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,292
Recovered Probable Cases: 902
Total Deaths: 53
Confirmed Deaths: 34
Probable Deaths: 19

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 746
Confirmed Cases: 658
Probable Cases: 88
Total Active Cases: 12
Active Confirmed Cases: 9
Active Probable Cases: 3
Total Recovered Cases: 722
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 639
Recovered Probable Cases: 83
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 403
Confirmed Cases: 303
Probable Cases: 100
Total Active Cases: 5
Active Confirmed Cases: 3
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 395
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 298
Recovered Probable Cases: 97
Total Deaths: 3
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 1

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 325,383
Confirmed Cases: 256,077
Probable Cases: 69,306
Recovered Cases: 316,544

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

 

SAAC TO HOST ARTIST’S RECEPTION THURSDAY, MARCH 11
The South Arkansas Arts Center invites the public to an artists’ reception honoring local artist Katie Harwell and her friend and sister-in law, Alabama artist Kendal Blanchard. An in-person reception will be held on Thursday, March 11, from 5:30-6:30pm. The exhibit, entitled "Collagraph and Collage", will hang in the Lobby Gallery through March 30. Guests are asked to RSVP for a limited-entry time slots. The reception will be hosted for small groups, with scheduled times for viewing at 5:30pm or 6:00pm. 

Harwell grew up in El Dorado and is an artist and educator, while Blanchard is a Louisiana-born artist who now resides with her family along Mobile Bay in Fairhope, Alabama. Their combined show is the outcome of the two friends trying to combat last year's stress from virtually teaching and working from home, while also keeping up with their own kids' schooling. Harwell's show is a compilation of watercolors and collograph prints, while Blanchard's exhibit contains paper collages with a seaside theme. 
For more information about the exhibition or to attend the artists' reception, please contact the SAAC office at 862-5474 or visit www.saac-arts.org. The Lobby Gallery is open for viewing Monday- Friday, 9:00-5:00. Masks are required, and social distancing protocol is followed. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas.

 

BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION TO COMBAT FORCED ORGAN HARVESTING INTRODUCED IN SENATE AND HOUSE 
Washington, D.C. – Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware) and Representatives Chris Smith (R-New Jersey), Tom Suozzi (D-New York), and Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri) have introduced bicameral, bipartisan legislation—the Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act—to combat the unethical and criminal practice of harvesting organs often from minority groups and other vulnerable victims.

“There is growing evidence that the Chinese Communist Party has and continues to harvest organs from persecuted religious groups, prisoners of conscience, and inmates,” said Senator Cotton, the bill’s lead Republican in the Senate. “This bill will identify and punish CCP members involved in forced organ harvesting. It’s past time to hold Beijing accountable for these heinous acts.”

“Forced organ harvesting is inhumane, immoral, and cruel, and the United States must do everything we can to fight this despicable practice,” said Senator Coons, lead Democrat for the Senate bill. “As co-chair of the Senate Human Rights Caucus, I’m proud to support this bipartisan, bicameral bill to hold those involved in harvesting and the international trafficking of organs to account.”

“Organ harvesting is an egregiously barbaric and inhumane act that has no place in our world. We must do more to put an end to the horrific abuse by international human trafficking gangs, terrorist organizations, and even some governments—China’s Communist regime in particular—who kill innocent people and sell their organs for profit,” said Representative Smith, sponsor and lead Republican for the House bill who has fought organ harvesting for more than 20 years, including chairing a June 2016 hearing on the gruesome practice in China. “A global response to stop this gross human rights abuse is desperately needed. Our legislation would empower the U.S. State Department to identify and expose organ harvesters and traffickers across the world with the goal of punishing perpetrators through effective sanctions and travel restrictions. Shedding light on these hideous activities and enabling the naming of names of these perpetrators—who often prey on political prisoners, minorities, and other vulnerable populations—will help put an end to this egregious violation of human rights.”

“Members of the Chinese Community Party must be held accountable for the unspeakable practice of organ harvesting. They have taken advantage of and abused political prisoners, minority groups, and religious groups for too long,” said Rep. Suozzi, lead Democrat for the House bill. “To not speak out on this egregious practice is to be complicit. Forced organ harvesting has no place in our world.”

First introduced in the 116th Congress, the Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act:
Authorizes the U.S. government to deny or revoke passports for illegal organ purchasers.
Mandates annual reporting on forced organ harvesting in foreign countries. This State Department reporting would identify foreign officials and entities responsible for forced organ harvesting.

Mandates an annual report on U.S. institutions that train organ transplant surgeons affiliated with foreign entities involved in forced organ harvesting.
Prohibits the export of organ transplant surgery devices to entities responsible for forced organ harvesting.
Sanctions foreign officials and entities that engage in or otherwise support forced organ harvesting.


BOOZMAN, TESTER FIGHT FOR VETERANS EXPOSED TO AGENT ORANGE DURING SERVICE IN THAILAND
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT) are renewing their bipartisan effort to support veterans who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War-era by allowing them the opportunity to prove toxic exposure in order to qualify for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.

The VA currently awards service-connected benefits for exposure to toxic chemicals to veterans whose duties placed them on or near the perimeters of Thai military bases from February 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975. This restriction arbitrarily disqualifies veterans who may otherwise be able to prove their exposure, regardless of their assigned duties during their time stationed in Thailand.

“Too many veterans are being left behind because of the VA’s current policies that prohibit them from accessing benefits and health care services they have earned. Veterans who honorably served during the Vietnam War-era in Thailand to this day are paying a high price as a result of having been carelessly hindered by the limitations on the presumption of toxic exposure to Agent Orange, but they aren’t forgotten. We have an obligation to ensure they get the benefits they are due, and I am committed to advancing legislation on their behalf. This bill will eliminate the unreasonable burden on veterans to prove toxic exposure,” Boozman said.

“It’s well past-time for VA to do right by Vietnam-era veterans suffering from exposure to Agent Orange,” said Tester. “The fact is these folks risked their lives for our country when they deployed to Thailand, and we have a duty to ensure they get the benefits and care they’ve earned. I won’t stop fighting until we push this bill across the finish line and address the needs of every Montanan living with the lasting impacts of their exposure.”

Veteran Service Organizations including the Military-Veterans Advocacy (MVA) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) have long advocated for improvements to health coverage for veterans exposed to dangerous herbicides and support the Boozman-Tester bill.

 “The VFW greatly appreciates the support from Senators Boozman and Tester on this important issue. The idea that veterans can only be exposed to Agent Orange if they were on a small portion of a base ignores both science and common sense. The fact is that veterans were exposed on all parts of these bases and now suffer from the effects of Agent Orange. We look forward to the passage of this important legislation that will provide long overdue recognition and care that these veterans deserve,” said Pat Murray, VFW’s National Legislative Director.

Boozman initiated a legislative fix in 2017 to correct this inequity after Mena, Arkansas veteran Bill Rhodes made him aware of the VA’s presumptions for toxic exposure. Rhodes served in the U.S. Marine Corps and was stationed in Thailand during 1973. After developing illnesses linked to herbicide exposure, he turned to the VA for help. His claim was denied, but he’s been working with veterans who face similar circumstances to advocate for this legislation.

March 09, 2021

ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES OF ARKANSAS AND ARKANSAS 4-H TO HOST SEAPERCH CHALLENGE
Submersible remote-operated robots simulate real-world tasks
Little Rock, Ark. — March 9, 2021 — The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas and Arkansas 4-H will host the 2021 Arkansas SeaPerch Challenge, an underwater robotics competition on Friday, March 12 through Wednesday, March 17. Due to the current pandemic, the competition will be a virtual event.

The SeaPerch is a remotely-operated submersible built from more than three dozen parts, including PVC pipe, pool noodles, three 12-volt motors and batteries. During the virtual contest, teams will submit an engineering report summarizing their design process and participate in a team interview. Teams also have opportunity to submit videos showcasing how their SeaPerch navigates through obstacle courses and complete other tasks, such as moving plastic rings from one part of the course and successfully placing them to another part. A new addition to the challenge is for teams to present ideas on how to use this technology in a real-world setting. The goal is to ignite students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The winner of the Arkansas SeaPerch Challenge will advance to the International SeaPerch Challenge that will be held virtually June 4 – 5. Teams will compete in similar events of the state challenge.

"The students participating in the 2021 event and other students throughout Arkansas have displayed an impressive ability to adapt to conditions caused by the current pandemic,” said Rob Roedel, director of corporate communications for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. "Arkansas’ electric cooperatives are dedicated to improving the quality of life in the communities that we serve. By working with our long-time partner, Arkansas 4-H, we consider programs like SeaPerch to fuel innovation and STEM-based intuitive learning for future leaders.”
 

DEFRANCE WINS BIG AT MURPHY ARTS DISTRICT
deFrance returned to the stage on Saturday, March 6, for the Murphy Arts District’s second annual MAD Battle and emerged victorious with not only the grand prize of $2500, but also awards for best vocalist and best showmanship. The event took place at the First Financial Music Hall in El Dorado, Arkansas. Six other bands from across the mid-South participated, but none could overcome the relentless rock & roll show that is deFrance.

“Not only do we have the best band in rock & roll, we also have the best singer, and we’re ready to show the world,” states founder Drew deFrance.

deFrance premiered a new lineup on Saturday with the addition of lead vocalist and American Idol alum Charlie Askew and seasoned session musician and fellow Camden native Mitchell Lowe on guitar. Charlie adds that “...it feels electrifying and it was an honor winning best vocalist. It feels good that this was my first show with deFrance and I think it’s a great sign of things to come!”

Road warriors deFrance were gearing up for a busy and successful past year full of international touring dates but were forced to cancel plans due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The band is looking forward to 2021, with tour dates to be announced soon, and shows with major acts including Foghat and Atlanta Rhythm Section already on the books.
Learn more about deFrance at deFranceMusic.com.

 

CENTER FOR ARKANSAS LEGAL SERVICES IS PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE ITS INAUGURAL SERIES OF RURAL JUSTICE DAYS
The Center for Arkansas Legal Services is pleased to announce its inaugural series of Rural Justice Days, where small towns will see big impacts this summer. Legal Services will be travelling across rural Arkansas providing a one-stop shop for civil legal needs. They will be handling simple divorces, estate planning, powers of attorney, and criminal record sealing. Walk-ins will be welcome to discuss any civil legal needs they have, such as public benefits problems, evictions, land-lord tenant disputes, or debt collection. On April 30, from 10 am to 3 pm, we will be at the First United Methodist Church on 121 Harrison Street, in Camden, Arkansas.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all participants will be required to wear a mask to receive service and must observe social distancing procedures. While walk-ins are welcome, it is strongly encouraged that you call the Helpline at 501-376-3423 to schedule an appointment. Persons interested in criminal record sealing must call the Helpline for an appointment to ensure eligibility and obtain ACIC and Sentencing Reports prior to service. For more information about the Center for Arkansas Legal Services or the services we can provide, please visit www.arkansaslegal.org  or follow Arkansas Legal on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/arkansaslegal"

The Center for Arkansas Legal Services (CALS) is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization that provides free legal services to low-income individuals residing in the state of Arkansas in civil (non-criminal) cases. CALS is headquartered in Little Rock and serves 44 counties of the 75 counties in Arkansas.

 

COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 09, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,241
Confirmed Cases: 1,899
Probable Cases: 342
Total Active Cases: 21
Active Confirmed Cases: 16
Active Probable Cases: 5
Total Recovered Cases: 2,166
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,842
Recovered Probable Cases: 324
Total Deaths: 53
Confirmed Deaths: 41
Probable Deaths: 13

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,786
Confirmed Cases: 2,867
Probable Cases: 919
Total Active Cases: 47
Active Confirmed Cases: 39
Active Probable Cases: 8
Total Recovered Cases: 3,638
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,754
Recovered Probable Cases: 884
Total Deaths: 101
Confirmed Deaths: 74
Probable Deaths: 27

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,282
Confirmed Cases: 1,346
Probable Cases: 936
Total Active Cases: 43
Active Confirmed Cases: 26
Active Probable Cases: 17
Total Recovered Cases: 2,186
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,286
Recovered Probable Cases: 900
Total Deaths: 53
Confirmed Deaths: 34
Probable Deaths: 19

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 745
Confirmed Cases: 657
Probable Cases: 88
Total Active Cases: 14
Active Confirmed Cases: 11
Active Probable Cases: 3
Total Recovered Cases: 719
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 636
Recovered Probable Cases: 83
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 401
Confirmed Cases: 302
Probable Cases: 99
Total Active Cases: 5
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 3
Total Recovered Cases: 394
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 298
Recovered Probable Cases: 96
Total Deaths: 2
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 0

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 324,951
Confirmed Cases: 255,836
Probable Cases: 69,115
Recovered Cases: 316,000

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/
For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

 

COTTON, COLLEAGUES INTRODUCE BILL IMPOSING SANCTIONS ON DRUG CARTELS
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), and Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) introduced the Significant Transnational Criminal Organization Designation Act, legislation that would subject certain foreign criminal organizations like drug cartels to sanctions, including immigration, financial, and criminal penalties. The process would be similar to the system used for designating entities as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Criminal organizations and drug cartels that terrorize our communities and wage war at our borders ought to be treated just like terrorist groups in the eyes of the U.S. government. This bill would help stop cartel violence by ensuring these groups-and anyone who helps them-face dire consequences for their actions," said Cotton.

“Criminal organizations like MS-13 terrorize American communities through human tracking and by smuggling drugs across our southern border. This legislation will make it easier for federal officials to crack down on these transnational criminal groups,” said Blackburn.

“America has a duty to keep its citizens safe from brutal cartel violence. This bill gives law enforcement a critical new tool to ensure that cross-border criminals cannot terrorize our citizens,” said Hawley.

“Drug cartels along our southern border have been a problem for far too long. We need a way to keep these thugs in check, and this legislation would allow our federal law enforcement to do just that. These cartels are murderous organizations that have blurred the line between drug trafficking and terrorism, and this designation would allow us to label them for what they are,” said Sasse.

“Mexican cartels wreak havoc on our border and pose a direct threat to our national security. It’s past time we give the federal government every tool it needs to go after these thugs. From crippling sanctions to visa restrictions, this bill equips the administration to ensure these criminal organizations face severe consequences for their illicit activities,” said Gallagher.

Background:
The Significant Transnational Criminal Organization Designation Act enables the federal government to impose on the most significant Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) the same sanctions that apply to FTOs including:
Barring organization members and their immediate families from admission to the United States.
Freezing assets.
Seeking civil and criminal penalties against Individuals providing material assistance or resources to the organization.


BOOZMAN PUSHES FOR EXPANDED COVID-19 VACCINE ACCESS FOR VETERANS & FAMILIES
SAVE LIVES Act would provide no-cost vaccination services at VA to all veterans, veteran spouses, caregivers and CHAMPVA recipients
WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) turned the concerns he’s heard from Arkansas veterans about eligibility for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) COVID-19 vaccine into legislation. Today, Boozman will join Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT), Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to introduce bipartisan legislation that expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to veterans and their families under the VA.

The Strengthening and Amplifying Vaccination Efforts to Locally Immunize all Veterans and Every Spouse (SAVE LIVES) Act would allow VA to provide no-cost COVID-19 vaccination services to all veterans, veteran spouses, caregivers and Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) recipients to the extent that such vaccines are available. The legislation also urges the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to adjust VA’s vaccine allocation based on this increased eligibility pool, as much as the supply chain allows.

Boozman shared the concerns of Arkansas veterans with a VA official during a committee hearing last month. Under questioning from Boozman, Dr. Richard Stone, Acting Under Secretary for Health, Veterans Health Administration (VHA), testified that legislation is needed to authorize an expansion of the VA’s vaccine distribution beyond individuals enrolled in VHA programs.

“The VA is setting an example for effective distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine for veterans in rural and underserved areas. The SAVE LIVES Act will leverage its operations to administer the vaccine to more individuals in these communities,” said Boozman, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “I appreciate the input from Arkansas veterans and the support of my colleagues to meet the moment and craft legislation to allow the VA to get shots in more arms as additional doses become available so we can speed up our return to normalcy.”

“It’s pretty simple: we need to vaccinate as many Americans as possible to get through this pandemic and get our economy back on track,” said Tester. “That starts by making sure that every veteran has access to a vaccine, regardless of whether they’re enrolled in VA health care or not. Our bipartisan bill will help slow the spread of the virus by extending VA’s vaccination services to veterans, spouses, children, and caregivers at no cost. And, it’ll get more folks the protection they need as the Department works to get more shots out the door and into communities.”

 “Military service impacts not only our servicemembers but their spouses, families and support networks, and it is why the VA and this committee aim to care for both veterans and their families,” said Moran. “While the VA will continue to prioritize vaccinating VHA enrolled veterans with its allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine, this legislation enables the VA to vaccinate non-enrolled veterans, veteran spouses, caregivers, overseas veterans and others with excess COVID-19 vaccine supply.”

“This bill will get COVID vaccines to significantly more veterans,” said Blumenthal. “Vaccinations are the key to winning our fight against this pandemic, but I’ve heard concerns from veterans across Connecticut who can’t access vaccines because they are not enrolled in VA health care. I’m proud to work with a bipartisan group of my colleagues to ensure all veterans, their spouses and kids, and caregivers are able to get the vaccine.”

The SAVE LIVES Act will expand VA’s authority to provide vaccines to: 
Veterans who are not eligible for enrollment in VA’s health care system, including veterans without compensable service-connected disabilities and veterans who have incomes above a certain threshold;
Caregivers of veterans who are enrolled in various VA home-based and long-term care programs;
Veterans living abroad who rely on the Foreign Medical Program;
Spouses of veterans; and
CHAMPVA recipients (spouses or children of permanently and totally disabled veterans or of veterans who have died from service-connected disabilities).

 

BOOZMAN ANNOUNCES 2022 RE-ELECTION BID: ARKANSAS NEEDS STRONG, CONSERVATIVE LEADERSHIP IN WASHINGTON; I AM PROUD TO BE THAT LEADER
The fifth-generation Arkansan promises to continue fighting, delivering for the Natural State
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas––Fifth-generation Arkansan and former Arkansas Razorback John Boozman announced today that he will run for re-election to the United States Senate. 

"Now more than ever Arkansas needs strong, conservative leadership in Washington. I am proud to be that leader,” Boozman said. 

“From growing up in a military family and raising three beautiful daughters with my wife Cathy, to creating and running a successful family eye clinic with my brother and serving my community on the Rogers School Board and in Congress –– faith, family, and service have defined my life,” the Rogers Republican continued. 

"As your senator, I will remain a tireless champion for Arkansas, our values and our freedoms. As the son of an Air Force Master Sergeant, I will always have the backs of our veterans and service members. I proudly stand with our law enforcement, defend our Second Amendment rights, and oppose the Left's radical agenda seeking to silence our voices and fundamentally change our way of life. I will continue fighting for Arkansas's working families and small businesses; and my efforts to support our farmers, ranchers and rural communities will take a backseat to no one,” the Republican leader pledged.

"I'm proud to be an Arkansan, and I’m extremely honored to represent the people of the Natural State –– always seeking to use the power of elected office for good. My focus has been and always will be on putting the people of Arkansas first, and as your United States Senator I will continue fighting and delivering for you," Boozman said.

March 08, 2021

STATE POLICE CID ASKED TO INVESTIGATE DALLAS COUNTY OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTING DEATH
MARCH 8, 2021
The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department has requested the Arkansas State Police to investigate a law enforcement officer involved shooting that resulted in the death of an area resident.

Two sheriff’s deputies on patrol in Sparkman at 8:50 last night (Sunday, March 7th) initiated a traffic stop involving a truck driven by Joel R. Weldon, 43, of Hot Spring County.  During the course of the traffic stop, Weldon fled from deputies who pursued the truck north from Sparkman along County Road 232.  During the pursuit, Weldon reportedly stopped and began firing a gun at the deputies leading to an exchange of gunfire with one deputy.

The pursuit resumed along the county road with Weldon driving toward County Road 235, where he later stopped and was ordered by the deputies to show his hands.  Weldon did not comply with the order and one deputy fired into the truck.  Weldon then stepped from the truck, still armed, began walking away, and collapsed.
The deputies began to render medical aid to Weldon while awaiting the arrival of an ambulance.  Weldon was pronounced dead at the scene.
Neither sheriff’s deputy was injured during the incident.

Weldon’s body has been transported to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory where the manner and cause of death will be determined.
Questions relating to the identity of the deputies and their administrative status should be directed to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department.

Special Agents of the state police Criminal Investigation Division are continuing their investigation and will submit an investigative file to the Dallas County Prosecuting Attorney who will determine whether the use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer was consistent with Arkansas laws.


FREE TAX PREP AVAILABLE FOR QUALIFIED ENTERGY ARKANSAS CUSTOMERS
Help for EITC, other programs available to low- and moderate-income customers
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – The federal tax filing season through the Internal Revenue Service runs now through April 15, and low- to moderate-income Entergy Arkansas customers can receive free IRS-certified Volunteer Income Tax Assistance to ensure they are correctly filing returns for their greatest benefits.

As part of the company’s commitment to empower those customers, Entergy Arkansas is also helping those who qualify to claim their federal Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC), which can be up to $6,700 for those making $57,000 or less. Funding for these tax assistance efforts is provided through Entergy shareholder contributions and does not impact customer bills.

“Our goal is to help ensure the amount of federal dollars earned by our customers is returned to them by raising awareness of the EITC credit and helping them file correct forms,” said Entergy Arkansas President & CEO Laura Landreaux. “The tax experts at the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites and online are trained to advise filers for the best outcome.”
The EITC is one of the nation’s most effective tools for lifting low-income workers and their families above the poverty line. The federal government estimates EITC lifted 5.6 million people out of poverty, including three million children; however, it is estimated that one out of five people who qualify for the EITC fail to claim it. 

IRS-certified volunteers from Entergy Arkansas and community partners offer a variety of services, including appointments for tax preparation services, drop-off tax prep services, online assistance, financial coaching, budget workshops and free legal services, at most VITA sites.

“The VITA program helps power lives for our customers in a number of ways,” said Landreaux. “By putting our customers’ hard-earned money back in their pockets, we are helping improve customers’ lives, creating opportunities, and strengthening our communities.”

Customers may also qualify for an Economic Impact Payment, also known as a “stimulus check,” of $1,200 or more as part of federal COVID-19 assistance efforts. Customers who didn’t receive a stimulus check in 2020 may be able to claim the payment as the Recovery Rebate Tax Credit on their tax return filed in 2021.

Since 2009, Entergy has helped return $280 million to 160,000 residents throughout the company’s utility service area in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas with VITA services. In Arkansas, nearly 35,000 customers have received $57 million based on their returns.

For a list of VITA site locations, visit entergy.com/freetaxhelp. For other programs and information about saving on your energy bill, visit www.EntergyArkansas.com/residential/.

ABOUT ENTERGY ARKANSAS
Entergy Arkansas provides electricity to approximately 715,000 customers in 63 counties. Entergy Arkansas is a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation (NYSE: ETR), an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. Entergy delivers electricity to three million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Entergy has annual revenues of $10 billion and approximately 13,000 employees.

 

GOV. HUTCHINSON, ADE ANNOUNCE RESULTS OF FIFTH ANNUAL ALL-REGION CODING COMPETITION 
LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Arkansas Department of Education are pleased to announce the 17 teams advancing to the Fifth Annual All-State Coding Competition on May 1, 2021.

“COVID changed almost everything, including this year’s regional coding competition, which was held virtually for the first time,” Hutchinson said. “Regardless, competing off-site did not dampen the enthusiasm of the more than 100 teams that participated. All of these students are on a path to a bright future because of the work they have put into learning to code. Congratulations to the 17 teams that are advancing to the state competition in May.”

The following teams have been selected to advance to the All-State Coding Competition.
De’Lion Summerville, Joshua LeVar, and Colin Phillips from Arkadelphia High School in Arkadelphia
Tristan Goodell, Trey Clark, and Joshua Stallings from the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts in Hot Springs
Caleb Jones, Anish Leekkala, and Katherine Pearce from Bentonville High School in Bentonville
Ryder Johnson, Karina Batra, and Shorna Alam from Bentonville West High School in Bentonville
Braden Pierce from Bryant High School in Bryant
Luke Haskins, Zachary Kelly, and Christopher Sayers from Cabot High School in Cabot
Andrew Baker, Aaron Tran, and Jacob Collier-Tenison from Central High School in Little Rock
Alex Prosser, David Saavedra, and Titus Johnson from Clinton High School in Clinton
Ethan Moss, Brian Russell, and Matthew Ablondi from Conway High School in Conway
Lucas Kellar, Luke Lyons, and Drake Mayes from Don Tyson School of Innovation in Springdale
Elijah Keen, Spencer Knight, and Sergio Markin from eStem High School in Little Rock
Julian Sanker, Owen Bell, and Ganer Whitmire from Haas Hall Academy in Fayetteville
Toby Reid, Clayton Boothe, and Hana Lovett from Maumelle High School in Maumelle
Grant Palasak, Keidan Smith, and Matthew Couts from Rogers High School in Rogers
Joshua Willard, Aldan Garner, and David Daniel from Rogers New Technology High School in Rogers
Reid Dutton, Tony Chen, and Jessie Beatty from Star City High School in Star City
Logan Heinzelman, Evan Watson, and Connor Stephens from Stuttgart High School in Stuttgart

The All-Region Coding Competition was a digital event that was held Feb. 26, 2021. More than 100 teams participated in the event and were scored by the ADE Office of Computer Science team using a common rubric and process. That process determined the top 16 teams to invite to the state-level event. The school that produced the first-place team at the state competition in 2020, the Don Tyson School of Innovation in Springdale, received an automatic invitation to send a team to the state competition.

Each member of the first-place team at the state competition will receive a $2,000 award that will be deposited into a 529 College Savings Plan. Each member of the second-place team will receive a $1,000 award deposited into a 529 College Savings Plan, with each member of the third-place team receiving a $500 award deposited into a 529 College Savings Plan. In addition, the schools that register/sponsor the teams placing first, second, and third will receive $10,000, $6,000, and $4,000, respectively, to support their computer science programs. The prizes and competition expenses are provided by a grant from Verizon to ARCodeKids. 

Schools with teams advancing to the state competition will receive an official invitation with details by March 30, 2021.

 

2021 SOUTHEAST ARKANSAS RURAL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT CONFERENCE
“Using Existing Resources and Creating Innovative Approaches to Rebuilding Rural America."
Providing rural residents with the skills and tools needed to create and expand small businesses and engage in job creation activities are the goals of an upcoming regional business conference to be held virtually via Zoom, with a remote location in Lake Village, Arkansas. Funded by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services (ADWS), Arkansas Human Development Corporation (AHDC), and the United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Development (USDA, RD), the 2021 Southeast Arkansas Rural Business Development Conference, with a theme of “Using Existing Resources and Creating Innovative Approaches to Rebuilding Rural America" will bring together approximately 20 private, state, federal and nonprofit organizations with a singular mission of equipping small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs with the tools and resources to start and expand their businesses.

Hosted by the AHDC, Arkansas Procurement Technical Assistance Center (APTAC), Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC), and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the conference will be held Friday, March 12, 2021 from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. via Zoom. For participants without computer access, the conference will also be held remotely at The Vision Center, located at 512 Highways 65 & 82, Lake Village, AR 71635. Space is VERY limited! Social distancing, temperature checks, masks, and release forms will be required. Topics will include but are not limited to, building effective business relationships, securing the right kind of capital, how to sell goods and services to the government, and how to use the many services of the ASBTDC to develop and/or expand your business.

Join us at 8:30 am for a “Breakfast with the Lenders Roundtable,” where participants will network with local, regional and statewide lenders. Lenders invited to participate include Arkansas Capital Corporation Group, Bank of Lake Village, First Service Bank, FORGE, along with Rural Missouri, Inc. (RMI),  Simmons Bank, Southern Bancorp, and USDA, Rural Development. The panel discussion will be moderated by Mr. Herb Lawrence, Lender Relations Specialist, Arkansas District Office, U.S. Small Business Administration.

Current business owners and those just getting started, youth entrepreneurs, business and technical school students, apprentices, veterans, faith-based leaders and community and economic development professionals, are invited to attend.  You will engage with other business owners, receive help with research and business planning, learn how to increase your networking results and learn to do more business with government and private industry. Ms. Chauncey Holloman Pettis, Director of the Arkansas Women’s Business Center, will deliver the luncheon address.

Don’t miss the opportunity to help your community create needed JOBS by learning valuable tools to help your small business GROW! And, INNOVATE! An investment of time is the cost to attend but registration is encouraged. You may register by calling Arkansas Human Development Corporation toll free at (800) 482-7641 or (501) 374-1103, ext. 10, or online at https://bit.ly/2tuT7Qh.

 

COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 06, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.

COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,239
Confirmed Cases: 1,900
Probable Cases: 339
Total Active Cases: 27
Active Confirmed Cases: 22
Active Probable Cases: 5
Total Recovered Cases: 2,160
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,837
Recovered Probable Cases: 323
Total Deaths: 52
Confirmed Deaths: 41
Probable Deaths: 11

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,777
Confirmed Cases: 2,861
Probable Cases: 916
Total Active Cases: 45
Active Confirmed Cases: 37
Active Probable Cases: 8
Total Recovered Cases: 3,631
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,750
Recovered Probable Cases: 881
Total Deaths: 101
Confirmed Deaths: 74
Probable Deaths: 27

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,282
Confirmed Cases: 1,346
Probable Cases: 936
Total Active Cases: 46
Active Confirmed Cases: 27
Active Probable Cases: 19
Total Recovered Cases: 2,285
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,285
Recovered Probable Cases: 898
Total Deaths: 53
Confirmed Deaths: 34
Probable Deaths: 19

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 744
Confirmed Cases: 656
Probable Cases: 88
Total Active Cases: 15
Active Confirmed Cases: 12
Active Probable Cases: 3
Total Recovered Cases: 717
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 634
Recovered Probable Cases: 83
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 401
Confirmed Cases: 302
Probable Cases: 99
Total Active Cases: 5
Active Confirmed Cases: 2
Active Probable Cases: 3
Total Recovered Cases: 394
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 298
Recovered Probable Cases: 96
Total Deaths: 2
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 0

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 324,818
Confirmed Cases: 255,726
Probable Cases: 69,092
Recovered Cases: 315,517

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

 

THE CAMDEN FAIRVIEW BOARD OF EDUCATION SPECIAL MEETING TO BE HELD
The Camden Fairview Board of Education Special will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 at 5:30 P.M. at Garrison Auditorium.

 The agenda is as follows:
1. Call to order.
2. Presentation and Recommendation by CFHS Prom Committee Regarding 2021 Prom.
3. Presentation and Recommendation on hourly pay for afterschool and summer school do to Covid-19 for 2021.
4. Personnel
     a. Hiring
     b. Resignations
5. Appoint Zone 4 Board Position

CAMDEN KIWANIS CLUB TO MEET
The Camden Kiwanis Club will meet this Thursday, March 11th at Catherine's Bistro at 12:00 PM. The program will be presented Mark Hixon and Scotty Morrison, SAU Tech Film and Video Director. You are required to wear a mask was entering and leaving the building, if you do not have one, they will provide you with one. Your temperature will be taken, and you'll sign in and report your temp. All the chairs in the meeting room will be spaced out as required.

AG REPORTS ON TOP 10 CONSUMER COMPLAINTS OF 2020
Received Almost 100,000 Complaints and Inquires
LITTLE ROCK – In addition to National Consumer Protection Week happening on February 28-March 6, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced the top 10 most common complaints the Attorney General’s Office received in 2020. While mediating thousands of complaints, investigators at the Attorney General’s Office fielded complaints directly related to COVID-19 such as price gouging, fake vaccine scams and fake coronavirus cures. These complaints resulted in investigations, attorney letters, and other enforcement actions.

“I want Arkansans to know we will do the fighting for you at the Attorney General’s Office,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “We received almost 100,000 complaints and inquires in 2020 and each one is taken seriously to ensure we hold bad actors accountable for taking advantage of Arkansans.”

National Consumer Protection Week is a partnership with attorneys general from across the country, along with many national organizations including the Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission and American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), to encourage consumers to understand their rights and make educated consumer decisions.

The 10 most common complaint categories from 2020 were: 
Consumer Goods
Automobiles
Satellite, Cable and Internet Service Providers
Scams and Opportunities
Health Care
Home Construction, Maintenance and Repair
Consumer Services
Landlord/Tenant
Utilities
Travel and Timeshares
Attorney General Rutledge’s office resolved 8,918 formal complaints in 2020 compared to 1,487 in 2019. We received 98,080 calls in 2020 compared to 60,903 in 2019. File a complaint online at ArkansasAG.gov.

For more information about consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at consumer@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov.


BOOZMAN: PARTISAN SPENDING SPREE OVERLOOKS REAL COVID-19 RELIEF NEEDS
WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after voting against a partisan spending spree that passed the Senate on a party-line vote:

“We should see this bill for what it truly is – an excuse to authorize opportunistic, wish list spending that Democrats have been eager to enact instead of a proposal focused on addressing the economic and health effects of the coronavirus. This nearly $2 trillion legislation had no input from Republicans, which is disappointing considering the overwhelming support for the five bipartisan bills we crafted last year to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, much of which has yet to be spent. Despite the legislation being touted as a COVID-19 relief bill, less than 10 percent of this package is related to public health.

“It would have been wise to focus funding toward bolstering vaccine deployment, further supporting health care workers and institutions combating the virus, and offering continued assistance to individuals and businesses suffering serious economic consequences as a result of the events of the last year. Instead, Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration have chosen to include bailouts for fiscally mismanaged states and union pension funds, as well as millions for federal arts and humanities programs and billions more to safely reopen K-12 schools when Arkansas has demonstrated previous funding has been sufficient.

“President Biden preached unity, but this bill isn’t the way to achieve that.”
 

BOOZMAN, ARKANSAS VFW MEMBERS ADVOCATE FOR IMPROVEMENTS TO VETERAN BENEFITS
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) held a virtual meeting with members of the Arkansas Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and expressed his support for the organization’s 2021 legislative priorities, including helping families of veterans who passed away as a result of the coronavirus and providing disabled veterans full military benefits.

Boozman has joined members of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to reintroduce the Ensuring Survivor Benefits During COVID Act, a bipartisan bill that would provide proper benefits to family members of veterans who die from the coronavirus. Currently, a veteran who passes away from COVID-19 may have their death listed as “COVID-19” without accounting for service-connected disabilities that were contributing factors.

The senator also helped reintroduce the Major Richard Star Act, a bipartisan bill to provide combat-injured veterans with less than 20 years of military service their full benefits.

Currently, 42,000 military retirees with combat-related injuries qualify for retirement pay from the Department of Defense and for disability compensation for injuries acquired in combat from the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, for retired veterans with less than 20 years of service, their disability pay is deducted from their retirement pay. The Major Richard Star Act would repeal this unfair offset, allowing disabled veterans to receive both their retirement pay and their disability compensation.

“The VFW is a leader in advancing the interests of veterans and strengthening services and benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. I look forward to continue working with Arkansas VFW members to ensure veterans receive the benefits they earned,” said Boozman, a senior member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “I am committed to improving veteran benefits and working with my colleagues to pass the Ensuring Survivor Benefits During COVID Act and the Major Richard Star Act.”

“Senator Boozman has been a strong supporter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and its congressional priorities over the past several years. This year is no exception, he has guaranteed us that he will be taking a lead on the Ensuring Survivor Benefits During COVID Act and the Major Richard Star Act. Arkansas veterans can always count on Senator Boozman to have their backs and to be big voice in Washington, D.C. on their behalf,” said Patrick O. Flenniken, Department of Arkansas VFW National Legislative Committee Member.

“Due to a compassionate resolve, coupled with an assiduous work ethic, Senator Boozman is regarded as a champion for Arkansas veterans. We appreciate his support for critical legislation supported by the VFW that will expand benefits for veterans,” said Tanya Taylor, Department of Arkansas VFW State Chaplain.

Boozman meets annually with Arkansas VFW members in Washington, D.C. in advance of Veteran Service Organization legislative presentations to Congress. Due to COVID-19, the meeting and hearings this year are being conducted virtually.

March 04, 2021

CITY OF CAMDEN BOARD OF ALDERMEN TO MEET
The City of Camden Board of Aldermen Will have their regularly scheduled on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. at the Business Incubator at 625 Adams Avenue. Please wear your masks. Social distancing will be practiced.

The Agenda is as follows:
A. CALL TO ORDER

B. INVOCATION -Pastor Ivory J. Williams, Rhema Life Church, Camden, AR

C. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

D. ROLL CALL

E. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
1. Minutes of Regular Meeting of February 9, 2021

F. ACCEPTANCE OF FINANCIAL REPORTS
1. Financial Report for February 2021

G. AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION

H. MAYOR'S REPORT
1. Camden Water Utilities- Biannual Water and Sewage Report
2. Camden Fire Department-Incident Statistics
3. Camden Police Department- Annual Police Report

I. OLD BUSINESS
1.  Resolution No. 13-21, a resolution amending the annual budget for 2021; authorizing the Mayor to transfer funds to Ouachita Partnership for Economic Development (OPED) for economic development incentives; and for other purposes.

J. NEW BUSINESS
1. Resolution No. 14-21, a resolution of the City Council of the City of Camden, Arkansas, appointing and interim treasurer; and for other purposes.
2. Resolution No. 17-21, a resolution of the City Council of the City of Camden, Arkansas, awarding the bid for the purchase of a new standard mulcher and polycarbon door for the Public Works Department.
3. No. 18-21, a resolution of the City Council of the City of Camden, Arkansas, awarding the bid for the purchase of a compact excavator for the Public Works Department.
4. Resolution No. 19-21, a resolution of the City Council of the City of Camden, Arkansas, approving the purchase of a new caterpillar dozer for the Public Works Department.

K. OTHER BUSINESS
L. ADJOURNMENT


WALK ACROSS ARKANSAS 2021
It’s time to Register for the Spring 2021 Walk Across Arkansas. Registration began on March 1, 2021. The program begins on March 15, 2021 and will end May 14, 2021.

Walk Across Arkansas is an 8-week team-based physical activity program. Teams of 3 to 8 set physical activity goals and support each other to meet them through a friendly competition. The best part is anyone can join!

Former Participants Shared that they:
Slept better
Strengthened relationships
Lost weight or inches
Improved blood pressure and blood panels
Controlled stress

Sign up at www.walk.uada.edu or contact:
Tonya S. McKenzie
Family/Consumer Science Agent Ouachita County
870.231.1160
tmckenzie@uada.com


ATTEMPTED CAPITAL MURDER WARRANT SOUGHT FOLLOWING STATE POLICE PURSUIT
MARCH 4, 2021
A Faulkner County man was arrested last night (Wednesday, March 3rd) after fleeing from Arkansas State Police Wednesday morning.  Joey James Staley, 38, is expected to be formally charged later today.

State police attempted to make a traffic stop about 7:30 AM yesterday south of Conway near Baker Willis Parkway and Sturgis Road.  The driver of the sport utility vehicle did not pull over but sped away leading to a police pursuit that ended in the Mayflower area along Sullivan Road.  During the pursuit, the driver, later identified as Staley, brandished a gun outside the driver’s window and is believed to have attempted to fire the weapon at the pursuing trooper.  Staley abandoned the SUV and fled on foot.
Last night about 7:30, state troopers, accompanied by Faulkner County Sheriff’s Deputies, and U.S. Marshals, located Staley at a residence on Flag Pond Road west of Mayflower.  Staley was arrested without incident and is being held at the Faulkner County Jail.  Maumelle Police Officers had worked closely with troopers in a search for Staley earlier in the day.

State troopers are preparing an affidavit of arrest today seeking formal charges against Staley for attempted capital murder.
 

COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 04, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,221
Confirmed Cases: 1,891
Probable Cases: 330
Total Active Cases: 21
Active Confirmed Cases: 16
Active Probable Cases: 5
Total Recovered Cases: 2,149
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,835
Recovered Probable Cases: 314
Total Deaths: 50
Confirmed Deaths: 39
Probable Deaths: 11

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,744
Confirmed Cases: 2,851
Probable Cases: 893
Total Active Cases: 47
Active Confirmed Cases: 35
Active Probable Cases: 12
Total Recovered Cases: 3,597
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,743
Recovered Probable Cases: 854
Total Deaths: 100
Confirmed Deaths: 73
Probable Deaths: 27

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,270
Confirmed Cases: 1,340
Probable Cases: 930
Total Active Cases: 60
Active Confirmed Cases: 24
Active Probable Cases: 36
Total Recovered Cases: 2,157
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,282
Recovered Probable Cases: 875
Total Deaths: 53
Confirmed Deaths: 34
Probable Deaths: 19

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 742
Confirmed Cases: 655
Probable Cases: 87
Total Active Cases: 16
Active Confirmed Cases: 14
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 714
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 631
Recovered Probable Cases: 83
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 401
Confirmed Cases: 302
Probable Cases: 99
Total Active Cases: 8
Active Confirmed Cases: 5
Active Probable Cases: 3
Total Recovered Cases: 391
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 295
Recovered Probable Cases: 96
Total Deaths: 2
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 0

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 323,353
Confirmed Cases: 254,637
Probable Cases: 68,716
Recovered Cases: 313,799

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

 

BOOZMAN WARNS RECONCILIATION BILL COULD MEAN MASSIVE CUTS IN FARM SUPPORT PROGRAMS
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, warned passage of the pending budget reconciliation bill could trigger massive cuts in farm support programs – potentially zeroing out all farm program spending over the next five years. 

As Senate Democrats rush to move their reconciliation bill, Boozman pointed to the possibility the legislation could result in automatic spending cuts under statutory pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rules.

“Triggering PAYGO is a very real risk that this bill carries, and if that happens, our family farmers will be among those who will be hurt the most. In their rush to fill this bill with non-COVID related spending, Congressional Democrats have recklessly put the farm community at risk just when the agriculture economy is starting to turn a corner after several difficult years,” Boozman said.

Under statuary PAYGO, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is required to maintain five- and ten-year scorecards that show the cumulative estimated deficit impacts of legislation. If either scorecard indicates a net increase in the deficit, OMB is required to order a sequestration of all non-exempt programs, which includes important farm safety net programs.

PAYGO sequestration cuts can be prevented by waiving the cuts, but that requires 60 votes. This is a threshold Senate Democrats are seeking to avoid by utilizing the reconciliation process to pass their legislative priorities like a bailout fund for states.

“Agricultural producers have faced tough economic times over the last several years. Instead of continuing the precedent of working together on COVID relief, the Biden Administration and Congressional Democrats have opted to use reconciliation so they could pass unrelated items from their wish list. It is wrong to ask our farmers to pay for all this additional non-COVID spending,” Boozman said.

March 03, 2021

RESCHEDULED - DEFRANCE PREMIERES NEW LINEUP AT MAD BATTLE
Rock & roll mainstays deFrance return to the stage Saturday, March 6, with a refreshed lineup including the powerhouse vocal talents of Charlie Askew and the addition of Camden native Mitchell Lowe on guitar. The band will participate in the second annual MAD Battle in El Dorado, Arkansas.

“The great folks of South Arkansas are in for a surprise. The new lineup has already been compared to Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple,” founder Drew deFrance said. Bassist/vocalist Connor Roach is “excited to debut a new take on the classic sound deFrance is known for.”

Lead singer Charlie Askew hails from Little Rock, Arkansas, and is an experienced touring vocalist. A semi-finalist on American Idol Season 12, the “mystery man” (Nicki Minaj) brings an impressive four-octave range to deFrance’s classic rock sound. Mitchell Lowe currently calls Magnolia home and is a seasoned session guitarist, ready to add his six-string skills to the band’s shred-tastic guitar lineup.

The second annual MAD Battle is hosted by the Murphy Arts District and takes place in the First Financial Music Hall in El Dorado, Arkansas, on Saturday, March 6. deFrance will go head-to-head with six other bands during a night full of live music. Doors open at 5:00 p.m. and the show starts at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 day-of-show, available at ElDoMAD.com/madbattleFor more on these and other stories, visit http://www.yesradioworks.com/news-south-arkansas-events-ii
 

COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 02, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,220
Confirmed Cases: 1,891
Probable Cases: 329
Total Active Cases: 21
Active Confirmed Cases: 16
Active Probable Cases: 5
Total Recovered Cases: 2,148
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,835
Recovered Probable Cases: 313
Total Deaths: 51
Confirmed Deaths: 40
Probable Deaths: 11

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,729
Confirmed Cases: 2,838
Probable Cases: 891
Total Active Cases: 37
Active Confirmed Cases: 25
Active Probable Cases: 12
Total Recovered Cases: 3,592
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,740
Recovered Probable Cases: 852
Total Deaths: 100
Confirmed Deaths: 73
Probable Deaths: 27

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,266
Confirmed Cases: 1,337
Probable Cases: 929
Total Active Cases: 58
Active Confirmed Cases: 22
Active Probable Cases: 35
Total Recovered Cases: 2,155
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,281
Recovered Probable Cases: 874
Total Deaths: 53
Confirmed Deaths: 34
Probable Deaths: 19

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 740
Confirmed Cases: 653
Probable Cases: 87
Total Active Cases: 14
Active Confirmed Cases: 12
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 714
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 631
Recovered Probable Cases: 83
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 400
Confirmed Cases: 302
Probable Cases: 98
Total Active Cases: 7
Active Confirmed Cases: 5
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 391
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 295
Recovered Probable Cases: 96
Total Deaths: 2
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 0

ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 322,949
Confirmed Cases: 254,353
Probable Cases: 68,596
Recovered Cases: 313,426

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/
For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

 

AEA PRESIDENT CAROL FLEMING ELECTED TO SECOND TERM 
Arkansas Education Association President Carol B. Fleming will serve another two-year term after winning re-election in the AEA Primary election last week.  
“I want to thank the members of the AEA who are working day in and day out to support our students while navigating through this public health crisis,” she said. “I look forward to continuing to lift our educators’ voices as we advocate for health and safety while providing quality education for Arkansas’s children.”  
Fleming, a speech-language pathologist, spent 20 years working with students in the Little Rock School District at Pulaski Heights Middle School. After taking office in 2019, Fleming spent several months traveling the state to speak with educators about the challenges facing Arkansas’s public schools; however, those visits shifted to zoom meetings and virtual events following the outbreak of the coronavirus in early 2020.  
Fleming called on state officials to listen to health experts while making decisions about school re-openings and encouraged districts to ensure open lines of communication with employees once face to face learning resumed. She also successfully advocated for extended leave for educators who needed to quarantine after possible exposure to the virus and called for educators to be prioritized to receive vaccines. Once the vaccine became available for public school employees, Fleming worked with the department of health and school administrators to ensure educators’ questions and concerns about immunization were answered.
"Educators are the people working most closely with students every day,” Fleming said. “When we speak up about health and safety in our schools, we do so in the interest of our students. These concerns must be taken seriously and addressed to ensure our students, educators, and their families can stay as safe as possible."  
Fleming has also been traveling the state to read stories and donate books to school libraries for our Gift of Reading events.  
“I love sharing the joy of reading and showing children how books open our minds, broaden our imagination, and allow us to travel to so many interesting places,” she said.
For years, Fleming has been an active and engaged member of the AEA at the local, state and national level. She has also served in her children’s Parent Teacher Associations when they were students in the Pulaski County Special School District and North Little Rock School District. Fleming and all of her children graduated from North Little Rock Public Schools.    
Fleming has worked to ensure good public education policies at the local, state and national level. As a parent of an adult with special needs, she is reminded daily of the importance of advocating on behalf of the professions and those served which has fueled her passion for education, leadership, and professional issues.  
Fleming will officially begin her second term July 15, 2021.

 

ENTERGY, OTHER UTILITIES CREATE MULTI-STATE EV CHARGING STATIONS NETWORK
Electric Highway Coalition crosses Entergy, other service areas to connect major highways
NEW ORLEANS – Six major utilities – including Entergy Corporation – today announced a plan to ensure that electric vehicle drivers have access to a seamless network of charging stations connecting major highway systems from the Atlantic Coast through the Midwest and South, and into the Gulf Coast and Central Plains regions.

The Electric Highway Coalition – made up of American Electric Power, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Entergy Corporation, Southern Company, and the Tennessee Valley Authority – announced a plan to enable electric vehicle drivers seamless travel across major regions of the country through a network of direct current fast chargers for electric vehicles. The companies are each taking steps to provide EV charging solutions within their service territories.

This represents an unprecedented effort to offer EV drivers convenient charging options across different company service territories and allow EV travel without interruption.

The Edison Electric Institute estimates 18 million EVs will be on U.S. roads by 2030. While many drivers recognize the benefits of driving an EV, such as the ease of low-cost home charging, some are concerned with the availability of charging stations during long road trips. With efforts like the Electric Highway Coalition, electric companies are demonstrating to customers that EVs are a smart choice for driving around town as well as traveling long distances.

This effort will provide drivers with effective, efficient and convenient charging options that enable long distance electric travel. Sites along major highway routes with easy highway access and amenities for travelers are being considered as coalition members work to determine final charging station locations. Charging stations will provide DC fast chargers that can get drivers back on the road in approximately 20 to 30 minutes.

“At Entergy, we are taking an integrated approach toward a carbon-free future that includes working with industry peers and customers to electrify other sectors of the economy like transportation and the maritime industry,” said Leo Denault, chairman and CEO of Entergy Corporation. “Initiatives like this proposed regional EV charging corridor will help lower transportation emissions and provide community benefits for all our stakeholders.”

Since 2008, Entergy’s Green Fleet Strategy sought to reduce the environmental impact of the company’s vehicles and equipment by using more efficient options, with a goal of achieving a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption from 2008 levels by 2020. Entergy achieved its target in 2015, five years ahead of schedule. This strategy encompassed more efficient replacement practices, which reduced end-of-life costly repairs, purchasing more fuel-efficient engines, acquiring new emission system, and other drive train technology, which led to safe and less costly operations to the benefits of our employees and customers.

To further execute its strategy, Entergy has recently invested in more than 40 strategically located charging stations to be used by its growing electric vehicle fleet, which allows for nearly 90 vehicles to charge simultaneously. As further evidence of Entergy’s commitment to decarbonization, starting in 2023, Entergy’s fleet plan is for all passenger vehicles, fork-lifts, pallet jacks, etc., will be all-electric where readily available from the manufacturer. Also, 80% of the company’s aerial units will be powered by electricity by 2031.

Entergy has actively monitored the latest technologies and market trends related to electric vehicles and continues to do so in preparation of engaging regulators to determine the best path forward on behalf of its customers.

The Electric Highway Coalition welcomes interested utilities to join as it seeks to extend the reach of network. Additionally, it supports and looks forward to working with other regional utility transportation corridor electrification initiatives.
 

MINERAL SPRINGS MAN SENTENCED TO 10 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR DRUG TRAFFICKING
Texarkana, Arkansas – David Clay Fowlkes, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced that Andre Scoggins, 50, of Mineral Springs, Arkansas, was sentenced today to 120 months in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for Distributing more than 50 grams of methamphetamine.  The Honorable Chief Judge Susan O. Hickey presided over the sentencing hearing in the United States District Court’s Texarkana Division.

According to court records, Detectives with the Hempstead County Sheriff’s Department conducted a controlled purchase of methamphetamine from Scoggins in November 2018.  The substance purchased from Scoggins was submitted to the DEA Crime Laboratory, which found to contain 69.7 grams of pure methamphetamine.

Scoggins was indicted by a federal grand jury in June of 2019 and entered a guilty plea in October of 2020. 

This case was investigated by the Hempstead County Sheriff’s Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.  Assistant United States Attorney Graham Jones prosecuted the case for the Western District of Arkansas.

 

WESTERMAN INTRODUCES VOTER ID ACT
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) introduced the Verification and Oversight for Transparent Elections, Registration, and Identification (VOTER ID) Act. U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers (R-AL), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Brian Mast (R-FL), Randy Weber (R-TX), and Rick Crawford (R-AR) joined the bill as original cosponsors.

 "The right to vote is a hard-won freedom that must be protected at all costs. The American people deserve to be confident in their election systems and assured that their votes count,” Westerman said. “The VOTER ID Act ensures states run transparent, fair elections, abiding by all applicable state and federal election laws, and empowers residents of each state to hold their elected leaders accountable. Every American has a vested interest in election security, regardless of political affiliation. I am confident that increased election transparency will help heal today’s partisan climate.”

“I am proud to cosponsor this important bill,” Rogers said. “While House Democrats try and take over our elections federally, we’ve introduced a bill to actually solve problems with our elections. States should be empowered to continue our American tradition of free and fair elections.”

“The VOTER ID Act is a commonsense solution that will provide transparency in federal elections, instill confidence in voters and hold states accountable to their citizens so we can bring back voter confidence in our elections,” said Mast.

“The legitimacy of our republic—soon to celebrate two and a half centuries as a beacon of freedom—rests on the foundation that our elections are transparent, fairly administered, and above board,” said Weber. “Just as Americans from either side of the aisle are losing faith in our electoral process, the VOTER ID Act implements transparency and audit procedures that aim to restore the trust of our citizens in the integrity of THEIR ballots while honoring the constitution.”
“The 2020 election demonstrated that our electoral system needs reform to ensure fairness and transparency, with each person having the right to cast their ballot as they choose,” said Crawford. “As it stands, the Democrats’ plan is unconstitutional and would permit the federal government to hijack our current electoral system. In contrast, the VOTER ID Act upholds our Constitution by requiring standardized post-election audits in each state - a measure that would instill confidence in the outcome of all federal elections.” 
Background:
The VOTER ID Act requires states to conduct post-election audits and publicly share the results before key election certification dates. Currently, only 38 states conduct audits, and there is large variation in practice and accountability. The VOTER ID Act also requires states to submit attestations ensuring the integrity and security of their voter identification methods and maintenance of voter rolls.

States shall submit the audit to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) as part of the Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS) and post on states’ websites. The audit shall include information about the accuracy of voting systems and the extent to which states complied with applicable laws, rules, and procedures related to administering an election. To help states conduct these audits, the VOTER ID Act instructs the EAC to develop a list of best practices – including recommendations that the audits are bipartisan and completed within 30 days following an election.

 

BOOZMAN WARNS RECONCILIATION BILL COULD MEAN MASSIVE CUTS IN FARM SUPPORT PROGRAMS
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, warned passage of the pending budget reconciliation bill could trigger massive cuts in farm support programs – potentially zeroing out all farm program spending over the next five years. 

As Senate Democrats rush to move their reconciliation bill, Boozman pointed to the possibility the legislation could result in automatic spending cuts under statutory pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rules.

“Triggering PAYGO is a very real risk that this bill carries, and if that happens, our family farmers will be among those who will be hurt the most. In their rush to fill this bill with non-COVID related spending, Congressional Democrats have recklessly put the farm community at risk just when the agriculture economy is starting to turn a corner after several difficult years,” Boozman said.

Under statuary PAYGO, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is required to maintain five and ten year scorecards that show the cumulative estimated deficit impacts of legislation. If either scorecard indicates a net increase in the deficit, OMB is required to order a sequestration of all non-exempt programs, which includes important farm safety net programs.

PAYGO sequestration cuts can be prevented by waiving the cuts, but that requires 60 votes. This is a threshold Senate Democrats are seeking to avoid by utilizing the reconciliation process to pass their legislative priorities like a bailout fund for states.

“Agricultural producers have faced tough economic times over the last several years. Instead of continuing the precedent of working together on COVID relief, the Biden Administration and Congressional Democrats have opted to use reconciliation so they could pass unrelated items from their wish list. It is wrong to ask our farmers to pay for all this additional non-COVID spending,” Boozman said.

March 02, 2021

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON’S COVID UPDATE – MARCH 02, 2021
Food manufacturing workers in Arkansas will now be able to receive their COVID-19 vaccine thanks to an increasing supply of doses in the state. 
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the expansion during his weekly COVID-19 Taskforce update on Tuesday. All Arkansans employed in the food manufacturing sector, including meat processing facilities, are now eligible to receive the vaccine under phase 1B. 

Hutchison explained employers can organize worksite clinics to distribute the vaccine to their workers. These workers are also able to receive vaccines through participating community pharmacies.

Phase 1B remains open to all Arkansans aged 65 and older as well as teachers in K-12, child care and higher education. First-responders and healthcare workers who did not receive their vaccine under phase 1A can still do so. Health officials hope to launch phase 1C next month - or earlier, if vaccine supplies continue to increase.

Hutchinson said the state has received more than one million vaccines since distribution began. Of those, over 652,000 - or around 60 percent - have been given. This week Arkansas also obtained its first shipment of 24,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines. This vaccine differs from Pfizer and Moderna in that only one dose is needed for complete inoculation and can be stored at room temperature. 

Arkansas Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero said the arrival of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is good news for reversing the pandemic in Arkansas.

Hutchinson then announced the first case United Kingdom COVID-19 variant has been detected in Arkansas. He explained this was inevitable but also expected given how common virus mutate. This is why flu shots are required on a yearly basis.

Finally, Hutchinson provided the latest COVID-19 figures from across the state. The Department of Health recorded 440 additional cases of the virus on Tuesday for a cumulative total of nearly 323,000 since the pandemic began. Deaths increased by four on Tuesday for a total of 5,254. Active cases saw a small net increase to 4,254 across the state. Hospitalizations saw another day of decline, falling by 25 to leave 416 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus. 

ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES OF ARKANSAS TO SPONSOR STATE SPELLING BEE
Little Rock, Ark. — March 2, 2021 — The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas will sponsor the Arkansas State Spelling Bee on Saturday, March 13 at the Arkansas 4-H Center in Little Rock. Due to adherence to current pandemic protocols, it will be closed to the public.

Approximately 42,243 students from 294 schools in 57 counties across Arkansas have participated in local and county contests leading up to the March State Spelling Bee contest. One winner from each county is eligible to participate in the statewide spelling bee. The Arkansas winner will proceed to The Scripps National Spelling Bee, the nation’s largest and longest-running educational program.

The purpose of the Scripps National Spelling Bee is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them throughout their lives.

Learn more about the Arkansas State Spelling Bee at: www.aecc.com/spellingbee

The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas comprise 17 electric distribution cooperatives; Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI), a Little Rock-based cooperative that provides services to the distribution cooperatives; and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC), a generation and transmission cooperative. The distribution cooperatives provide electricity to approximately 500,000 homes, farms and businesses in Arkansas and surrounding states.

For additional information, contact:

Rob Roedel, Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, 501.570.2296 or rob.roedel@aecc.com or visit www.ecark.org

43RD MARCH FOR LIFE SET FOR MARCH 14TH
The 43rd Annual March for Life, sponsored by Arkansas Right to Life, will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 14, in Little Rock. The march marks the 48th anniversary of the January 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States.

The observance is an event that attracts thousands of Arkansans from across the state including churches and families to participate in a peaceful, prayerful and powerful remembrance of the millions of unborn children who have lost their lives to legal abortion.

“As we mark the rank as the No. 1 pro-life state in the country we recognize that our work is not over as long as unborn babies are still killed from legal abortion in our state,” said Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life, adding, “We still face tremendous opposition as we work to protect the lives of the unborn.”

Staging of marchers will be along West Capitol between Battery and Wolfe Streets behind the State Capitol. At 2 p.m. the march will begin at Wolfe Street and continue West to East on West Capitol where marchers will split into two groups – one to the right and one to the left – then join together on the steps at the front of the State Capitol for a short program.

Andy Mayberry, president of Arkansas Right to Life, will serve as the master of ceremonies and encourages all participants to remember recommendations for masks and distancing to prevent the spread of COVID 19. He said all Arkansas Department of Health COVID protocols would be followed during the march.

Participants in the program are keynote speakers, Michelle Oglesby of Sherwood, and Charlisa Campbell of North Little Rock; as well as Father Emil Woerner, pastor of Friends in Christ Lutheran Church in Bryant, and Rev. Chad Meeks, senior pastor of Cedar Heights Baptist Church in North Little Rock. Music selections will be performed by Rita and DeWalden Frazier and their daughter, Promise.

Also invited to attend are Gov. Asa Hutchinson, First Lady Susan Hutchinson, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton, U.S. Representatives Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack, Bruce Westerman, state constitutional officers and members of the Arkansas General Assembly.

 For more information contact Mimms at 501-663-4237 or email artl@artl.org.


COVID-19 UPDATE – MARCH 02, 2021
This morning the Arkansas Department of Health reported the following numbers. Numbers will be updated later today.
COVID-19 METRICS FOR OUACHITA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,219
Confirmed Cases: 1,890
Probable Cases: 329
Total Active Cases: 23
Active Confirmed Cases: 17
Active Probable Cases: 6
Total Recovered Cases: 2,145
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,833
Recovered Probable Cases: 312
Total Deaths: 51
Confirmed Deaths: 40
Probable Deaths: 11

COVID-19 METRICS FOR UNION COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 3,727
Confirmed Cases: 2,836
Probable Cases: 891
Total Active Cases: 50
Active Confirmed Cases: 37
Active Probable Cases: 13
Total Recovered Cases: 3,577
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 2,726
Recovered Probable Cases: 851
Total Deaths: 100
Confirmed Deaths: 73
Probable Deaths: 27

COVID-19 METRICS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 2,259
Confirmed Cases: 1,335
Probable Cases: 924
Total Active Cases: 56
Active Confirmed Cases: 21
Active Probable Cases: 35
Total Recovered Cases: 2,150
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 1,280
Recovered Probable Cases: 870
Total Deaths: 53
Confirmed Deaths: 34
Probable Deaths: 19

COVID-19 METRICS FOR DALLAS COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 738
Confirmed Cases: 651
Probable Cases: 87
Total Active Cases: 12
Active Confirmed Cases: 10
Active Probable Cases: 2
Total Recovered Cases: 714
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 631
Recovered Probable Cases: 83
Total Deaths: 12
Confirmed Deaths: 10
Probable Deaths: 2

COVID-19 METRICS FOR CALHOUN COUNTY
Total Cumulative Cases: 398
Confirmed Cases: 301
Probable Cases: 97
Total Active Cases: 5
Active Confirmed Cases: 4
Active Probable Cases: 1
Total Recovered Cases: 391
Recovered Confirmed Cases: 295
Recovered Probable Cases: 96
Total Deaths: 2
Confirmed Deaths: 2
Probable Deaths: 0
ARKANSAS
Total COVID-19 Cases: 322,509
Confirmed Cases: 254,128
Probable Cases: 68,381
Recovered Cases: 313,002

For additional information, click on one of the links below. 
https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus
https://www.cdc.gov/

For community level data in Arkansas:
https://achi.net/covid19/

FRANKLIN COUNTY BURGLARY CALL ENDS IN OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTING    
MARCH 1, 2021
A 46 year-old Franklin County man wielding a baseball bat was shot and killed this morning after reportedly charging toward a Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy.  The incident occurred shortly after 1 AM at 3522 Adams Road, west of Ozark.
The deputy had been dispatched to investigate a burglary in progress at the home where a resident reported a window had been broken and a person was attempting to enter.  Outside the house a car window had also been shattered.
After arriving at the residence, the deputy encountered Adam Cunningham walking in the driveway and holding a baseball bat.  The deputy ordered Cunningham to drop the bat.  Cunningham refused the order and began to advance toward the deputy who fired his gun striking Cunningham.

The sheriff’s deputy was not injured.

Cunningham’s body, along with other evidence collected from the scene, has been transported to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory.  The state medical examiner will determine the manner and cause of death.

Questions relating to the identity of the deputy and duty status should be directed to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department.

The Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division is investigating the incident and will prepare an investigative file to be provided to the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney who will determine whether the use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer was consistent with Arkansas laws.

ARKANSAS COMMUNITY FOUNDATION ASSETS GROW TO HALF A BILLION DOLLARS TO IMPROVE COMMUNITIES
Little Rock, Ark. (Mar. 2, 2021) – As Arkansas Community Foundation began celebration of its 45th anniversary year, the Foundation reached the milestone of $500 million in assets to achieve its mission of engaging people, connecting resources and inspiring solutions to build community. This puts the Community Foundation in the top 60 asset holders of the more than 700 community foundations nationwide.

This half-billion-dollar milestone comes on the heels of 2020 when Gov. Asa Hutchinson endorsed the Foundation’s COVID-19 Relief Fund for pandemic relief. In 2020 the Foundation was ready for the challenges the pandemic posed, raising $3.5 million to make 837 COVID-19 grants to Arkansas nonprofits in a six-month timeframe. 

“2020 proved challenging in many ways, and we and other foundations in the state made grants and formed coalitions to help address issues including poverty, education, and injustice facing Arkansans statewide,” said Heather Larkin, President and CEO of the Community Foundation.

“This asset milestone is important for the state and for our fundholders. The impact we’ve been able to achieve is because of the generosity of Arkansans,” said Larkin. “Arkansas is a largely rural, less affluent state that is often at the bottom of lists comparing states’ progress on crucial issues. And yet, when its citizens pull together, we can make things happen. This is not outside philanthropy coming in to help us – this is Arkansans building something for ourselves.”

Founded in 1976 by a small group of Arkansas philanthropists, Arkansas Community Foundation grew slowly at first. But its assets had climbed to $254 million at the beginning of fiscal year 2015. The unprecedented growth of $246 million in the past five-and-a-half years to its current half a billion dollars is a result of the generosity of thousands of Arkansans, Arkansas businesses and organizations like the Walton Foundation, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and the Windgate Foundation, to name a few, who have established funds at the Foundation to make donations that improve Arkansas communities.
“Consistently, Arkansans rate in the top five states for generosity as a percentage of income,” Larkin said. “The work of Arkansas Community Foundation is local people making local decisions about what our communities need and investing in strategic, long-term philanthropy. Most of our donors are not like the Buffet or Gates families – they are people who have saved their entire lives to be able to leave a philanthropic legacy because they care about this place.”

In the same five-and-a half-year period, over $200 million in grants were made by the Foundation through its more than 2,000 fundholders and through its Foundation-managed Giving Tree Funds. Local Giving Tree Funds held by its 29 grassroots affiliates statewide make grants to local organizations, proving that giving local is efficient and effective.

The ability to give away over $200 million and still experience an impressive growth in asset size in a five-and-a half-year period comes from the power of endowments and increasing numbers of Arkansas givers. When donors band together in a Community Foundation, their endowed assets are pooled and invested so that the principal remains intact and the earned money can be invested to improve communities forever.

The Foundation’s 2020 Annual Report can be found at www.arcf.org.

SAAC TO HOST LOCAL ARTIST KATIE HARWELL AND ALABAMA ARTIST KENDAL BLANCHARD
The South Arkansas Arts Center announces the upcoming exhibit entitled “Collagraph and Collage", presented by local artist and art educator, Katie Harwell and her sister-in-law and paper artist from Fairhope, Alabama, Kendal Blanchard. The show will hang in the Lobby Gallery March 1-30, with an in-person art reception on Thursday, March 11, from 5:30-6:30pm. Guests are asked to RSVP for a limited-entry time slots. The reception will be hosted for small groups, with scheduled times for viewing at 5:30pm or 6:00pm. 

Both Katie and Kendal are teachers.  During the 2020 quarantine they sent video chats back and forth each morning.  Teaching virtually while attempting to keep their own children on track became frustrating, so they encouraged each another to draw and paint to combat stress.  This show is the result of many overwhelming days, but it is also proof that art can save your sanity! Harwell’s show is a compilation of collograph prints and collages, while Blanchard’s exhibit contains paper collages with a seaside theme.

Katie Harwell grew up in El Dorado.  A local artist and educator, she holds a Bachelor of Interior Design from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, LA.  Married to Scott Harwell for 22 years, they have a 15-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter.  Harwell currently teaches visual art classes at El Dorado High School and The South Arkansas Arts Center.  In addition to teaching, Harwell serves on the Vestry at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, and is a Campfire Leader who enjoys decorating their 107-year-old home, shopping at Flea Markets and watching scary movies with her mom.  

“This show is a combination of three ongoing projects,” said Harwell.  “The first project began as illustrations for a book.  I was writing a book to celebrate the life of my father, who died seven years ago.  Painting and printing helped me feel better.  Many of the raccoon, daffodil, and tomato pieces are from this project.  I never finished the book.  I found that the illustrations were more fun to create than the storyline.  Most of these pieces are collagraph prints finished with watercolor.  Collagraph printing is a basic method of printmaking using a board with collage materials glued onto it to form a