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June 21, 2021

IMPROVEMENTS TO HIGHWAY 57 MEANS TEMPORARY CLOSURE NEAR CHIDESTER
OUACHITA COUNTY (6-21) – Construction work to improve drainage along Highway 57 near Chidester will mean a temporary lane closure, according to Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) officials.

Weather permitting, crews will close Highway 57 between Highways 278 and 76 from 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 22 and continuing through 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 24. Local traffic will be permitted, but through traffic must detour.

Motorists traveling north on Highway 57 will take Highway 278 to Highway 24 and southbound traffic will use the same detour in reverse.

Traffic will be controlled by traffic cones and signage. Drivers should exercise caution when approaching and traveling through all highway work zones. Additional travel information can be found at IDriveArkansas.com or ARDOT.gov. You can also follow us on Twitter @IDriveArkansas for traffic and @myARDOT for everything else.

SIGN UP: 2021 ELDER ABUSE CONFERENCE
Register today for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s second statewide Elder Abuse Conference. The training will be held Thursday, September 2nd at Arkansas State University’s First National Bank Arena. This all-day event is free and open to the public. Law enforcement, medical professionals, providers, attorneys and home caregivers are welcome to learn how to better protect older and developmentally disabled adults. An agenda will be posted in the coming weeks.

DATE:       Thursday, September 2
WHEN:      8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
WHERE:   Arkansas State University – First National Bank Arena
REGISTER:  https://arkansasag.eventsmart.com/events/2021-elder-abuse-conference/ 

Lack of Health Insurance Continues to Increase Among Arkansas’s Children


DATA ACROSS 50 STATES SHOW STRUGGLES WITH POVERTY, HEALTH INDICATORS, BUT HOPES FOR RECOVERY REMAIN, ANNIE E. CASEY FOUNDATION FINDS
LITTLE ROCK — The number of Arkansas’s children going without health insurance surged dramatically between 2018 and 2019, continuing a troubling decline in children’s health care coverage. Arkansas has also seen an increase in the percentage of low-birth-weight babies and in the child and teen death rate over the past decade. That’s according to the 2021 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing how families have fared between the Great Recession and the COVID-19 crisis.

Every child needs food, health care, safe and stable housing, and access to education. But this year’s Data Book shows nearly a decade of progress could be erased by the COVID-19 pandemic unless policymakers act boldly to sustain the beginnings of a recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

Many states in the South and West that rank toward the bottom in the Data Book are also states that have seen the worst outcomes during the pandemic. Arkansas is included in this assessment, with bottom 10 rankings in six of the 16 well-being indicators. Arkansas’s overall ranking did rise to 39 though, compared to last year’s ranking of 40.

Racist policies, like a criminal justice system that over polices and prosecutes Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), as well as health care policies and practices that fail to address the needs of BIPOC, perpetuate inequity and barriers to economic progress. Without passing anti-racist policies and solutions, we will continue to see disparities across most indicators, at both the national and state levels. In Arkansas, for example, 39% of our Black children and 27% of our Hispanic children live in poverty. By comparison, 16% of Arkansas’s non-Hispanic white children live in poverty.

“The data paint a precarious picture for Arkansas’s children, even before the pandemic,” said Rich Huddleston, executive director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, Arkansas’s member of the KIDS COUNT network. “It is critical we make bold policy changes to improve outcomes for kids as we come out of the current crisis.”

The Data Book shows simply returning to a pre-pandemic level of support for children and families would shortchange millions of kids and fail to address persistent racial and ethnic disparities.

Sixteen indicators measuring four domains — economic well-being, education, health, and family and community context — are used by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in each year’s Data Book to assess child well-being. The annual KIDS COUNT data and rankings represent the most recent information available but do not capture the impact of the past year:

ECONOMIC WELL-BEING (Arkansas ranked 34th): In 2019, 151,000 (22%) of Arkansas’s children lived in households with an income below the poverty line. While the state has improved on this measure since 2010, more than one in five children in Arkansas continue to live in poverty, ranking us near the bottom of the states at 46th.

EDUCATION (Arkansas ranked 35th): In 2017–19, 41,000 children ages 3-4 were not in school. Though there were several years where this indicator showed improvement, Arkansas has lost ground over the last decade. In 2009-11, 49% of young kids were in school, and Arkansas was ranked 16th in the nation; in 2019, only 47% of young children were in school, and Arkansas dropped to 20th in the national ranking.

HEALTH (Arkansas ranked 41st): The number of children in Arkansas without health insurance rose from 34,000 in 2018 to 43,000 in 2019, marking the third straight year of an increase in this figure. This mirrors a national increase in children without health insurance, though it has been especially noteworthy in Arkansas where our national ranking dropped from 23rd in 2010 to 29th in 2019.

FAMILY AND COMMUNITY CONTEXT (Arkansas ranked 42nd): In 2019, 67,000 children (10%) lived in high poverty areas, an improvement from 17% in 2010. Arkansas has also seen a decrease in the percentage of kids in families with a head-of-household who lacks a high school diploma (11% in 2019, down from 16% in 2010).

Survey data from the last year add to the story of Arkansas’s children and families in this moment:

During the pandemic, in 2020, 23% of households with children in Arkansas weren’t sure they would be able to pay their rent or mortgage. By March 2021, this figure had fallen, but only marginally, to 21%. Alarmingly, the percentage of adults living in households with children and who felt down, depressed or hopeless increased from 26% in 2020 to 33% in March 2021. This suggests that families are continuing to struggle with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is the most extraordinary crisis to hit families in decades,” said Lisa Hamilton, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “Deliberate policy decisions can help them recover, and we’re already seeing the beginnings of that. Policymakers should use this moment to repair the damage the pandemic has caused — and to address long-standing inequities it has exacerbated.”

Investing in children, families and communities is a priority to ensure an equitable and expansive recovery. Several of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s suggestions have already been enacted in the American Rescue Plan, and additional recommendations include:

Congress should make the expansion of the child tax credit permanent. The child tax credit has long had bipartisan support, so lawmakers should find common cause and ensure the largest one-year drop ever in child poverty is not followed by a surge.

State and local governments should prioritize the recovery of hard-hit communities of color. BIPOC communities have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic due in part to systemic barriers to health care and economic security. Recovery efforts must help address the needs of those most impacted today and help respond to longstanding structural inequities.

States should expand income support that helps families care for their children. Permanently extending unemployment insurance eligibility to contract, gig and other workers and expanding state tax credits would benefit parents and children.

States that have not done so should expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The American Rescue Plan offers incentives to do so. As Arkansas already has expanded Medicaid under the ACA, AACF recommends the following to reverse the recent declines in health care coverage for children:

Adopt continuous eligibility for ARKids A. One-year continuous eligibility would ensure that a child’s coverage is not terminated within a single year because of fluctuations in family income that are common for low-income families. Arkansas already has this policy in place for children with slightly higher family incomes enrolled in Arkansas Medicaid ARKids-B.

Adopt presumptive eligibility for Medicaid for children and pregnant women. Presumptive eligibility would allow Arkansas to temporarily enroll persons in Medicaid while waiting for their full applications to be processed. Presumptive eligibility on a provisional applicational allows the children and pregnant women to begin receiving services immediately without having to wait for the full Medicaid application to be processed. 

Conduct ARKids First outreach and enrollment, especially targeting immigrant families.

Provide one-year postpartum Medicaid coverage for mothers instead of the current 60 days.

In the proposed ARHOME waiver the state will soon submit to the federal government, do not repeat the mistakes of the past by imposing any requirements that would make it more burdensome for families to maintain health care coverage under Arkansas’s Medicaid expansion.

States should strengthen public schools and pathways to post-secondary education and training. AACF further recommends the state reassess its approach to education in light of the pandemic and focus on research-proven strategies that will help children who lost ground during the pandemic while closing longstanding opportunity gaps for the state’s BIPOC students.

Release Information
The 2021 KIDS COUNT® Data Book will be available June 21 at 12:01 a.m. EDT at www.aecf.org. Additional information is available at www.aecf.org/databook. Journalists interested in creating maps, graphs and rankings in stories about the Data Book can use the KIDS COUNT Data Center at datacenter.kidscount.org.

About Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families is a statewide, nonprofit child advocacy organization established in 1977. Our mission is to ensure that all children and their families have the resources and opportunities to lead healthy and productive lives and to realize their full potential. For more information, visit aradvocates.org.

About the Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

 

BOB ESTES OF FAYETTEVILLE IS THE NEW PRESIDENT OF THE ARKANSAS BAR ASSOCIATION
Bob Estes of Fayetteville was sworn in as the President of the Arkansas Bar Association on June 18. The swearing-in ceremony by Chief Justice Dan Kemp took place virtually during the association’s Annual Meeting Virtual Conference.

 “I will walk in the steps of great men and women who have served before me,” Estes said. “As I begin to serve each of you as President of your Arkansas Bar Association, I strive to serve you well, by advancing and accomplishing the purposes of our Association. It is the members of this Association who advance the administration of justice and foster and maintain these high ideals. Lawyers play an integral part in maintaining the rule of law.”

 A United States Army Veteran, Estes earned a BSBA, MBA and JD from the University of Arkansas Fayetteville.  Mr. Estes is a solo practitioner in Fayetteville who has long served the association in its efforts to advance the administration of justice. His service has included YLS Executive Council, House of Delegates (Tenure), Executive Council and Board of Governors. He has chaired the Re-Districting Task Force, the Practice Closure Task Force, the PAC Executive Committee and the Legislation Committee, for which he was awarded a Golden Gavel.  He is Fellow of the Arkansas Bar Foundation which has honored him with the Arkansas Bar Foundation writing award.

 Mr. Estes has served in three cases as a Special Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of Arkansas. He currently serves on the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Civil Practice. He has been a member of several Fayetteville city and community boards and commissions.
 

ARKANSAS BAR ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES AWARD RECIPIENTS
2020-2021 Arkansas Bar Association President Paul W. Keith selected the following association members as award recipients for their outstanding work and service to the Association. The awards were presented virtually during the association’s annual meeting on June 17.

 Presidential Awards of Excellence:
·   Joseph F. Kolb, ArkBar President-Elect and principal member of the law firm, j. k o l b, Little Rock, for several years of service as treasurer
·  Aaron L. Squyres, Wilson & Associates, PLLC, Little Rock, for several years of service as parliamentarian   

·  Pulaski County Bar Association for years of service to the legal profession

Golden Gavel Awards:

· Kandice A. Bell, Office of Governor Asa Hutchinson, White Hall, for her work as ABCDI Chair
· Beverly I. Brister, The Brister Firm, Benton, for her work on the Constitution Day Video
· Lillian Dee Davenport, Simmons Wealth Management, Little Rock, for her work as Mid-Year Coordinator
· Brent J. Eubanks, Humphries, Odum & Eubanks, Little Rock, for his work as PAC Chair       
· Prof. Lynn  Foster, UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, for her work as chair of the Legislation Committee
· Adrienne Morris Griffis, Dover Dixon Horne PLLC, Little Rock, for her work on the Virtual Mock Trial Competition
· Christopher M. Hussein, Legal Aid of Arkansas, Springdale, for his work as Young Lawyers Section Chair for the past two years
· Anton Leo Janik, Jr., Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C., Little Rock, for his work as the chair of the Editorial Advisory Board
· Sarah C. Jewell, McMath Woods, P.A., Fayetteville, for her work as Annual Meeting Co-Chair
· Jamie Huffman Jones, Friday, Eldredge & Clark LLP, Little Rock, for her work as Annual Meeting Co-Chair

·  Joseph F. Kolb, ArkBar President-Elect and principal member of the law firm, j.kolb , Little Rock, for his work on the ABCDI Survey
· Deepali Lal, UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, Little Rock, for her work on the ABCDI Survey
· Jessica Virden Mallett, Law Offices of Peter Miller P. A., Little Rock, for her work as Chair of Sponsorship Committee
· Anthony L. McMullen, University of Central Arkansas - Director of Forensics, Conway, for his work on the Virtual Mock Trial Competition
· G. S. Brant Perkins, The Perkins Law Firm, P.A., Jonesboro, for his work as chair of the By-Laws Drafting Sub-Committee
· Brian M. Rosenthal, Rose Law Firm, Little Rock, for his work on the ABCDI Survey and a second Golden Gavel for his work on the Sponsorship Committee
· George M. Rozzell, Miller, Butler, Schneider, Pawlik & Rozzell, PLLC, Fayetteville, for his work on the Sponsorship Committee

Continuing Legal Education Awards:
· Vanessa Cash Adams, ARlaw Partners, PLLC, Little Rock, for planning the 2021 Debtor/Creditor Conference
· Jennifer L. Zwiegers, Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., Little Rock, for Co-Planning 24th Environmental Law Conference
· Sarah Murphy McDaniel, Mackie, Wolf, Zientz & Mann, P.C., Little Rock, for planning the 2021 Debtor/Creditor Conference
· Lindsey Emerson Raines, Friday, Eldredge & Clark LLP, Little Rock, for planning the 2021 Debtor/Creditor Conference
· Stuart Larson Spencer, Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C., Little Rock, for Co-Planning 24th Environmental Law Conference

Maurice Cathey Award
· Bill Waddell, Friday, Eldredge & Clark LLP, Little Rock, for contributions to The Arkansas Lawyer Magazine               

 Frank C. Elcan Award
· Christopher M. Hussein, Legal Aid of Arkansas, Springdale, for his commitment and dedication to the Young Lawyers Section

Judith Ryan Gray Young Lawyer Service Award
· Payton C. Bentley, Clark Law Firm, PLLC, Fayetteville, for exemplary service and outstanding contributions directed toward improving the administration of justice and promoting the public welfare on behalf of the Young Lawyers Section of the Arkansas Bar Association  

YLS Award of Excellence
· Alexandra C. Benton, Blair & Stroud, Batesville, for her work taking the lead on the Domestic Violence Handbook update and YLS trivia night    
· Ray Slaton, Hyden, Miron & Foster, PLLC, Little Rock, for his work on the Wills for Heroes project

 Legislative Awards
The following individuals are being honored for their efforts during the legislative session:
Matthew C. Boch, Dover Dixon Horne, Little Rock
Carol Goforth, University of Arkansas School of Law, Fayetteville
David Allen Grace, Hardin & Grace, P.A., North Little Rock
Anthony A. Hilliard, Ramsay, Bridgforth, Robinson & Raley LLP, Pine Bluff
Glen Hoggard, Attorney at Law, Little Rock
Robert M. Honea, Hardin, Jesson & Terry, PLC, Little Rock
Lauren White Hoover, Lacerra, Dickson, Hoover, & Rogers, PLLC, Little Rock
Angela M. Mann, Mann & Kemp, Little Rock
J. Don Overton, The Overton Firm, LLC, Little Rock
Judge Herb T. Wright, Circuit Judge, 6th Judicial District, Fourth Division

The 2020-2021 Arkansas Bar Foundation/ Arkansas Bar Association Joint Award Recipients:

Association President Paul W. Keith and Arkansas Bar Foundation President Judge Cindy G. Thyer presented the following joint awards:
· Outstanding Lawyer Award:  Paul D. McNeill, RMP LLP, Jonesboro, in recognition of excellence in the practice of law and outstanding contributions to the profession
· C. E. Ransick Award of Excellence: Sherry P. Bartley, Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C., Little Rock, in recognition of outstanding contributions to the profession
· Equal Justice Distinguished Service Award:  Judge Amy Dunn Johnson, Circuit Judge, 6th Judicial District, 15th Division, in recognition of commitment to and participation in equal justice programs, including pro bono efforts through legal services programs
· Outstanding Jurist Award:  Judge Joyce Williams Warren, Little Rock, in recognition of exceptional competency, efficiency and integrity on the Bench and exemplary service to the administration of justice
· Outstanding Local Bar Association: Sebastian County Bar Association

 

COTTON BILL TO EQUALIZE MINIMUM PENALTIES FOR POWDER AND CRACK COCAINE TRAFFICKING
Washington, D.C. – Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today introduced legislation that would strengthen the minimum penalties for powder cocaine trafficking to match penalties for crack cocaine trafficking. 

 “Crack and powder cocaine both kill thousands of Americans every year, but the penalties for selling each substance aren’t the same. My bill would increase penalties for criminals trafficking powder cocaine to ensure fairness in sentencing without granting early release to violent drug traffickers.”

Background:
Nationwide, cocaine overdose deaths have tripled since 2015, and are now the most common cause of overdose death after opioids. 

June 17, 2021

BOOZMAN, WYDEN LEAD LEGISLATION TO BROADEN ACCESS TO MAMMOGRAPHY SERVICES FOR WOMEN VETERANS
WASHINGTON– U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) are leading efforts to improve the health of women veterans by expanding Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mammogram screening eligibility.

The Supporting Expanded Review for Veterans in Combat Environments (SERVICE) Act would require the VA to conduct mammograms for all women who served in areas associated with burn pits and other toxic exposures regardless of age, symptoms or family history.

Additionally, the legislation directs the VA to submit a report to Congress within two years of enactment that compares the rates of breast cancer among members of the Armed Forces and the civilian population.

“Improving the VA’s procedures for mammography screenings will help ensure our women veterans are able to live long and healthy lives. Early detection and treatment for those individuals who may have a higher risk of developing breast cancer because of where they served is key to fighting this disease and upholding our promise to America’s past and present servicemembers,” Boozman, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee said.

“I’m glad to join Senator Boozman to expand access to life-saving VA care and services.” Wyden said. “Women who have served may be at much higher risk of developing breast cancer and deserve access to early detection and treatment. Updating the VA’s guidelines for mammogram procedures will provide our nation’s veterans with the quality and preventative care they need to live healthy lives.”

The VA’s current guidance for administering mammograms is outdated given the unique environments in which military members serve and the additional risk factors associated with these locations. The incidence of breast cancer in women veterans and military populations is estimated to be up to 40 percent higher than the general population according to a report from the National Institutes of Health.

The legislation has the support of leading Veteran Service Organizations including the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion.

“Nearly half of the growing population of women veterans enrolled at VA is under age 45, which means many will have had exposure to burn pits during their military service, increasing their risk of developing breast cancer during their lifetime. The common-sense provisions within the SERVICE Act will give more women veterans access to potentially lifesaving screenings that are better aligned with their history of exposure. We thank Senator Boozman for his attention to this issue and for working to bolster VA’s mammography screening efforts, which can ultimately help to save veterans’ lives,” said Joy Ilem, DAV National Legislative Director.

“One of Wounded Warrior Project’s top priorities is ensuring that all veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during service have access to VA health care, and this certainly must include basic preventative care like mammography. Exposure to carcinogens and other toxic substances is a known risk factor to cancer and all women veterans who were exposed should have access to routine screening and early detection, regardless of age. The SERVICE Act would provide this potentially lifesaving care, and we thank Senator Boozman for his continued commitment to veterans of all eras who suffered toxic exposures,” said Jose Ramos, WWP Vice President for Government and Community Relations.

“Women veterans who were exposed to toxins found in burn pits and other exposures have an increased rate of breast cancer. The Supporting Expanded Review for Veterans in Combat Environments (SERVICE) Act of 2021 would direct VA to provide mammograms for women veterans who served in locations where burn pits and other toxins were used. The VFW supports this bill which would ensure life-saving preventative screening for toxic exposed women veterans,” said VFW National Legislative Service Associate Director Kristina Keenan.

 

BOOZMAN, COTTON, COLLEAGUES LEAD EFFORT TO ENHANCE ACCESS TO HEARING PROTECTION EQUIPMENT FOR ARKANSAS’S SPORTSMEN
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) have joined Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) in reintroducing the Hearing Protection Act (HPA), legislation that would regulate suppressors like a regular firearm and provide better access to them in order to protect the hearing of hunters and recreational shooting sports enthusiasts.

“Making it easier to protect hunters’ and shooting sportsmen’s hearing is a commonsense course of action,” Boozman said. “These law-abiding citizens want to use their firearms in as safe and enjoyable a way as possible, and I’m proud to join my colleagues to help cut red tape and increase their access to suppressors.”

“Burdensome regulations on firearm suppressors are doing more harm than good to sportsmen and women. Our legislation will ensure law-abiding gun owners can easily access hearing protection without having to navigate bureaucratic red tape or exorbitant taxes,” Cotton said.

“Law abiding Americans enjoying the recreational freedoms provided under the Second Amendment should not have to wade through overly-burdensome regulations in order to protect their hearing,” Crapo said. “The common Hollywood-portrayed misconceptions about suppressors are not grounded in factual science, and create unnecessary burdens on responsible gun owners. The Hearing Protection Act will benefit Idaho’s sportswomen and men by ensuring they have adequate hearing protection needed while hunting and participating in other recreational shooting sports.”

The measure is also supported by the American Suppressor Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Gun Owners of America and the National Rifle Association.

“The scientific consensus is in: suppressors help protect hearing. That’s why the CDC, NIOSH, and the National Hearing Conservation Association all recommend suppressors as a tool to help mitigate preventable hearing damage. If enacted, the Hearing Protection Act would have a more profound impact on hearing safety than any other legislation in decades. It’s time for the Senate to follow Senator Crapo’s leadership, listen to the experts at the CDC, and pass this common sense legislation,” said Knox Williams, President and Executive Director of the American Suppressor Association.

“The Hearing Protection Act would reduce unnecessary barriers to what is essentially a muffler for a firearm that enables more accurate marksmanship and allows shooting ranges to be better neighbors. Suppressors were originally listed under the National Firearms Act over poaching concerns during the Great Depression, but that never bore out. They reduce the report of a firearm from a level equal to a jet taking off to one similar to that of a jackhammer. Firearm suppressors are a safety device designed to make recreational shooting safer,” said Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Lawrence Keane.

Other original co-sponsors of the legislation include Senators Jim Risch (R-ID), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Jerry Moran (R-KS), John Cornyn (R-TX), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), James Lankford (R-OK), Mike Braun (R-IN), Tim Scott (R-SC), Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Thom Tillis (R-NC).

Background:
On average, suppressors diminish the noise of a gunshot by 20-35 decibels, roughly the same sound reduction provided by earplugs or earmuffs. By further comparison, the most effective suppressors on the market can only reduce the peak sound level of a gunshot to around 110-120 decibels. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, that is as loud as a jackhammer (110 dB) or an ambulance siren (120 dB). Currently regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA), suppressors are subject to additional regulatory burdens. 

 The HPA would:
• Reclassify suppressors to regulate them like traditional firearms;
• Remove suppressors from regulation under the NFA;
• Replace the overly-burdensome federal transfer process with an instantaneous National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) background check, making the purchasing and transfer process for suppressors equal to the process for a rifle or shotgun; and
• Tax suppressors under the Pittman-Robertson Act instead of the NFA, putting more funding into state wildlife conservation agencies.

The HPA would not change any laws in states that already prevent suppressors, nor does it get rid of the requirement for a background check. 
 

COTTON, COLLEAGUES, INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO RESTRICT CHINESE ACCESS TO AMERICAN VISAS
Washington, D.C. — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama), Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Mike Braun (R-Indiana) introduced the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Visa Security Act, legislation to prohibit individuals currently or previously employed or sponsored by Chinese military institutions from receiving student or research visas to the United States. This bill would also establish a list of research institutions affiliated with the PLA and mandate that the State Department conduct background checks on Chinese nationals applying for research visas in the United States. Bill text may be found here.

“Allowing members of the People’s Liberation Army unfettered access to research visas is an open invitation to steal American research, ingenuity, and intellectual property. The United States shouldn’t be arming our greatest adversary—our bill will block Chinese military affiliated people from receiving student and research visas to the United States,” said Cotton.

“The Chinese Communist Party exploits our visa system to infiltrate American institutions at every level. The People’s Liberation Army systematically sends Chinese engineers and scientists abroad to exploit research projects to access sensitive data and technology. The PLA Visa Security Act provides an additional screening layer to ensure applicants are not affiliated with the Chinese military. I am proud to again join Sen. Cotton on this important bill,” said Cruz.

“COVID-19 has made it clear just how vulnerable we are to the global threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party,” said Rubio. “We must ensure that individuals linked to the CCP’s People’s Liberation Army are not able to obtain research and student visas, which enable the theft of American technology. It is in our national security interest to ensure the CCP isn’t taking advantage of our open system to steal American intellectual property.”

“American innovation and ingenuity are our nation’s greatest assets and the envy of adversaries around the globe including China,” said Tuberville. “Without a hardline approach to safeguard our research, Chinese military institutions will continue to steal our intellectual property for their own benefit. Restricting Chinese military institution’s access to American visas ensures our innovation and research cannot be used against us.”

“The Chinese Communist Party exploits the student visa system to build its military on the backs of American research and ingenuity. Our universities and tech companies have become targets of Chinese espionage and intellectual property theft. We must secure American research and development against the Chinese Communist Party and their military,” said Hawley.

“We’ve seen time and again how the communist Chinese government has sought to infiltrate and exploit U.S. research and academic institutions. This bill ensures that visa applicants are thoroughly vetted and Chinese nationals affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army aren’t granted access to our most sensitive research and intellectual property,” said Grassley.

“The Chinese Communist Party doesn’t play by the rules, and there is a serious risk to American national security and our intellectual property by allowing those who are currently or have previously been involved with Chinse military institutions to study in the United States. I’m proud to join Senator Cotton to stop the U.S. from arming China’s People’s Liberation Army with American innovation,” said Braun.

In a recent think tank report, the PLA Visa Security Act was endorsed by President Biden’s current NSC Senior Director for International Economics and Competitiveness Peter Harrell, NSC Senior Director for China Rush Doshi, nominee to serve as Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Indo-Pacific Ely Ratner, and nominee to serve as DoD Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Susanna Blume, and nominee to serve as Assistance Secretary for Terrorist Financing Elizabeth Rosenberg.

Background:
Senator Cotton advocated for a similar provision in his recently released report, “Beat China: Target Decoupling and the Economic Long War.”


COTTON, HAGERTY, BLACKBURN, SCOTT INTRODUCE BILL TO PROTECT AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES FROM FOREIGN INFLUENCE
Washington, D.C. — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Bill Hagerty (R-Tennessee), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), and Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) introduced the Foreign Funding Accountability Act, legislation to combat malign foreign influence in American colleges and universities by strengthening Section 117 of the Higher Education Act. 

Specifically, the bill would:
Require the disclosure of full names of foreign donating entities—individual, institutional, or otherwise
Require the disclosure of the specific purposes of foreign gift-transactions
Close the loophole allowing gifting by registered foreign agents
Close the loophole exempting in-kind gifts from counting towards the disclosure minimum
Clarify that foreign gifts to university foundations are not exempt from disclosure
Lower the minimum reporting threshold for disclosure in terms of dollar amount—from $250,000 to $25,000
Levy a graduated civil penalty structure against institutions willfully, and repeatedly violating Section 117

“The Chinese Communist Party has made consistent attempts to infiltrate American colleges and universities. Our bill will close donation loopholes, barring the CCP and other foreign agents from donating millions, or even billions, to levy influence and steal American intellectual property,” said Cotton.

“As a strategic adversary seeking to overtake the United States, the Chinese Communist Party is going to extraordinary lengths to exert malign influence over America’s free and open society, including our higher education system. By increasing transparency, closing loopholes, and imposing new civil penalties in U.S. law, this important legislation seeks to prevent the CCP and its intermediaries from hiding in the shadows to buy control and influence within our higher education, to manipulate what American students are taught about China, and to steal intellectual property from our nation’s researchers,” said Hagerty.

“Communist China has infiltrated American colleges and universities. It is imperative we cut off Beijing’s access to funnel money in exchange for influence in higher education. Our children’s education should not be available for purchase by the CCP,” said Blackburn.

“Attempts by the Chinese Communist Party and other bad actors to infiltrate the American education system is a blatant example of foreign competitors trying to maintain and expand their global power to our detriment,” said Scott. “By holding institutions of higher education accountable for foreign donations we are taking necessary steps to promote transparency, protect our intellectual property, and ensure our country’s future leaders get a quality education.”

Background:
Section 117 of the Higher Education Act requires universities to report foreign gifts and contract transactions twice per year. Compliance with and enforcement of this statute has historically been underwhelming and many institutions do not properly abide by it, allowing malign foreign influence to creep into American higher education. 

In October 2020, the Department of Education issued a report detailing the lack of Section 117 compliance by many colleges and universities. The report describes how the Department of Education created an online reporting portal last June, that has since recorded $3.8 billion in foreign gifts and contracts.

Separate department investigations since June 2019 uncovered an additional $6.5 billion in unreported foreign gifts. Of the approximately 7,000 transactions recorded in the online portal, 60 institutions were classified as “new filers,” implying they hadn’t submitted any reporting data, as mandated, from 1986 until June 2020. 

In February 2021, Senator Cotton published a report, “Beat China: Targeted Decoupling and the Economic Long War” which explored the threat China poses to the U.S. economy and detailed how the U.S. should respond.

June 17, 2021

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: DON’T GET OVER YOUR HEAD IN FLOOD DAMAGE
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas was covered with over a foot of water in parts of the state as dangerous levels of water poured into the Natural State. Governor Hutchinson declared a state of emergency and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is warning Arkansans to protect themselves from con artists looking to make a quick buck after the storms.

“Arkansas is just one big small town and it is heartbreaking to see flood damage devastate our communities,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Scammers will take advantage of any tough situation to steal from hard-working Arkansans so I urge everyone to remain vigilant during the clean-up process and watch out for criminals.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to ensure Arkansans hire a reputable contractor to complete home repairs:

Beware of door-to-door solicitors selling home-repair work. To find someone reputable, ask friends or family who have recently used a home-repair contractor or professional. Consider contacting the Arkansas Contractor's Licensing Board  to verify that the contractor is licensed and has not had any complaints filed against it.
Avoid any home-repair solicitor who asks for an upfront payment or who will not provide you with a written contract.
Get at least three written estimates. A reputable contractor or professional will never try to pressure you to obtain your business.
Obtain and check at least three references from your contractor or professional.
Check with the Attorney General’s office or the Better Business Bureau to find out if the company has a complaint history.
Obtain a written and detailed contract that includes the grade, quality, name brand and quantity of any materials to be used. The name and address of the contractor must be on the contract.
Avoid paying for the entire job up front. One-third paid in advance, one-third paid halfway through the job and one-third paid upon completion is a better plan, helping assure that your project will be completed. Never make the final payment until you have had an opportunity to inspect the work.
Remember that all contracts resulting from a home-solicitation sale generally must include a buyer’s right to cancel within three business days after the contract is signed.
Make sure all warranties and guarantees are in writing.
A contractor cannot promise that your insurance company will cover the work done.  Verify your insurance coverage and authorized contractors before you agree to pay for repairs.

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

ONLINE AUCTIONS OF UNSOLD TAX-DELINQUENT PROPERTIES BEGIN JULY 1
(Little Rock) – Arkansas property investors will be excited about a change coming to the Commissioner of State Lands Office.

Commissioner Tommy Land announced that his office will begin offering certain parcels for online auction next month.

“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. https://auction.cosl.org and properties will be available to view on 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.

Only U.S. residents are eligible to purchase property. “Buyers must have a valid U.S. address and identification to purchase property through these online auctions,” Land said.
“The owner still has 10 business days to redeem the property after bidding ends,” he said. “After the expiration of that time, if the owner has not paid the delinquent amount, we will issue the limited warranty deed to the new buyer.”

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,” he 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.”

 

MAIN STREET PROGRAMS URGED TO THINK BIG 

LITTLE ROCK – Members of the Main Street Arkansas community gathered to receive ceremonial checks in Argenta Plaza, North Little Rock, on June 11. Grants are awarded annually to designated Main Street and Downtown Network programs by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP), which oversees Main Street Arkansas.  
 
Grants range from $3,000 to $25,000. The grants are classified as Downtown Revitalization Grants and last year were used to help communities purchase and distribute needed PPE and other items during the COVID-19 crisis. This year, the program is encouraging Main Street communities to “think big.”  
 
Some of the larger projects the AHPP is challenging Main Street programs to take on include streetscape improvements, facade rehabilitation, support for local businesses in establishing online order and pick-up services, outdoor dining spaces and interior renovations.  

 

Program Name 

Amount 

City/County 

Conway Downtown Partnership 

$25,000 

Conway/ Faulkner 

Downtown Jonesboro Alliance 

$25,000 

Jonesboro/ Craighead 

Downtown Little Rock Partnership 

$22,500 

Little Rock/ Pulaski 

Main Street Batesville 

$22,500 

Batesville/ Independence 

Main Street Dumas 

$20,000 

Dumas/ Desha 

Main Street El Dorado 

$25,000 

El Dorado/Union 

Main Street Eureka Springs 

$25,000 

Eureka Springs/ Carroll 

Main Street Osceola 

$22,500 

Osceola/ Mississippi 

Main Street Ozark 

$22,500 

Ozark/Franklin 

Main Street Paragould 

$25,000 

Paragould/Greene 

Main Street Paris 

$20,000 

Paris/Logan 

Main Street Russellville 

$22,500 

Russellville/Pope 

Main Street Searcy 

$25,000 

Searcy/White 

Main Street Siloam Springs 

$22,500 

Siloam Springs/ Benton 

Main Street Texarkana 

$22,500 

Texarkana/Miller 

Main Street West Memphis 

$22,500 

West Memphis/ Crittenden 

Pine Bluff Downtown Development Inc. 

$22,500 

Pine Bluff/ Jefferson 

Argenta Downtown Council 

$25,000 

Argenta/Pulaski 

64.6 Downtown 

$25,000 

Ft. Smith/ Sebastian 

Arkadelphia Downtown Network 

$3,000 

Arkadelphia/Clark 

Main Street Calico Rock 

$3,000 

Calico Rock/Izard 

Camden Downtown Network 

$3,000 

Camden/Ouachita 

Clarksville Downtown Network 

$3,000 

Clarksville/ Johnson 

Forrest City Downtown Revitalization Project Inc. 

$3,000 

Forrest City/ Francis  

Lonoke Downtown Network 

$3,000 

Lonoke/Lonoke 

Main Street Hardy 

$3,000 

Hardy/Fulton 

Malvern Downtown Development Corporation 

$3,000 

Malvern/ Hot Spring 

Monticello Downtown Network 

$3,000 

Monticello/Drew 

Main Street Morrilton Inc. 

$3,000 

Morrilton/Conway 

Newport Downtown Revitalization and Improvement Volunteer Effort 

$3,000 

Newport/Jackson 

Pocahontas Downtown Network 

$3,000 

Pocahontas/Randolph 

Rector Downtown Central Inc. 

$3,000 

Rector/Clay 

Warren Downtown Network 

$3,000 

Warren/Bradley 

Wynne Downtown Revitalization Committee 

$3,000 

Wynne/Cross 

Hope Downtown Network 

$3,000 

Hope/Hempstead 

Mena Downtown Partners 

$3,000 

Mena/Polk 

Main Street Prairie Grove 

$3,000 

Prairie Grove/ Washington 

Main Street Helena 

$3,000 

Helena - West Helena/ Phillips 

Main Street Blytheville 

$3,000 

Blytheville/ Mississippi 

Southside Main Street Project Inc. 

$3,000 

Little Rock/ Pulaski 

Main Street Arkansas works to strengthen and preserve historic downtowns and Main Street districts across the state. It provides technical assistance, resources, and ongoing education to local programs to help them implement and excel in the Main Street Four-Point Approach™ , creating a vivid and vital sense of place. 

For more information about the Main Street program, please contact Main Street Arkansas at info@arkansaspreservation.com, or visit the website at www.mainstreetarkansas.com.   
 
The AHPP is an agency of Arkansas Heritage responsible for identifying, evaluating, registering and preserving the state’s cultural resources. Other agencies are the Arkansas Arts Council, the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, the Old State House Museum, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the Historic Arkansas Museum and the Arkansas State Archives. Arkansas Heritage is a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.    

PHILLIPS COUNTY FUGITIVE ARRESTED; AWAITING ARRAIGNMENT IN HELENA MURDER CASE
JUNE 16, 2021

A Phillips County fugitive wanted on a murder charge is in custody following an overnight operation involving Arkansas State Police Troopers and Special Agents, U.S. Marshals and Lee County Sheriff’s Deputies.

David Coley, Jr., 30, of Helena-West Helena, was arrested without incident about 10:45 PM (June 15th).  He was located inside an abandoned bus at 3323 Lee Road, southeast of Marianna, and transported to the Phillips County Detention Center at Helena-West Helena.

Special Agents of the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division began developing leads earlier this week that led them into Lee County yesterday.

Coley is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the May 19, 2021 homicide of Paul Eric Amos.

 

CADC BOARD OF DIRECTORS TO MEET
 The Board of Directors of Central Arkansas Development Council will have a board meeting Saturday, June 26, 2021 at 9:00 a.m.  The meeting will be held by at the Benton Senior Activity Center, 1800 Citizens Drive, Benton, AR.  The public is invited to join the meeting.

 

CITY OF CAMDEN AIRPORT COMMISSION TO MEET
The City of Camden Airport Commission will have their regularly scheduled meeting on Friday, June 18, 2021 at 11:30 a.m. at the Airport Terminal located at 255 Airport Road, Camden, Arkansas.

 

UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS, NOWDIAGNOSTICS PARTNER FOR COVID-19 ANTIBODY TEST AND PREVALENCE STUDY
SPRINGDALE, Ark., June 16, 2021 – The University of Arkansas and NOWDiagnostics, Inc., a Springdale-based leader in innovative diagnostics testing, announced today an active partnership to study the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 virus antibodies among University of Arkansas (U of A) students, staff and faculty.

Donald G. Catanzaro, a research assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences is the study’s Principal Investigator. Chemical engineering associate professor Shannon Servoss, a former member of the ADEXUSDx® COVID-19 antibody test development team at NOWDiagnostics, is the co-principal investigator, along with Shengfan Zhang, associate professor of industrial engineering.

Using NOWDiagnostics’ Arkansas-developed and manufactured ADEXUSDx® COVID-19 antibody test, a rapid-results self-contained fingerstick test that accurately detects the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in 15 minutes, the study has been enrolling students, faculty and staff from the U of A to test for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The objective is to test each enrollee three times over a period of four months. Recruitment began on March 17, 2021.

The study is designed to estimate the seropositive prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in U of A’s students, faculty, and staff and evaluate whether the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the U of A population significantly changes over time. This information can ultimately inform policy-makers’ decisions affecting the health and welfare of all Arkansans and assist state leaders responsible for reopening Arkansas’ businesses and schools.

Speaking about this study, Dr. Catanzaro said, “This study simultaneously accomplishes an in-depth study of how prevalent COVID-19 is among our campus community of students, staff and faculty which gives us information on the effectiveness of our pandemic public health policy. Secondly, it assists NOWDiagnostics in understanding the performance of their innovative antibody test and, very importantly, this study gives our talented team of undergraduate researchers experience in clinical research – it really is a triple win.”

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, reliable antibody testing has played a pivotal role in the identification of convalescent plasma donors to provide life-saving therapy for those most affected by COVID-19. In addition to this role, antibody testing offers important utility to understand immunity following infection, and potentially therapy and vaccination—for individuals, healthcare providers, businesses, community, and governments.

In May 2021, NOWDiagnostics announced receipt of Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the ADEXUSDx® COVID-19 Test’s use in moderate complex settings and at the point of care. In August 2020, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provided funding and technical support under contract number 75A50120C00156 to NOWDiagnostics for the development of the ADEXUSDx® COVID-19 Test. Trials for over-the-counter use are ongoing.

“The efforts of University of Arkansas researchers and the team at NOWDiagnostics serve as an excellent example of a public-private collaboration that is built on a longstanding relationship,” said Dr. Bob Beitle, professor of chemical engineering and associate vice chancellor for research and innovation. “U of A faculty are encouraged to seek out these connections—especially with Arkansas-based companies—to elevate the entire community.”


COTTON, COLLEAGUES CALL ON DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE TO IMPLEMENT EXPORT CONTROL LAWS OR RISK LOSING EXPORT CONTROL AUTHORITY
Washington, D.C. — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Rick Scott (R-Florida), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), Todd Young (R-Indiana), Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama), and Mike Braun (R-Indiana) today sent a letter to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo demanding that the Department of Commerce immediately identify “emerging and foundational technologies” as mandated nearly three years ago by the Export Control Reform Act (ECRA).

In part, the senators wrote, “So long as these lists remain incomplete and underutilized, the federal government will lack a properly functioning export control system and foreign investment screening process. American companies will continue to export advanced technologies to companies subject to CCP control, despite the U.S. government wanting to restrict the export of these items. CFIUS may also be constrained in its ability to screen predatory Chinese investment in emerging and foundational technologies. This leaves the United States unacceptably vulnerable to China’s economic predation.”

“We therefore urge the Department of Commerce to release these lists as soon as possible and abide by its duty to faithfully execute the laws passed by Congress. The Department of Commerce’s unwillingness to implement these clear, essential mandates after nearly three years calls into question the department’s central role in the U.S. export control system. If Commerce continues to delay its implementation of key national security priorities like the emerging and foundational technologies lists, Congress may be forced to consider entrusting these tasks and other export control authorities to a department that can approach trade and investment controls with the urgency required to safeguard our national security,” the senators continued.

Text of the letter may be found below.

June 15, 2021

The Honorable Gina Raimondo
Secretary
Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20230

Dear Secretary Raimondo, 

We write to urge the Department of Commerce to expeditiously identify “emerging and foundational technologies,” as mandated nearly three years ago by the Export Control Reform Act (ECRA).

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is executing a strategy of “Military-Civil Fusion” (MCF), in which notionally “private” Chinese companies acquire cutting-edge technology overseas in part to help the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) develop and field advanced military capabilities. In practice, MCF transforms the technology sector of the Chinese economy into a military-driven ecosystem, centrally coordinated by the CCP. We remain concerned that U.S. businesses export sensitive technologies to ostensibly civilian Chinese firms or accept investment from them only for these Chinese firms to promptly hand over this technology to the Chinese military or intelligence services.

In response to the CCP’s economic predation against the United States, Congress passed the bipartisan ECRA and the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) in August 2018. These laws reflected Congress’ belief that U.S. export control and foreign investment screening efforts must be more agile and should protect our most advanced and sought-after technologies. At the heart of both pieces of legislation was a requirement for the Department of Commerce to develop lists of “emerging and foundational technologies.” Such a mechanism allows the U.S. government to identify national security risks not covered by existing export controls, develop new corresponding controls under ECRA, and better equip the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to protect these technologies from malign inbound investment.

For these reasons, we find the Department of Commerce’s slow pace of fulfilling its obligations under ECRA deeply troubling. While Commerce has taken steps to solicit expert advice and public comment on these lists, these efforts have only resulted in a limited set of controlled emerging technologies and omit many of the 45 potential emerging technologies that Commerce listed in an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in November 2018. Commerce has yet to release a proposed list of foundational technologies.

So long as these lists remain incomplete and underutilized, the federal government will lack a properly functioning export control system and foreign investment screening process. American companies will continue to export advanced technologies to companies subject to CCP control, despite the U.S. government wanting to restrict the export of these items. CFIUS may also be constrained in its ability to screen predatory Chinese investment in emerging and foundational technologies. This leaves the United States unacceptably vulnerable to China’s economic predation.

We therefore urge the Department of Commerce to release these lists as soon as possible and abide by its duty to faithfully execute the laws passed by Congress. The Department of Commerce’s unwillingness to implement these clear, essential mandates after nearly three years calls into question the department’s central role in the U.S. export control system. If Commerce continues to delay its implementation of key national security priorities like the emerging and foundational technologies lists, Congress may be forced to consider entrusting these tasks and other export control authorities to a department that can approach trade and investment controls with the urgency required to safeguard our national security.

Thank you for considering this important matter of national security. We look forward to hearing from you.June 16, 2021

June 15, 2021

CAMDEN DOWNTOWN FARMER’S MARKET PROVIDES FRESH AND TASTY FOOD
The downtown farmer’s market will be held on Friday, June 18th 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 Ave. The farmer’s market will take place on the 3rd Friday of each month through the summer.

If you are interested in being a vendor, please fill out our application: https://form.jotform.com/201528043328146
 

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON UPDATE – 06-15-2021
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson outlined the makeover of Arkansas' Medicaid expansion program during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

The proposal, introduced by the Arkansas Legislature earlier this year, seeks to replace the current Medicaid expansion program, known as Arkansas Works. The new program, if approved, would be called Arkansas Health and Opportunity for Me, or ARHOME (pronounced "our home.") ARHOME would extend subsidized health insurance to the more than 310,000 low-income Arkansans currently enrolled in health plans through Arkansas Works. 
Like many states, Arkansas chose to develop its own private option to provide health insurance to low income residents after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The private option developed into Arkansas Works and now, with approval of President Joe Biden, would next year transform into ARHOME.

Hutchinson said ARHOME's biggest change would be the focus it puts on improving Arkansas' health outcomes, as opposed to solely treating them. As part of that effort ARHOME would put pressure on health insurance companies to offer preventative healthcare and incentives for wellness plans while also offering goals towards improving health in rural areas.

Contrary to Arkansas Works, ARHOME does not include the work requirements which proved extremely contentious. Instead, the new proposal seeks to replace those requirements with work and educational training. 

In other statewide news, Hutchinson announced the formation of a cybersecurity advisory council made up of various state officials. He said the council is a response to the Colonial pipeline cyberattack as well as a more recent attack targeting JBS Foods. That particular attack shut down most of the companies operations across the state, including the poultry processing facility in De Queen.

Finally, state officials provided an update on Arkansas' COVID-19 figures. Just over 300 new cases were reported on Tuesday for a statewide total of over 344,000 transmissions since the COVID-19 pandemic began in spring, 2020. Active cases saw a net increase of 109 to 2,144 currently reported. Deaths increased by six over the same period to total 5,869. Currently 204 Arkansans are hospitalized due to the virus.
At this time over two million COVID-19 vaccines have been given in the state with nearly one million Arkansans now fully vaccinated

 

THREE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS INJURED IN ASSAULT BY LAWRENCE COUNTY MAN
JUNE 14, 2021

Hoxie Police Department authorities and the Lawrence County Prosecuting Attorney have requested the Arkansas State Police to conduct a criminal investigation of an incident that resulted in injuries to three local law enforcement officers earlier today.

Shortly before 9 AM a Hoxie police officer encountered a man walking along the overpass at the Arkansas Highway 367 and U.S. Highway 63 intersection.  The man, identified as Matthew Dale Hatley, 26, Black Rock (Lawrence County), was carrying what was described as an iron pipe.

According to Hoxie police officers, Hatley was able to enter the officer’s patrol car and began hitting the officer with the pipe.  During the assault, Hatley was able to get control of the police officer’s handgun and fired the weapon.  The officer was not hit by the gunfire.

Local and state law enforcement back-up assistance quickly arrived, and officers were able disarm Hatley despite his continued resistance.

Two officers were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries and a third was treated and released with minor injuries.

Hatley has been incarcerated at the Lawrence County Detention Center and presently faces multiple charges, including three counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.

Questions relating to the identity of the Hoxie police officer who initially encountered Hatley should be directed to the Hoxie Police Department.

The Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department Criminal Investigation Division is assisting state police special agents in the continuing investigation.
 

WREATHS ACROSS AMERICA CELEBRATES JUNETEENTH BY REMEMBERING COAST GUARDSMAN CHARLES WALTER DAVID JR.
Wreaths Across America Remembers the Hero of the U.S.A.T. Dorchester Rescue
COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine – Monday, June 14, 2021 – On Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021, Wreaths Across America honored the American heroes known as “The Four Chaplains” with a special Facebook live event.

 https://www.facebook.com/events/170854841480684 
However, The Four Chaplains were not the only heroes that day.

On January 23, 1943, the U.S.A.T. Dorchester left New York harbor bound for Greenland carrying over 900 officers, servicemen and civilian workers. The ship was a coastal passenger steamship requisitioned and operated by the War Shipping Administration (WSA) for wartime use as a troop ship. The ship was transiting the Labrador Sea when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat (U-233) on February 3, 1943. The ship sank and 675 people on board lost their lives. Amidst the chaos to save 230 lives four chaplains guided soldiers trapped below deck to escape hatches and gave away their life jackets to save others on that fateful day. When the chaplains had done all they could, they linked arms to pray and sing hymns as the Dorchester slipped beneath the waves.

As part of the rescue response to the sinking of the Dorchester, African American Coast Guardsman Charles Walter David Jr. jumped into icy Greenland waters, from his rescue ship, to save two men from drowning and continued to help rescue a total of 93 survivors from life-boats. After his heroic acts, 54 days later Charles Walter David Jr. succumbed to pneumonia stemming from those icy waters.

Replica Dog tags of Guardsman Charles Walter David Jr. hang in remembrance on the Four Chaplains section of the Wreaths Across America tip land. Replica dog tags hang on the live balsam trees used to make memorial wreaths to honor the lives, duty and commitment of fallen soldiers and create a living memorial to inspire a new generation to make a positive impact.

Wreaths Across America is the non-profit organization best known for placing veterans’ wreaths on the headstones of our nation’s fallen at Arlington National Cemetery. However, the organization, in total, places more than 1.7 million sponsored wreaths at 2557 participating locations nationwide and offers other programs throughout the calendar year. These programs include The Mobile Education Exhibit, a national flag waving effort. Wreaths Across America Radio and a Virtual Concert now streaming on Showcase NOW, just to mention a few.

You can sponsor a wreath for $15 at https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/. Each sponsorship goes toward a fresh balsam veteran’s wreath that will be placed on the headstone of an American hero as we endeavor to honor all veterans laid to rest on Saturday, December 19, 2020, as part of National Wreaths Across America Day. 

Cotton Warns of Risks to American Athletes if U.S. Participates in Beijing Olympic Games.
 

SENATOR TOM COTTON (R-ARKANSAS) SENDS A LETTER TO PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN CALLING FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO TAKE ALL THE NECESSARY STEPS TO PROTECT AMERICAN ATHLETES IF THE 2022 WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today sent a letter to President Joe Biden calling for the government to take all the necessary steps to protect American athletes if the 2022 Winter Olympic Games are held in Beijing.

In part, Cotton wrote, “I continue to advocate for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to rebid the 2022 Games to a free country. But if the IOC refuses and the United States chooses to compete in the Games, our government must take all necessary steps to protect American athletes who travel to China.”

“Under ordinary conditions, the U.S. government must prepare for years in advance of each Olympics to protect American athletes and guarantee U.S. media access. But these Games won’t occur under ordinary conditions. Unlike Olympics held in friendly, free nations, the 2022 Beijing Games will pose unique challenges for the safety, security, and privacy of Americans who attend,” Cotton continued.

Text of the letter may be found below.

President Joseph R. Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Biden,

I write seeking more information about the U.S. government’s preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. I continue to advocate for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to rebid the 2022 Games to a free country. But if the IOC refuses and the United States chooses to compete in the Games, our government must take all necessary steps to protect American athletes who travel to China.

Under ordinary conditions, the U.S. government must prepare for years in advance of each Olympics to protect American athletes and guarantee U.S. media access.[1] But these Games won’t occur under ordinary conditions. Unlike Olympics held in friendly, free nations, the 2022 Beijing Games will pose unique challenges for the safety, security, and privacy of Americans who attend.

First, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) operates the world’s most invasive domestic surveillance system. Chinese authorities closely monitor internet traffic within the country and block or censor online information that the Party views as adverse to its grip on power. The CCP also continuously tracks persons in Chinese cities through a network of facial-recognition cameras and other advanced sensors. Further, members of the American delegation should expect their rooms in the Chinese Olympic Village to be bugged with audio or visual surveillance equipment and all their onshore electronic devices to be hacked by Chinese authorities.

Second, the CCP also considers DNA collection a vital intelligence-gathering objective. As the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center recently noted, “The PRC views bulk personal data, including health-care and genomic data, as a strategic commodity to be collected and used for its economic and national-security priorities.”[2] The CCP has reportedly conducted tests to develop biologically-enhanced soldiers and intends to use DNA data to catapult Chinese biotechnology companies to global market dominance.[3]

In 2022, thousands of world-class athletes will gather to compete in China. Their DNA will present an irresistible target for the CCP. Thus, we should expect that the Chinese government will attempt to collect genetic samples of Olympians at the Games, perhaps disguised as testing for illegal drugs or COVID-19.

Third, the CCP arbitrarily detains Americans and other Western visitors to China.[4] It also has placed exit bans on foreign nationals, prohibiting them from leaving the country in order to extort them for economic or political gains. In 2018, for instance, the CCP took an American family hostage and seized two Canadians.[5] In 2020, Beijing threatened to take further hostages unless the U.S. government halted its prosecutions of Chinese spies on American college campuses.[6] The State Department has now issued a Level 3 Travel Advisory for China (“Reconsider Travel”) because of the Chinese government’s use of arbitrary detention and exit bans. Yet thousands of Americans will soon travel to China if the Beijing Games proceed and the U.S. participates.

Members of the U.S. Olympic delegation could be subject to arbitrary detention in China, particularly those who have spoken out against the Communist Party’s genocide of the Uyghurs, repression in Tibet, and takeover of Hong Kong. Former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell apparently shares my concerns, stating that “[s]pectators have good reason to beware Xi Jinping’s Beijing Winter Olympics. … Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey would be wise not to attend the Beijing Olympics, along with anyone else who Tweeted ‘Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.’”[7]

Given these risks to the American delegation, the U.S. government and U.S. Olympic Committee must thoroughly prepare to ensure the safety and security of all Americans traveling to the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games. With these grave concerns in mind, please provide answers to the following questions:

How is the U.S. government preparing to support the U.S. delegation at the 2022 Olympic Games? Please describe any security assessments or logistical support being provided by the U.S. government.

Is the Chinese government fully cooperating with U.S. government efforts to mitigate security risks and provide logistical support in advance of the U.S. delegation’s arrival? How does their level of cooperation contrast with South Korea’s before the 2018 Games? If the Chinese government isn’t cooperating fully, please describe any Chinese government efforts to delay or obstruct this important advance work by the U.S. government.

Is the Chinese government fully cooperating with requests from American media outlets for access to the 2022 Olympic Games? If not, please describe any Chinese government efforts to delay or obstruct U.S. media access.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter. I look forward to hearing from you.
 

REPUBLICAN AG COMMITTEE LEADERSHIP ANNOUNCES RELEASE OF STUDY CONFIRMING DEVASTATING IMPACT OF INHERITANCE TAX CODE CHANGES ON FAMILY FARMERS AND RANCHERS 
WASHINGTON—The Republican leaders of the agriculture committees in Congress are highlighting a new study that confirms Democrats' proposed changes to taxes on inherited property will have a devastating impact on the next generation of family farmers and ranchers.
Senator John Boozman, Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and Representative Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, Ranking Member, House Committee on Agriculture, requested the Agricultural and Food Policy Center (AFPC) at Texas A&M University analyze two pieces of legislation introduced in the Senate that would change the tax liabilities of family members when farm and ranch estates are passed from generation to generation.
AFPC’s study confirms that if enacted, the two bills analyzed—the Sensible Taxation and Equity Promotion (STEP) Act, which proposes to eliminate stepped-up basis upon death of the owner and the For the 99.5 Percent Act, which would decrease the estate tax exemption—would have a devastating impact on the hardworking families that own and operate farms and ranches.
The STEP Act’s proposed changes to stepped-up basis mirror proposals discussed by the Biden administration. If it were to be implemented, 92 of AFPC’s 94 representative farms would be impacted with an average additional tax liability of more than $720,000 per farm. Together, the two bills would raise taxes an average of $1.4 million on 98 percent of AFPC’s representative farms.
“The data speaks for itself and should give pause to anyone considering this approach as an option to pay for new additional federal spending. If changes of these magnitude are pursued, as some have discussed, the economic harm it will cause will have a lasting impact on rural America,” Boozman said.
“The livelihoods of American farmers are on the chopping block with proposed changes to stepped-up basis and the estate tax. Many Democrats love to talk about taxing the richest of the rich, but in reality, their proposals would hurt Main Street far more than Wall Street. The economic harm that will inevitably fall onto on our farmers, ranchers, and producers is too great a burden to gamble with, even with proposed carve-outs and exemptions. The report released today from the Agricultural and Food Policy Center underscores what the industry has known for years—new taxes on farmers are more than just an annoyance, they’re a generational threat to farm families,” Thompson said.
AFPC maintains a database of 94 representative farms in 30 different states. That data, in conjunction with a farm-level policy simulation model, allows AFPC to analyze policy changes on farms and ranches across the country.

June 14, 2021

ROSSTON WOMAN KILLED IN ACCIDENT AT HOPE     
A head-on collision Friday afternoon on U.S. 278 in Hope killed an 84-year-old Rosston woman, according to another state police report.

Syble McAteer was a passenger in a 2019 Jeep that was eastbound on the highway about 2:46 p.m. when the vehicle was struck by a 2008 GMC Sierra traveling westbound, the report said.

Faith McAteer, 35, of Rosston, the driver of the Jeep, and Jesse Ryan, 23, of North Little Rock, the driver of the GMC, were both injured in the crash, according to the report.

Conditions at the time of the crash were clear and dry, the report said.       

DEMOCRAT NATALIE JAMES ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY FOR THE UNITED STATES SENATE WITH THE ENDORSEMENT OF DEMOCRATIC ELECTED OFFICIALS
June 14, 2021    
Little Rock, AR --- Arkansas native, small business owner, and community advocate Natalie James will be announcing her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for United States Senate.

Natalie James announces her candidacy with a three-day, nine-city tour across Arkansas, making stops in Little Rock, Conway, Fayetteville, Texarkana, El Dorado, Camden, Forrest City, West Memphis, and Pine Bluff.
 

COTTON, MCCONNELL, COLLEAGUES INTRODUCE BILL TO DEFUND 1619 PROJECT CURRICULUM
Washington, D.C. — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama), and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) reintroduced the Saving American History Act, legislation to prohibit the use of federal funds to teach the 1619 Project by K-12 schools or school districts. Schools that teach the 1619 Project would also be ineligible for federal professional-development grants. Bill text may be found here.

Representatives Ken Buck (R-Colorado) and Rick Allen (R-Georgia) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Activists in schools want to teach our kids to hate America and hate each other using discredited, Critical Race Theory curricula like the 1619 Project. Federal funds should not pay for activists to masquerade as teachers and indoctrinate our youth,” said Cotton.

“High-quality civics education is vital to the health of our democracy,” said McConnell. “Debunked activist propaganda that seeks to divide has no place in American classrooms and no right to taxpayer funding. I’m proud to join in sponsoring this legislation on behalf of our youngest citizens and generations yet to come.”

“The heart of the 1619 Project’s central claim and key parts of its framework have been disputed by respected scholars and historians, and rightfully so. It has no business in our classrooms in Arkansas and across the country. This misguided and academically suspect curriculum represents the exact opposite of what we should be encouraging educators to instruct and promote – accurate and contextual understanding of our past along with the importance of civic engagement, cooperation and the significance of the shared values that set our country apart and above,” said Boozman.

“American schools should be a place for education—not indoctrination,” said Blackburn. “The 1619 Project is based on false narrative and stack of lies about our country. This state sponsored anti-American propaganda must be kept out of the classroom. The Saving American History Act ensures that taxpayer funding will not subsidize the brainwashing of our nation’s future.”

“The 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory are efforts to rewrite the history of our country, ignoring the many things that have made America great. I’m proud to work with my colleague Tom Cotton to keep taxpayer dollars from funding this,” said Lummis.

“I have significant concerns with the Department of Education’s recent effort to reorient the bipartisan American History and Civics Education programs away from their intended purposes towards a politicized and divisive agenda,” said Tillis. “Americans do not want their tax dollars going towards promoting radical ideologies meant to divide us instead of being used to promote the principles that unite our nation. Our students deserve a rigorous understanding of civics and American history, to understand both our successes and failures as a nation. I do not support diverting tax-payer resources towards promoting ideological and misleading depictions of our Nation’s history and I am proud to work on this important legislation with my colleagues to address this issue.”

“When done right, education is the key to freedom. By expediting the use of the 1619 Project, our schools are coming perilously close to cementing existing inequality, rather than giving kids the chance to escape it. The U.S. government should not spend a single taxpayer dollar to teach children to dislike their country. I’m proud to cosponsor this legislation so that our schools can encourage the open debate of ideas and teach important morals to our students,” said Tuberville.

“Critical Race Theory is dangerous, anti-American, and has no place in our nation’s schools. School curriculum plays a critical role in a child’s development and greatly influences the type of adult they will become. Children shouldn’t be taught that they will be treated differently or will be racist because of their skin color,” said Buck.

“The 1619 Project aims to indoctrinate our students into believing that America is an evil country, and there is no room for that in our classrooms. We must teach our young folks to learn from our nation’s past in order to form a more perfect union. Teaching revisionist history and promoting divisive ideology will not move our nation forward. This legislation will ensure federal dollars are used to provide our children with historically accurate curriculum,” said Allen.

Background:
Senator Cotton first introduced  the Saving American History Act in July of 2020.

The 1619 Project is a revisionist history project of the New York Times widely criticized by historians.

Despite major criticism of the project, schools around the country have begun incorporating the 1619 Project into their curricula. So far, schools or school districts in Chicago; Newark, N.J.; Buffalo, N.Y., and Washington, D.C. have all reportedly announced 1619 Project-related programs.
 

CAMDEN NOON LION’S CLUB TO MEET
The Camden Noon Lion’s Club will meet Wednesday at Catherine’s Bistro. The speaker this week will be Tonya McKenzie with the Ouachita County Extension Service.  She will be giving and update on what program they are offering this summer.

June 11, 2021

HIGHWAY PATROL TROOP L COMMANDER NAMED BY ASP DIRECTOR & COMMISSION; SERGEANT PROMOTIONS APPROVED
JUNE 10, 2021
The Arkansas State Police Commission has approved recommendations for promotions during a regularly scheduled meeting of the commissioners today.  The recommendations were presented to the commission by Colonel Bill Bryant, Director of the Arkansas State Police.

 Lieutenant Scott Russell, 54, of Grant County, was promoted to the rank of captain and will assume commander duties within the Highway Patrol Division, Troop L, headquartered in Lowell. Captain Russell is an 18 year state police veteran and most recently has been assigned as commander of CID, Company A, headquartered at Little Rock.

Corporal Jay McAllister, 34, of Saline County, was promoted to the rank of sergeant. He is a ten year veteran of the department. Sergeant McAllister will assume post supervisory duties within the department’s Highway Patrol Division, Troop A, headquartered at Little Rock.

Trooper First Class Wade Schanzlin, 43, of Ouachita County, was promoted to the rank of sergeant.  He is a seven year veteran of the department.  Sergeant Schanzlin will assume post supervisory duties within the department’s Highway Patrol Division, Troop F headquartered at Warren.

 

CAREER OFFENDER SENTENCED TO 12 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR DRUG TRAFFICKING
FORT SMITH – A Berryville man was sentenced yesterday to 151 months in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release on one count of Distribution of a Controlled Substance methamphetamine. The Honorable Judge P.K Holmes, III, presided over the sentencing hearing in the United States District Court in Fort Smith.

According to court documents, In July of 2020, Homeland Security Investigations Fayetteville initiated an investigation into James Russell Clark, 37, for drug trafficking offenses in the Western District of Arkansas. On July 9, 2020, investigators were able to conduct a controlled purchase of methamphetamine from Clark at his residence.  The methamphetamine purchased was subsequently sent to the Department of Homeland Security Laboratory in Savannah, Georgia and tested positive for methamphetamine.  Clark was also held accountable at sentencing for possessing a firearm on July 18, 2020, following a traffic stop by the Berryville Police Department.  Clark is a multi-convicted felon and prohibited from possessing firearms.  

Acting U.S. Attorney David Clay Fowlkes of the Western District of Arkansas made the announcement.

Homeland Security Investigations Fayetteville investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Harris prosecuted the case.

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.
 

HILAND NAMED DPS CHIEF COUNSEL
JUNE 11, 2021
Cody Hiland, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, has been named Chief Legal Counsel for the Arkansas Department of Public Safety, Secretary Jami Cook announced today. Hiland, of Conway, will assume the duties of leading the DPS legal staff effective Monday, June 14th.

 “Cody’s experience as a U.S. Attorney and 20th Judicial District prosecuting attorney is an ideal fit in representing the Department of Public Safety operations. Cody has proven himself as an advocate for the people of our state and a champion of those who are called to serve and protect the citizens,” said Secretary Cook.

The Arkansas Department of Public Safety encompasses six divisions:
Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards & Training
Arkansas State Police
Arkansas Division of Emergency Management
Arkansas Crime Information Center
Arkansas State Crime Laboratory
Arkansas Crime Victims Reparations Board

In a statement to Secretary Cook, Hiland said, “These are challenging times for the men and women who faithfully serve our state in the arena of public safety. It will be a privilege to work with these exceptional public servants and I hope to serve and defend them as well as they protect and serve the people of this state.”
 

USACE, USDA-ARS HOST RIBBON CUTTING FOR PILOT GROUNDWATER PROJECT
VICKSBURG, Miss. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS); U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Mississippi Valley Division; and USACE Vicksburg District hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for a pilot Groundwater Transfer and Injection Project near Shellmound, Mississippi, June 8.

The ceremony was held at the project site and included remarks from Archie Tucker, USDA-ARS, Southeast Area Director; Maj. Gen. Diana Holland, USACE Mississippi Valley Division Commanding General; Col. Robert Hilliard, USACE Vicksburg District Commander; Chris Wells, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Executive Director and Governor's Delta Sustainable Water Resources Task Force; Dr. Daniel Wren, USDA-ARS, Civil Engineer; and Dr. James R. Rigby, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

“We are thankful to Congress for the generous funding of the GTIP,” said Tucker. “If found successful, this pilot project will be a model to be emulated in other areas of the Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer (MRVAA). USDA-ARS scientists at the National Sedimentation Laboratory worked with USGS and others to conduct a study and select a pilot site which pumps groundwater near the Tallahatchie River approximately two miles to an injection site at the edge of the cone of depression in the MRVAA.”

The project is intended to determine if managed aquifer recharge can be an environmentally and hydrologically sustainable technology for increasing water levels and volume stored in the MRVAA in the Mississippi Delta. USDA-ARS plans to operate the wells for six-to-nine months to collect data during the project’s research phase.

The project was initiated and developed in conjunction with the State of Mississippi Governor’s Delta Sustainable Water Resources Task Force, an interagency collaboration between the USDA-ARS, USACE, MDEQ, USGS, Yazoo Mississippi Delta Joint Water Management District, Mississippi Soil and Water Conservation Commission, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, USDA – National Resource Conservation Service, Delta Council, and Delta Farmers Advocating Resource Management to address the sustainability of pumping withdrawals in the MRVAA.

“The success of this project wouldn’t have been possible without the diligent efforts of USDA-ARS, our USACE team members and interagency partners,” said Hilliard. “We look forward to seeing the research findings of this pilot program and continuing this partnership to provide high-quality water resources management services to the region.”

USACE assisted with the project’s construction, real estate, and environmental design and worked with the USDA-ARS National Sedimentation Laboratory to develop the project’s proof of concept which provided the project’s funding.

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 nine 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.

 

ARKANSAS INSURANCE DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES REMOTE TESTING FOR PROSPECTIVE INSURANCE PRODUCERS
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (June 11, 2021)– The Arkansas Insurance Department (AID) announces that Arkansans seeking certification as insurance producers will soon be able take their insurance exams remotely.

Later this month, exams for prospective insurance producers can be scheduled to be taken at home, at the office, or any secure location via AID’s third-party testing partner, PSI Services, in addition to ongoing in-person testing at locations across Arkansas. Exams can be scheduled starting June 23.

AID’s efforts to help launch online, proctored insurance producer exams support the agency’s work to strengthen the insurance industry while providing increased opportunities to Arkansas' rural population.

“Until now, prospective insurance producers had to allot time and money traveling to testing centers, which could be a hindrance for rural residents,” said Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Alan McClain. “Remote testing will generate greater access and convenience, as well as enhanced economic opportunity for prospective insurance producers, while continuing to maintain industry standards for professionalism.”

The insurance industry remains a vital part of Arkansas' economy. The Arkansas Insurance Department regulates approximately 1,585 insurance companies and more than 160,000 insurance producers. In 2020, Arkansas insurers generated more than $18 billion in total written premium volume.

Additional details including testing requirements, ID requirements, PSI testing policies, and more will be available soon.

To check the status of an Arkansas insurance producer’s license, visit us here.  For other questions regarding licensing, you may call 501-371-2750 or visit us at www.insurance.arkansas.gov.
 

BOOZMAN LEADS EFFORTS TO CREATE FLEXIBLE FEDERAL SUMMER MEAL PROGRAMS
Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act Aims to Help More Arkansas Children in Need
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is applying lessons learned from the pandemic as he leads efforts to modernize existing federal child nutrition programs. The Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act would increase flexibility for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program, which offers children free lunches and snacks in the summer, allowing more kids in need the ability to participate.

The bill provides states additional options to reach hungry children in communities without a centralized feeding site during the summer, some of which mirror authorities Congress established to help the USDA carry out this mission while students were learning virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The flexibilities Congress granted during the pandemic offer a good recipe for how to successfully serve more children in need. We want to ensure that all options—from off-site, grab-and-go models, to home delivery, to electronic benefits transfer—remain on the table,” Boozman, lead Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, said.

June 10, 2021

THIRD ARKANSAS PHYSICIAN SENTENCED TO FEDERAL PRISON FOR PRESCRIPTION FRAUD
FORT SMITH – A Fort Smith physician, Donald E. Hinderliter, was sentenced today to 4 years in federal prison followed by 1 year of supervised release on one count of Distribution of a Controlled Substance without an Effective Prescription. The Honorable Judge P. K. Holmes III presided over the sentencing hearing in the U.S. District Court in Fort Smith.

According to court documents, Hinderliter, 85, of Fort Smith, pleaded guilty to a felony Information charging unlawful distribution of a controlled substance namely, alprazolam. From approximately January 2016 and through November 8, 2018, Hinderliter was an owner and practitioner at Hinderliter Pain Clinic that operated as a pain management clinic in Barling, Arkansas. In May 2017, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) received several anonymous complaints that Hinderliter was operating a “pill mill” under the name Hinderliter Pain Clinic. The complaints stated that Hinderliter and his associate, Dr. Cecil W. Gaby, charged cash, prescribed hydrocodone and benzodiazepines in the same amount to patients regardless of a particular patient’s prognosis or need, and that patients traveled great distances within the state of Arkansas and surrounding states seeking large quantities and dangerous combinations of oxycodone, hydrocodone, alprazolam, and methadone, among other controlled substances. As part of the plea, Hinderliter admitted that he prescribed opioids and benzodiazepines to more than 150 individuals, often not for a legitimate medical purpose and not in the usual course of professional practice. Specifically, on October 17, 2016, Hinderliter prescribed 84 alprazolam 2mg pills, a Schedule IV controlled substance to a patient that was not for a legitimate medical purpose and not in the usual course of professional practice.

On May 27, 2021, Dr. Cecil W. Gaby was sentenced to 120 months imprisonment for his role in the Hinderliter Pain Clinic and Gaby Medical Clinic in Fort Smith, Arkansas. On the same date, Dr. Robin Cox was sentenced to 36 months imprisonment for distribution of opioid medications outside legitimate medical practice at an unrelated clinic in Rogers, Arkansas.

U.S. Attorney David Clay Fowlkes of the Western District of Arkansas made the announcement.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), DEA Diversion Little Rock, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS), Arkansas State Medical Board and the Fort Smith Police Department investigated the case.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Gardner and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Carter prosecuted the case for the United States.

PULASKI COUNTY CRP TO MEMORIALIZE JOHN CARTER: 1927 LYNCHING VICTIM
Little Rock, AR -- The APJMM Pulaski County Community Remembrance Project will erect a memorial historic marker in commemoration and respect for the life of John Carter, a Black man who was lynched on May 4, 1927, by an angry white mob, near what is now known as the intersection of 12th Street, Kanis Road, and Rodney Parham Road.  The ceremony, which is the second of its kind in the State of Arkansas after the Washington County CRP erected the first in May 2021, will be held at the Haven of Rest Cemetery near that same intersection.

Clarice Abdul-Bey, the event coordinator said that the public event will be held on Sunday, June 13, 2021, beginning at 2 P.M., and will be followed by a high school racial justice essay contest at the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site.  SHe also explained that the original ceremony was scheduled for May of 2020, but had to be rescheduled because of the pandemic.

John Carter is believed to be the last known documented racial terror lynching in Pulaski County.  His murder was precipitated by a false allegation that Carter had physically assaulted a White woman and her daughter.  Actually, he successfully calmed down a runaway, out-of-control horse that had frightened the ladies.  After he was hung and his body was riddled with over 100 bullets, the rope to hang him to tied to the back bumper of a car and he was dung in a parade up to Markham Street to Broadway and finally to 9th Street, then the heart of Little Rock's thriving Black business district known as the line.  There, the mob broke into the Bethel A.M.E. Church, stole the pews, stacked them in the intersection, placed John Carter's body on top and set the pile on fire.  No one was ever arrested and charged with his murder nor the following mayhem and property destruction.

The Pulaski County CRP is a project of the Arkansas Peace & Justice Memorial Movement (APJMM) where they have gathered together nearly two dozen organizations throughout central Arkansas to work together with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to place historical markers at the site of all the known incidents of racialized terror lynchings in the county.  The membership in the CRP includes Just Communities of Arkansas, the Washitaw Foothills Youth Media Arts & Literacy Collective, Pulaski County government, Little Rock government, Congressman French Hill's office, Senator John Boozman's office, the UA-Little Rock Department of History, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the Central Arkansas Library System, the Arkansas State Conference of the NAACP, the Urban League of the State of Arkansas, the Black History Commission of Arkansas, the Friends of Haven of Rest Cemetery, and the LRCHS National Historic Site.

This event is open to the public, following COVID-19 guidelines.  It will also be live streamed.  Pre-registration is required for the livestream and can be done at: https://APJMM.news/JohnCarterMemorialMarker2021.

 

BOOZMAN STATEMENT ON BIDEN ADMINISTRATION’S REPEAL OF COMMONSENSE WATER RULE
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman released the following statement in response to the Biden administration’s announcement of the repeal of the Navigable Waters Protection rule to define Waters of the United States (WOTUS):

“Eliminating the certainty of the Trump-era WOTUS rule threatens the livelihoods of hardworking Americans. The idea that Washington bureaucrats are better positioned than state and local jurisdictions to regulate water quality is an attack on farmers, ranchers and homeowners. I will continue to defend the current rule and fight this Biden administration power grab.”

In January, Boozman and senate Republicans introduced a resolution in support of upholding the Navigable Waters Protection rule. As a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), Boozman repeatedly fought against the Obama-era WOTUS rule and advocated for water rules that provide certainty for agriculture producers and all landowners.

 

COTTON STATEMENT ON EPA DECISION TO ABANDON NAVIGABLE WATER PROTECTION RULE
Washington, D.C. – Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) released the statement below following the Biden administration’s announcement that the Environmental Protection Agency would abandon the Navigable Water Protection rule and seek additional regulations.

 “The Navigable Water Protection rule secured our nation’s clean water supply without punishing homeowners, small businesses, and ag producers. The Biden EPA’s decision to abandon the rule is a political move designed to pacify radical environmentalists and to expand federal control, at the expense of Arkansans. We’ve fought this battle before and won—we can do it again.”


COTTON, COLLEAGUES INTRODUCE LI WENLIANG GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH ACCOUNTABILITY ACT
Washington, D.C. — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Rick Scott (R-Florida), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), and James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) reintroduced the Li Wenliang Global Public Health Accountability Act, legislation to authorize the president to sanction foreign officials who suppress or distort information about international public health crises, including Covid-19. Bill text may be found here.

“Dr. Li tried to warn his country and the world about the coronavirus, but was silenced by the Chinese Communist Party. By hiding the truth about the virus, the CCP turned a regional health problem into a global catastrophe that has killed millions. To honor Dr. Li, our bill seeks to punish foreign officials responsible for suppressing information about international health crises, including the Wuhan virus,” said Cotton.

“Doctors and scientists across the world deserve robust protections that allow them to sound the alarm on international public health concerns without fear of government suppression,” said Tillis. “Dr. Li Wenliang heroically tried to warn Chinese citizens about COVID-19, only to be silenced by the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party until his tragic death. The Chinese government must be held accountable so no other nation feels emboldened to cover-up a public health crisis that can turn into a global pandemic. I am proud to work with my colleagues on this commonsense legislation.”

“Throughout the past year, we saw Communist China lie and spread propaganda in an attempt to cover up a global pandemic, silencing any and all who dared speak the truth. This legislation will give the United States the authority to sanction any foreign official who suppresses or distorts information about global health, like the Chinese Communist Government did. When lives are at risk, we can’t take any chances,” said Scott.

“The American people and the entire world deserve to know the origins of this pandemic, which China continues to cover up. We need to ensure there are real consequences for foreign officials who try to cover up their country’s role in an international crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic going forward,” said Daines.

“The Chinese Communist Party silenced Dr. Li and many others for attempting to speak the truth about the coronavirus outbreak and China’s involvement. Meanwhile, they stood by as the virus spread around the world – resulting in loss of life and loss of livelihood for millions. These actions by foreign governments to suppress those who provide pertinent information about public health crises are unacceptable, and they must be held accountable to the fullest extent,” said Blackburn.

“The Chinese government’s efforts to suppress information about the coronavirus ultimately led to this pandemic,” said Lankford. “The Chinese Communist Party detained and arrested doctors who raised concerns instead of sharing information with the world and working collaboratively to contain the disease. We must hold foreign governments accountable, including China, for attempting to suppress information about public health emergencies, especially if that information can help prevent the loss of American lives.”

Background:
Senator Cotton first introduced the Li Wenliang Global Public Health Accountability Act in May of 2020.

The Li Wenliang Global Public Health Accountability Act is sanctions legislation modeled after the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

It would authorize the president to sanction foreign officials who suppress or distort information about international public health crises, including the coronavirus. 

These sanctions include inadmissibility to the United States, revocation of existing U.S. visas, and the blocking of all property within the United States. 

This legislation would provide Congress with the authority to request that the president review specific foreign officials for sanctions eligibility. Within 120 days of receiving such a request, the president must report to Congress on whether he/she intends to impose sanctions.

Last year, Senator Cotton introduced a resolution honoring Dr. Li’s bravery and sacrifice. The resolution passed on March 3, 2020.

June 09, 2021

CITY OF CAMDEN BOARD ALDERMEN MEET
The City of Camden Board of Aldermen met in regular session Tuesday, June 8th, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building located at 206 Van Buren ST in Camden.

Mayor Lott called the meeting to order at promptly 7:00 pm. The Invocation was given by Rev. Ellis Hogan, Pastor of the Jerusalem Baptist Church, Fordyce, AR Resides and 543 W Washington in Camden.   The Invocation was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

City Clerk Donna Stewart called the roll. Aldermen Aregood, Askew, Moore, Smith and McCoy were in attendance. Aldermen Bell, Lindsey and McDonald were absent.

The Minutes of the Regular Meeting from May 13, 2021, were presented in print. The was a motion to approve and a second. There was no discussion. The minutes were approved by unanimous vote.

The Financial Report for May 2021 was presented in print. A motion to approve and seconded. There was no discussion. The financial report was approved by unanimous vote.

During the Audienc Participation portion of the agenda, several residents spoke regarding the condition of Omega Street. The street runs between Timothy Methodist Church and the Park the Timothy Methodist maintains. Benny Morgan, the Pastor of Timothy Methodist stated that the street has had “band-aids” put on it for years but that wasn’t solving the problem. He stated he gets lots of complaints from those that use the Park. H.A. DeWoody who owns property on Omega stated that the Park is very nice and is used by people of all races from all over the city at all hours. It is a nice park with a walking trail lined by beautiful landscape. People feel it is a safe place to go. The Park costs the City nothing but the street by the park is an issue. Blane Marler stated that the County portion has been redone and is in pretty good shape, but the city hasn’t done anything but repeatedly patch the street. David Slocum, an Omega Street resident, stated the street has been in a mess since he has lived there 36 years.
 

The Mayor reported that Juneteenth Celebrations are upcoming. He asked that the Alderman as well as citizens come out to support the Community in this time of Celebration and show their support. He asked that people help clean up their communities.

Fire Chief Ron Nash gave an update on Outside Fire Contract.  A number of other Fire Departments have been questioned as to how they handle outside contracts. He handed out information he had gathered from other Departments and asked that the Aldermen look them over. The City is looking for a good Contract to use for those that the Department leaves the City Limits to assist. This will be an ongoing process until all the details are hammered out and agreed upon.

In old business, Resolution No. 27-21, a resolution amending the budget for 2021; and for other purposes.  Motion made and seconded. The resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution No. 32-21, a resolution authorizing the Mayor to pay an incentive bonus to Public Works Employees was up next. Motion made and seconded. There was some discussion. City Attorney Frey stated that whatever bonus is given will be considered income regardless of amount. Alderman Askew made motion to amend the bonus from $25.00 to $100.00. The Resolution with the amendment passed unanimously.

The first item in the new business portion of the meeting was Resolution No. 34-21, a resolution confirming the appointment of Stacey Breland to the Planning Commission/Board of Adjustments. Motion made and seconded. No discussion. Passed unanimously.

Resolution No. 35-21, a resolution approving the appointment of Lauren Robertson as the City Treasurer. Motion made and seconded. No discussion. Passed unanimously.

Resolution No. 36-21, a resolution confirming the appointment of Richard Mosley to complete J. Paul Hardwick’s term on the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. Motion made and seconded. No discussion. Passed unanimously.

Resolution No. 37-21, a resolution amending the budget for 2021; appropriating funds for overtime in the Public Works Department; and for other purposes. Motion made and seconded. There was a lengthy discussion regarding the pool. Due to Covid, lack of anyone willing to come work on the equipment and cost will keep the pool closed this summer. The Aldermen will be looking at ways to fix the pool and get it in good shape to re-open in the future. The Resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution No. 38-21, a resolution confirming the appointment of Jason Fletcher to the Airport Commission; and for other purposes; Motion made and seconded. No discussion. Passed unanimously.

Resolution No. 39-21, a resolution confirming the appointment of Charles Gaston to the Airport commission as an Ex-Officio Member. Motion made and seconded. No discussion. Passed unanimously.

The meeting adjourned at 8:27. The next scheduled meeting is July 13, 2021.
 

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: POTENTIAL FOR FRAUD AND LONG-TERM FINANCIAL STRESS DUE TO STUDENT LOANS
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas college students are in the early stages of preparing for the school year in August and some are applying for student loans. It is important to always read the fine print and be cautious of scammers trying to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. There are some key items that every student should know before agreeing to a loan that often takes decades to repay.

“A student loan should be a short-time obligation to give students an opportunity to be successful,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Unfortunately, these loans are too often carried over for decades and hold our best and brightest back from making investments or taking risks as entrepreneurs.”

Attorney General Rutledge has provided the following tips for students considering taking out a student loan:

Make sure you understand your loan. Before taking out a loan, make sure you understand the repayment terms and other obligations of the loan, interest rates and how they will be applied to the loan, and where to find your balance and payment schedule after you graduate. For federal loans, visit the National Student Loan Data System (nslds.ed.gov).

Take advantage of the grace period. Oftentimes, there is a grace period after you graduate or stop attending a college or university. It is important to know how long the grace period is and whether interest will be charged during the grace period. Grace periods allow you to get your “feet on the ground” while making a plan to repay the loan.

Know your re-payment options. Every loan is different and some offer the chance to change payment options based on your income rather than a set monthly amount. In some cases, if you are going through a financial hardship, there is the ability to temporarily defer payments.

Be wary of loan consolidation and refinance offers. Many companies offer loan refinance options, but may not provide the promised service or might provide services that consumers can access for no cost. Consumers should learn all details about any loan refinance offer before enrolling in one.

Check your credit report to see all of your education debts, including federal and private student loans.

Consider part-time work, work-study, and all scholarships available to limit student debt to as little as possible. 

For more information, the Arkansas Student Loan Authority can be contacted here or at 800-443-6030 or visit ArkansasAG.gov.

June 08, 2021

SAAC ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR FALL PLAY DIRECTOR 
SAAC is currently accepting applications for director for the fall 2021 production of “Clue: On Stage”. Performances will be held October 22-31. The classic board game is brought to life in this madcap play, in which six guests are invited to a dinner party thrown by an anonymous host. They are given aliases--Colonel Mustard, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock, Professor Plum, and Miss Scarlet. What follows is a slapstick evening full of murder, mystery, and laughs as they seek to puzzle out the culprit amongst criminals.

 Interested individuals should supply a letter of intent, resume, and a short production proposal. Qualified applicants need experience in their area interest and a working knowledge of community theatre. They should have experience working with all ranges of talent, including beginners. Application deadline is June 30, 2021. All applications should be sent to SAAC, 110 East 5th Street, El Dorado, AR 71730, ATTN: Executive Director or emailed to Laura Allen at laura@saac-arts.org.

For more information, contact the SAAC office at 870-862-5474. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas.


WESTERMAN INTRODUCES BIPARTISAN BILL TO FAST TRACK TREATMENTS FOR LIFE-THREATENING CONDITIONS
WASHINGTON – Today, Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AR) joined Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA) to introduce the Promising Pathway Act, a bill that would increase access to treatments for those with life-threatening illnesses.

“For far too long, red tape has prevented patients with terminal conditions from finding necessary therapies,” said Rep. Westerman. “The Promising Pathway Act will allow innovative therapies with positive clinical trial data to treat patients outside the FDA’s rigid trial requirements and spark competition between smaller and larger pharmaceutical companies. I am grateful for the opportunity to work in a bipartisan fashion to help patients across the country get the help they desperately need.”

“Giving patients access to potentially life-saving drugs is a common-sense way to help individuals receive the care they need,” said Rep. Gallagher. “This bill prioritizes patient’s lives, promotes innovation, and cuts through the bureaucratic red tape that can slow down the approval process. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation in the House.”

“Millions of Americans are touched by the fight against neurodegenerative diseases and too many face unnecessary barriers in the path to treatment,” said Rep. Quigley. “This legislation will enable patients who have been diagnosed with diseases like ALS, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s to access innovative drugs and hopefully improve their lives as they confront life-threatening conditions.”

“The Promising Pathway Act would not only allow for rare and potentially fatal disease patients to get treatment faster, but it would also bolster our ability to respond to diseases that pose a potential epidemic or pandemic threat,” said Rep. Swalwell. “If we’ve learned anything from the past year, it is that agility is necessary for combatting public health crises. I am proud to join my colleagues in re-introducing this bipartisan bill that brings us one step closer to finding cures for those with conditions like ALS and cancer, while also strengthening our response to future pandemics.”

Background:
Phase III trials are extremely time-consuming and expensive, in some cases costing billions of dollars. Small pharmaceutical companies attempting to bring innovative drugs to market and compete with large drug companies can go bankrupt during Phase III trial, if the FDA determines a drug doesn’t meet its standards of safety or effectiveness. The Promising Pathway Act increases competition by allowing smaller companies to bring their life-saving treatments to market faster, while giving them the opportunity to raise money to complete further clinical trials.

Specifically, The Promising Pathway Act would allow pharmaceutical companies to petition FDA for a short-term provisional approval if the drug has cleared early stage clinical trials, has already proven safety, and shows significant evidence of effectiveness. The company could then sell their drug at a market acceptable rate, give patients access to innovative treatments, and compete with larger pharmaceutical companies to lower consumer cost.

To read the full text of the Promising Pathway Act, click here. U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) introduced a companion bill in the Senate on May 13, 2021.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) utilizes three phases for the clinical trial process for prescription drugs. Early clinical trials (Phases I and II) establish and confirm safety while providing a considerable amount of data, often enough to statistically predict successful confirmatory trials. Confirmatory trials (Phase III) further test effectiveness and are the last step to a drug entering the market for patients’ use under a New Drug Application or Biologics License Application approval.
 

BOOZMAN PRAISES AIR FORCE’S COMMITMENT TO ARKANSAS
Senator Applauds Recent Missions Awarded to Natural State During Hearing with USAF Leaders
WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) commended Air Force leaders for selecting Fort Smith as home for the Foreign Military Sales F-35 Squadron and the Singapore Air Force F-16 Squadron.

“Secretary Roth we appreciated your phone call last week regarding the basing of the F-35s and the Singapore Air Force F-16s. That was good news,” Boozman said during a Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. “It’s good for the area, but that really is the best decision for the country.

Last week the Air Force announced the selection of Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith to host the future F-35 fighter planes and Singapore F-16 Squadron. The decision came on the heels of the announcement that the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base was selected as the new home of the Air National Guard’s C-130J Super Hercules training program.

Boozman is a co-chairman of the Senate Air Force Caucus where he actively works with Members of Congress and Air Force leaders to ensure the U.S. has the resources and tools to maintain air superiority.June 08, 2021

June 07, 2021

THE CAMDEN JUNETEENTH CELEBRATION WILL MAKE ITS TRIUMPHANT RETURN FROM JUNE 18-20! 
Camden, AR - Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19 that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

JUNETEENTH PARADE AND KIDS BLOCK PARTY
Saturday, June 18 – 6-9 p.m. (Line up at 5 p.m.)
Homecoming Parade Route: Line up near the Post Office on Washington Street. The Route will go down to Adams, take a right, and then another right on Jackson Street. The parade will end at the corner of Jackson and Pope Street. The Kids Block party will start at Fred Owens Barbershop on California Street immediately after the parade.

JUNETEENTH TAILGATE 
Saturday June 19 – 4 p.m. at Carnes Park
Calling all Greek Organizations, Civic Clubs, Churches and kids to bring out their tents for a peaceful summer event to make up for all of the College Homecomings, Picnics, and reunions COVID cost us last year. Vendors will be in attendance. 

JUNETEENTH CAR SHOW
Sunday June 20 – 5 p.m. at Carnes Park
This year's Car Show and concert will be hosted by Camden's own Ray Rashad and Mike Mike from the ROCKing da Mic Podcast. DJ G-Worth will be on the 1's and 2's with trophies 1st place and runner up trophies given out in a variety of categories. There is a $20 fee for contestants. 

While things are better in terms of the pandemic, we ask that if you are feeling sick you be mindful of others and stay at home. Also, social distancing is still encouraged. 

This is a peaceful and free event

For more information, visit facebook.com/camdenjuneteenth
 

ASP/CID INVESTIGATING GREEN FOREST OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTING  
JUNE 5, 2021
A Carroll County man is dead following an officer involved shooting in Green Forest today.  Green Forest law enforcement authorities have asked the Arkansas State Police to investigate the incident.

Shortly before 8 AM a Green Forest police officer was dispatched to an apartment at 408 South Thorne Avenue.  Three roommates of Maung Tway, 34, of Green Forest, reported to police that Tway was creating a disturbance and asked police to remove him from the apartment.

As a police officer asked Tway to step-out of his bedroom, Tway opened the door wielding a large knife.  The officer ordered Tway to drop the knife, but Tway continued to approach the police officer brandishing the knife.  Despite the officer’s continued commands for Tway to drop the knife and stop, Tway still moved toward the officer who then fired his pistol wounding Tway.

Tway was transported to a Berryville hospital where he died.  His body has been transported to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory where the state medical examiner will confirm the manner and cause of death.

Special Agents of the state police Criminal Investigation Division will prepare an investigative case file to the Carroll County prosecuting attorney who will decide if the use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer was consistent with Arkansas laws.

Any questions about the identity of the Green Forest police officer or the administrative status of the officer should be directed to the Green Forest Police Department.
 

LONOKE COUNTY MAN CHARGED IN 2020 HIT & RUN DEATH
JUNE 4, 2021
A Lonoke County man has been arrested by Arkansas State Police following a year-long investigation into the hit and run death of a jogger along U.S. Highway 70 in North Little Rock.

Jason Jackson, 35, of Lonoke is charged with Leaving the Scene of an Accident Involving Personal Injury or Death.  He was arrested at the Lonoke County Probation Office on Tuesday (June 1st) by Special Agents of the state police Criminal Investigation Division.

The felony charge against Jackson stems from the death of Ervin Brendel, 51, of North Little Rock, who was jogging alongside the highway near Harris Road, east of Interstate 440 on April 21, 2020.  Brendel’s body was discovered the next day.  State police special agents assigned to the case maintain Brendel died from injuries sustained when he was struck by a vehicle driven by Jackson.

Jackson was initially incarcerated by Arkansas State Police at the Lonoke County Detention Center, but later transferred to the Pulaski County Detention Center.

June 04, 2021

CITY OF CAMDEN BOARD OF ALDERMEN TO MEET
The City of Camden Board of Aldermen will meet in regular session Tuesday, June 8th, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building located at 206 Van Buren ST in Camden.

Social distancing will be practiced and a face covering is required.

The Agenda is as follows:

A. CALL TO ORDER

B. INVOCATION – Rev. Ellis Hogan, Pastor – Jerusalem Baptist Church, Fordyce, AR Resides: 543 W Washington, Camden, Arkansas          

C. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

D. ROLL CALL

E. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
1. Minutes of Regular Meeting May 13, 2021

F. ACCEPTANCE OF FINANCIAL REPORT
1. Financial Report for May 2021

G. AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION

H. MAYOR’S REPORT
1. Ron Nash, Camden Fire Chief- Update on Outside Fire Contract

I. OLD BUSINESS
1. Resolution No. 27-21, a resolution amending the budget for 2021; and for other purposes.  
2. Resolution No. 32-21, a resolution authorizing the Mayor to pay an incentive bonus to Public Works Employees.

J. NEW BUSINESS
1. Resolution No. 34-21, a resolution confirming the appointment of Stacey Breland to the Planning Commission/Board of Adjustments.
2. Resolution No. 35-21, a resolution approving the appointment of Lauren Robertson as the City Treasurer.
3. Resolution No. 36-21, a resolution confirming the appointment of Richard Mosley to complete J. Paul Hardwick’s term on the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners.
4. Resolution No. 37-21, a resolution amending the budget for 2021; appropriating funds for overtime in the Public Works Department; and for other purposes.
5. Resolution No. 38-21, a resolution confirming the appointment of Jason Fletcher to the Airport Commission; and for other purposes;
6. Resolution No. 39-21, a resolution confirming the appointment of Charles Gaston to the Airport commission as an Ex-Officio Member.

K. OTHER BUSINESS

L. ADJOURNMENT
 

CONSUMER ALERT: UNFAIR CLAIMS SETTLEMENT PRACTICES
McClain: Arkansans should know their rights as consumers
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (June 3, 2021) – Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Alan McClain released the following statement reminding insured Arkansans seeking automobile repairs that they have a choice:

“Consumers should know that insurers cannot require a claimant to have an automobile repaired at a specific repair shop. If an insurer inaccurately informs you that your vehicle’s coverage is contingent upon utilizing a particular preferred vendor, they are in violation of the law and will be subject to penalties.”

Under Arkansas law and Insurance Department Rules, consumers have a choice in where they get their vehicle repaired following an accident.  Under the Trade Practices Act of the State Insurance Code, an insurance company may not require that repairs be made by a particular contractor, supplier, or repair shop as a condition of payment of a claim, and doing so is an "unfair claims settlement practice."  Ark. Code Ann. §23-66-206(13)(O).  AID Rule 43 also governs such transactions.

While insurers may provide a list of preferred repair shops, consumers are not obligated to select one of those preferred vendors. Arkansas consumers maintain the freedom to choose the repair shop to which they take their vehicle.

McClain encourages Arkansans to know their rights as insurance consumers. “Our primary mission is consumer protection,” McClain said. “Please don't hesitate reach out to us at the Arkansas Insurance Department if you have complaints or questions regarding an insurance policy. We are here to protect you.”

For more information regarding AID Rule 43 regarding Unfair Claims Settlement Practices, visit here.

Consumers may file a complaint here.

For other questions regarding insurance, please visit insurance.arkansas.gov or call 800-852-5494

 

COTTON, HUTCHINSON, BOOZMAN, WOMACK APPLAUD SELECTION OF FORT SMITH FOR F-35 FIGHTER PLANES, SINGAPORE AIR FORCE SQUADRON
Washington, D.C. — Governor Asa Hutchinson (R-Arkansas), Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and John Boozman (R-Arkansas), and Congressman Steve Womack (R-Arkansas) applauded the U.S. Air Force announcement that Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith was selected as the home of future F-35 fighter planes and a Republic of Singapore F-16 squadron. 

“The selection committee recognized that Arkansas is one of the most military-friendly states in the nation. Our tax exemption for military retirement income and our licensing reciprocity initiatives are valuable tools for recruiting qualified employees and their families to Fort Smith. We have made significant progress toward building the most expansive fifth-generation airspace directly over Ebbing and an aerial range just four miles off the end of the runway. In my meeting with the Singaporean delegation and the U.S. Department of Defense, it was clear that they understood that Arkansas is a military friendly state and that the River Valley would wholeheartedly welcome the fighter-jet training. The support of our senators and representatives in Congress, and the members of the military affairs committee of AEDC were extremely helpful in winning this mission. We already are prepared to provide a first-rate quality of life for the families who will move here. Congratulations to Major General Kendall Penn, Colonel Leon Dodroe, 188th commander, other USAF leaders, the Air Force and the community leaders whose thoughtful efforts and hard work to sell Fort Smith landed a project that will pay dividends for years,” said Hutchinson.

“Fighter jets will return to the Arkansas River Valley, thanks to years of hard work by the Fort Smith community, our federal delegation, and the governor. Singapore’s F-16s and future F-35s will make good use of Arkansas’s strong workforce and excellent facilities. We’re all grateful that the Air Force and our friends from Singapore have chosen Fort Smith for this vital new national security mission,” said Cotton.

“This decision strengthens Arkansas’s role in our nation’s defense. I’m proud the U.S. Air Force and the Republic of Singapore recognized what we’ve known all along – Fort Smith is the ideal location for this mission. This is a win for the community and the entire state that was made possible in part thanks to the dedicated citizens who have tirelessly advocated the opportunities that exist here,” said Boozman.

“This decision reiterates what I have said from the start—Fort Smith is best positioned to take on this critical defense mission. Our strategic location, coupled with the River Valley’s airspace, strong infrastructure, and capable workforce, will allow us to seamlessly support our valued allies and the next generation of air combat capabilities. I’m proud the Air Force and Singapore recognized this confluence of attributes. Fort Smith has a long history of community support of our defenders, and we look forward to welcoming this cutting-edge fighter fleet to Arkansas,” said Womack.

For the past year, the elected officials have collaborated with state and community leaders to promote the unique capabilities and assets the Fort Smith region offers for military training and readiness. They’ve also urged the Federal Aviation Administration to expand military airspace which will provide more opportunities for specialized training.

On July 6, 2020, then-Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett signed a memorandum to establish a permanent Foreign Military Sales training center at a single location in the continental United States for up to 36 F-35 aircraft and a Republic of Singapore Air Force F-16 squadron. The same month it was announced that Fort Smith was one of five finalists to host this mission.

 

COTTON, CRAWFORD URGE PASSAGE OF AIM ACT FOLLOWING RUSSIAN CYBERATTACK
Washington, D.C – Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Representative Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas) released the following statement urging passage of their Agriculture Intelligence Measures (AIM) Act after JBS, the world’s largest meat processing company, suffered a cyberattack from a Russian gang:

“Without a safe and secure agriculture supply chain, the United States can’t reliably feed its people. This attack proves that our enemies will target that supply chain given the chance. The Department of Agriculture needs to better leverage the assets of the Intelligence Community to protect U.S. agriculture against similar attacks. Our AIM Act will help protect American food and technology from sabotage and espionage, and we urge our colleagues to pass it immediately.”
 

CHANGE IS HERE
By Senator Trent Garner, District 27

 One of the earliest political books I can remember reading was George Orwell’s satire, “Animal Farm.”

In the book, it isn’t an accident that pigs are depicted as the ruling class. Fat, dirty and selfish in the pursuit of power, pigs were the perfect metaphor for the kind of person who thought himself better than others. Since reading “Animal Farm” I have met real-world examples of “Squealer,” one of pig characters in the book. 

Years later, I saw the satire come to life. I served two tours in Afghanistan as a Special Forces Green Beret. During my tours, I had interactions with local officials. I can remember one warlord in particular. While most of the Afghan people are undernourished and skinny, he was obese. His expensive white robes strained to contain his bloated gut. He had an AK-47 strapped to his back, the strap knotted tight to hold the weapon to his body. 

More than his physical appearance, what struck me was the way he talked about the people he represented. He looked down on them. He often talked about how important he was, and how they would fall apart without his leadership. He said they would be nothing without him. He was a “Squealer” if ever there was one. 

In Arkansas, we have heard plenty from the Squealers of late. The major transition in our political system from a Democratic stronghold to Conservative bastion has snatched power from the Squealers.

In 2020 the voters of Arkansas sent a clear message – they want real, conservative elected officials. President Donald Trump won 62.4% of the votes cast in Arkansas. We are one of the states where he got more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016. 

In the state Senate, conservative Senator Dan Sullivan soundly defeated a less conservative opponent in a primary. Former Senator Bruce Maloch, who often touted himself as a conservative even with a voting record that wasn’t, was easily defeated by a real conservative, Senator Charles Beckham, in the general election.

The people of Arkansas took action and smart elected officials took notice. Our state and federal legislatures, the branches most accountable to the people, responded with conservative reforms. The last session of the General Assembly was one of the most conservative in our history. 

The Squealers, losing election after election, started making noise. Elitist and bullying in nature, the Squealers were used to having things their way. They had no problem selling out to special interests, at the expense of the people. They thrived on backroom deals done outside of the public’s sight. They loved it when the state government worked in their favor, not in the favor of the people. 

A coalition of Never Trumpers and failed Democrats created groups with nice sounding names that conceal their power-hungry agenda. The mainstream media ran opinion pieces representing the smallest minorities.

Nowhere have we seen a better example of a Squealer than Rex Nelson.

A regular contributor to Arkansas media outlets, he opines regularly about his biased perception of the decline of the General Assembly. He compares our current legislature to a mythical version of past General Assemblies. He decries how extreme it has gotten. In his squealing way, he even resorts to school yard insults, calling the House and Senate Know Nothings and cowards. 

Let’s look at the type of men and women that Rex seems to admire in public office. He praises the legislature of old. What he failed to mention was the rampant corruption in those days. 

In his book “Inside the Arkansas Legislature, Bill “Scoop” Lancaster, a former chief of staff for the Senate, detailed examples of sweetheart deals and outright bribes that were common in the legislature.

It was a known practice for lawyers in the legislature to be paid “legal fees” from clients with legislative agendas. Many of the qualities that Rex seems to exalt were found in former Senators Paul Bookout, Senator Jeremy Hutchinson and Senator Jake Files. They either served time in federal prison or have pleaded guilty to charges of corruption.

We should look at what Rex is really saying with his childish insults. He is saying the people of Arkansas know nothing. Hundreds of thousands of voters, not Rex, decided who should represent them. They had choices at the ballot and overwhelmingly chose a new direction.

What Rex calls extremism is in reality strong people standing on principles. To weak men, principles look like extremism. 

Fortunately, we are moving in a new direction away from the toxic influence of the Squealers. In what direction are we moving? Allow me to use another swine comparison that we love in Arkansas.

The new group of elected officials are like a group of wild Razorbacks. Bold, hard charging and sometimes messy, we have decided it is time to move Arkansas forward in real ways. That is why you are seeing such dramatic results in Arkansas. 

Those loud squeals you hear are the last gasp and protest of the people who held Arkansas back, now being trampled under the wave of change. 

State Senator Trent Garner of El Dorado represents District 27 in south Arkansas.

June 03, 2021

SUSPECT SHOT IN STRUGGLE ATTEMPTING TO GAIN CONTROL OF TROOPER'S GUN
JUNE 3, 2021 - AMENDED NEWS RELEASE INFORMATION:

The suspect who was pursued by Arkansas State Police yesterday *(Wednesday, June 2nd, see original news release below) has been identified as Timothy Andrew Kemp, Jr., 34, of Mountain Pine (Garland County).

Trooper First Class Ryan Wingo, a six-year veteran of the Arkansas State Police, has been identified as the trooper who was trying to arrest Kemp.

An investigation of the incident that occurred as Kemp attempted to gain control of the trooper’s pistol is continuing today.

JUNE 2, 2021
A suspect who had fled on foot from an Arkansas State Trooper was shot and died at the scene west of Hot Springs this afternoon.  The shooting occurred after the suspect grabbed the trooper’s gun during a struggle in an attempt to overpower the trooper.

At 12:34 PM a trooper reported he was attempting to stop a motorcycle driver who was not complying with the trooper’s emergency lights and siren to signal a traffic stop.  A short pursuit proceeded west along U.S. Highway 70 toward Lake Hamilton Schools where the motorcyclist turned-off the highway onto Sunshine Road still trying to evade the trooper.  As the driver of the motorcycle reached the dead end of Woodview Lane, he abandoned the bike and fled on foot in a northeasterly direction through a wooded area with the trooper following.

The trooper’s orders to stop were ignored by the suspect, at which time the trooper fired a TASER, a less than lethal device, in an attempt to stop the suspect.  As the trooper neared the suspect, he began to resist the trooper’s orders to surrender.  The suspect grabbed the trooper’s gun and a struggle for the gun resulted in the trooper shooting the suspect at 12:46 PM.

Special Agents of the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division have begun investigating the incident and will prepare a case file to be submitted to the Garland County prosecuting attorney.  The prosecutor will determine whether the use of deadly force by the trooper was consistent with Arkansas laws.

The identity of the deceased suspect is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

As required by Arkansas State Police policy and procedures, the trooper has been placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues.  The trooper’s identity will be released later as the investigation progresses.

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: CATALYTIC CONVERTER THEFT ON THE RISE
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is warning Arkansans that catalytic converter thefts are on the rise and how people can protect their automobiles from this type of crime. A catalytic converter is an EPA-approved exhaust emission control device that is usually found beneath the vehicle as part of the exhaust system. Thieves are stealing catalytic converters from all types of automobiles for their precious metals. Specifically, hybrid and lower emission vehicles contain higher amounts of precious metals in their converters and certain larger vehicles have multiple catalytic converters making both high value targets.

“These criminals are stealing catalytic converters that will end up costing thousands of dollars to fix,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I want Arkansans to know the signs beforehand so they can protect themselves from conniving criminals trying to make a quick buck.” Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to protect their catalytic converters from theft: 
Whenever possible, park in well-lit areas and close to building entrances.
If you have a garage, park your car inside and keep the garage shut.
Consider having the catalytic converter welded to your car’s frame, making it harder to steal.
Calibrate your car’s alarm system to alert you when it detects vibrations.
Most catalytic converters do not have serial numbers, so engraving your car’s VIN can help identify your catalytic converter if it is stolen.
Consumers should notify their insurance company if your catalytic converter is stolen.

If Arkansas consumers find that their catalytic converters have been stolen, they should file a report with their local law enforcement agency. Then contact ScrapTheftAlert.com to report a theft.

 

BOOZMAN STATEMENT ON VA’S INSPECTOR GENERAL REPORT ON PATHOLOGIST FAILURES
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement in response to the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s report on the pathology oversight failures at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center:

“Negligence and a total lack of accountability by leaders at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center resulted in the misdiagnosis of veterans. While steps have been taken to prevent the inexcusable failures from continuing in the VA, I will be working with my colleagues to ensure the recommendations made in this report are implemented and veterans get the quality care they deserve from the VA.”

Under Boozman’s leadership as then-Chairman of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Subcommittee, language was included that required the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to submit a departmental response plan to Congress that is now implemented at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks and for all future cases of clinical disclosures to prevent similar incidents. 

June 02, 2021

THE 31ST ANNUAL TRI-LAKES BIG BASS FESTIVAL HAS BEEN POSTPONED…AGAIN
Continually high lake levels and more rain forecasts are forcing organizers to postpone the event for a second time. Originally scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, the bass tournament was first rescheduled for June 5. That date is now being rescheduled to June 19. 
Sevier County Judge Greg Ray said lake levels are just too high – and boat landings and parking areas too flooded – to hold the bass tournament this weekend. Currently, De Queen Lake is around 17 feet above normal elevation, Gillham is 16 and Dierks Lake is 21 feet above normal lake levels.  
An extremely wet May and a rainy start to June has meant all three lakes remain above normal elevation and some of the traditional boat landings are still completely underwater. More rain is scheduled this week and weekend as well as into next week. Ray said another three to five inches are expected next week.
Although it’s been rescheduled, registration continues for this year’s Tri-Lakes Big Bass Festival. The tournament will be held on De Queen, Dierks and Gillham Lakes. The event will begin at 6 a.m. and continue through 1 p.m. on June 19. Late registration is $50. Boat check and late registration begins at 5 a.m. on all three lakes the day of the tournament.
Check-in will be held at Oak Grove and Rolling Fork landings on De Queen Lake, Coon Creek and Little Coon Creek on Gillham and at Jefferson Ridge on Dierks Lake. Weigh-in sites will be located at all three lakes. 
Over $14,000 in cash prizes will be awarded during the tournament, including $1,500 for catching the biggest bass.  For more information, contact Greg Ray at (870) 642-2425 or the Chamber of Commerce office at (870) 584-3225.

Lottery Scholarship Deadline is July 1.

JULY 1ST DEADLINE TO APPLY FOR ARKANSAS SCHOLARSHIP LOTTERY
LITTLE ROCK, AR – The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery (ASL) announced today that July 1 is the deadline to apply for the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship.
The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery provides tuition assistance to traditional and non-traditional students attending universities and two-year colleges – both public and private – in the state. Since its inception in 2009, the Arkansas lottery has helped raise more than $1 billion in scholarship proceeds and awarded more than 650,000 Academic Challenge Scholarships to students.
“The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery was started with the goal of helping Arkansas students realize their higher education goals,” said J. Eric Hagler, ASL director. “We have never deviated from that mission and are proud that more than 92 cents of every dollar raised through the sale of lottery tickets goes to scholarships, prizes, retailer commissions and other expenses.”
Traditional students must score at least 19 on the ACT to qualify for the scholarship. The latest ACT score accepted by the Arkansas Division of Higher Education will be from the June testing. Students who have yet to achieve a score of 19 make take the Accuplacer test as a substitute.  
Freshman students at four-year colleges receive $1,000 from the scholarship. Second- and third-year students receive $4,000, and senior-level students are awarded $5,000 per year. 
At two-year colleges, first-year students receive $1,000 annually, while second-year students are awarded $3,000. To maintain eligibility, students must keep a 2.5 grade point average.
“For more than a decade, the lottery has helped hundreds of thousands of Arkansans receive the education necessary for success in today’s global economy,” said Maria Markham, director of the Division of Higher Education. “As a result, past recipients are enjoying fulfilling careers and current recipients have the hope of a bright future.”
Additionally, students seeking certification for high-demand occupations in healthcare information technology and industrial manufacturing may apply for the Arkansas Workforce Challenge Scholarship, which is also funded by lottery revenue. Students must apply at least 30 days before enrolling in an eligible program.
Finally, funding is available for high school students who wish to start early on receiving credit for college courses through the Arkansas Concurrent Academic Challenge Scholarship. It pays $125 per credit for up to two concurrent-credit courses per semester of the student’s junior and senior high school year.
For more information and to apply, students may visit scholarships.adhe.edu.

 

CAMDEN KIWANIS CLUB TO MEET
The Camden Kiwanis Club will meet this Thursday, June 3rd, at Catherine's Bistro at 12:00 PM. The program will be presented by Dana Wetherbee with the Camden Police DepartmentS she will be discussing the upcoming department events.

SAAC WELCOMES AJ SMITH AND MARJORIE WILLIAMS-SMITH TO GALLERY
The South Arkansas Arts Center welcomes Little Rock artists Aj Smith and Marjorie Williams-Smith to the Merkle and Price Galleries this month with their exhibit entitled “Places, Spaces, and Faces: Our Journey”.  The show will hang through June 23 with an artist’s reception scheduled for Saturday, June 5, 6-7:30pm. 

Mr. Smith is no stranger to the galleries at SAAC, having won Best in Show for his work entitled “Faces of the Delta” in the 2019 SAAC Juried Art Competition.  They both were involved with other artists in a show called “Collaborations” at SAAC in 2010.  In conjunction with that show, they both taught Arts in August Education Series Workshops. Aj Smith hosted a relief printing workshop which was an opportunity for artists to experience the beginnings of printmaking as done several hundred years ago.  Marjorie Williams-Smith taught a silverpoint drawing workshop, a technique that dates back several hundred years as well.

Aj and Marjorie began their art journey together in 1978.  This exhibition, “Places, Spaces, and Faces” addresses Aj’s journey through the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta regions as told through the faces of individuals and the places where they survive against incredible odds. Subjects in the drawings live in small towns and relatively isolated rural areas and present a noble and quiet dignity through their presence. They live quiet lives with much to tell and even more to remember – they represent the majestic innocence of our basic humanity.

Marjorie’s journey has been an introspective one. Her drawings have allowed her to find a place of calm and reflection. It offers time for meditation and prayer. When she first started drawing flowers, it was a way to preserve floral gifts given to her by family and friends. Over time she saw the beauty of the forms – the rich tonal qualities, the textured surfaces, and the changes in color. 

 Aj Smith holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting and printmaking (1977) from Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY), and Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and printmaking (1974) from the Kansas City Art Institute in Kansas City, Missouri. Recognized as a Master Printer in fine art printmaking, Aj Smith was awarded Artist in Residence positions at The Studio Museum in Harlem New York, NY, and the Arkansas Arts Center Little Rock, Arkansas. 

Aj Smith is recognized for an extensive national and international exhibition record of graphite pencil drawings, metal point drawings, and fine art prints. His work is represented in public and private collections throughout the United States, China, and Czech Republic, including the United States Library of Congress; Museum of Fine Art (formerly the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Permanent Collection) Little Rock, Arkansas; Columbia Museum Columbia, South Carolina; Lauren Rogers Museum of Art Laurel, Mississippi; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Learn more about the artist at ajsmithart.com

 Marjorie Williams-Smith was born in Washington, D.C. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and a Master of Fine Arts Degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.  Ms. Williams-Smith is Professor Emeritus at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Her work is included in private and public collections including the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection; Evansville Museum of Arts, History, & Science, Evansville, Indiana; the Central Arkansas Library System; the University of Arkansas at Little Rock; the Historic Arkansas Museum; and the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.

Ms. Williams-Smith has received numerous awards for her artwork and was honored to create art for the United States Mint, which served as the design for the Congressional Medal honoring the “Little Rock Nine.” Most recently she was awarded the Governor’s Arts Award for an Individual Artist.  Learn more about the artist at marjoriewilliams-smith.com.

For more information about this exhibit, please call the SAAC office or visit the website at www.saac-arts.org.  Gallery viewing hours are Monday-Friday 9:00-5:00.  SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, AR

June 01, 2021

CAMDEN’S FIRST FRIDAY MONTHLY MARKET RETURNS JUNE 4TH TO DOWNTOWN CAMDEN
Camden, AR - First Friday Monthly Market in Camden, AR is excited to announce “Jugglin’ June” as the theme for our market to be held June 4th, 6PM – 9PM in downtown Camden.

Lots of fun and activities are planned, just as you have come to expect from our past seasons. With the theme Jugglin’ June you may have guessed that this will be our circus themed market. Much excitement can be found during this market, especially with the various performers you will find everywhere, from a stilt walker to Katie Sunshine, a hula hoop dancer. Also stop by Postmaster Grill stage to catch some very special acts from 6PM to 8PM followed by “Whistling Hounds” playing live from 8PM – 10PM.

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 throughout the market to provide all kinds of entertainment for the young and old alike. You will find farmers located all throughout the market with fresh eggs, jellies, jams, baked goods and more! Enjoy the special food vendors set up throughout the market with everything from street tacos to kettle korn.

Be sure to catch the live music, back in the little park at the corner of Washington & Adams. This month’s live music will be Brian Martin. A Camden native, Brian now lives in North Arkansas but is busy touring all over the state. Be sure to stop by and welcome him back to Camden.

Stop by Hollis Evans Floral to visit with this month’s featured author, Brenda Hutcheson Fickey. Brenda a South Arkansas native and graduate of Fairview High School and is also a CFHS AP teacher and concurrent credit teacher. Her books are a series from the Arkansas Oil Town Days.

Downtown merchants will be open late for all your shopping convenience offering great First Friday specials. First Friday Monthly Market in Downtown Camden, AR, June 4th, 6PM – 9PM.

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


GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON PROCLAIMS JUNE 11-13 FREE FISHING WEEKEND IN ARKANSAS
LITTLE ROCK – Thanks to a proclamation by Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced today, anyone may fish in Arkansas without a fishing license or trout stamp from noon Friday, June 11, through midnight Sunday night, June 13. The proclamation was read at today’s commission meeting by Megan Perkins, agriculture liaison to Hutchinson’s office.

An annual tradition sponsored by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and approved by Gov. Hutchinson, Free Fishing Weekend gives many people the opportunity to enjoy the amazing angling The Natural State has to offer. Residents and nonresidents may fish without a fishing license or trout permit. All other regulations, such as daily limits and size restrictions on certain bodies of water, still apply during this weekend.

The AGFC will host special fishing derbies at four of its freshwater hatcheries June 12 in celebration of the annual event. 

“This year we are excited to announce that not only youth, but the entire family may come out and fish with us at our warmwater hatcheries,” said Ben Batten, chief of the AGFC’s Fisheries Division. “Unfortunately we will not be able to conduct a fishing derby at the Spring River trout hatchery in Mammoth Spring, but all other hatcheries will be available to Arkansans. People will need to register in advance to ensure we have adequate space and parking on the hatchery grounds, but we look forward to a return to the hatchery derbies after they had to be canceled last year.”

Visit www.agfc.com/en/education/calendar/annual-event/free-fishing-weekend-statewide-2021 for more information on Free Fishing Weekend and the hatchery derbies planned. 
 

USDA AWARDS NEW PARTNERSHIP PROJECTS IN ARKANSAS TO HELP MITIGATE CLIMATE CHANGE AND PROTECT NATURAL RESOURCES WHILE SUPPORTING AMERICA’S PRODUCERS
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is investing $330 million in 85 locally driven, public-private partnerships to address climate change, improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability, including three projects in Arkansas. Projects are awarded through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

Projects selected in the Ouachita Electric Cooperative Service Area are:
AR-LA CDN Open Pine Landscape Restoration -- The AR-LA Conservation Delivery Network (CDN) Open Pine Landscape Restoration partnership will advance the recovery of species of conservation concern by implementing Desired Forest Condition management practices across 30,000 acres of private lands in Arkansas and Louisiana. American Bird Conservancy and 19 partners plan to use several innovative tools and approaches to target conservation fund to lands critical for the protection of species such as Northern Bobwhite, Henslow’s and LeConte’s sparrows, Louisiana Pine Snake, and Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Partnerships with the U of A-Pine Bluff and other entities, along with a tailored program and incentive package, will help ensure that underserved farmers participate in the project.
Lead Partner: American Bird Conservancy
Lead State: Arkansas
Partner States: Louisiana
Funding Amount: $5.9 million
Funding Pool: S/M

About RCPP
Through RCPP, conservation partners work in collaboration with NRCS to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners throughout the nation to implement systems that conserve water and soil resources, improve the health of wildlife habitats and increase climate resilience. 

RCPP partners offer value-added contributions to amplify the impact of RCPP funding. These projects offer impactful and measurable outcomes. Throughout its history, RCPP has leveraged partner contributions of more than $1 for every $1 invested by USDA, resulting in nearly $3 billion collectively invested in natural resource conservation on private lands. The Department anticipates the investments made today will generate at least $440 million in additional conservation funds by communities and other partners. As a RCPP partner, Ouachita Electric Cooperative contributed approximately $1.4 million of “in-kind” donations toward this grant. The “in-kind” donations are derived from projected right of way maintenance expenses, and do not cause any additional expense to OECC members.

There are currently 336 active RCPP projects that have engaged more than 2,000 partners. For more information, visit the RCPP website.


TWO ARKANSAS PHYSICIANS SENTENCED TO A TOTAL OF 150 MONTHS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR PRESCRIPTION FRAUD
FORT SMITH – Fort Smith physician and Rogers physician were sentenced today on one count each of Distribution of a Controlled Substance without an Effective Prescription. The Honorable Judge P. K. Holmes III presided over the sentencing hearings in the U.S. District Court in Fort Smith.

According to court documents, Cecil W. Gaby, 71, of Fort Smith,  a licensed physician in the State of Arkansas, pleaded guilty on December 18, 2019 to acting and intending to act outside the usual course of professional practice without a legitimate medical purpose in dispensing a Schedule II controlled substance namely, oxycodone, to an individual, thereby causing the death of the individual. Between January 2016 and July 2018, Gaby was an owner and operator of the Hinderliter Pain Clinic in Barling, Arkansas and from July 2018 through November 2018, was owner and operator of the Gaby Medical Clinic in Fort Smith, Arkansas. From January 2016 through November 2018, Gaby issued more than 11,000 prescriptions for opioids and/or benzodiazepines. Gaby prescribed approximately 1,156,044 dosage units of Schedule II controlled substances to 347 patients (3,332 pills per patient over the course of 2 years); 98% of Gaby’s patients were prescribed at least one opioid (hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, etc.); 94% of Gaby’s patients received either multiple narcotics or a combination of narcotics and sedatives; and 27% of Gaby’s patients were age 40 or younger. Evidence in the case revealed that Gaby issued a large number of prescriptions without a legitimate medical purpose and not in the usual course of professional practice. From 2016 through 2018, several of Gaby’s patients died of drug overdose or related causes. As part of his plea, Gaby admitted that prescriptions he issued directly resulted in the death of one of his patients.  Gaby was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison followed by 3 years of supervised release.

Robin Ann Cox, 64, of Rogers, was employed by the Arkansas Medical Clinic (AMC) in Rogers, Arkansas. Cox and the owner of AMC contacted the DEA by telephone to report that prescriptions from Cox's previous employment had been fraudulently written and filled. Cox specifically identified a prescription for a patient written and filled on May 17, 2019, and a prescription for a patient dated May 19, 2019 and filled on May 20, 2019. During the investigation into these prescriptions, the DEA discovered that the prescriptions were for Schedule II opioid medications, and that Cox had written one of the prescriptions while meeting with the patient in the parking lot of a restaurant in Fort Smith, Arkansas, in the Western District of Arkansas, Fort Smith Division. The prescription was not written in conjunction with an appropriate medical examination and therefore was issued outside the course of a legitimate medical practice. Cox was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison followed by 3 years of supervised release

“The abuse of opioids and other pain medications is an epidemic that is destroying the lives of many people across the Western District of Arkansas.  We will continue to use all the investigation and prosecution tools available to us to identify and prosecute those who are responsible for the over-prescription of these dangerous drugs.  It is my sincere hope that these cases today send a strong message to all of those in our District who would consider operating a “pill mill” or otherwise seeking to profit from the over-prescribing of opioid drugs and other pain-killers,” said Acting U.S. Attorney David Clay Fowlkes.

“The abuse of prescription drugs remains a significant problem in our communities.  This abuse often leads to addiction, shattered lives, and even death.  For the health and safety of our citizens, DEA and our law enforcement partners in Arkansas and beyond will continue to target those who illegally distribute these potentially dangerous drugs.  It is particularly disappointing when trusted medical professionals are engaged in the diversion of controlled substances.  We hope that the convictions and sentencings of these Physicians will serve as a reminder to anyone who might illegally divert pharmaceuticals that they will be held accountable for the harm they cause,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brad L. Byerley.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), DEA Diversion Little Rock, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS), Arkansas State Medical Board, the Fort Smith Police Department, the Springdale Police Department, and the Rogers Police Department investigated the case.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Gardner prosecuted the case for the United States.

Cox’s prosecution is part of the Western District of Arkansas’ Operation Pillusional, which is part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program.  The OCDETF program is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s drug supply reduction strategy.  OCDETF was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.  Today, OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement.  The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illicit drug supply.
 

STEEL MAGNOLIAS – IT’S ALL ABOUT THE HAIR
Although the movie Steel Magnolias takes place in many locations in Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana, the entire action of the original stage production takes place in Truvy Jones’ beauty shop. Director Tripp Phillips has committed his cast and crew to realistically creating that beauty shop onstage in the Callaway Theater for South Arkansas Arts Center’s June production. 

Phillips said, “Although Steel Magnolias is ultimately and most meaningfully the story of six remarkable women, in a way it’s also about ‘the hair’ – how it looks, how it is styled or colored, how it changes over the course of the play, how the characters and their friends react to it.

“For all of these reasons, getting the beauty details exactly right – from the look of the salon to the props used to the actions performed by Truvy and Annelle to the hair and wigs of the six actresses – is super important for the success of the play,” he continued. To meet this goal, the show’s production team has created a realistic beauty salon stocked with all the items needed for the actresses to do their work."

Both Truvy, played by Abby Cate, and Annelle, played by Kaila Emery, have to style and/or shampoo the other characters’ hair onstage. The two actresses had several “beauty work sessions” with Marsha Antoon at her Possibilities Salon so that they can do so convincingly. Cate said, “I’m excited that my 80’s hair skills are useful again! On stage, I like to have as many combs, brushes, and other styling tools as I can. Truvy is proud of her skills and appearance, and she stands at the ready to show them off.” 

The play is set in four scenes with a time passage of approximately two and half years over the course of the action. The timespan and specific dialogue require special changes in some of the actresses’ hair styles. Annelle Depuy-Desoto, played by Kaila Emery, experiments with several different looks over the course of the play, which will be accomplished through the use of wigs. Lainey Walthall’s character Shelby Eatenton-Lacherie has long hair, styled into full “big hair” glory in the first scene; in Act 2, it has been drastically cut into a short, boyish style; this change obviously requires the use of wigs. Brunette Haley Phillips plays M’Lynn Eatenton; her daughter Shelby refers to her mother’s hair as a “blond football helmet”, and M’Lynn refers the fact that she has some gray hair as well. Haley’s own hair will be cut and colored to accomplish the appropriate look.

Emery commented, “We may make our few new tricks look easy, but beauticians are the real heroes! Make sure you always have a professional manage your mane!” Kati Blanchard and Brandi Lyons are in charge of hair and wig design for the show and have also been training the actors to get them ready for the show. Blanchard said, “Working with the 80’s clips and tools of the time has been so much fun! And all the BIG HAIR - lots of teasing, backcombing, and hairspray!”

Steel Magnolias, sponsored by Murphy USA, will run June 17-20 and June 24-27, with performances at 7:30 Thursdays-Saturdays and at 2:30 on Sundays. All opening night tickets are $20 each. Ticket prices for all other performances are $5/student, $10/SAAC member, $20/general public. The box office opens online at www.saac-arts.org on June 1. SAAC is located at 110 East Main Street, El Dorado.


TERM LIMITS SUPPORTERS GO TO FEDERAL COURT SUE TO OVERTURN NEW ARKANSAS PETITION LAW
Call Out Legislature for Unconstitutional Attempt to Block Citizen Initiatives
Little Rock, AR — Arkansas Term Limits, along with two national pro-term limits groups, filed suit in the federal Eastern District of Arkansas to overturn newly passed restrictions on the state’s petition process.

“Legislators have enacted unconstitutional hurdles to block our petition for stricter term limits, something voters strongly favor but politicians oppose,” said Tim Jacob of Little Rock, chairman of Arkansas Term Limits. “By challenging the legislature’s attack on our right to petition, we begin the process of restoring both term limits and this state’s cherished citizen initiative process.”

At issue is Act 951, passed last month by legislators as Senate Bill 614, an “emergency” measure, which is now law — though, without Governor Hutchinson’s signature. The Act bans people found guilty of minor misdemeanors at any time in their lives, even many decades ago, from working as paid petitioners in Arkansas. The new law also limits the pool of petitioners to only state residents, something not done for any other political job, nor for those carrying Arkansas’s candidate petitions. In recent years, similar residency laws have been struck down in unanimous rulings of the4th, 6th, 9th and 10th  federal Circuit Courts of Appeal. Earlier this year, a federal judge enjoined enforcement of a similar law in Maine.

“This lawsuit is necessary to prevent legislation . . . passed by a runaway and vindictive state legislature intent on preventing the citizens of Arkansas from exercising their right to bypass the power of unresponsive legislators,” the complaint reads. “Many of the statutory provisions challenged in this action run brazenly afoul of clearly established precedent of the United States Supreme Court.”

The lawsuit names John Thurston, in his official capacity as the Secretary of State for the State of Arkansas, as the defendant. Plaintiffs include Tim Jacob, individually; Arkansas Term Limits; Liberty Initiative Fund, led by Jacob’s brother, Paul; U.S. Term Limits; Lawrence “Skip” Cook, a longtime term limits activist; Trent Pool, a Texas resident who wishes to work petitioning in Arkansas; and Accelevate 2020, Pool’s petition management firm.

“For the last decade, the legislature has repeatedly legislated to give themselves a career in office and to block citizens from having an honest vote on term limits,” Tim Jacob offered. “It is hardly surprising that, during this same period, we’ve seen corruption rear its ugly head again in the legislature.”

“The citizens of Arkansas expect their voices to be heard and their constitution honored,” noted Skip Cook of Maumelle, who managed the original 1992 term limits campaign. “The Arkansas legislature has been working overtime to prevent both.”

Cotton, Collins, Gillibrand, Shaheen Introduce Bill to Improve Officers’ Access to Care at Walter Reed

Washington, D.C. — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) today introduced legislation to ensure wounded officers and their families have immediate access to specialized facilities at Walter Reed.

“Brave Americans wounded in the service of our country deserve every measure of our support. I’m proud to join my colleagues on this important part of a long campaign to care for our men and women in uniform and hold their attackers responsible,” said Cotton.

“It is unacceptable that some victims of probable directed energy attacks did not receive the medical support they should have expected from our government when they were injured,” said Collins. “American personnel who have undergone these attacks while serving our country should be treated the same way we would treat a soldier who suffered a traumatic injury on the battlefield. Walter Reed Medical Center has a world-renowned treatment center for TBIs, and our bipartisan legislation would ensure non-DOD personnel have prompt access to this top-notch care.”

“Over the past several years, U.S. government employees and their families have experienced attacks that have left them suffering from symptoms of ‘Havana Syndrome,’ which include headaches, memory problems and brain damage. Congress not only has a duty to protect these men, women and families, but we must provide them with high-quality health care. The bipartisan Walter Reed Injury Recovery (WIRE) Act will ensure that individuals suffering from Havana Syndrome can receive care at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed, the nation’s top facility for treating such injuries. I am proud to work with my colleagues on this important legislation, which upholds our commitment to the men and women who bravely serve our nation,” said Gillibrand.

“For American public servants suffering from brain injuries due to reported directed-energy attacks, living with the symptoms of their ailments and having to fight for medical treatment has been an absolute nightmare. That is completely unacceptable – our personnel deserve better,” said Shaheen. “This has been a top priority of mine for years, and I’m glad to continue bipartisan efforts in the Senate with Senator Cotton and this group of lawmakers on new legislation that would require timely access to Walter Reed facilities for medical treatment. I’ll continue working across the aisle to care for public servants who’ve been targeted by these attacks and will keep up efforts to uncover the source of these incidents to protect American personnel.”

Walter Reed Army National Military Medical Center and its National Intrepid Center of Excellence has been the nation’s premier institution for the treatment of traumatic brain injuries for more than a decade. The WIRe Act will ensure that all U.S. Government personnel who may have suffered a brain injury as the result of an attack during the course of their duties receives immediate treatment at this facility. It also directs elements of the departments and agencies of the federal government to remove any bureaucratic impediments to the immediate delivery of needed services.

Background:
In February, Senator Cotton questioned  Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director nominee Ambassador William Burns about medical care for paramilitary officers.

BOOZMAN, WARNOCK INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN BILL TO MEMORIALIZE FALLEN MILITARY CHAPLAINS
WASHINGTON – As Americans commemorate Memorial Day and honor our fallen heroes, U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) are leading an effort to ensure military chaplains who died while serving their nation are memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery. 

The senators introduced the Chaplains Memorial Preservation Act to allow the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces to update the Protestant, Catholic and Jewish chaplains’ memorials at Arlington National Cemetery with the names of all military chaplains who died on active duty.

“Arlington National Cemetery is a sacred place honoring the sacrifices of the men and women who wore our nation’s uniform. Memorializing the chaplains who gave their lives in support of their country and dedicated themselves to ministering to their brothers and sisters in arms by etching their names into monuments on the Chaplains Hill symbolizes our deep appreciation for their heroism and bravery,” Boozman said.

“Military chaplains who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedoms deserve a final resting place that honors all the parts of their service, both to our country and to the souls of their fellow servicemembers,” said Warnock. “I am proud to stand with countless veterans and clergy who’ve long worked to advance this important conversation, and I am proud to introduce bipartisan legislation with Senator Boozman to memorialize these brave chaplains who gave their lives for our country. This legislation is the least Congress can do properly to honor the calling of these military chaplains, and their commitment to serve a mission greater than themselves.”

“The Board and membership of National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces expresses its appreciation for the leadership of Senators Warnock and Boozman for coming together to initiate this legislation. We represent over a hundred faiths, religious traditions, and denominations represented in the Military Chaplain Corps, and have struggled for eight years over administrative hurdles to include the names of the chaplains who died in service and to right this wrong in their honor,” said Rabbi Harold L. Robinson D.D, Rear Admiral of National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces. “We are grateful for Senators Warnock and Boozman who joined together across party lines, to memorialize these chaplains and represent the spirit of our national aspiration to be ‘one nation under God.’ God bless them and God bless the United States of America.”

“Beginning with the birth of our nation’s military forces, our chaplains have provided extraordinary service at great personal risk. The American Legion is proud to see the introduction of the Chaplains Memorial Preservation Act which will provide for the maintenance and upkeep to memorials on Chaplains Hill at Arlington National Cemetery,” said National Commander James W. Bill Oxford of American Legion. “We thank Senator Raphael Warnock and Senator John Boozman for their leadership on this issue and look forward to working with them to get this bill passed by Congress.” 
 

BOOZMAN STATEMENT ON PRESIDENT BIDEN’S BUDGET PROPOSAL
WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement in response to the release of President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget:

“The president’s budget is another reminder of how committed his administration is to growing the size and scope of the federal government. This massive $6 trillion spending plan will increase our debt and deficit, raise taxes and give Washington more authority to dictate what happens in our economy and daily lives. Additionally, the president proposes ending the ban on taxpayer dollars funding abortion – an appalling and outrageous decision to violate the consciences of many Arkansans – while also declining to fund our national defense at an adequate level.

“Democrats have told us they prefer not to let a crisis go to waste, and we should believe them. Now, as we’re reopening our country and the economy is rebounding, the Biden administration believes an ebbing crisis is justification enough to pursue its liberal wish-list policy agenda. Despite its insistence that these demands are urgent and will be paid for by only the wealthy, we know better. I will continue to insist that the federal government protect hardworking Americans’ interests and pursue responsible, bipartisan priorities.”

May 27, 2021

TREASURER OF STATE DENNIS MILLIGAN ANNOUNCES RESULTS OF STATEWIDE SURVEY ARKANSAS 529 PLAN RUNNING SUMMER SWEEPSTAKES TO CELEBRATE 529 DAY
Little Rock, Ark.   ̶  May 26, 2021 – Treasurer of State Dennis Milligan’s office, which administers the Arkansas 529 Education Savings Plan, announced results of a statewide survey today that highlights Arkansans’ awareness of education savings plans. Along with other 529 plans across the country, the office is celebrating 529 Day by encouraging families to open an Arkansas 529 plan.

“May 29th is an annual reminder of the importance of saving for a child’s education,” Milligan said. “Arkansas 529’s low contribution minimums and significant spending flexibility, combined with a state tax deduction of up to $10,000, make the plan an incredibly attractive option for all Arkansas families.”

The Arkansas 529 Education Savings Plan committee recently surveyed about 70,000 randomly selected Arkansans to measure their preparedness for saving for education. The survey had a response rate of 2.18%.

Respondents were asked how prepared they were for saving for education expenses. Of those who responded, only 22.46% said they think they are saving enough. A total of 39.04% said they have saved some, but could do better, and about the same number said they are worried they haven’t saved enough for future educational expenses.

Respondents ranked the federal and state tax advantages as the most important benefit of the Arkansas 529 plan.

As an incentive to encourage Arkansans to open new Arkansas 529 accounts, the Plan is sponsoring an online sweepstakes between now and June 30, 2021 that will award five $529 contributions to new Arkansas 529 account owners. Details may be found at     Arkansas 529.org.

“When I took office in 2015, I made promoting the Arkansas 529 plan a priority,” Milligan said. “We had $568 million in assets and today, just six years later, we’re at more than $1.1 billion – double what we started with.”

Not only has Milligan grown the program exponentially, but he has worked with the Legislature during his tenure to provide several tax benefits for Arkansans in order to make the program more attractive. Those include:
Creating a tax deduction for businesses that wish to match their employees’ contributions to an Arkansas 529 plan;
Introducing a $7,500 tax incentive for people with out-of-state plans when they roll them over into the Arkansas plan;
Allowing an individual who is able to put in more than the $5,000 yearly maximum to carry forward the tax deduction over the upcoming four years;
Expanding the plan to include K-12 private school tuition and widening the list of qualifying expenses for which the money can be used, including for apprenticeship programs and to pay down student debt.

“Investing in a child’s future education is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone. Giving a loved one the peace of mind that funds have been set aside for their education can help encourage them to fulfill their potential,” Milligan said. “There is never a better time than today to begin saving for their future. An account may be opened for as little as $25 and will help someone’s child or grandchild start saving for a brighter future.”

For more information about the Arkansas 529 Education Savings Plan, visit    www.arkansas529.org or call (501) 682-1406.
 

ARKANSAS WOMEN IN AGRICULTURE ANNOUNCES SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS
LITTLE ROCK, AR – Arkansas Women in Agriculture (AWIA) has named Warrenesha Arnold and Ashley Hollis as 2021 scholarship recipients. Each was awarded a $500 scholarship for the fall 2021 semester.

Warrenesha Arnold, from Marianna, is a student at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville studying human nutrition and dietetics. While serving as a summer intern for the Agricultural Demonstration and Outreach Center, Arnold said she was positively impacted in her understanding of healthy foods. She hopes to become a licensed clinical dietician, with the goal of supporting Arkansans with chronic diseases and other nutritional deficiencies.

Ashley Hollis found a passion for agriculture and rodeo while competing in rodeo queen competitions. Originally from Hamburg, she currently serves as the 2020 Miss Crossett PRCA Rodeo Queen and is studying animal science at Southern Arkansas University. Hollis is interning with the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS). Her future goals include educating the public about agriculture and helping farmers bring their production to peak performance.

“We’re proud to recognize Warrenesha and Ashley for their accomplishments and future career plans,” said AWIA President Donette Spann. “Our organization is committed to helping grow and develop women involved in all aspects of agriculture. Our scholarship program is just one way we’re able to demonstrate our commitment to young women pursuing careers in ag.”

Arkansas Women in Agriculture, Inc. is a private non-profit whose main goals are to provide educational programming and a network of support for women involved in agriculture.
 

FEDERAL CHARGES IN THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS INVOLVE WIRE FRAUD AND MONEY LAUNDERING RELATED TO THE THEFT OF FEDERAL HEALTHCARE FUNDS
FORT SMITH – The Department of Justice today announced criminal charges against 14 defendants, including 11 newly-charged defendants and three who were charged in superseding indictments, in seven federal districts across the United States for their alleged participation in various health care fraud schemes that exploited the COVID-19 pandemic and resulted in over $143 million in false billings.

“The multiple health care fraud schemes charged today describe theft from American taxpayers through the exploitation of the national emergency,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “These medical professionals, corporate executives, and others allegedly took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to line their own pockets instead of providing needed health care services during this unprecedented time in our country. We are committed to protecting the American people and the critical health care benefits programs created to assist them during this national emergency, and we are determined to hold those who exploit such programs accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

As part of the national takedown, Billy Joe Taylor, 42, of Lavaca, Arkansas, was charged by criminal complaint with health care fraud in connection with an alleged scheme to defraud the United States of over $88 million, including over $42 million in false and fraudulent claims during the COVID-19 health emergency that were billed in combination with claims that were submitted for testing for COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. Taylor, the owner and operator of Vitas Laboratories LLC and Beach Tox LLC, two testing laboratories, allegedly used access to beneficiary and medical provider information from prior laboratory testing orders to submit fraudulent claims for urine drug tests and other laboratory tests, including respiratory pathogen panel and COVID-19 tests, that were not actually ordered or performed. The complaint also alleges that hundreds of claims were submitted for beneficiaries after they had died or otherwise ceased providing samples.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic was raging, and Americans were suffering from the economic and health crisis brought on by this pandemic, these defendants were allegedly scheming to steal millions of dollars set aside to help ailing Americans through COVID-19 testing and other federal health-care programs,” said Acting U.S. Attorney David Clay Fowlkes.  “This case demonstrates the importance of investigating and prosecuting those who would seek to line their own pockets by stealing funds set aside to help those struggling with the symptoms of COVID-19 and other health ailments.”  

Additionally, the Center for Program Integrity, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CPI/CMS) separately announced today that it took adverse administrative actions against over 50 medical providers for their involvement in health care fraud schemes relating to COVID-19 or abuse of CMS programs that were designed to encourage access to medical care during the pandemic.

“Medical providers have been the unsung heroes for the American public throughout the pandemic,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “It’s disheartening that some have abused their authorities and committed COVID-19 related fraud against trusting citizens. The FBI, along with our federal law enforcement and private sector partners, are committed to continuing to combat healthcare fraud and protect the American people.”

The defendants in the cases announced today are alleged to have engaged in various health care fraud schemes designed to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, multiple defendants offered COVID-19 tests to Medicare beneficiaries at senior living facilities, drive-through COVID-19 testing sites, and medical offices to induce the beneficiaries to provide their personal identifying information and a saliva or blood sample. The defendants are alleged to have then misused the information and samples to submit claims to Medicare for unrelated, medically unnecessary, and far more expensive laboratory tests, including cancer genetic testing, allergy testing, and respiratory pathogen panel tests. In some cases, and as alleged, the COVID-19 test results were not provided to the beneficiaries in a timely fashion or were not reliable, risking the further spread of the disease, and the genetic, allergy, and respiratory pathogen testing was medically unnecessary, and, in many cases, the results were not provided to the patients or their actual primary care doctors.  The proceeds of the fraudulent schemes were allegedly laundered through shell corporations and used to purchase exotic automobiles and luxury real estate.

“It’s clear fraudsters see the COVID-19 pandemic as a money-making opportunity — creating fraudulent schemes to victimize beneficiaries and steal from federal health care programs,” said Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Gary L. Cantrell of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “Our agency and its law enforcement partners are aggressively and effectively investigating these egregious crimes, which is made equally clear given the results of this takedown. We will continue to support the unprecedented COVID-19 public health effort by holding accountable people who use deceptive tactics to profit from the pandemic.”

In another type of COVID-19 health care fraud scheme announced today, defendants are alleged to have exploited policies that were put in place by CMS to enable increased access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, pursuant to the COVID-19 emergency declaration, telehealth regulations and rules were broadened so that Medicare beneficiaries could receive a wider range of services from their doctors without having to travel to a medical facility. The cases announced today include first in the nation charges for allegedly exploiting these expanded policies by submitting false and fraudulent claims to Medicare for sham telemedicine encounters that did not occur. As part of these cases, medical professionals are alleged to have offered and paid bribes in exchange for the medical professionals’ referral of medically unnecessary testing.

The law enforcement action today also includes the third set of criminal charges related to the misuse of Provider Relief Fund monies. The Provider Relief Fund is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a federal law enacted March 2020 designed to provide needed medical care to Americans suffering from COVID-19.

The Fraud Section is prosecuting the cases in the following districts: Western District of Arkansas, Northern District of California, Middle District of Louisiana, Central District of California, Southern District of Florida, District of New Jersey, and the Eastern District of New York.

Today’s enforcement actions were led and coordinated by Assistant Chief Jacob Foster and Trial Attorneys Rebecca Yuan and Gary A. Winters of the National Rapid Response Strike Force of the Health Care Fraud Unit of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, in conjunction with the Health Care Fraud Unit’s Medicare Fraud Strike Forces (MFSF) in Miami, Los Angeles, the Gulf Coast, and Brooklyn, as well as the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Northern District of California, Western District of Arkansas, and Middle District of Louisiana.

The case here in the Western District of Arkansas is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel James Hayes and Trial Attorney D. Keith Clouser of the National Rapid Response Strike Force, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Elser of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas.

The MFSF is a partnership among the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI and HHS-OIG. In addition, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Louisiana Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and other federal and state law enforcement agencies participated in the law enforcement action.

The law enforcement action was brought in coordination with the Health Care Fraud Unit’s COVID-19 Interagency Working Group, which is chaired by the National Rapid Response Strike Force and organizes efforts to address illegal activity involving health care programs during the pandemic.

The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 federal districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for nearly $19 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

The Department of Justice needs the public’s assistance in remaining vigilant and reporting suspected fraudulent activity. To report suspected fraud, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) at (866) 720-5721 or file an online complaint at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/webform/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form. Complaints filed will be reviewed at the To learn more about the department’s COVID response, visit: https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus. For further information on the Criminal Division’s enforcement efforts on PPP fraud, including court documents from significant cases, visit the following website: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/ppp-fraud.

Related court documents may be found on the Public Access to Electronic Records website @ www.pacer.gov

An indictment, complaint, or information is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. and referred to federal, state, local, or international law enforcement or regulatory agencies for investigation.
 

SENATE VA COMMITTEE ADVANCES BOOZMAN BILL BACKING BENEFITS TO VETERANS EXPOSED TO AGENT ORANGE DURING SERVICE IN THAILAND
Approves Historic Toxic Exposure Legislation
WASHINGTON– The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee advanced legislation introduced by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) that would eliminate barriers to benefits for veterans exposed to Agent Orange who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War-era as part of a comprehensive package to improve Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances during their service in uniform.

“This is an important step in supporting the promises we made to our veterans and ensuring they get the care and benefits they have earned,” Boozman said. “The VA wrongly imposes arbitrary limitations on the presumption of toxic exposure to Agent Orange for veterans who served in Thailand. I’m pleased my colleagues on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee agree that this must be corrected.”

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 bill was included as a provision in the Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops (COST) of War Act of 2021, legislation that expands access to VA health care and benefits to veterans living with the effects of toxic exposure. The comprehensive package also includes language from the Boozman-backed Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act that would acknowledge the exposure of veterans who served near burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan and other locations. This is critical to helping eliminate the burden on veterans to prove exposure to toxins.

“Millions of veterans are experiencing health complications as a result of exposure to toxins during deployments overseas. These men and women deserve the health care and benefits they were promised for their service. It’s overdue for the VA to provide this support. Committee passage of the COST of War Act is welcomed progress, now we need input from the VA in order for this legislation to be successful and meet the needs of veterans. The VA must be active in conversations regarding implementation. We need to work together to ensure we can support the services this bill requires and maintain the VA’s ability to provide the quality care we expect,” Boozman said.

Additionally, the committee approved the Ensuring Survivor Benefits During COVID Act. The bipartisan bill cosponsored by Boozman 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 his or her death listed as “COVID-19” without accounting for service-connected disabilities that were contributing factors.

May 26, 2021

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: SCAMS AIMED AT MILITARY AND VETERANS
LITTLE ROCK – This Memorial Day Weekend is much more than an extra day off from work; it is a day to reflect on the sacrifices that were made by countless men and women who died in service to our nation. It is also a good time to thank our veterans, military service members, and their families for their service to the United States of America. Unfortunately, because of their service, it also makes our brave men and women a target of scam artists who try to manipulate service members to steal their personal information.

“It is disgraceful that these criminals would target some of our bravest men and women who have put their lives on the line for this great country,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I want veterans, active duty and reserve service members, and their families across Arkansas to learn how to recognize these scams to avoid falling victim to the deception.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips and common scams military service members and veterans should be cautious of moving forward:

Be leery of email messages claiming to be from a legitimate organization that does not have its own domain name. An official email from a legitimate company or organization should not come from an email address ending in “@gmail.com” or “@yahoo.com” and this should be a red flag.

Be careful with any correspondence containing poor spelling and grammar. Legitimate companies and organizations typically proofread documents and emails thoroughly before sending them. Errors can be a red flag for fraud.

Be cautious with suspicious links and high-pressure requests.  Scammers will say and do anything to steal personal information. By sending a link through email or text message which is clicked on by the consumer, scammers can steal any personal information that is saved on the device. Never click on any link sent from an unknown source.

Be suspicious of unsolicited investment advice. Some scammers have disguised themselves as veterans’ advocates and claim victims are entitled to additional veterans’ benefits. If approached by someone in this manner, confirm the alleged state regulatory office, hang up, and independently call the office directly.

Be aware of any scam artists charging money for free records. Scammers will attempt to convince veterans to pay for documents that are already free. If you want copies of VA or military records, you can contact the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Achieves, or the appropriate service branch.

Be skeptical of any exclusive deal only for veterans. In some cases, there are legitimate deals for veterans, but in many cases, the items are not discounted at all, but non-existent products and services. It is best to check the products before you buy and never send money to anyone you do not know.

Be guarded when anyone demands an upfront payment. It is a common scam for con artists to demand payment or large sums of money upfront and some will even go as far as claiming to be military personnel overseas. No legitimate business will ever demand for complete payment upfront and this is a red flag.

Be suspicious of any individual or entity requiring monetary compensation to file disability claims for Veterans. The claim process is free and can be submitted by coordinating with a certified County Veteran Service Officer (CVSO) or any Veteran Administration claims representative.  The Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs can help you find your certified CVSO.

In 2019, Attorney General Rutledge successfully sued Andrew Gamber; Voyager Financial Group, LLC; BAIC, Inc.; and SoBell Corp. for the brokering of contracts that offer high-interest credit to veterans in exchange for investors illegally acquiring rights to receive future pension payments. The following year, Rutledge sued Candy Kern-Fuller and Howard Sutter, lawyers at UpState Law Group in South Carolina for substantially assisting brokers with the illegal sale of veterans’ future pension payments. Kern-Fuller and Sutter are accused of developing the contract approval, payment collection and enforcement processes. The broker companies falsely told veterans that they were selling their future payments for a reduced lump-sum. In reality, the veterans’ pension assignment contracts were high interest loans that were void from the start. These deceptive and unfair acts and practices violate state and federal laws protecting veterans.

Arkansas military service members, veterans and families can file consumer complaints with the Attorney General’s office on ArkansasAG.gov.

SUSPECT WANTED IN TENNESSEE OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTING APPREHENDED
MAY 25, 2021
Cody James Dimmett, 28, of Marietta, Georgia was taken into custody tonight following a six-hour search west of Forrest City near the Palestine community.  Dimmett was arrested by law enforcement officers of the Arkansas State Police, St. Francis County Sheriff’s Department, FBI, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission and others who had participated in the search.

Dimmett is wanted in connection with a shooting incident that occurred earlier today in Tennessee.

The search began about 1:30 PM after an Arkansas State Trooper spotted the vehicle believed to have been taken at the shooting scene and attempted to stop the driver along Interstate 40 (westbound) near Forrest City.  Dimmett fled from state police and abandoned the vehicle off St. Francis County Road 255.  Dimmett was located about 7:30 PM near the location where he was last seen by the trooper.

BOOZMAN LEADS REPUBLICAN AG COMMITTEE MEMBERS CALLING ON USDA TO RELEASE DETAILS ON IMPACT OF PROPOSED TAX INCREASES
Senators request evidence to support claim that only two percent of farm estates will be impacted

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, led a group of Republicans on the panel in calling on U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to make public a detailed explanation and any supporting economic analyses that clarify how the Biden administration’s proposed tax increases will affect farm estates.

 Boozman and his colleagues are questioning the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) analysis of President Joe Biden’s proposed changes in capital gains tax rates and the modification to stepped-up basis on America’s family farms and ranches.

 The letter, which was signed by seven other Republican senators who serve on the committee, specifically asks the secretary to explain how USDA arrived at the conclusion that 98 percent of farm estates will not be impacted by the proposed tax changes.

 “The proposed tax impacts are dependent on a number of factors, including but not limited to appreciation in farmland assets prior to a property owner's death, size of the farm operation and associated assets, income of the heirs, and the farm's ownership structure. Given these factors, we are writing to seek a detailed explanation and supporting economic analysis clarifying how these tax provisions will affect farm estates, including specifically how USDA arrived at the conclusion that fewer than 2% of farm estates will be impacted by the proposed tax changes,” the senators wrote.

 Along with Boozman, the letter was signed by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Mike Braun (R-IN), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), John Hoeven (R-ND) and Joni Ernst (R-IA).

 

BIPARTISAN SUPPORT FOR HIGHWAY FUNDING BILL THAT INCLUDES BOOZMAN PROVISIONS
WASHINGTON–The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) unanimously passed a landmark surface transportation reauthorization bill to invest over $300 billion to repair and modernize roads and bridges, and which includes several priorities advanced by committee member U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR).

“Infrastructure is a bipartisan issue because Americans everywhere understand we must to be able to move people and goods efficiently throughout our country. The EPW Committee continues to build on this consensus and has again adopted legislation that seeks to upgrade our country’s transportation infrastructure,” Boozman said. “I’m proud to have worked alongside my colleagues to craft this bill that invests a historic level of funding to ensure our infrastructure network in Arkansas and nationwide is safe and able to perform the vital function that underpins our entire economy.”

The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 sets a new baseline funding level of over $300 billion for U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) programs for highways, roads and bridges. This marks an increase of more than 34 percent from the last reauthorization to pass Congress, the FAST Act, in 2015.

The prior authorization for surface transportation programs expired in 2020. Congress passed a one-year extension that will expire on September 30, 2021.

“This legislation is an important step forward in the effort to address our infrastructure shortfalls, and the Biden administration should follow the lead of our committee. One area that will help us achieve this much-needed progress is the reforms we approved related to streamlining and expediting permitting and review processes,” said Boozman. “When we empower states and localities to tackle essential repairs or new projects with the confidence that they can complete that work in a timely fashion, it will build momentum and spur further investment.”

The bill includes the following provisions secured by Boozman:
Establishing a competitive grant program to assist the repair and replacement of deficient and outdated bridges and ease the national bridge repair backlog.
Restoration of flexibility for Highway Safety Improvement Program funds to better protect motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.
Safety improvement at railway-highway grade crossings, including funding for reducing pedestrian fatalities and injuries.
Speeding up projects by spurring completion of DOT environmental impact statements and requiring accountability when deadlines are missed, and requiring the Secretary of Transportation to limit repetitive work zone process reviews.
Minimizing unnecessary delays and paperwork burdens for low-risk and exempt intelligent transportation system projects.

May 25, 2021

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON’S COVID UPDATE – MAY 25, 2021
Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday that 50 percent of Arkansas adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

This is according to the Centers for Disease of Control and Prevention. The goal was first announced earlier this month. Hutchinson did add that Arkansas remains behind the national average vaccination rate.

Hutchinson also said there will be vaccine clinics in three state parks this weekend: DeGray Lake Resort State Park, Mississippi River State Park and Petit Jean State Park. Anyone who receive a vaccine at a state park can be entered to win a two-night stay at any Arkansas state park. 

Finally, starting May 25, Hutchinson said anyone receiving a vaccine will be eligible to receive either a $20 Arkansas Scholarship Lottery scratch-off or a gift certificate for the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. These incentives can be redeemed at any county Department of Health unit in Arkansas beginning June 1. 

Hutchinson concluded by updating the latest COVID-19 figures. According to the Arkansas Department of Health, there were 329 new cases and four virus-related deaths reported on Tuesday.

There are 882,508 Arkansans fully immunized and 239,837 partially immunized as of Tuesday, according to the ADH.
 

MS. LOUISE ALLISON OF LITTLE ROCK FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF PARTNERS AGAINST TRAFFICKING HUMANS TO VISIT CAMDEN
Thrive Church of Camden is pleased to announce Ms. Louise Allison of PATH of Little Rock will be our special guest, this Sunday, May 30th at 10AM. Ms. Allison is the founder and president of Partners Against Trafficking Humans which is one of Arkansas’ largest organizations specializing in the fight against human trafficking within our state and beyond. Ms. Allison is a true Arkansas treasure serving on the frontlines of battle against trafficking and has been instrumental in the passage of legislation combatting it within our state. As Ms. Allison shares some of the stories of the women and children rescued by PATH, it will become clear as to why she has been called the Mother Theresa of Arkansas. 

Service will begin at 10AM in person at 746 California Avenue (at the former Ross Center) and will also be broadcast live on Facebook and YouTube via Thrive’s social media pages. The public is invited to attend. 

For more information, contact Pastor Mark Smith at 454-4820.

CAMDEN KIWANIS CLUB TO MEET
The Camden Kiwanis Club will meet this Thursday, May 27th, at Catherine's Bistro at 12:00 PM. The program will be presented by Annie Sutherland. She will be discussing a new business in town, Pro Land Title Company.

 

JUDGE DAVID GRAHAM ANNOUNCES HIS INTENTION TO RUN FOR CIRCUIT JUDGE, DIVISION 1, JUDICIAL DISTRICT 13.
Judge David Graham has announced his intention to run for Circuit Judge, Division 1, Judicial District 13. This District includes Calhoun, Cleveland, Columbia, Dallas, Ouachita, and Union Counties. Currently Judge Graham is serving as State District Judge for the 39th District which includes Columbia and Ouachita Counties. Judge Hamilton Singleton, who currently holds the Division 1 position is not running for re-election.

“I have certainly enjoyed serving as State District Judge however, due to the expanded docket of the State District Courts which will include matters pending in Circuit Court including protective orders, forcible entry, and detainer, unlawful detainer, and matters of an emergency or uncontested nature I feel I am qualified for this Circuit Judgeship. In addition, State District Courts have subject matter jurisdiction over traffic violations, misdemeanors offenses, violations of state law and local ordinances, preliminary felony matters, and civil matters involving contracts, damage to personal property and recovery of personal property where the amount in controversy does not exceed $25,000.00. My promise is to continue my consistent and fair rulings without regard to who stands before me and I will always be available to our law enforcement officers.”

Judge Graham is currently serving as a State District Court Judge and previously served as Columbia District Court Judge for 4 years. He graduated from Texas A&M School of Law and received his undergraduate degree from Ouachita Baptist University. He has practiced law for 24 years and was the principal in the Graham Law Firm in Magnolia. He has served as a Drug Task Force Deputy Prosecutor for the 13 th Judicial District and City Attorney for Waldo. He is a member of the Arkansas, Texas, and Columbia County Bar Associations. Previously Judge Graham served 3 terms as a Justice of the Peace for Columbia County.

An active member of his community, Judge Graham has served on the Board of the Magnolia Chamber of Commerce and the United Way. He is past president of the Magnolia Lion’s Club, the Magnolia Jaycees and is a member of the Magnolia Rotary.

Judge Graham and his wife of 27 years, Rebecca, are the parents of three children, Macye, Katie and Patrick. They attend Central Baptist Church where he has served as a Deacon, Sunday School Teacher, and a member of the Choir.
 

May 24, 2021

EUDORA MAN WOUNDED BY GUNFIRE FOLLOWING STRING OF AUTO THEFTS
MAY 22, 2021
Chicot County authorities have requested the Arkansas State Police to investigate the use of deadly force by two local law enforcement officers.  A sheriff’s deputy and a Dermott police officer directed gunfire at the driver of a stolen Lake Village Police Department patrol vehicle about 3:30 PM yesterday (Friday, May 21st).  The incident occurred in Dermott as a suspect in a string of auto thefts across Chicot County attempted to escape police and deputies who had converged on 501 West Daniels where the suspect had been seen moments earlier.

Travis Haynes, 33, of Eudora, was apprehended about 3:45 PM after fleeing Dermott driving the police sport utility vehicle.  As deputies and officers took Haynes into custody, they determined Haynes had sustained what appeared to be gunshot wounds to a leg.  Hayes was transported to a Chicot County hospital, but later moved to a Little Rock hospital.  The wounds were initially assessed as being non-life threatening.

Special Agents of the state police criminal investigation division will prepare an investigative file related to the shooting incident.  The Chicot County prosecuting attorney will use the investigation to determine whether the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers was consistent with state laws.

Questions related to the identity of the law enforcement officers who may have used firearms in the incident, their administrative status, and the ongoing investigations into the auto thefts leading up to the shooting, should be directed to the respective local law enforcement agencies.
 

TRI-LAKES BIG BASS TOURNAMENT RESCHEDULED DUE TO LAKE LEVELS, RAIN PREDICTIONS
5/24/2021
DE QUEEN - This weekend's 31st Annual Tri-Lakes Big Bass Tournament has been postponed - but fortunately, this year, not because of COVID-19.

Officials with the Sevier County Chamber of Commerce made the decision Sunday to move the tournament back by a week due to lake levels at De Queen, Dierks and Gillham. An extremely wet May has meant all three lakes are above normal elevation and some of the traditional boat landings are completely underwater. And forecasters are calling for plenty more rain this week.

Instead of this Saturday, the bass tournament will now be held June 5. Organizers hope this will allow enough time for clear weather to move in and lake levels to fall closer to normal levels.

Registration continues is continuing for this year's Tri-Lakes Big Bass Festival. The tournament will be held on De Queen, Dierks and Gillham Lakes. The event will begin at 6 a.m. and continue through 1 p.m. on June 5. Early registration is $45 per person. Boat check and late registration begins at 5 a.m. on all three lakes the day of the tournament.

Check-in will be held at Oak Grove and Rolling Fork landings on De Queen Lake, Coon Creek and Little Coon Creek on Gillham and at Jefferson Ridge on Dierks Lake. Weigh-in sites will be located at all three lakes.

Prizes include $1,500 for catching the biggest bass, $1,000 for second place and so on through fifth place. Prizes are awarded hourly as well for a total of around $10,000 in prize money at this year's tournament.

This year the chamber is offering a registration bundle to participants. For $65, anglers can cover their registration fee and receive a tournament cap. Wear your hat at hourly weigh-ins and, if your catch takes first place that hour, you'll receive an extra $50.

COVID-19 will still have some impact on this year's tournament. Chamber officials said no award ceremony will be held due to the pandemic. All winners will receive prize money through the mail.
For more information, contact Greg Ray at 642-2425 or the Chamber of Commerce office at 584-3225.


TREASURER OF STATE DENNIS MILLIGAN ANNOUNCES RESULTS OF STATEWIDE SURVEY ARKANSAS 529 PLAN RUNNING SUMMER SWEEPSTAKES TO CELEBRATE 529 DAY
Little Rock, Ark.   ̶  May 24, 2021 – Treasurer of State Dennis Milligan’s office, which administers the Arkansas 529 Education Savings Plan, announced results of a statewide survey today that highlights Arkansans’ awareness of education savings plans. Along with other 529 plans across the country, the office is celebrating 529 Day by encouraging families to open an Arkansas 529 plan.

 “May 29th is an annual reminder of the importance of saving for a child’s education,” Milligan said. “Arkansas 529’s low contribution minimums and significant spending flexibility, combined with a state tax deduction of up to $10,000, make the plan an incredibly attractive option for all Arkansas families.”

The Arkansas 529 Education Savings Plan administrators recently surveyed about 70,000 randomly selected Arkansans to measure their preparedness of saving for education. The survey had a response rate of 2.18%.

Respondents were asked how prepared they were for saving for education expenses. Of those who responded, only 22.46% said they think they are saving enough. A total of 39.04% said they have saved some, but could do better, and about the same number said they are worried they haven’t saved enough for future educational expenses.

Respondents ranked the federal and state tax advantages as the most important benefit of the Arkansas 529 plan.  A report of the full survey results can be found on the State Treasurer’s website.

As an incentive to encourage Arkansans to open new Arkansas 529 accounts, the Plan is sponsoring an online sweepstakes between now and June 30, 2021, that will award five $529 contributions to new or existing Arkansas 529 account owners. Details may be found at Arkansas529.org.

“When I took office in 2015, I made promoting the Arkansas 529 plan a priority,” Milligan said. “We had $568 million in assets and today, just six years later, we’re at more than $1 billion – double what we started with.”

Not only has Milligan grown the program exponentially, but he has worked with the Legislature during his tenure to provide several tax benefits for Arkansans in order to make the program more attractive. Those include:
· Creating a tax deduction for businesses that wish to match their employees’ contributions to an Arkansas 529 plan;
· Introducing a $7,500 tax incentive for people with out-of-state plans when they roll them over into the Arkansas plan;
· For those who are able to contribute up to $50,000 in a single year, allowing them to carry forward the $10,000 tax deduction over the upcoming four years;
· Expanding the plan to include K-12 private school tuition and widening the list of qualifying expenses for which the money can be used, including for apprenticeship programs and to pay down student debt.

“The gift of an education is an investment that will last a lifetime and can open the door to a world of opportunity for a child, “said Milligan. “Saving, even a little at a time, can make a big difference down the road. An account may be opened for as little as $25 and will help someone’s child or grandchild start saving for a brighter future.”

For more information about the Arkansas 529 Education Savings Plan, visit www.arkansas529.org or call (501) 682-1406.
 

OUACHITA COUNTY MEMORIAL DAY HOLIDAY SCHEDULE
The Ouachita County Courthouse and the Ouachita County Extension Office will be closed Monday May 31, 2021 in observance of Memorial Day. The Trash will be picked up on regular schedule.

 

CAMDEN NOON LION’S CLUB TO MEET
The Camden Noon Lion’s Club will meet Wednesday at Catherine’s Bistro. Our speakers this week will be John Lowery and Tripp Phillips with the South Arkansas Arts Center.  Tripp Phillips is the director of the upcoming play “Steel Magnolias”.  Tripp a resident of El Dorado has lived in New York and worked with plays on Broadway.  They will be talking about “Steel Magnolias” as well as various summer camps that SAAC will have this summer.

 

SAAC ANNOUNCES COMMUNITY FUN FOR "STEEL MAGNOLIAS"
The South Arkansas Arts Center is gearing up for a "blush and bashful and big hair" inspired month of June. SAAC invites the community to join in on all of the PINK fun to celebrate the upcoming summer play, "Steel Magnolias". A variety of events are being planned community wide to celebrate the spirit of female friendship.
With help from the show's cast and the Theatre Steering Committee, SAAC has created many ways to be in the "Steel Magnolias" spirit, from local business participation to an opening night celebration.

"There are local salons partnering with Steel Magnolias to offer their own specials for the month of June," said Karen Hicks, head of publicity for SAAC's theater committee. "Since the play takes place in a beauty shop, we were inspired to get some of our local salons involved, so many of them are offering an in-salon June special, featuring a service they offer. You can get your nails painted ‘Blush and Bashful' or have a stylish blow out. As Truvy says in the play, ‘the higher the hair, the closer to God.'"

SAAC is also sponsoring a city-wide store display/window competition with a grand prize of a $100 Murphy USA gas card being awarded to the best display. Merchants are invited to "gussie-up" their windows and let their imagination go wild with the color pink or let the magnolia flower inspire them to come up with something that will catch their customers' eyes for their products, as well as SAAC's summer production. Honorable mention prizes will also be awarded, including services from Possibilities Salon and show tickets to see "Steel Magnolias". Merchants should call the SAAC office to make sure they are signed up for judging.

"Steel Magnolias", sponsored by Murphy USA, will run June 17-20 and June 24-27, and SAAC invites you to an opening night champagne reception. Guests will feel like they have stepped straight into Shelby's wedding with an outdoor tent, an armadillo groom's cake and champagne flowing. Get your flowery dress and big floppy hat ready for this pre-show Southern soiree!

For more information on these upcoming plans, please call the SAAC office at 870-862-5474 or visit the website at www.saac-arts.org. SAAC is located at 110 East Main Street, El Dorado.

 

NEW C-130J SUPER HERCULES COMING TO LITTLE ROCK AIRFORCE BASE
Little Rock, AR – Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and John Boozman (R-Arkansas), along with Representatives French Hill (R-Arkansas) and Steve Womack (R-Arkansas), announced that the 189th Airlift Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard at Little Rock Airforce Base has been selected as the new home of the Air National Guard’s C-130J Super Hercules training program. 

The 189th will soon see up to four C-130Js come to Little Rock Air Force Base to seed a new Air National Guard C-130J flight training unit. The 189th currently flies the older H-model of the C-130 Hercules. The 189th will teach National Guard pilots to fly both the C-130J Super Hercules and C-130H Hercules, until they transition to all C-130Js in the coming years.

“This decision cements the 189th’s role as a manned flying squadron for decades to come. I want to both extend my thanks to the United States Air Force and my colleagues in Congress for their help in securing this mission. These new aircraft will ensure that the next generation of Air National Guard pilots have the training and experience needed to serve our great nation in war and peace. I’m pleased to say that Little Rock Air Force base will safely be known as ‘Home of the Herc’ for many bright years ahead,” said Cotton, Ranking Member of the Air-Land Subcommittee on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“This is great news for Arkansas, the Arkansas Air National Guard and the community. The 189th Airlift Wing is an outstanding unit that has demonstrated its excellence and indispensability in maintaining our nation’s air superiority. The Air Force’s decision to station this new aircraft in the 189th ensures the squadron will continue to play a critical role in our nation’s defense well into the future,” said Boozman, co-chairman of the Senate Air Force Caucus.

“The Little Rock Air Force Base continues to remain one of the most technologically advanced and well-run military installations in the world. The selection of the base as the new home of the Air National Guard’s C-130J Super Hercules training program reflects this well-known fact. I’m thankful to my colleagues and the United States Air Force for their work to make Central Arkansas the continued home of C-130 training, and I’m confident in the program’s contribution to supporting the most well-trained, efficient, and effective military force in the world,” said Hill.

“Arkansas proudly boasts a long history of supporting initiatives critical to our nation’s common defense. This decision builds on that and ensures we are equipped to train our next generation of pilots. I’m proud that the Natural State will be hosting C-130Js now and into the future. I will continue working with the delegation to secure missions that serve America’s security needs,” said Womack.

 

COTTON, MCCONNELL ANNOUNCE BILL TO COMBAT ANTI-SEMITIC HATE CRIMES
Washington, D.C. – Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) today announced they are introducing the Preventing Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes Act, legislation to combat the dramatic rise of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the United States.

“Anti-Semitism has no place in the United States. The Department of Justice must take immediate, decisive action to stop the shocking rise of hate crimes targeting the American Jewish community. Our bill will ensure the racist criminals committing these crimes are prosecuted and held accountable,” said Cotton.

“The uptick in hateful anti-Semitic attacks is disgusting and totally unacceptable. From anti-Israel efforts like the BDS movement to violent crimes on American streets, we must confront anti-Semitism every single place it rears its ugly head. Our legislation will support state and local law enforcement and ensure the bigoted thugs and criminals who are attacking Jewish Americans face the full force of American justice,” said McConnell.

Background:
The FBI reports that more than 60 percent of all hate crimes against any religious group in the United States are directed against Jewish Americans. In recent weeks, media coverage has also indicated that there is a surge in these antisemitic hate crimes in the United States, fueled by activists and sympathizers of the terrorist group, Hamas. The bill, which will be formally introduced next week, will ensure that the Department of Justice appropriately prioritizes this growing hate crime threat, and that it works to augment state and local law enforcement efforts to prevent and respond to antisemitic hate crimes.

 

COTTON, GALLAGHER INTRODUCE BILL TO CLOSE LOBBYING LOOPHOLES FOR CHINESE COMPANIES
Washington, D.C. – Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) introduced the Chinese Communist Party Influence Transparency Act, legislation to close loopholes that allow lobbyists for Chinese companies to avoid registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

“Chinese companies—particularly powerful ones—are all arms of the Chinese Communist Party and remain ultimately under state control. It’s time our laws recognize that reality. Our bill will close legal loopholes and force lobbyists for Chinese companies to register as foreign agents," said Cotton.

“Any Chinese company important enough to register lobbyists in Washington, D.C. is significant enough to be co-opted at will by the Chinese Communist Party,” said Gallagher. “This bill helps close existing loopholes that allow lobbyists to avoid the enhanced scrutiny that comes with the Foreign Agents Registration Act and will reduce the ability of the Chinese Communist Party to use the swamp against us.”

Last year, Cotton and Gallagher wrote to the Department of Justice expressing concerns about these loopholes and whether individuals lobbying on behalf of certain Chinese companies should be required to register under FARA.

Following calls from Gallagher and Cotton, the U.S. Department of Defense published a list of Chinese companies affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army. Despite the list’s publication, individuals lobbying on the behalf of these Chinese military companies can still receive exemptions that allow them to register under the less transparent Lobbying Disclosure Act.

 

BOOZMAN SHARES SERVICE MEMORIES OF LATE FORT SMITH VIETNAM VETERAN CHAD COLLEY
WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of the late Ralph C. “Chad” Colley, Jr., a veteran of the Vietnam War, in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans. 

Colley was born in Fort Smith on May 13, 1944. He fondly recalled growing up in a military family with his dad, who loved the Army, and a mother who enjoyed being an Army wife.

At an early age he learned skills that would prepare him for service in his nation’s uniform, with his dad passing along his passion for the Army. “He brought everything from a Browning Automatic Rifle down to the house and I learned how to field strip them,” Colley said. “I could break them down with the best of ‘em when I was about ten.”

He moved often in childhood due to his dad’s military service, living in Kansas, Georgia, Germany and Japan. “I loved it. I’m a true military brat,” Colley said.

After graduating from Columbus High School in Columbus, Georgia, Colley continued his education at North Georgia College, today called the University of North Georgia, a military college. He met his future wife, Betty Ann, while a student. They continued a long-distance relationship while his sweetheart completed her education at the University of Florida.

Colley was commissioned as an Army officer in 1966. The following year he and Betty Ann married. They were still newlyweds when Colley was deployed to Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division.

He sustained life-altering injuries after stepping on a landmine in 1968. “I remember seeing my legs gone,” Colley said. He quickly pushed back thoughts of death. “I want to live so badly that whatever it takes I’ll do it. I’m down for it. Let me get back and fight,” he remembered thinking before the medic arrived to help him.

It took several weeks before his condition improved enough for him to be transferred to Japan for more specialized care. People back home were able to follow updates about his recovery. “My injury took such a period of time that there was something in the Fort Smith paper almost every day.”

Both of Colley’s legs were amputated above the knee and his left arm below the elbow, but he focused on what he had instead of what he lost. He maintained this positive attitude for the rest of his life.

“In order to carry myself from that point to the person I became, I did have to change how people – their perception of me,” Colley said. “When I was in a group and they gave me these pitiful looks like my life could not be worse, I must be terribly unhappy, it infuriated me. That’s not who I was.”

Colley didn’t let his disability slow him down. Instead, he continued to challenge himself by launching a career in real estate, obtaining his pilot’s license and taking up skiing. During the 1992 Paralympic games in Albertville, France, at 48-years-old, he won gold medals in both Downhill and Super G events.

“The skiing is the one thing that I could finally do where gravity worked for me,” Colley said. “I was skiing against world-class competitors whose parents were younger than I was.”

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) honored him as its Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year in 1970. As a result of his leadership, action was taken to make public facilities more accessible to all disabled Americans. He was elected National Commander of DAV in 1984 where he continued to influence positive change for veterans.

“Life has been extraordinarily rewarding,” Colley said.

He and Betty Ann have two children and three grandchildren. He credited his success to his loved ones. “I have been supported all along by my family — particularly Betty Ann and my mother. I don’t know how many times she’s told me she wished she could swap places with me. I love the depth of her love,” he said of his 97-year-old mother.

Chad Colley, recipient of the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart, passed away on January 30, 2021. He is buried in the Fort Smith National Cemetery.

 Boozman submitted remarks to the Congressional Record honoring Colley’s life.
“Chad Colley made extreme sacrifices for his country. We are forever blessed by his selfless service and the remarkable determination he demonstrated throughout his life. He was a leader who used his voice to help advance policies to help others live a meaningful life. He did it all with a positive, infectious attitude,” Boozman said.

 Boozman will present Colley’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.

May 20, 2021

GOVERNOR HUTCHINSON ENDS COVID-19 EMERGENCY HEALTH DECLARATION
The emergency health order governing the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic will end this month.

During a press conference held Thursday morning, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the state will end the emergency health declaration on May 31. The declaration has been effect since the pandemic first entered Arkansas over a year ago. Hutchinson cited the decline in new cases, deaths and hospitalizations as justification for the end of the health emergency. He added the current situation does not warrant emergency executive measures. 

Despite this announcement, Hutchinson stressed the pandemic is still present in Arkansas. Deaths, although low, continue to increase every day and new cases of COVID-19 are still being reported across the state. Hutchinson said all Arkansans should continue to be cautious to help ensure the end of the current pandemic. As part of this focus Hutchinson said the state will spend millions on new advertising to highlight the safety and effectiveness of the available vaccines, especially among Arkansas' minority populations.

Part of the effort to bring an end to COVID-19, Hutchinson said, is encouraging every eligible Arkansan to get one of the available vaccines. Currently all Arkansans aged 12 and up are able to receive a vaccine.

The Arkansas Department of Health reported zero COVID-related deaths on Wednesday - the latest data available as of the time of this report. Total cases saw a small increase of 244 for a cumulative statewide total of 339,000 COVID-19 transmissions since the start of the pandemic. Hospitalizations currently number 188. 

 

PREVENTING OLDER ADULT INJURIES: ARKANSAS HAS ONE OF THE HIGHEST RATES OF REPORTED FALLS IN ADULTS 65+ IN THE U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Launches New Campaign to Highlight Steps to Prevent Injury in Adults 65+

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is launching Still Going Strong, a national campaign that brings attention to ways older adults (age 65 and older) can age without injury. The campaign’s goal is to raise awareness about the leading causes of unintentional injuries and deaths in older adults. Older adults had over 2.4 million emergency department (ED) visits and 700,000 hospitalizations related to injuries from falls, motor vehicle crashes, opioid overdoses, and self-harm in 2018, according to a new CDC report in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Unintentional falls accounted for over 90% of these ED visits and hospitalizations.

 The newly released CDC report found that Arkansas has the 14th highest rate of reported falls in the U.S. in adults 65 and older, at 29.5%, higher than the national average of 28%.

 Falls: Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in older adults. An older adult falls every second of the day. Of those falls, 1 out of every 5 causes a serious injury, such as broken bones or a head injury. After an older adult falls, their chances of falling again and getting injured increases.

Motor Vehicle Crashes: Older adults account for over 46 million licensed drivers in the United States—or 1 in 5 drivers. Driving helps older adults stay independent, but the risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash increases as we age. Every day, 700 older adults are injured in a motor vehicle crash and 22 die because of their injuries.

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI): Falls and motor vehicle crashes are common causes of TBI in older adults. TBI is a major cause of death and disability and those who survive a TBI can face effects that last a few days or the rest of their lives.

While falls, motor vehicle crashes and TBI are common and costly in older adults, they are not an inevitable part of aging. They are preventable and there are things older adults and their caregivers can do to prevent this from happening.

Older adults can take simple steps to maintain their independence and mobility, such as talking to their health care providers about preventing falls and car crashes, removing throw rugs to make their home safer, and always wearing a seat belt while driving or riding in a vehicle.

Friends, family, and caregivers can help loved ones live longer and healthier lives by talking with them about fall and motor vehicle crash prevention, encouraging them to stay active and make safe choices, such as finding alternative transportation for going places at night.

Healthcare providers can ask their older patients if they have concerns about falling or driving safely. Review older patients over the counter and prescription medications to identify if any cause drowsiness or dizziness.

 

FEDERAL RENT, UTILITY BILL ASSISTANCE NOW AVAILABLE TO QUALIFYING ARKANSANS
Entergy Arkansas encourages customers to enroll in payment plans prior to disconnection
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – Arkansans who are having trouble paying rent or utility bills due to COVID-19 can apply now for federal money to help cover costs incurred since April 2020, including Entergy Arkansas customers and others across the state.

“Because of COVID-19, many of our customers are facing unexpected financial hardship – some due to illness, loss of jobs and other factors,” said Entergy Arkansas Vice President of Customer Service Michael Considine. “These assistance programs along with payment plans can help Entergy Arkansas customers who rent their home keep their power on while they continue to navigate these unprecedented times.”

The Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program has allocated $173 million to be administered through the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS), and state officials estimate some 56,000 households will qualify for the program. DHS established the Arkansas Rent Relief Program to distribute the available funds.

Eligible households may receive up to 15 months of assistance for rent and/or utility costs incurred between April 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021. Covered utilities include electric, gas and water. Up to three months of future rent may be applied for at one time; utilities may be applied for monthly once the bill is received. Officials said an eligible household is defined as a renter household in which at least one or more individuals:
qualifies for unemployment or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or
experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19;
demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and
has a household income at or below 80% area median income.

Landlords and tenants may submit an application for rent relief. Utility-only applicants do not need their landlord to submit an application. Funds will be paid directly to landlords and utility service providers, including Entergy Arkansas, for past due bills. Residents of Benton, Pulaski and Washingoton counties must apply through their local county government, and more information is available through DHS or online at ar.gov/rentrelief.

Entergy Arkansas stopped all service disconnects for nonpayment in March 2020 but has resumed disconnections along with other utilities in the state per direction from the Arkansas Public Service Commission.

 “Entergy Arkansas customers who have outstanding bills should contact us online, through the Entergy app or by phone immediately to enroll in a payment plan and to avoid disconnection before it occurs,” Considine said.

For more information about the federal program, visit https://www.entergy.com/covid-19/rental-assistance/. Other free programs are also available to help low-income residential customers lower their energy usage and costs, along with bill payment assistance, and can be found online at https://www.entergy-arkansas.com/payment-options/. To enroll in a payment plan, call 1-800-ENTERGY or use the Entergy app, which can be downloaded for Apple IOS or Android at this link – www.Entergy.com/app/.

ABOUT ENTERGY ARKANSAS
Entergy Arkansas provides electricity to approximately 715,000 customers in 63 counties. Entergy Arkansas is a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation, 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 7,000 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.

 

MARK CONINE APPOINTED ARKANSAS DEVELOPMENT FINANCE AUTHORITY (ADFA) PRESIDENT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (May 20, 2021) – Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston today announced Mark Conine as the new president of the Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA), a division of the Arkansas Department of Commerce. Conine comes from his present position as Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Finance and Administration at ADFA.

The ADFA Board of Directors selected Conine as the next ADFA president at their monthly meeting held today. Conine assumes the role as president immediately, replacing Bryan Scoggins who has served as president since August of 2019.

“Mark is the ideal choice to lead ADFA,” Preston said. “He brings a wealth of experience in the financial industry and knows the ins and outs of ADFA. I have the utmost confidence in his ability to work with our partners as we seek to expand job opportunities and affordable housing throughout the state.”

Prior to joining the ADFA, Conine served 12 years as the Chief Financial Officer of the Arkansas Student Loan Authority, now a division of ADFA since transformation of state government.

“I am pleased that Mark has been selected to serve as ADFA’s next president,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson. “His financial experience in both the private and public sectors have given him the tools he needs to continue the state’s business finance efforts.”

I am thankful that Governor Hutchinson, Secretary Preston and the ADFA Board of Directors has the confidence in me to take on this new leadership responsibility,” said Conine. “I look forward to working with the various agencies within the Department of Commerce as well as our state’s financial partners to improve the quality of life for all Arkansans.”

Conine holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Ouachita Baptist University and is a licensed certified public accountant and certified global management accountant. He is a member of the Arkansas Society of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Arkansas Development Finance Authority:

The Arkansas Development Finance Authority was created in 1985 as successor to the Arkansas Housing Development Agency created in 1977. The Arkansas Student Loan Authority merged with ADFA in 2017. ADFA’s enabling legislation authorizes it to borrow money and issue bonds to provide sufficient funding for financing affordable housing, various business and economic development projects, and capital improvements for state agencies. ADFA is the exclusive issuer of bonds for state agencies.
 

COTTON, TILLIS, COLLEAGUES URGE BIDEN ADMIN TO REVERSE COURSE ON GIVING AWAY MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY TO CHINA
Washington, D.C. – Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) sent a letter to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai asking them to reverse the Biden administration’s decision to give U.S. COVID intellectual property to China.

Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), Todd Young (R-Indiana), Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), and Steve Daines (R-Montana) also signed.

“It is not surprising that China, India, and South Africa want to steal our intellectual property and medical technology,” the senators wrote. “What is surprising is that an American president, especially one who claims to be a ‘jobs’ president, would force American companies to give their medical technology and manufacturing processes to foreign adversaries like China. Simply put, the Biden Administration’s support for a TRIPS waiver puts America’s interests last and China’s interests first.”

Text of the letter may be found below.
May 19, 2021
The Honorable Gina M. Raimondo

Secretary
United States Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20230

The Honorable Katherine C. Tai
United States Trade Representative
600 17th St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20508

Dear Secretary Raimondo and Ambassador Tai:

We write you today regarding President Biden’s disastrous decision to support the waiver of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS agreement in relation to the prevention, containment, or treatment of COVID-19. The waiver, which is not limited to vaccines, will do nothing to end this global pandemic. Instead, it would undermine the extraordinary global response that has achieved historically remarkable results in record time and our nation’s global leadership in the technologies, medicines, and treatments of the future.

Intellectual property rights provide the legal basis for our innovation and creative economy.  Simply put, strong intellectual property rights are why the United States leads the world in IP intensive industries like the life sciences, biopharmaceuticals, precision medicine, and diagnostics. As we work to meet the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, this leadership has benefited our country and the world. As you both know, last year America’s innovative biopharmaceutical companies developed life-saving vaccines. These companies spent substantial sums to develop these treatments and, as of this writing, have produced billions of vaccine doses for the world. Their innovation, ingenuity, and commitment to global health is responsible for the dramatic decline in the pandemic we are seeing both in America and across the globe.

Unfortunately, almost immediately after these vaccines were proven to work, China and other countries which regularly steal American intellectual property—like India and South Africa—began urging the World Trade Organization to grant a TRIPS waiver. These nations are falsely claiming that granting such a waiver would speed the development of new vaccine capacity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reason why there are not enough vaccine doses at this time is simple: the supply chain lacks the technological capacity. Vaccine production is a complex technical and logistical process, with limited technical resources (e.g., skilled scientists and technicians at companies). At best, all President Biden’s giveaway to China and India and others will do is foster uncoordinated vaccine nationalism, as countries jump in to try to coerce technology transfer and manufacturing locally.   At worst, this action will provide a boost to the Chinese Communist Party’s “vaccine diplomacy” and enable Beijing to undercut American leadership on vaccine distribution throughout the developing world.

It is not surprising that China, India, and South Africa want to steal our intellectual property and medical technology. What is surprising is that an American president, especially one who claims to be a “jobs” president, would force American companies to give their medical technology and manufacturing processes to foreign adversaries like China. Simply put, the Biden Administration’s support for a TRIPS waiver puts America’s interests last and China’s interests first.  

Our concerns with the Administration’s decision are serious, and the American people deserve to understand exactly how President Biden reached this conclusion.
Accordingly, and in order to help us better understand this decision to support intellectual property theft and forced technological transfer, we ask that you answer the following questions by no later than June 19, 2021:

Will you provide and describe a list of all meetings with foreign officials where the TRIPS waiver was discussed? Specifically, did anyone in the Administration speak with any Chinese, Indian, or South African officials regarding the TRIPS waiver and, if so, what were the contents of those discussions?

Did President Xi ask that the Administration grant a waiver when he spoke with President Biden in March?

Did the Administration coordinate its decision to negotiate a waiver with key allies including the United Kingdom, Germany and the European Union?

As you both know, the proposed TRIPS waiver merely allows member nations to waive domestic IP protections and enforcement. Does the Biden Administration plan on waiving American intellectual property laws? Does the Biden Administration plan on waiving domestic intellectual property enforcement, including enforcement against intellectual property and trade secret theft?

Under this scenario, what would happen if a Chinese national is found to have stolen trade secrets? Under the waiver, if adopted, would they not be prosecuted? And, what of the Chinese nationals currently being prosecuted? Would those cases now be dropped? 

How would this be implemented -- would private citizens be denied their ability to protect or enforce intellectual property rights in U.S. courts?

Does this Administration plan to merely ignore its obligations at the World Intellectual Property Organization?

Please quantify how many countries have ever used the TRIPS flexibilities since 2001, including the TRIPS amendment on compulsory licensing for export.

Was the Biden Administration’s support for a TRIPS waiver premised on China, Russia, South Africa, India, or any other nation state supporting other foreign policy priorities of the Administration? Specifically, was support for a TRIPS waiver predicated on foreign countries supporting any of the Administration’s international climate priorities?

Does the Administration plan on making any additional intellectual property concessions to foreign nations?

What evidence did the Administration rely on to conclude that IP was a barrier to vaccine manufacturing and that the benefits of waiving IP protections outweighed the potential costs, which include, but are not limited to:  diminished incentives for investment, increased supply chain competition, and the ability for manufacturers to negotiate voluntary licenses?

What impact will the TRIPS waiver have on America’s domestic intellectual property industries, specifically biopharmaceutical manufacturing? Biopharmaceutical manufacturing provides good-paying jobs for hundreds of thousands of American workers, workers whose livelihood will be impacted by this decision. What will you do to support these workers and how do you reconcile this decision with the Administration’s desire to be a “jobs” presidency?

What impact will this decision have on the long-term health of our nation’s innovation economy? Do you believe this decision will detrimentally impact America’s continued leadership in biopharmaceutical innovation?

Does the Administration intend to replicate this action with other vaccines or biotechnologies in the future, such as treatments for malaria, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s that are currently in development? Have you considered how this decision will adversely affect the financing of future vaccines due to the lack of confidence in this Administration to defend American intellectual property protections?

Does the Administration plan to submit the text of any waiver to TRIPS that it negotiates at the WTO to Congress for approval? Will the Administration commit to respecting the role of legislative branch and refrain from unilaterally overriding or amending the terms of a Congressionally approved agreement without approval from Congress?

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. We look forward to your responses and we hope you will advocate a reversal of this disastrous policy to President Biden. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

May 19, 2021

ARKANSAS INSURANCE DEPARTMENT CONFERS WITH ARKANSAS CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION
LITTLE ROCK, Ark (May 17, 2021) – Arkansas Insurance Department (AID) Commissioner Alan McClain will join 38 colleagues from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to participate in a virtual fly-in this week. Chief state insurance regulators will offer insights on insurance regulatory priorities, discuss the need for a long-term reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and discuss proposals that strengthen health insurance markets; protect policyholders during an insurance receivership; support pandemic business interruption insurance; and give state insurance regulators a vote on the Financial Stability Oversight Council.

“Although we can’t meet in person, it is important that we continue to work with Congress and our federal counterparts in protecting insurance consumers in Arkansas," said Commissioner McClain. “This forum is an important way for us to discuss key issues and strengthen our working relationships.”

State Insurance regulators work with NAIC to protect insurance consumers as well as ensure that regulation evolves to meet the needs of an ever-changing insurance marketplace. McClain will meet virtually with each member of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation on May 18-19 to discuss several legislative priorities. 


HUBS RESALE SHOP TO BE OPEN
The Hubs “Sweet Repeats” resale shop will be open Friday, June 4th and Saturday, June 5th from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.  “Sweet Repeats” is located at the Immanuel Baptist Church on the corner of Mt. Holly Road and Tate Street.

 

GRIFFIN APPLAUDS THE CREATION OF TAX-CREDIT SCHOLARSHIP “INVESTMENT IN ARKANSAS KIDS PROGRAM”
Griffin says, ‘We must continue to foster a culture that puts students first...'
LITTLE ROCK – Lt. Governor Tim Griffin issued the statement below following the signing of SB 680/Act 904 into law: 
 “I believe in school choice, and I am thrilled that this tax-credit scholarship program empowers parents to pick the best education option for their child. Our current one-size-fits-all education system means some families become trapped in a school that does not meet their individual needs simply because of zip code or family income. Act 904 provides educational freedom for up to 250 students to attend a school that allows them to reach their full potential. We must continue to foster a culture that puts students first, so one day every student in our state has the best chance to succeed."

 

COTTON INTRODUCES BILL TO CODIFY SUCCESSES OF OPERATION WARP SPEED, PREPARE FOR FUTURE PANDEMICS
Washington, D.C. – Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) introduced the Operation Warp Speed Act, legislation to codify the successes of Operation Warp Speed for use in the event of another pandemic. The bill addresses shortages in the Strategic National Stockpile, increases the speed of safe approval for life-saving medicine, and improves domestic manufacturing.

“Operation Warp Speed’s success shouldn’t be ignored—it should be standardized so that the United States is more prepared next time. My bill builds upon the success of Operation Warp Speed and strengthens our ability to fight any future pandemic.”

The Operation Warp Speed Act would:
Require HHS to assess what supplies are missing from the Strategic National Stockpile, and submit an annual report to Congress on potential production shortfalls in an emergency
Give priority to domestic manufacturers for vaccine production and supplies needed for the National Strategic Stockpile
Remove emergency use authorization (EUA) approval from the bureaucrats at the FDA and instead allow leaders from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), CDC, FDA, NIH to grant EUA approval when three of the four agency leaders agree it is in the country’s best interest, and require these agencies to review EUA data on a rolling basis
Assess geographic gaps in clinical trial sites across the United States
Grant ASPR flexibility for funds used to secure contracts with the private sector during a public health emergency, and create a new operations role within ASPR to ensure the timely development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics in the event of another public health emergency.

May 18, 2021

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: SCAMMERS ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS ONLINE
LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is cautioning Arkansans when shopping online and on social media. Whether shopping through an adorable online boutique or Facebook Marketplace, con artists will use every trick in the book to steal your money without delivering what you paid for or their merchandise may not look as promised.

“Criminals see online shopping as an easy way to steal from you using deceitful posts,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Whether they are in person or online thieves, we will find them and hold them accountable.”

Attorney General Rutledge provides the following tips to help keep consumers safe while shopping online:

Look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar, and the abbreviation “https” in the web address to be sure information is secure and to help guard the security of your information as it is transmitted to a website. Be sure your browser has the most up-to-date encryption capabilities by using the latest version available.

Check the online merchant’s privacy policy before providing any personal financial information and determine how the information will be used or shared with others. Some websites’ disclosures are easier to find than others — look at the bottom of the home page, on order forms or in the “About” or “FAQs” sections of a site.

Read and understand return, refund and shipping policies before you make your purchase.

Pay by credit card, which is the most secure payment method. Under federal law, charges can be disputed and consumer liability for theft is limited so long as consumers promptly notify the bank or credit card issuer. Additionally, many credit card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which the purchaser pays nothing if his or her credit card is stolen and used to make unauthorized purchases.

Keep personal information private. Do not disclose personal information – address, telephone number, Social Security number, bank account number or email address – unless you know who is collecting the information, why they are collecting it and how they will use it.

Be cautious when buying gifts from an online auction. Understand how the auction works and check the seller’s reputation before bidding. Always ask about terms of delivery and return options. Never wire money for the purchase; use some other form of payment.

Keep records of online transactions and check for emails from merchants. Merchants may email important information about purchases.

Promptly and thoroughly review monthly credit card and bank statements for any errors or unauthorized purchases. Notify the credit or debit card issuer immediately if a card or checkbook is lost or stolen or if you suspect someone is using your accounts without your permission.

For more information about consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov.

CAMDEN KIWANIS CLUB TO MEET
The Camden Kiwanis Club will meet this Thursday, May 20th, at Catherine's Bistro at 12:00 PM. The program will be presented by Dr. Edward Rice. He’ll be discussing the new VC for Student Services at SAU Tech

CAMDEN AIRPORT COMMISSION TO MEET
The City of Camden Airport Commission will have their regularly scheduled meeting on Friday, May 21, 2021 at 11:30 a.m. at the Airport Terminal located at 255 Airport Road, Camden, Arkansas.

May 17, 2021

BEARDEN WOMAN KILLED IN ATV ACCIDENT
On Saturday May 15, 2021 I Lt. Justin Creech along with Ouachita County Sheriff David Norwood, Deputy Barry Riggs, and Ouachita County Ambulance Service responded to 3444 Bearden Loop Road in reference to an ATV accident.

While in route Sheriff Norwood requested that air EMS be dispatched to the scene. Upon arrival Deputy Creechl observed a white female, later identified as Tammy May, lying on the ground in her front yard next to a 2014 Honda Pioneer 700 side by side (SXS). The woman was in and out of consciousness.

Family members on scene stated she had been driving the SXS and rolled the vehicle over on top of her. They went on to say that they had picked the vehicle up off of May. Ouachita County EMS arrived on scene and began to evaluate the injuries of May while awaiting air EMS. Shortly after, Air EMS Survival Flight arrived on ·scene and assisted Ouachita County EMS with the patient. Ouachita County EMS then transported May by ambulance to Ouachita County Medical Center.

Officer Creech then spoke with May's son-in-law Corey Sharp. He said that he had observed Tammy on the ATV driving from the back of the yard toward the front of the yard at a high rate of speed and the ATV began to roll over. Sharp stated the ATV overturned and rested on May's neck and head. Corey went on to say he and May's son rolled the ATV off of May.

At approximately 9:24 p. m. on May 15, 2021 Officer Creech received a call from Ouachita County Coroner Sylvester Smith who stated that Tammy May and succumbed to her injuries.

CAMDEN FAIRVIEW BOARD OF EDUCATION TO MEET
The Camden Fairview Board of Education will meet in regular Session on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 at 6:30 P.M. At Garrison Auditorium. The agenda is as follows.

Call to order
Approval of minutes of previous meetings.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS
 a.  None

NEW BUSINESS
Presentation made by East Harding regarding FES reroof.
Presentation made by Pam Turner regarding BX3 Team three-year training.
Presentation and recommendation made by Cara Bowie regarding CFMS Reading course.
Presentation and recommendation made by Johnny Embry regarding K-12 Culinary.
Presentation made by Johnny Embry on transition classes grades 1-5.
Presentation and recommendation made by Johnny Embry regarding Projects for the District. (Paint)
Presentation and recommendation made by Johnny Embry regrading Summer projects CFMS Gym renovations (Bleachers/Floor)
Presentation and recommendation regarding Amended 2021-2022 index for extended days/additional duties.
Presentation and recommendation made by Fred Lilly regarding additional compensation.
Facility Rentals

Superintendent’s report to the Board.

Financial report

Personnel
Hiring
Resignations
Retirement
Leave of Absence

To comply with CDC guidelines, all attendees must wear a mask.
 

CAMDEN DOWNTOWN FARMER’S MARKET PROVIDES FRESH AND TASTY FOOD
The downtown farmer’s market will open for the 2021 season on Friday, May 21st 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 Ave.  The farmer’s market will take place on the 3rd Friday of each month through the summer.

 

“DOLLARS AND SENSE OF HISTORIC PRESERVATION” COMING TO CAMDEN ON MAY 27
LITTLE ROCK—Preserve Arkansas will present an educational program called “Dollars and Sense of Historic Preservation” on Thursday, May 27, 2021, at The Events Center at Fairview Park, 2740 Mt. Holly Road in Camden. Dollars and Sense is a workshop designed to emphasize the economic potential of historic building rehabilitation as well as tools for redevelopment.

The program provides useful information to owners of historic property, developers, planners, elected officials, and anyone interested in downtown revitalization. “In addition to preservation basics and local success stories, this year’s program will include components on Qualified Opportunity Zones and solar energy, which are relatively new additions to the preservation toolbox and may be used in conjunction with Historic Tax Credits and other financial incentives to complete a profitable building rehabilitation project,” said Rachel Patton, executive director of Preserve Arkansas.

Registration opens at 8:30 a.m., and the program begins at 9:00. The registration fee is $30 and includes snacks and lunch. Preserve Arkansas members receive a $5 discount. Online registration and a complete program schedule are available at https://preservearkansas.org/what-we-do/dollars-and-sense/. For more information, please contact Preserve Arkansas at 501-372-4757 or rpatton@preservearkansas.org.

Preserve Arkansas is the statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to building stronger communities by reconnecting Arkansans to our heritage and empowering people to save and rehabilitate historic places. By presenting educational programs, advocating for preservation at the federal, state, and local levels, and assisting property owners with the means and expertise to preserve and restore their structures, Preserve Arkansas has been a statewide voice for preservation in Arkansas since 1981. 

MAD AND SAAC COLLABORATE ON NEW ROCK & ROLL SUMMER CAMP
This summer, the Murphy Arts District and the South Arkansas Arts Center are joining forces to host a week-long Rock & Roll day camp June 14-18. If your child has ever wanted to livestream, produce videos, or put on a live show-or they just love the world of live music-this camp is the place for them! Campers will spend the week with an all-access backstage pass, learning the ins and outs of video and event production, and enjoying a ton of live performances along the way.
Led by a wide ranging group of SAAC instructors and behind-the-scenes talent from MAD, the camp is designed to give young musicians and aspiring You Tubers all the tools they need to create their own content. Campers will have the opportunity to see, touch and use professional-grade equipment, and then put those skills into practice under the guidance of some of the region's best creative minds.

Each morning will feature a hands-on look inside a different area of production, including album cover and logo design with Mike Means, stage lighting with Regan Dodson, sound production with Terry Frisch, and video production with Benji Brown, culminating in a student-led video shoot on Friday. In the afternoon, Greg Oden will give students a crash course in a different musical genre, including hip hop, folk, country, pop, and rock. Finally, each day will wrap up with their own private live music performance, including performances by Benito Glosson and Jeremy Owens, Greg Oden, Monty Russell, Connor McMurry, and Age of Man. 

Rock & Roll Camp will be held June 14-18 at the Murphy Arts District from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Campers entering 5th-8th grades are welcome, and no prior music experience is required. Lunch each day and a t-shirt will be provided. This camp is made possible by a grant from the Arkansas Arts Council. To register, visit www.saac-arts.org/childrens-classes/.

May 15, 2021

DRIVER RUNS CAR THROUGH FRONT OF LINDA’S CLASSY CLEANERS
In the 11 o’clock hour Friday morning a driver drove through the front door of Linda’s Classy Cleaners. Police, fire and EMS responded.

A customer had just arrived at the business and was going in the front door with the incident occurred. She was pinned between the car and a part of the building. None of the employees were injured. The driver apparently accidently hit the gas instead of the brake. She went over the parking barrier and sidewalk and into the front door of Linda’s. The injured party was taken to the Ouachita County Medical Center and then air lifted to a Little Rock Hospital. The extent of her injuries are unknown at this time.

UNITED STATES FLAG AND ARKANSAS STATE FLAG HALF-STAFF NOTIFICATION: PEACE OFFICERS MEMORIAL DAY
On Saturday, May, 15, 2021, flags will fly at half-staff for Peace Officers Memorial Day, during Police Week on May 9 - May 15. All Americans are encouraged to display the United States flag on their homes and businesses.

 

LITTLE ROCK VA REGIONAL OFFICE HOLDS VIRTUAL CLAIMS CLINIC FOR VETERANS ACROSS ARKANSAS
The Little Rock VA Regional Office will begin hosting a monthly Virtual VA Claims Clinics with May 27 being the first.

WHAT:     Monthly Virtual VA Claims Clinic for Veterans
The monthly virtual clinics will be staffed by VA Regional Office employees ready to assist Veterans one-on-one with specific questions regarding VA claims.
WHEN:    Thursday, May 27, 2021, 4 - 6 p.m. 
WHO:       Arkansas Veterans who have questions about their VA claims. 
HOW:       Appointment only.
To schedule a virtual appointment, Veterans are asked to call 501-370-3829 before May 26. Business hours are 7 a.m. - 5 p.m.

BACKGROUND: 
The Little Rock VA Regional Office will begin hosting a monthly Virtual VA Claims Clinics with May 27 being the first.  

“Even though we have all been affected by the pandemic, VA still has a mission to serve the Veterans in the state of Arkansas. I’m proud to provide these services to the Veterans who so bravely served our country,” said Sammie Quillin, Little Rock VA Regional Office director. “This is also a great opportunity for us to reach out and extend services to Veterans in the rural areas of Arkansas.”

For more information about VA benefits, visit http://benefits.va.gov/benefits/ or call 800-827-1000.
 

EDUCATORS CALL ON STATE TO USE PART OF SURPLUS TO ADDRESS HEALTH INSURANCE SHORTFALL
Current proposal shifts burden of flawed funding mechanism onto educators hard hit by pandemic
Despite working through the COVID-19 pandemic and showing up in school buildings every day, educators are now facing an additional challenge. Rising health care costs and a flawed funding mechanism have created a projected shortfall of approximately $70 million in the Public School Employee health insurance plan.  
In response to this shortfall, the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Board overseeing the plan adopted a proposal that would dramatically harm educators by increasing monthly insurance premiums by an astonishing 10, 15 and 20 percent in the 2022 plan year. In addition, educators would lose half of a wellness benefit that currently reduces premium costs. This means the monthly contribution for a single employee on the classic plan would jump 45% from $71 to $103 each month. 
These dramatic increases in insurance premiums will erode the progress made in teacher pay this year, and drive educators who are not teachers out of the plan altogether. This reduced pool will make the plan less financially secure and more expensive to operate while robbing people of a key benefit that helps secure a stable workforce.  
“Arkansas’s educators risked their health to keep our schools open during the pandemic,” said AEA President Carol Fleming. “It is imperative their health insurance plan be affordable and provide meaningful benefits. Educators must have a seat at the table for decisions regarding their plan.” 
After hearing of the shortfall, the state legislature abolished the board and shifted that responsibility to the State Board of Finance, which is now considering this untenable proposal. The board is scheduled to meet again this Tuesday, May 18th. 
This painful proposal won’t solve the underlying issue. Health care costs are rising at an annual rate of 7%, but there is no built-in state funding mechanism to anticipate this, resulting in the state contributing a smaller percentage of the plan’s cost each year. 
Now, policy makers must step up and do right by educators. The state has reported a surplus of over $700 million. The plan needs a short-term infusion of state revenue to avoid shifting the cost to educators in the coming months. In the long term, the state must act responsibly by creating a sustainable funding mechanism that anticipates the annual increase in health care costs. 

STATE CAPITOL WEEK IN REVIEW 
From Senator Trent Garner
May 14, 2021
LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas legislature enacted several new pro-life laws during the 2021 regular session.

One of the first bills approved was Act 309, which prohibits abortions except in cases when it’s necessary to save the life of the mother in a medical emergency.

The act does not authorize the filing of any criminal charges against the mother. However, the person who performs the abortion could be charged with a felony and fined $100,000.

If a physician is providing medical treatment to a pregnant woman and accidentally or unintentionally harms the unborn baby, the physician has an affirmative defense.

Act 309 does not prohibit the sale or use of contraceptive drugs and chemicals, as long as they are taken before the mother could reasonably know, through conventional medical testing, that she is pregnant.

The legislature also passed Act 949, which requires abortion clinics to be licensed by the state Health Department. It also prohibits hospitals from performing an abortion unless it is to save the life of the mother in a medical emergency.

Act 90 does not allow an abortion to be performed until the mother has received information about public benefits for which she may be eligible, as well as help with application forms.

The offer of free resources will include planning for a healthy pregnancy, and help with postpartum care and prenatal care. The mother will receive information about alcohol and drug abuse treatment.

The mother is not required to complete any of the services in order to get an abortion. The Health Department will set up a toll-free telephone line for pregnant women to get the offer of free services. The Department also will set up a database. Abortion providers must register on the database each abortion request, and the registration must verify that the mother received an offer of free services.

Within two days after the abortion is performed, the provider must report to the Health Department the date and time it was performed.

The abortion provider may contract with an agency to make the offer of free services to the pregnant women. That agency must report on the number of requests for help it gets from victims of abuse, coercion or sex trafficking.

The agency also must report how many women asked for help with health pregnancy planning, and how many women asked for help paying for housing, getting a job, getting child care and putting the child up for adoption.

The reports will also include the number of requests for financial help, medical care, mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, help writing a resume and help getting health insurance.

To confirm that abortion providers are offering free services, or hiring an agency to offer services, the Health Department will audit the providers. Abortion providers can be fined $5,000 for each procedure performed without first offering free services to the mother.

If more than five percent of the audited cases are not in compliance with the law requiring an offer of free services, the Health Department shall revoke the license of the abortion clinic.


BOOZMAN COMMEMORATES NATIONAL POLICE WEEK
Recognizes Fallen Arkansas Law Enforcement Officers
WASHINGTON – In recognition of National Police Week, U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) spoke on the Senate floor to share his support of the law enforcement community and honor Arkansans whose lives were tragically cut short in the line of duty in 2020: North Little Rock Police Sergeant James Dancy, Helena-West Helena Police Officer Travis Wallace, Pine Bluff Police Detective Kevin Collins and Hot Springs Police Corporal Brent Scrimshire.

“Their deaths are tragic and call us to acknowledge their tremendous heroism and selflessness. They also invite us to appreciate the reality that the stakes of this occupation are a lot higher than most others – they are life and death. The perilous nature of policing and law enforcement is something we simply can’t underestimate or fail to respect,” Boozman said in the speech.
Boozman encouraged his colleagues to support policies and programs that improve law enforcement training and resources such as the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program. The program has proven vital to helping state and local law enforcement agencies purchase equipment and support training for officers. In Arkansas, Byrne JAG helps fund multi-jurisdictional programs like Drug Task Forces. In Fiscal Year 2021 Boozman helped secure $484 million for the program.

He also called on the Senate to pass the Protect and Serve Act, legislation that would create federal penalties for individuals who deliberately target local, state or federal law enforcement officers with violence.
 

COTTON, HINSON FILE AMICUS BRIEF TO PROTECT BABIES WITH DOWN SYNDROME
Washington, D.C. – Today, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Representative Ashley Hinson (R-IA) filed an amicus brief in Little Rock Planning Services v. Rutledge urging the court to uphold Arkansas’s law to protect unborn babies with Down syndrome.

 Other supporters of the brief include 65 members from the House of Representatives and Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Mike Braun (R-Indiana), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), and John Thune (R-South Dakota).

"Our society has an obligation to protect the most vulnerable, including unborn babies with disabilities. Arkansas' law seeks to protect babies with Down syndrome from modern-day eugenicists who want to end their lives, simply because of their disability. We stand with Arkansas and the unborn, and we will fight to uphold this law at the Supreme Court," said Cotton.

“Every life is valuable and has dignity and our laws should reflect that. I am proud to lead this brief with Senator Cotton to ensure that abortions are never performed based on a Down syndrome diagnosis.  I will always defend the most vulnerable and stand up for the unborn,” said Hinson.

Background:
Rutledge v. Little Rock Family Planning services involves a 2019 Arkansas law that prohibits medical providers from performing abortions if the sole reason for the abortion is a prenatal test indicating that the unborn baby has Down syndrome.

A district court blocked the law from taking effect, and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit – relying on Roberts’ concurrence in June Medical– affirmed that ruling in January.

Two judges on the panel wrote separately to say they regret the outcome even though they believe binding precedent requires it.

Arkansas has filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court.
 

COTTON, BOOZMAN INTRODUCE BILL TO REDUCE ESTATE TAX
Washington, D.C. — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) today introduced the Estate Tax Reduction Act, legislation to reduce the estate tax to 20 percent—half of the current top rate of 40 percent.

This bipartisan, bicameral legislation was also introduced by Representatives Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) in the House of Representatives.
"Families shouldn't have to sell major portions of their businesses or farms after the death of a parent just to afford the 40 percent estate tax. Breaking apart a family's livelihood is neither fair or good for the economy, especially since families are often forced to sell to large corporations. My legislation would cut that rate in half, bringing the rate in line with the current capital gains rate and making it much easier to preserve a family's legacy and way of life," said Cotton.


“Arkansas’s family farmers and small business owners shouldn’t be punished for passing what they’ve established, grown and maintained onto the next generation. Our bill reduces this burden and gives these entrepreneurs and job creators more assurance that their years of hard work and investment can be carried on by their children and grandchildren instead of being forfeited to the federal government,” said Boozman.

Background:
The United States currently has the 4th highest estate and inheritance tax among developed countries, just behind France.

Much of the value in family-owned businesses are in hard assets and must be sold when the owner passes away, thus endangering the ability of a family business to survive between generations.

Only 30% of family-owned businesses survive the transition from first to second-generation ownership, while only 12% survive from second to third-generation ownership.

Just 13% of family businesses remain in the family for more than 60 years.

Family-owned businesses employ 60% of the U.S. workforce and create 78% of all new jobs.

May 13, 2021

TWO ARKANSAS STUDENTS NAMED 2021 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL SCHOLARS
U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona today announced the 57th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars, recognizing 161 high school seniors for their accomplishments in academics, the arts and career and technical education fields.

The Arkansas scholars include (hometown, scholar, school, location):
AR – Bentonville – Alison Sue-Jeanne Jang, Bentonville High School, Bentonville, Arkansas.
AR – Fayetteville – Felix Zhan, Clark High School, Las Vegas, Nevada.

“The 2021 Presidential Scholars represent extraordinary achievements for our extraordinary times,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “I am delighted to join President Biden in saluting these outstanding young people for their achievements, service, character and continued pursuit of excellence. Their examples make me proud and hopeful about the future. Honoring them can remind us all of the great potential in each new generation and renew our commitment to helping them achieve their dreams.”

The White House commission on Presidential Scholars  selects scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership and demonstrated commitment to high ideals.

Of the 3.6 million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 6,000 candidates qualified for the 2021 awards determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT or ACT exams or through nominations made by Chief State School Officers, other partner recognition organizations and the National YoungArts Foundation’s nationwide Young ArtsTM program. 

As directed by Presidential Executive Order, the 2021 U.S. Presidential Scholars are comprised of one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large, 20 Scholars in the arts and 20 Scholars in career and technical education. 

Created in 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program has honored over 7,600 of the nation’s top-performing students. The program was expanded in 1979 to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, literary and performing arts. In 2015, the program was again extended to recognize students who demonstrate ability and accomplishment in career and technical education fields.

The Presidential Scholars Class of 2021 will be recognized for their outstanding achievement this summer.

A complete list of 2021 U.S. Presidential Scholars is also available at http://www.ed.gov/psp

LYNNE RAMSAY COMMUNITY MEMORIAL CENTER VETERAN’S FUND RAISER
The Lynne Ramsay Community Center will host a Veteran’s Fundraiser on June 5th beginning at 8:00 am. Quilt drawing is $5.00 per chance. There will be a live auction. For information regarding Volleyball Tournaments call Kim at 870-678-3058. There will also be Horse Shoes and a Baggo Contest. There is a $10.00 Participation Fee for the Poker run.

 Kickstands up at 10:00 am and Kickstands down at 1:00 pm. for the Poker Run. There will be 5 pickup sites and Best Hand wins half the pot. Hamburgers and Hot Dogs will be on sale.

 

BOOZMAN URGES DOT TO COLLABORATE ON RESPONSE, REPAIRS TO I-40 BRIDGE
WASHINGTON –U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) urged U.S. Department of Transportation leaders to support efforts to safely and efficiently repair the Interstate 40 bridge linking Arkansas and Tennessee.

Boozman, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, urged Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg to cooperate with local and state entities to help make the necessary repairs so the bridge can safely reopen.

“We’ve actually had to close the bridge. This is a very high trafficked corridor,” Boozman said. “It really is high stakes.”

The bridge was closed as a result of an annual inspection that discovered a crack in a support beam. While vehicular traffic has been rerouted, transportation along this section of the Mississippi River has been halted indefinitely.

Boozman also pointed to this incident as a real-world example of the need for targeted investment for America’s core infrastructure, including roads and bridges. He supports the proposal authored by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), which would fund $299 billion for repairing and modernizing highways and bridges.

 

BOOZMAN STATEMENT ON HOSTILITIES IN ISRAEL
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement amid ongoing violence and attacks in Israel:
“Israel has endured increased terrorism and aggression from Hamas militants in recent days, including rockets fired at Israeli cities, killing and wounding innocent civilians. Thankfully, Israel’s Iron Dome – part of which is manufactured in Camden, Arkansas – has prevented additional damage and loss of life.

“The United States stands with and in support of our friend and strategic ally as it withstands this assault. Israel has an indisputable right to defend itself and secure the safety of its people. This brutal, unjustifiable violence against the Jewish state must cease and President Biden and his administration must lend our nation’s resources and assistance to our partner in its hour of need.

“In the aftermath of this conflict, the U.S. government should resume the promising efforts undertaken by the Trump administration to foster peace and promote normalization between Israel and its Arab neighbors.”

On Wednesday, Boozman co-signed a letter led by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and signed by 42 of their GOP colleagues urging President Biden to stand with Israel and to prevent sanctions relief to Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and established financier of Hamas’ terror activities.

 

COTTON, COLLEAGUES REINTRODUCE THE RESTORING ARMED CAREER CRIMINAL ACT
Washington, D.C. – Today, Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) introduced the Restoring the Armed Career Criminal Act, legislation that will protect Americans from violent crime. The legislation reinstates an important tool for prosecutors to seek enhanced penalties against violent, repeat offenders.

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

"Violent, repeat criminals should be behind bars, not roaming the streets threatening law-abiding citizens. The Restoring the Armed Career Criminal Act will give back federal prosecutors the tool they need to lock up hardened, repeat offenders.” said Cotton.

 "The practice of releasing violent serial criminals has to end," said Blackburn. "Repeat offenders should not be rewarded with the freedom to needlessly victimize more law-abiding Americans."

 “At a time when crime rates are increasing across the country, we need to do all we can to ensure prosecutors and judges have the tools they need to keep the most violent, serial offenders off the streets,” said Hyde-Smith. “This legislation would do just that by fixing shortcomings in an older law that attempted to address how to protect the public from those who repeatedly commit serious felonies.”

 "Our local law enforcement officers work around the clock to keep our citizens and communities safe. The least we can do to support them is ensure that fewer violent criminals are released back on the streets. As we recognize this week as National Police Week, I am honored to re-introduce this commonsense measure,” said Kustoff. “I look forward to passing this bill to not only protect the American people, but to help our brave men and women in law enforcement.”

 Organization Support
“When the Supreme Court effectively voided the ACCA in its decision in Johnson v. United States in 2015 due to part of the definition of “violent felony” being unconstitutionally vague, it took away an important tool that law enforcement used to get the worst career criminals off our streets. The Restoring the Armed Career Criminal Act will fix the ACCA by using a specific definition for ‘serious felony’ and restore the Act, thus giving prosecutors and law enforcement back a significant resource in the fight against violent crime,” said William J. Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations.

For full text of the National Association of Police Organization’s letter of support, click here.|
The National Sheriffs’ Association has also endorsed the legislation.

Background
Originally passed by a unanimous vote in the House and Senate in 1984, the Armed Career Criminal Act requires a minimum 15-year prison sentence for felons convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm who have three prior state or federal convictions for violent felonies or serious drug offenses, which must have been committed on three different occasions. These are the worst-of-the worst, career criminals.

The ACCA defines serious drug offenses as those punishable by imprisonment for 10 years or more. It defines violent felonies as those:
1. that have an element of threat, attempt, or use of physical force against another;
2. that involve burglary, arson, or extortion; or
3. that constitute crimes similar to burglary, arson, or extortion under what is known as the ACCA's "residual clause" (any crime that "otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another").

In 2015, the Supreme Court in Johnson v. United States declared the residual clause unconstitutionally vague and thus effectively void.

The Johnson Fallout
Many criminals were sentenced under the ACCA and their premature release after the Johnson decision resulted in tragic consequences. In 2016, Cornelius Spencer, a gang member guilty of nine felonies including drug trafficking, aggravated assault, and robbery, was released a full five years before his sentence was up. In 2018, he was charged with raping two Arkansans, including a 62-year-old woman and a 21-year-old autistic, homeless man. These crimes would've never happened if Spencer hadn't been prematurely released.

The Legislative Solution
The Restoring the Armed Career Criminal Act would do away with the concepts of "violent felony" and "serious drug offense" and replace them with a single category of "serious felony." A serious felony would be any crime punishable by 10 years or more. By defining "serious felony" solely based on the potential term of imprisonment, the bill would address the vagueness issue and remove any discretion or doubt about which offenses qualify.

The bill would give federal prosecutors an additional tool to go after the most dangerous, career criminals and would not apply to low-level offenders. Specifically, the ACCA would still apply only in a case where a felon who possesses a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) has previously been convicted three times of serious felonies, which must have been committed on different occasions.

May 12, 2021

CITY OF CAMDEN BOARD OF ALDERMEN MEET
The City of Camden Board of Aldermen will met in regular session Tuesday, May 11, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building located at 206 Van Buren ST in Camden.

Mayor Julian Lott called the meeting to order at promptly 7:00 pm. Johnny Hobbie, Minister at the Maul Road Church of Christ, 1425 Maul Road in Camden, Arkansas gave the invocation. The invocation was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. As has become his habit, Alderman Joe Askew stood with his head down and his back to the flag.

City Clerk Donna Stewart called the roll. All Aldermen were present with the exception of Terry Smith.
Minutes of Regular Meeting April 11, 2021 was presented in print. Motion was made and seconded. Passed unanimously

The Financial Report for April 2021 was presented in print a motion was made and seconded. Passed unanimously.

Reese Broadnax spoke during Audience Participation. She had questions regarding details as to City Ordinance regarding the gathering of people in Parks. How many people may gather for an event and is there a cost for an organized event. .

During the Mayor’s Report Charlotte Young gave an update on the Main Street Program.
Camden was admitted to the program last year. Young reported that there had been 5 ribbon cuttings for new businesses in Downtown Camden. The Main Street Program had approved $11,000 in grants for downtown store fronts. Outside consultants have come to Camden to look and given ideas to business owners. There was a Display Workshop on how to think outside the box and enhance the appearance of the business. Main Street is taking over the Farmers Market this year. Time is adjusted to 5 to 7 pm as some had expressed that it was being held too early. Main Street also organize a work day to paint parking places and power wash sidewalks. They have also worked on the Outdoor Classroom along The Trace.

Public Works Director Kevin Franklin has been through every street in Camden. He stated the he believes that working on 2 wards a year instead of some in each ward would better serve the City. He suggested starting with Wards 2 and 3 as they are the furthest behind in Street Repairs. Franklin reported the the City did chip seal last year and no one was happy with it. It is not durable and some that had been laid, washed away during the heavy rains. He suggested another plan that will be a bit more expensive but will serve better. By spending all the money allocated to streets in only 2 Wards per year, the Department can do a better job with higher quality materials resulting in all around better streets.

Code Enforcement Ben Wooten reported on work he has be doing with Fox Creek and Garden Walk apartment owners. Fox Creek Apartments located at 1485 Country Club Road are owned by a New Owner. Plans are made to update all of the Apartments. The end result at Fox Creek will be a gated community.

Code Enforcement also met with the Owners of the Garden Walk Apartments. The Council has heard complaints regarding Garden Walk for a number of years. A walk through was conducted. There were 17 tenants in the Apartments when the walk through took place. made walk through. The owners stated that the tenants had to be gotten out as conditions were so bad. They started moving people immediately. Some went to Pine Meadows, while others were housed  in Hotels. There is a nonprofit group currently trying to buy and renovate all units. 7 tenants still there. The current owner wants to sell. USDA people trying to get funds for the non-profit to purchase and renovate the apartments.

There was no old business so the Council turned their attention to new business w.

Resolution No. 25-21 was a resolution confirming the re-appointment of Ricky Parham Civil Service Commission. Motion was made and seconded to approve. Approved unanimously.

Resolution No. 26-21, a resolution awarding the bid for the purchase of one (1) 2021 Ford Ranger Supercab Pickup for the Code Enforcement Department was up next.  Motion was made and seconded to approve. The resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution No. 27-21 was a resolution amending the budget for 2021; and for other purposes. Motion made and seconded to approve. Alderman Lindsey asked about $42,000.00 expenditure at the Airport. There needs to be someone to operate the fuel truck. Pilots want full service and will get fuel elsewhere if full service is not available. If a pproved, a person would be hired to man the airport during normal working hours. The person hired would also do other chores suck as cleaning, mowing etc. The Goal is more fuel sales resulting in higher profits. After a lengthy discussion a motion was made to table the Resolution until what time more Airport Commission will come before the Council to clarify the request. Motion to table was seconded. The motion to table passed unanimously.

Resolution No. 28-21 was a resolution authorizing the Mayor to sign a Cares Act Grant Application for the Camden Airport. Motion was made and seconded to approve. It was pointed out that this would only allow the Airport Commission to apply for the grant. It doesn’t address use of funds should the Commission receive the grant. That issue can be addressed by the Council should the Commission get the funds from the grant. The Resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution No. 29-21, a resolution authorizing the Mayor to execute a utility easement to Camden Water Utility. A motion was made and seconded to approve. There was no discussion and the Resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution No. 30-21, a resolution authorizing the Mayor to enter into a contract for 2021 with Camden Downtown Network (Main Street Program). A motion was made and seconded to approve. The Resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution No. 31-21 was a resolution appointing Alderman Cecil McDonald to the Advertising and Promotion Commission.  A motion was made and seconded to approve. The Resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution No. 32-21, a resolution authorizing the Mayor to pay incentive bonus to Public Work Employees. A motion was made and seconded to approve. Alderman Askew applauded Alderman Aregood for bringing this to the table. He, however, wanted to amend the bonus be $100 plus the City pay the taxes. Alderman Aregood pointed out that the employees did get paid regular pay plus overtime and at $25.00 is simply a token of appreciation. There was more discussion before a motion was made to table the discussion until next month when City Clerk Stewart can get more information from auditors as to what the Council can and cannot do legally.

Resolution No. 33-21, a resolution appointing Alderman William McCoy to the Advertising & Promotion  Commission. A motion was made and seconded to approve. Passed unanimously.

In other business it was reported that the Public Works building is completely repaired and fully functional. The Shop is moved back in. Mr. Franklin has yet to move his office back but will do so in the near future.

Resolution 21-21 had been tabled indefinitely in April’s meeting. Alderman Askew made a motion to put the Resolution  back on the table. Motion was made and seconded. The resolution was to support the state in passing hate crime legislation. The motion to bring it back was passed 5-2 and Issue was brought back to the table. Alderman McDonald said that he missed the last meeting and would like time to study the issue and what the Resolution actually did. Alderman Aregood stated that the State had passed the legislation since the City Resolution was tabled and the Resolution was to send the message to Little Rock that the Camden City Council would stand behind the passage of the legislation. He contended that the legislation had passed and it is already State Law, so it doesn't matter what the Council does at this point. Alderman Moore as well as Alderman Askew stated that they wanted their respective constituents to know that they stand behind the legislation. Resolution 21-21 was put to a vote. Aldermen Askew, Moore, Bell and McCoy voted for the Resolution with Alderman Lindsey casting a no vote. Aldermen Aregood and McDonald abstained. The Mayor cast the deciding vote and the Resolution was passed.


MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR 19 ARKANSAS STATE TROOPERS KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY SET FOR THURSDAY; COMMISSION MEETING TO FOLLOW
The Arkansas State Police Commission will convene in a regularly scheduled monthly meeting at 10 AM Thursday, May 13th.

Prior to the commission meeting beginning at 9:15 AM, the commissioners will gather at the Arkansas State Police Hall of Honor, joined by troopers, their commanders, retirees and staff personnel for a memorial service dedicated to the memory and service of 19 Arkansas Troopers killed in the line of duty during the department’s 86-year history.  Colonel (retired) Doug Harp, who was state police director from May 1975 – June 1981 will address the memorial service audience to include invited survivor families of the slain troopers.

Both the commission meeting and memorial service will be held at Arkansas State Police Administrative Headquarters, One State Police Plaza Drive, in Little Rock.
 

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON’S WEEKLY COVID REPORT – MAY 11, 2021
All Arkansans aged 12 and up are now eligible for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

The announcement was made yesterday during Gov. Asa Hutchinson's weekly update. The FDA provided emergency authorization this week to administer the vaccine to teens aged 12 to 15. Previously the vaccine was available to people 16 and up. Hutchinson said this move is a step towards helping Arkansas reach its goal of having at least 50 percent of the state vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of July.

Health officials across the nation added that the FDA's emergency authorization is also good news for parents who remain worried about sending their children to in-person classes at their schools.

Arkansans seeking information about COVID-19 vaccines, and where to receive one, can call the Arkansas Department of Health's hotline at 1-800-985-6030. As of Tuesday, more than 800,000 Arkansans have been fully vaccinated, or around 30 percent of the state's population.

Hutchinson also announced the creation of a committee to manage the more than $1.5 billion received by Arkansas through federal COVID-19 relief funding. That funding is slated to go to Arkansas schools, municipalities and the Department of Human Services. The committee is set up to decide how receiving entities can use those funds. Hutchinson said the committee will partner with Arkansas communities, the private sector and non-profits in the decision-making process. 

The Arkansas Department of Health reported 233 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. That raises the state's cumulative total to just under 338,000 transmissions since the pandemic first entered Arkansas. Active cases fell by 10 to 2,043 across Arkansas. Deaths increased by six to 5,770 since last spring. Hospitalizations saw no increase or decrease, leaving 169 Arkansans currently hospitalized due to the virus.

SAAC TO OFFER EXPANDED SUMMER CAMP SCHEDULE
SUMMER! It's almost here! After a long and crazy year spent mostly at home, parents are looking for creative ways for their kids to have fun this summer...out of the house. The South Arkansas Arts Center is here to provide the fun with a full schedule of arts-focused day camps, sponsored by First Financial Bank. This summer's camp schedule has been expanded to include 9 full weeks of programming, with a new camp offering each week. From art, theatre, dance and science, to rock & roll, there's something exciting all summer long.
The summer will be off and running with June's classes, which will include "Art Camp", "Rock & Roll Camp" and "Acting for Theatre". July will be filled with excitement from "Art Meets Science", "The Little Mermaid Ballet", "Musical Theatre Choreography" and "The Great Artists". Finish out the summer with "Mini Artists/Maximum Fun" and "Movie Making". "Mommy and Me" is a new weekly class in art and music, designed for parents and babies to participate in together.
All of your favorite SAAC teachers are back and ready to provide the FUN including Katie Harwell, Mike Means, Nicole McAdams, Michaela Wise, Maria Villegas, Stephanie Lowrey, Cami Lowrey, Hannah Faith Davis, Lynn Gunter, Bekah Gunter and Mrs. Cassie.
"We are thrilled to be welcoming back all our campers and instructors for a great summer schedule. To make the most of the summer, we have spread programming out over nine weeks, allowing us to devote the most resources to entertaining and educating your students," said SAAC executive director Laura Allen.
Call the SAAC office at 870-862-5474 or visit the website at www.saac-arts.org and take advantage of the new online registration system to enroll your camper. Class sizes are limited, and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Scholarships applications are also available on the website. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas.  

Link to Summer Camp Page - https://saac-arts.org/summer-camps-2021/
 

COTTON LEADS LETTER WARNING INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS COMMUNITY ABOUT RESUMING BUSINESS WITH IRAN
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today led a group of 15 Republican senators in a letter to the international business community warning them about resuming business with Iran if U.S. sanctions are lifted.

In part, the senators wrote, “Your member companies may see this potential removal of U.S. sanctions on Iran as a lucrative opportunity. Trust us, they should not. If U.S. sanctions on Iran were temporarily lifted and these firms decided to reenter the Iranian market, not only would they be engaging with a corrupt and capricious regime, they would be investing in ventures doomed to fail. These firms would also risk exposure to individuals and companies that are intertwined with the malign activities of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. So long as the Islamic Republic of Iran continues its outlaw behavior, we will support robust sanctions against the regime.”

“Any attempt by the Biden administration to broker a JCPOA-like deal or offer sanctions relief to the Iranian regime will be fleeting. The original Iran deal was never submitted to the United States Senate and ratified as a legally binding treaty. Any agreement that does not receive the broad and bipartisan support of Congress will not survive if a Republican is elected president in 2024. Any sanctions relief will also be severely limited if Republicans win back majorities in Congress in 2022. The U.S. Congress has passed several laws sanctioning the Iranian regime over the past decade, at times rolling over executive-branch opposition with huge bipartisan majorities. Put simply, any new Iran deal that does not address Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic and cruise missile development, support for terrorism, hostage-taking, gross human rights violations, and other malign behaviors will not receive durable, bipartisan support in the United States,” the senators continued.

Senator Cotton was joined on the letter by Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Rick Scott (R-Florida), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mike Braun (R-Indiana), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and Bill Hagerty (R-Tennessee).

The letter was sent to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Financial Services Forum, the Business Roundtable, the Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry (EUROCHAMBRES), the British Chambers of Commerce, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Australian Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Switzerland, the SWIFT Board of Directors, the European Bankers Association, and the American Chamber of Commerce to the EU.

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Ms. Clark, Mr. Fromer, and Mr. Bolten,
We write to alert your member companies of the risks that they may face if the United States temporarily removes sanctions on Iran’s outlaw regime and they seek to reenter the Iranian market or establish business relations with sanctioned individuals, entities, and sectors.

The Iranian regime remains the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism. Through its terrorist forces and proxies, Iran is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. servicemembers and continues to threaten the lives of Americans and the citizens of our allies and partners in the Middle East. The Iranian regime is directly responsible for recent attacks on international civilian air and maritime traffic in the region. The Iranian regime and its proxies are responsible for terror plots across five continents and more than 35 countries, including against the United States, Israel, India, Denmark, France, Germany, and Turkey. Given Iran’s track record of violence and malign behavior, you can understand the U.S. government’s strong desire to ensure that this fanatical regime ceases its statecraft of terrorism and never achieves a nuclear weapons capability.

In 2015, President Obama negotiated the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran and other P5+1 partners, even though it was far from a comprehensive effort addressing Iran’s malignancy around the world. This deeply flawed agreement handed Iran significant economic concessions in exchange for modest and temporary restrictions on Iran’s nuclear enrichment activities. The JCPOA undermined previous UN Security Council resolutions requiring Iran to stop enriching uranium, instead only temporarily capping Iran’s still-substantial enrichment capability. The agreement ignored indications of Iran’s past nuclear weapons activities and failed to include inspections of military organizations involved in those efforts. Iran continues to block IAEA inspections of suspected nuclear sites and refuses to provide a credible explanation for undeclared nuclear material that the Agency recovered.

The agreement also failed to address the threat of Iran’s missile programs and other malign activities. Instead, negotiators in Vienna opted for a short-term ban on conventional arms transfers and merely condemned Iran’s nuclear-capable ballistic missile activities. The deal gratuitously lifted sanctions on Iranian institutions that had been sanctioned for illicit conduct unrelated to the Iranian nuclear program. As a result of these egregious faults, bipartisan majorities in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives opposed the JCPOA and the sanctions relief contained in the deal.

Recognizing that the agreement paved Iran’s path to nuclear weapons, President Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement and pursued a strategy of “maximum pressure” to force a change in Iranian behavior. Since the JCPOA was not a legally binding instrument under U.S. or international law, the sanctions waived in the JCPOA were re-imposed by the United States in 2018, resulting in more than 100 international companies and organizations terminating or curtailing business with the Iranian regime to avoid U.S. sanctions.

In addition, the Trump administration sanctioned numerous economic sectors and hundreds of entities and individuals for their involvement in terrorism, ballistic-missile development, human-rights abuses, and other rogue activities. These sanctions were based on detailed evidence of malign conduct that continues today. The Trump administration also designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)—which controls large swathes of Iran’s fledgling economy—as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. This designation dramatically increases the risk of criminal prosecution and civil litigation for the provision of material support to IRGC entities.

Several foreign business entities and individuals who continued to do business with Iran were sanctioned, leading to massive financial losses that forced some businesses to permanently shut down. The U.S. Department of Justice has also filed charges against individuals who seek to circumvent U.S. sanctions, confiscating their assets and seeking significant criminal sentences against offenders.

As a result of this maximum pressure approach, Iran’s GDP shrank by six percent in 2018 and nearly seven percent in 2019. The Iranian Rial, which traded at roughly 40,000-to-one against the U.S. dollar in early 2018, traded at over 300,000-to-one late last year. Iranian oil production decreased more than half, with Iran’s oil exports decreasing by over 90% through late last year. This pressure forced the regime to decrease military spending by 28% in 2019 and a further 24% in 2021, preventing the regime from funding its terror proxies at historic levels. This reduction forced Lebanese Hizballah to solicit donations from the general public to continue their terrorist activities.

Unfortunately, the Biden administration has ambitions to toss aside the progress of the maximum pressure campaign and return to a JCPOA-like framework. In fact, U.S. negotiators may begin offering sanctions relief even before Iran returns to compliance with the feeble nuclear agreement and regardless of whether the administration has addressed the full scope of Iran’s malign activities or obtained the release of U.S. hostages in Iran.

Your member companies may see this potential removal of U.S. sanctions on Iran as a lucrative opportunity. Trust us, they should not. If U.S. sanctions on Iran were temporarily lifted and these firms decided to reenter the Iranian market, not only would they be engaging with a corrupt and capricious regime, they would be investing in ventures doomed to fail. These firms would also risk exposure to individuals and companies that are intertwined with the malign activities of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. So long as the Islamic Republic of Iran continues its outlaw behavior, we will support robust sanctions against the regime.

Any attempt by the Biden administration to broker a JCPOA-like deal or offer sanctions relief to the Iranian regime will be fleeting. The original Iran deal was never submitted to the United States Senate and ratified as a legally binding treaty. Any agreement that does not receive the broad and bipartisan support of Congress will not survive if a Republican is elected president in 2024. Any sanctions relief will also be severely limited if Republicans win back majorities in Congress in 2022. The U.S. Congress has passed several laws sanctioning the Iranian regime over the past decade, at times rolling over executive-branch opposition with huge bipartisan majorities. Put simply, any new Iran deal that does not address Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic and cruise missile development, support for terrorism, hostage-taking, gross human rights violations, and other malign behaviors will not receive durable, bipartisan support in the United States.

We kindly ask that you distribute this correspondence to your member companies. Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.

Sincerely,May 12, 2021

May 11, 2021

MAY IS FOSTER CARE AWARENESS MONTH
Sounding The CALL for National Foster Care Awareness Month
Little Rock, AR – May is National Foster Care Month, and The CALL in Arkansas is working to find the 2,500 homes needed to take care of children removed from their homes because of crisis, neglect or abuse.

The need for more foster families is great. There are approximately 4,710 children in foster care statewide and 1,510 foster families open to care for them. On average, 20 children across Arkansas are removed from their homes and placed in the foster care system every day. More than 8,000 children spend time in foster care each year. Arkansas needs 2,500 more foster homes to have more than enough families waiting to care for these children and youth.

Each May since 1988, National Foster Care Month has raised awareness about foster care. In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed a proclamation declaring this May to be Foster Care Awareness Month.

The CALL mobilizes local churches to raise up and support foster families. In 2020, The CALL supported more than 901 foster homes caring for 3,810 children and youth.  

This month, The CALL will focus on ways YOU can get involved, whether you chose to foster or adopt, or use your gifts and talents to benefit families and children. The CALL is launching a campaign to highlight “Why Foster Care?” focusing on the need for additional foster families and how everyone can get involved and do something to serve children and families. 

Life is uncertain for young people in foster care. Each one needs a safe, loving home where they can heal from the trauma they have experienced while their biological parents work to restore the family unit. Sometimes children cannot be reunited with their biological families and need to be adopted by a forever family.

Logan and Hannah Williams decided in November 2017 to become a foster family. In the three-and-a-half years since they began fostering, they have had three placements. One, Gracie, became a part of their forever family when they adopted her in 2019.

“We decided to foster after being married for three years with no biological children,” Hannah said. “We felt like we had so much love to give, and we knew there were a lot of kids who just needed someone to love them through a difficult season.”

The CALL strives to provide resources and support to foster families every step of the way.

“The CALL has been so important to us during this journey,” said Hannah. “We have made lifelong friends who we can always count on. The support from The CALL is like none other.”

For more information on how you can become a hero to a child in foster care, visit TheCALLinArkansas.org or Facebook.com/TheCALLinAR.

SURVEY: SMALL BUSINESS OPTIMISM UP IN APRIL BUT JOB OPENINGS REMAIN AT RECORD HIGHS
LITTLE ROCK (May 11, 2021) – The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index rose to 99.8 in April, an increase of 1.6 points from March. The Optimism Index has increased 4.8 points over the past three months since January but a record 44% of owners reported job openings they could not be filled. 

“Small business owners are seeing a growth in sales but are stunted by not having enough workers,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Finding qualified employees remains the biggest challenge for small businesses and is slowing economic growth. Owners are raising compensation, offering bonuses and benefits to attract the right employees.” 

State-specific data is unavailable, but NFIB State Director Sylvester Smith said, “Our members applaud Governor Hutchinson for making the difficult decision to end federal COVID-19-related unemployment benefits to encourage more people to reenter the workforce to the workforce. These benefits were essential when the pandemic began and businesses were forced to scale back or close altogether. The federal assistance helped a lot of families get through this crisis, but employers say there are more job vacancies now than job applicants. Hopefully, Governor Hutchinson’s action will address this worsening problem.”  

Key findings include: 
Eight of the 10 Index components improved and two declined. 
The NFIB Uncertainty Index decreased one point to 80. 
Earnings trends over the past three months improved eight points to a net negative 7%.  
Owners have plans to invest in their businesses as the percentage of those planning to make capital expenditures in the next three to six months increased seven points to 27%. 
The percent of owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months fell seven points to a net negative 15%, surprisingly glum. 
Forty-seven percent reported capital outlays in the last six months, down two points from March but 10 points above last year’s low. Of those making expenditures, 42% reported spending on new equipment, 25% acquired new vehicles, and 15% improved or expanded facilities. Six percent acquired new buildings or land for expansion and 12% spent money for new fixtures and furniture. Twenty-seven percent plan capital outlays in the next few months. Hopefully supportive of improved productivity. 
A net 3% of all owners (seasonally adjusted) reported higher nominal sales in the past three months, up nine points from March. The net percent of owners expecting higher real sales volumes improved one point to a net 1%. 
The net percent of owners reporting inventory increases rose three points to a net 3%. A net 7% of owners view current inventory stocks as “too low” in April, up four points. A net 5% of owners plan inventory investment in the coming months, up one point from March. 

The net percent of owners raising average selling prices increased 10 points to a net 36% (seasonally adjusted), the highest reading since April 1981 when it was 43%. The highest was 67% in October 1974 when inflation reached double-digit rates. Price hikes were the most frequent in wholesale (62% higher, 3% lower) and retail (46% higher, 6% lower). Seasonally adjusted, a net 36% plan price hikes, the highest reading since July 2008. 
A net 31% (seasonally adjusted) reported raising compensation. A net 20% plan to raise compensation in the next three months. Increased compensation is being passed on to customers through higher prices. 
Eight percent cited labor costs as their top business problem and 24% said that labor quality was their top business problem, unchanged from March and the top overall concern. 
The frequency of positive profit trends improved eight points to a net negative 7% reporting quarter on quarter profit improvement. Among owners reporting lower profits, 39% blamed weaker sales, 16% cited the usual seasonal change, 14% cited a higher cost of materials, 7% cited lower prices, 6% cited labor costs, and 4% cited higher taxes or regulatory costs. For those reporting higher profits, 62% credited sales volumes, 15% cited usual seasonal change, and 10% cited higher prices. 
Two percent of owners reported that all of their borrowing needs were not satisfied, 26% reported all credit needs met, and 59% said they were not interested in a loan. A net 3% reported their last loan was harder to get than in previous attempts. One percent of owners reported that financing was their top business problem. 

ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY DAVID CLAY FOWLKES RECOGNIZES POLICE WEEK
FORT SMITH— In honor of National Police Week, Acting U.S. Attorney David Clay Fowlkes recognizes the service and sacrifice of federal, state, local, and Tribal law enforcement. This year, the week is observed Sunday, May 9 through Saturday, May 15, 2021.

“This week is a time to honor our law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation,” said Attorney General Garland. “I am constantly inspired by the extraordinary courage and dedication with which members of law enforcement act each day, putting their lives on the line to make our communities safer. To members of law enforcement and your families: we know that not a single day, nor a single week, is enough to recognize your service and sacrifice. On behalf of the entire Department of Justice, you have our unwavering support and eternal gratitude.”

“We are very privileged in Western Arkansas to work with some of the best law enforcement officers in the United States.  Our law enforcement partners in federal, state, and local offices across Western Arkansas work very hard every day to make our communities safer.  They deserve our thanks and our deepest appreciation for the sacrifices they make and the dangers they face on our behalf.”

In 1962, President Kennedy issued the first proclamation for Peace Officers Memorial Day and National Police Week to remember and honor law enforcement officers for their service and sacrifices.  Peace Officers Memorial Day, which every year falls on May 15, specifically honors law enforcement officers killed or disabled in the line of duty.  

Each year, during National Police Week, our nation celebrates the contributions of law enforcement from around the country, recognizing their hard work, dedication, loyalty, and commitment to keeping our communities safe. This year the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted law enforcement officers’ courage and unwavering devotion to the communities that they have sworn to serve.

During the Roll Call of Heroes, a ceremony coordinated by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), more than 300 officers will be honored.  Based on data submitted to and analyzed by the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), of the law enforcement officers who died nationwide in the line of duty in 2020, nearly 60 percent succumbed to COVID-19.
Additionally, according to statistics reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) through the Law Enforcement Officer Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) Program, 46 law enforcement officers died as a result of felonious acts and 47 died in accidents in 2020.  LEOKA statistics can be found on FBI’s Crime Data Explorer website. 

The names of the 394 fallen officers who have been added in 2020 to the wall at the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial will be read on Thursday, May 13, 2021, during a Virtual Candlelight Vigil, which will be livestreamed to the public at 8:00 pm EDT. The Police Week in-person public events, originally scheduled for May, have been rescheduled due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns to October 13-17, 2021. An in-person Candlelight Vigil event is scheduled for October 14, 2021.

Those who wish to view the Virtual Candlelight Vigil on May 13, 2021, can watch on the NLEOMF YouTube channel found at https://www.youtube.com/user/TheNLEOMF. The FOP’s Roll Call of Heroes can be viewed at www.fop.net. To view the schedule of virtual Police Week events in May, please view NLEOMF’s Police Week Flyer.  

To learn more about National Police Week in-person events scheduled for October, please visit www.policeweek.org.

$3.2 BILLION AVAILABLE NATIONWIDE FOR EMERGENCY BROADBAND BENEFIT ENROLLMENT BEGINS WEDNESDAY
LITTLE ROCK, ARK. (May 11, 2021) Today, the Arkansas Department of Commerce announced it is working to help build consumer awareness about the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), a new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program.  The temporary benefit will help to lower the cost of broadband service for eligible households during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The $3.2 billion EBB program provides a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for qualifying households or qualifying Tribal lands.  The benefit also provides up to a $100 per household discount toward a one-time purchase of a computer, laptop, or tablet if the household contributes more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase through a participating broadband provider.

A household is eligible if one member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below: 
- Has an income that is at or below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid or the FCC’s Lifeline program;
- Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year;
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
- Experienced a substantial loss of income through job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

Emergency Broadband Benefit enrollment will begin on May 12, 2021. Eligible households can enroll through a participating broadband provider or directly at www.broadband.arkansas.gov or www.getemergencybroadband.org. Additional information about the Emergency Broadband Benefit is available at  www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit, or by calling 833-511-0311 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. any day of the week.


CAMDEN KIWANIS CLUB TO MEET
The Camden Kiwanis Club will meet this Thursday, May 13th, at Catherine's Bistro at 12:00 PM. The program will be presented by Steve Clark from the Arkansas Fire Academy


COTTON INTRODUCES BILL TO TAX PRIVATE UNIVERSITY MEGA-ENDOWMENTS, SUPPORT WORKFORCE TRAINING PROGRAMS
Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today introduced the Ivory Tower Tax Act, legislation to impose a one-percent tax on the value of the endowments of the wealthiest private colleges and use the funds to support vocational education and training. This bill also requires these institutions to draw down five percent of the value of their endowments each year. Bill text may be found here.

“Our wealthiest colleges and universities have amassed billions of dollars, virtually tax-free, all while indoctrinating our youth with un-American ideas. This bill will impose a tax on university mega-endowments and support vocational and apprenticeship training programs in order to create high paying, working-class jobs,” said Cotton.

The Ivory Tower Tax Act would:
Levy a one-percent tax on the fair market value of endowments held by the richest private colleges. The tax would apply to private colleges that 1) have more than 500 full-time enrolled students, 2) have endowments worth more than $2.5 billion and $500,000 per full-time enrolled student, 3) do not have a religious mission.
Generate an estimated $2 billion in revenue per year, which would be redirected to support vocational and apprenticeship training programs.
Require the richest private colleges to distribute at least five percent of their endowment to support their educational mission per year, or else face a penalty. This requirement mirrors the tax treatment of private foundations.

May 10, 2021

CITY OF CAMDEN BOARD OF ALDERMEN TO MEET
The City of Camden Board of Aldermen will meet in regular session Tuesday, May 11, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building located at 206 Van Buren ST in Camden.

Social distancing will be practiced and a face covering is required.

The Agenda is as follows:
A. CALL TO ORDER
B. INVOCATION Minister, Johnny Hobbie, Pastor - Maul Road Church of Christ, 1425 Maul Road, 
Camden, Arkansas
C. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
D. ROLL CALL
E. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
    1. Minutes of Regular Meeting April 11, 2021
F. ACCEPTANCE OF FINANCIAL REPORT
    1. Financial Report for April 2021
G. AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION
H. MAYOR’S REPORT
    1. Charlotte Young – Main Street Program 

I.    OLD BUSINESS
J.    NEW BUSINESS
    1. Resolution No. 25-21, a resolution confirming the re-appointment of Ricky Parham Civil Service Commission.
    2. Resolution No. 26-21, a resolution awarding the bid for the purchase of one (1) 2021 Ford Ranger Supercab Pickup
        for the Code Enforcement Department.
    3. Resolution No. 27-21, a resolution amending the budget for 2021; and for other purposes.
    4. Resolution No. 28-21, a resolution authorizing the Mayor to sign a Cares Act Grant Application for the Camden
        Airport.
    5. Resolution No. 29-21, a resolution authorizing the Mayor to execute a utility easement to Camden Water Utility.
    6. Resolution No. 30-21, a resolution authorizing the Mayor to enter into a contract for 2021 with Camden Downtown
        Network (Main Street Program).
    7. Resolution No. 31-21, a resolution appointing Alderman Cecil McDonald to the Advertising and Promotion
        Commission.      
    8. Resolution No. 32-21, a resolution authorizing the Mayor to pay incentive bonus to Public Work Employees.
K. OTHER BUSINESS
L. ADJOURNMENT

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: CON ARTISTS WILL TRY TO TEAR THROUGH YOUR WALLET AFTER STORMS HIT THE STATE
LITTLE ROCK – Most of Arkansas was rocked by heavy rains and thousands of power outages as storms tore through the Natural State. While many Arkansans want to help their neighbors clean up after a storm, con artists will seize the opportunity to take advantage during a vulnerable moment. Keep your home and family safe from con artists just trying to make a quick buck.

“Arkansas is just one big small town, and I will go after those who take advantage of our loved ones,” said Attorney General Rutledge.

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to ensure Arkansans hire a reputable contractor to complete home repairs:
Beware of door-to-door solicitors selling home-repair work. To find someone reputable, ask friends or family who have recently used a home-repair contractor or professional. Consider contacting the Arkansas Contractor’s Licensing Board to verify that the contractor is licensed and has not had any complaints filed against it.
Avoid any home-repair solicitor who asks for an upfront payment or who will not provide you with a written contract.
Get at least three written estimates. A reputable contractor or professional will never try to pressure you to obtain your business.
Obtain and check at least three references from your contractor or professional.
Check with the Attorney General’s office or the Better Business Bureau to find out if the company has a complaint history.
Obtain a written and detailed contract that includes the grade, quality, name brand and quantity of any materials to be used. The name and address of the contractor must be on the contract.
Avoid paying for the entire job up front. One-third paid in advance, one-third paid halfway through the job and one-third paid upon completion is a better plan, helping assure that your project will be completed. Never make the final payment until you have had an opportunity to inspect the work.
Remember that all contracts resulting from a home-solicitation sale generally must include a buyer’s right to cancel within three business days after the contract is signed.
Make sure all warranties and guarantees are in writing.
A contractor cannot promise that your insurance company will cover the work done.  Verify your insurance coverage and authorized contractors before you agree to pay for repairs.

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


WINROCK INTERNATIONAL ANNOUNCES NEW ONLINE HUB FOR OPPORTUNITY ZONE INVESTMENT
The Opportunity Arkansas online portal will connect citizens, community leaders, venture capitalists and others to catalyze investments in Arkansas’s 85 Opportunity Zones
Little Rock, Ark.  – May 10, 2021 – Winrock International and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission are proud to announce Opportunity Arkansas, Arkansas’s Opportunity Zone Investment Hub. Funded by the Delta Regional Authority and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Opportunity Arkansas builds the capacity of local leaders to develop investable projects that bolster small businesses and revitalize rural communities. Opportunity Arkansas creates an online avenue for citizens, community leaders, investors and others to learn about, search for, and submit Opportunity Zone projects in Arkansas.

“We know from experience that small and rural communities are often overlooked because they lack the information needed to access and attract investment opportunities,” said Winrock International U.S. Programs Senior Director Linsley Kinkade. “Opportunity Arkansas will help address that gap by providing easy, actionable investment information for areas of our state that need it the most.”

The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 created Opportunity Zones as economic development and job creation tools for distressed communities. Governors of each state nominated low-income census tracts to become Opportunity Zones, certified by the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury through the Internal Revenue Service. Once an area is designated an Opportunity Zone, new investments in that community qualify for preferential tax treatment. In Arkansas, 85 census tracts were certified as Opportunity Zones.

“Many areas of Arkansas hold great potential if they can be connected to the right opportunities,” said Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston. “We’re excited to help provide a tool that does just that by bringing together communities, investors and other stakeholders to generate economic growth in Arkansas’s Opportunity Zones.”

An important priority for Opportunity Arkansas is to increase equity by targeting investment to small and rural communities that lack resources to obtain external funding and have traditionally been underserved.  

The website http://opportunityarkansas.com has information for investors, partners and communities about Arkansas’s 85 Opportunity Zones. This site will serve as the hub for zones and offer resources for people in Arkansas, with an interactive map and a form that can be used to apply for investment and technical assistance.

Opportunity Arkansas will:
Increase capacity at the local level to develop the necessary information to present investable projects in Opportunity Zone regions.
Attract local and national capital to Arkansas.
Increase exposure and referrals of locally based projects supported by local communities.
Bring technical expertise to local communities.
Generate new businesses and new jobs through investment in local projects.

Opportunity Arkansas takes a statewide approach to increased investment, with specific funders supporting different regions. For example, funds provided by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation will support the effort in 38 Arkansas Opportunity Zones in western Arkansas, while the Delta Regional Authority will assist 47 zones in the Arkansas Delta Region.

The investment from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation ensures that citizens, investors and community leaders across Arkansas have access to the same technical assistance and support necessary to catalyze investment in their communities.

Opportunity Arkansas brings together critical education and outreach with technical expertise on project development, review and due diligence to assist the region in developing projects that create jobs and revitalize our state.

This comprehensive approach will help Arkansas develop, market and identify projects that are better suited for other investment opportunities, ensuring that all revitalization efforts receive some support and are developed to reach their full potential.
 

WESTERMAN ANNOUNCES WINNER OF 2021 CONGRESSIONAL ART COMPETITION
WASHINGTON – Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) announced the Fourth District winners of the 2021 Congressional Art Competition. First place winner Danielle Luyet’s work, titled “Faces of America,” will be displayed in the main hallway between the Cannon House Office Building and the U.S. Capitol for the year.

"I look forward the Congressional Art Competition every year,” said Rep. Westerman. “It is an incredible opportunity to showcase the talent and creativity of our high school students, and I am blown away by these students’ hard work. Members, staff, and visitors will have the pleasure of viewing Danielle’s work every day as they walk the halls of Congress. Thank you to everyone who participated.”

Background
Each spring, a nationwide high school visual art competition is sponsored by members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Artistic Discovery Contest is an opportunity to recognize and encourage the artistic talent of our nation’s youth, including those in the Fourth Congressional District.

Winners are chosen by a panel of five judges from the following categories: design/composition, skill/technique, and overall execution. Art competition submissions may be viewed on Rep. Westerman’s Flickr page

The winners are as follows:
1st Place: “Faces of America” by Danielle Luyet of Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts

2nd Place: “Stars and Stripes” by Nina Thomas of Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts

3rd Place (Tied): “Lifesavers” by Isabelle Vinson of Woodlawn High School
“Momma and Me” by Reagan Jones of Jessieville High School
“Hopper Road” by Michelle Cogburn of Caddo Hills High School
“Rest in Peace” by Antonio Gill of Woodlawn High School

4th Place (Tied):
“City Traffic” by Alexis Ogilvie of Lake Hamilton High School
“Celestial Space Queen” by Sara Abril of De Queen High School
“Masking” by Adam Kaderly of Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts
“Juliuanna Marie” by Anna Blasengame of Woodlawn High School

5th Place (Tied):
“The Critical Eyes” by Nathan Rubio of Hot Springs High School
“Time vs. Decisions” by Madison Mainer of Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts
“Tub Planter” by Jade Fox of Cutter Morning Star High School
"Flowers” by Jade Fox of Cutter Morning Star High School

May 07, 2021

DELTA NETWORK FOOD BANK CARES ACT COMMUNITY OUTREACH HUNGER RELIEF SPONSORS DRIVE-THRU HUNGER RELIEF OPERATION
Thursday. May 13, 2021 from 12:00 P.M. until 2:00 P.M. the Delta Network Food Bank will be distributing food to those experiencing food insecurity. The food will be distributed at The Word Family Church located at 268 South Street SW in Camden. While supplies last, nutritional food items will be given to individuals and families experiencing food insecurity. Product is made available through a DHS Cares Act Round #2 and the Delta Network Foo Bank. For Information call 870-536-2424. Registration is required.

BRINKLEY SHOOTING INCIDENT BEING INVESTIGATED BY STATE POLICE
MAY 7, 2021
The Arkansas State Police is continuing its investigation today of a suspected homicide that occurred yesterday (Thursday, May 6th) at the Brinkley Housing Authority Office.  Brinkley Police Department authorities have requested special agents of the state police Criminal Investigation Division to lead the investigation.

Bernard Pearson, 33, of Brinkley was shot shortly before 6:00 PM while on the housing authority office parking lot at 418 Chicago Street.  When local police arrived at the crime scene Pearson was alive but died last night after he was transported to a Forrest City hospital.

Special agents report that a 26 year old Fayetteville man later surrendered to local police.  He has been interviewed by state police special agents assigned to the case.  At the request of the Monroe County prosecuting attorney, the suspect continues to be held while the investigation is continuing.

Pearson’s body has been transported to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory where the manner and cause of death will be determined.

HELENA POLICE ASK STATE POLICE CID TO LEAD HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION
The Arkansas State Police has been requested to lead an investigation into the death of a 73 year old Helena-West Helena woman.  Special Agents of the state police Criminal Investigation Division have opened a homicide case after local police discovered the body of Genoria Mosby outside her home at 121 South 5th Street earlier today.

Helena-West Helena police officers were sent into the neighborhood at 8:55 PM, Tuesday (May 4th) after they were notified of gunfire in the area.  No one was found wounded at the time, nor anything to indicate trouble in the area.  After sunrise this morning Mosby’s body was found.  There was evidence to lead police to believe she had been struck by gunfire.

The body has been sent to the Arkansas State Crime Lab where a manner and cause of death will be determined.  The investigation remains active and on-going.

SAAC TO HOST MICHAELA WISE FOR CORKS AND CANVAS NIGHT
Have you ever wanted to paint your pet? Create your critter? Portray your pooch? Color your cat?  Now you can with this month’s Corks and Canvas class at South Arkansas Arts Center!  “Paint your Pet Portrait" Corks and Canvas class will be held on Thursday, May 20 or Friday, May 21, at 6:00pm at SAAC.  This special workshop will be hosted by local artist Michaela Wise who specializes in pet portraiture. 

Corks and Canvas is a fun filled night of painting with your friends for people who have always wanted to try their hand at it and have some fun along the way.  Snacks are provided and participants should bring their beverage of choice. Class fee is $40.  Reservations can be made by calling the SAAC office at 870-862-5474.

In order to participate in this session, Michaela will need a picture of your pet at least a week in advance of the class. Michaela will prep the canvas, draw the pet, then guests will paint it in the workshop.  Participants will be contacted by email as to where to send their pet’s photo after they have registered for the class . 

“I’m Michaela Wise, a local artist in El Dorado, and I paint portraits of people’s beloved pets. I would love to see all of your sweet fur babies and paint a portrait of them with you! Paint your pet is always such a fun class and I can’t wait to see what you create!”

She grew up in Louisiana, but moved to El Dorado before starting junior high. Moving to south Arkansas helped her make connections that would one day lead her to her current career as an artist. In junior high, she began take classes with Maria Villegas and soon blossomed into a prodigious young artist. As she grew into herself, her talent, creativity, and passion grew as well. After graduating high school at Parkers Chapel, she pursued a degree in Studio Art from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. Now a mother to a 6-year-old little boy and a resident artist of El Dorado, Michaela continues to be devoted to art and teaching and conveys her enthusiasm through her classes. She hopes to inspire children to let their creativity and talent shine just as her teachers at SAAC inspired her when she was a young artist.

For more information on this fun class, please call the SAAC office or visit the website at saac-arts.org to register online. Tables will be physically distanced and attendance will be limited for guest safety. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas.

Register Online at https://saac-arts.org/corks-and-canvas-may-2021

 

“CRAYONS TO CANVAS” EXHIBIT FEATURES ARTIST’S WORK INSPIRED BY 6-YEAR-OLD GRANDSON
Mid-America Science Museum to Host Exhibit May 29 – September 5
The Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs announced plans to host a special exhibition of art entitled “Crayons to Canvas.” The exhibit will feature the art of renowned Hot Springs artist Longhua Xu and his grandson, Han Xu.  Longhua, 66, and his grandson, who is 6 years old, are offering the collaborative study influenced by the whimsical drawings of the grandson.

A special Mid-America Science Museum members only preview of the exhibit will take place Friday, May 28, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and from 9:00 to noon on Saturday, May 29. The exhibit will open to the public at noon on Saturday, May 29, and run through Sunday, September 5.

“Part of Mid-America Science Museum’s mission has been to provide a space where generations of families can play, explore, create, and marvel at the world around us,” Museum Executive Director Diane LaFollette said. “It is a great honor to showcase the artistic work of Longhua Xu, inspired by his grandson, Han. Creativity and critical thinking, both found in science and art, are essential 21st Century skills that help drive curiosity, innovation, and are key elements for success in school and business.  Crayons to Canvas demonstrates the importance of fostering creativity in our children so they are better equipped to become successful adults grounded in their own abilities and talents.”

Noreen Killen, chief operations officer for the museum, said, “We want our visitors to not only view these wonderful works of art but also participate in several hands-on activities.”

“The exhibit will fill a 5,000-square-foot room in the museum and feature over 26 individual pieces of art, a mural and two eight-foot column pieces,” she said. “The exhibit area will also feature a hands-on children’s area, where children will be provided crayons and paper to create their own community mural, and a sculpture station, where young artists will have a hands-on experience with clay sculpting.”

“My grandson has truly inspired my recent works,” Longhua Xu said. “Previous to this, most of my works were more representational and realistic. I loved the innocent and primal qualities in his works.  He was very intrigued by the idea of his grandfather imitating him.”

While this exhibition has been greatly influenced by Han Xu’s whimsical drawings, it did not start out this way. Just as he was old enough to hold a marker, Han followed his fascination with his grandfather’s paintings and began to mimic his “Yeye.”

Longhua Xu graduated from East China University of Technology and taught art at Shanghai University of Technology. He had several exhibitions in China, including one at the Shanghai Art Museum. In 1989, as part of a cultural exchange program, he came to America to teach at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y. He moved to Hot Springs in 1990 and has several public sculptures around the city including “Mother Nature” in the median of Central Avenue in front of the Arlington Hotel. In 2019, Xu was named Arkansas' Living Treasure by the Arkansas Arts Council for his work in woodcarving.

In addition to the exhibit, the Museum’s Store will offer commemorative t-shirts and signed posters celebrating the exhibit. All of the artwork in the exhibit will be for sale, with some of the proceeds benefitting a trust fund for Han.

Beginning Memorial Day weekend, the museum hours are Tuesday - Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m.  Admission to the exhibit is included with general admission: Adults are $10, children ages 3-12:  $8, and seniors age 65 and older: $8.

For more information, visit www.midamericamuseum.org or call (501) 767-3461. Masks are required for everyone 10 years and older. Additional information on the artist can be found at www.xu-longhua.com. The museum is located at 500 Mid America Blvd. in Hot Springs.


 SAAC ANNOUNCES CAST FOR "STEEL MAGNOLIAS"
Director Tripp Phillips has announced the cast members of the South Arkansas Arts Center’s upcoming production of Robert Harling’s play Steel Magnolias. Auditions were held at SAAC last week, and the director was delighted with both the quality and quantity of the talented women who auditioned.

Selected for the six-member ensemble cast are Abby Cate as Truvy Jones, proprietor of the beauty salon in fictional Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana. Kaila Emery plays Annelle Depuy-Desoto, an anxious young girl with a past who joins Truvy as the new stylist in her salon. Elva Melillo plays Clairee Belcher, the widow of the former Mayor of the town and a community grande dame who loves football. Haley Phillips is M’Lynn Eatenton, a guidance counselor at the local mental health clinic and the mother of Shelby Eatenton, who is played by Lainey Walthall. Shelby is an outgoing and strong-minded young woman who is about to be married as the action of the play commences. Debbie Strickland plays Ouiser Boudreaux, a senior curmudgeon with an acid tongue and a heart of gold.

“We had almost 30 ladies come out for the auditions, and I could have cast the play successfully several times over,” remarked Phillips. “It’s a compliment to El Dorado and the Union County area that there are so many talented people around – and that they are enthusiastic to share their talents and time with the wonderful South Arkansas Arts Center.”

Abby Cate, a counselor with SAMA, is a veteran local actress who, among many other roles, played the same part of Truvy in a previous production of Steel Magnolias at SAAC. Other roles include Sister Mary Amnesia in Nunsense, Meg in Crimes of the Heart, Vera Charles in Mame, Matron Mama Morton in Chicago, Rapunzel in Into the Woods, and Madame Thénardier in Les Miserables.

Kaila Emery of El Dorado has a long resume of performances at a number of venues and has studied theatre professionally. She was last seen as Sabine in SAAC’s The Three Musketeers, and roles in other theatres include Lucy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown; Mimi in Rent; Julia in The Wedding Singer; Helena in The Mystery of Edwin Drood; and Princess Winifred in Once Upon a Mattress.

Elva Melillo, an employee at Ken’s Discount in El Dorado, is making her debut on the SAAC stage but has appeared in many productions in other theatres. She has appeared in dramatic roles in such disparate plays as No Exit, Oedipus Rex, How I Learned to Drive, Night Must Fall, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Suddenly Last Summer, Buried Child, Nuts, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Haley Phillips, of Junction City, is no stranger to SAAC audiences. Musical credits include Velma Kelly in Chicago, Golde in Fiddler on the Roof, and Nancy in Oliver!. Haley has also played dramatic roles in a number of productions, including Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Marianne in Tartuffe, Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, and Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 

Debbie Strickland resides in Camden and is making her SAAC debut in Steel Magnolias. She has worked in theatre since her college days and previously played leading roles in children’s theatre productions of Peter Pan, Rumpelstilskin, and A Christmas Carol. Debbie has also appeared in productions of The Women, Leader of the Pack, and Oliver!. For seven years, she directed an annual production of Eight Days That Changed the World in Lewisville, Texas.

Lainey Walthall, a Magnolia native, is employed at Murphy-Pitard Jewelers and holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from SAU. Lainey has a long list of performance credits at both SAU and SAAC, including Holly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Liesl in The Sound of Music, Constance in The Three Musketeers, Amber Von Tussle in Hairspray, and Sookie in 110 in the Shade. 

Steel Magnolias is sponsored by Murphy USA.  It will be presented at the South Arkansas Arts Center July 17-20 and 24-27.  Tickets will be available beginning June 1 at saac-arts.org or by calling 870-862-5474. SAAC is located at 110 East Fifth Street, El Dorado, Arkansas. 

 

BOOZMAN, KAINE, TILLIS PUSH BILL SUPPORTING MILITARY FAMILIES
Legislation Rolled Out on Military Spouse Appreciation Day Focuses on Addressing Employment and Childcare Needs
WASHINGTON – Today, on Military Spouse Appreciation Day, U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) announced the reintroduction of the Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act to address military spouse unemployment and access to affordable childcare. The bill would amend the tax code to incentivize businesses to hire military spouses and create new flexible spending accounts (FSAs) to make it easier for military families to afford childcare.

“Military spouses and families play such an important role supporting our service members and they often face unique challenges in the course of that service. We should always be looking for ways to reduce their burdens and help meet their distinct needs, particularly in light of the impact frequent relocations and lengthy deployments have on their finances and responsibilities. I’m proud to be part of this bipartisan effort to make it easier for military spouses to find employment opportunities and help these heroic families afford childcare services,” Boozman said.

“I’m constantly amazed at military families’ willingness to sacrifice in service to our nation,” said Kaine. “In return, we should do what we can to address their struggles and remove obstacles to their economic security. By incentivizing private businesses to hire military spouses and allowing military families to use pre-tax dollars to pay for childcare, we can alleviate some of the unique hardships military families face and put them on firmer financial footing.”

Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) is a cosponsor of this legislation.

“I have always been a strong advocate for military spouses who serve our country by supporting their husband or wife,” said Tillis. “Unfortunately, many military spouses struggle to find good jobs or affordable childcare as their families often transfer from state to state. This bill helps military spouses find employment and affordable childcare wherever they go.”

 Active duty military spouses consistently experience unemployment rates substantially higher than the national rate, and one-third of employed military spouses report underemployment . Frequent moves often stall military spouses’ upward career progression and force them to find new jobs. In addition, on-base childcare options are not always readily available or affordable, leading 65% of military families to choose privately-run childcare.

The Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act of 2021 would:
Expand the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to incentivize businesses to hire military spouses, similar to veterans and other populations that face employment obstacles.
Create Dependent Care Savings Accounts that military families could opt into to reserve pre-tax dollars from their paychecks to pay for out-of-pocket childcare expenses.

 The Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act of 2021 has been endorsed by Blue Star Families, the National Military Family Association, the Military Officers Association of America, the Service Woman’s Action Network and Hiring Our Heroes.

Boozman is also a cosponsor of 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.

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