January 17, 2020
This week President Trump announced Phase 1 of a trade agreement with China. This is fantastic news for Arkansas! China has agreed to purchase $40-50 billion of American agricultural goods, including beef, poultry, soybeans, rice and wood products.
This deal is also reforming the way China will do business with the United States by addressing longstanding intellectual property concerns and ending forced technology transfers. I’m pleased to see that Arkansas farmers, businesses and lumber manufacturers will directly benefit from this deal.
We’ve seen tremendous economic growth in the past year, and President Trump’s negotiation to improve trade with China is a step in the right direction. We still have a lot of work to do, and I look forward to seeing how future phases of this agreement will continue to grown the American economy.
January 3, 2020
I’ve gotten to spend this holiday season home in Hot Springs with my family, and I’ve enjoyed reflecting on 2019 and planning out the upcoming year. With an anticipated national election, geopolitical issues and much more on the horizon, I don’t doubt that 2020 will be an interesting year.
Personally, I’m really looking forward to introducing some new bills that I’ve been working on for quite awhile, including an updated version of the Fair Care Act and a bill incentivizing planting more trees and using more products made from trees. I’m continuing to raise support for bills I introduced last year, including the Keeping Our Promises Act, which would extend benefits to Agent Orange survivor, and Sara’s Law, which would reform aspects of juvenile sentencing.
I’m also hoping to meet with many of you, both in D.C. and around Arkansas. If your family is planning a trip to D.C. sometime this year, be sure to give my office a call at (202) 225-3772 so we can help with your visit.
December 27, 2019
2019 was quite a year, and I can’t believe it’s almost over. Since being sworn in to my third term almost 12 months ago, I’ve traveled all over Arkansas and back and forth to D.C. to introduce legislation, meet with constituents, testify in committees, visit local businesses and much more.
I think the numbers speak for themselves: in 2019, my office mailed out 212,320 letters to constituents, opened 826 new casework files, held 58 mobile offices around the Fourth District, gave 152 U.S. Capitol tours and visited more than 37 local Arkansas businesses. I also sponsored or cosponsored 140 bills in the House, some of which directly stemmed from conversations I’ve had with constituents over the years.
Keep reading below for a highlight from each month this year – it was hard to just pick one! Thank you for your support as I continue serving you in Congress. I’m looking forward to all that 2020 has in store.
December 20, 2019
No matter what news channel or outlet you flipped to this week, I’m sure you heard all about the madness happening in D.C. In the very last legislative week of the year, Speaker Pelosi brought articles of impeachment, appropriations and USMCA to the House floor. I posted quite a bit about each of these votes on my Twitter and Facebook accounts, both @RepWesterman if you’d like to learn more.
Of particular note is the final vote count on USCMA, a total of 385-41. We’ve said for months that this vote would be overwhelmingly bipartisan, if the Speaker would just bring it to the House floor. In the final vote of the year, this important trade deal sailed through the House. I’m looking forward to getting it signed into law so American trade can prosper.
I’m glad to be home in Arkansas spending the holidays with my family, and I hope you are able to take time to rest and enjoy celebrating this Christmas season.
December 13, 2019
As we wrap up 2019, there’s a lot happening on Capitol Hill. This week, the House of Representatives introduced articles of impeachment, finalized a deal on the United States, Mexico and Canada Agreement (USMCA), passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and voted on Speaker Pelosi’s signature prescription drug legislation. These are all really important issues to the Fourth District, so let’s look at them individually.
First, impeachment. Thank you to everyone who responded to my e-survey about the impeachment inquiry – your input is valuable. I believe House Democrats have been a party in search of a problem, designing a scripted, one-sided process to back up their accusations. That’s why I do not support articles of impeachment. In the midst of this Washington circus, President Trump continues providing economic wins for the American people.
Speaking of economic wins, the USMCA will be a huge benefit to our country, providing an estimated $68 billion in new economic growth. I only wish Speaker Pelosi had let us vote on it sooner. You can watch my video update on USMCA here.
The NDAA is must-pass legislation, and this year, it contained major GOP wins, including a repeal of the “widow’s tax” and paid family leave for federal employees. I broke down the main provisions of the bill here on my Facebook page.
Finally, we can all agree that prescription drug costs in the U.S. are way too high. Hardworking American families need better access to cheaper medicine, but Democrats’ H.R. 3 is not the bipartisan solution we need. More of my thoughts on H.R. 3 here.
December 6, 2019
In the midst of impeachment proceedings in Washington, I have some good news to share. The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act passed the House in a 417-3 vote, and it now heads to President Trump so he can sign it into law. For as long as I’ve been in Congress, I’ve heard from constituents about the dangers of robocalls. Many of you are rightfully concerned about fake callers scamming loved ones for money or personal information. I’m glad that the bill received overwhelming bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House. The TRACED act will enhance caller ID systems to make it easier to verify if a call is real, and it will also give law enforcement officials the tools they need to go after robocallers who break the law. This is welcome news, and I hope President Trump quickly signs the bill into law.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced $8.9 million in disaster relief funding to Arkansas counties affected by flooding earlier this year. It’s a huge win for communities, families and business owners – read more about the funding here.
December 2, 2019
It was such a blessing to be back in Arkansas this week celebrating Thanksgiving with family. This holiday is a wonderful time to reflect on the past year and begin preparing for the year ahead. Thank you to all who have helped make 2019 such a fantastic year to serve as your Congressman. From tours of small businesses, constituent meetings in D.C., conversations at Coffee with Your Congressman and visits to farms, I could not do this job without you.
It is an honor to serve you, and I look forward to what lies ahead.
Thanksgiving in Washington, D.C.
I always enjoy watching the annual Presidential Turkey Pardon at the White House. Each year, two turkeys travel across the country to the Washington, D.C. in hopes that they will be pardoned from the Thanksgiving dinner table. This has been a tradition for decades, and in recent years, President Trump has polled social media on which turkey to pardon. Read more about this year’s turkeys, Bread and Butter, and find out who started this tradition in the Thanksgiving Trivia section below.
Photos courtesy of The White House
Congratulations to Butter on being pardoned from the dinner table this year!
- Where did the first Thanksgiving take place?
- How long did the first Thanksgiving celebration last?
- Which president declared Thanksgiving a federal holiday?
- Which president was the first to give a turkey a presidential pardon?
- Which state produces the most turkeys?
- Bonus question: Which turkey farm did I visit in 2018? (If you need a hint, check out the November 15 edition of my newsletter)
- Plymouth, MA
- Three days
- Abraham Lincoln
- Ronald Reagan
- Butterball Turkey in Ozark
How do you feel about the impeachment inquiry?
November 22, 2019
It’s been an interesting few months in D.C., and I’m grateful to be home today spending some time with family. In this season of Thanksgiving, I hope you’re able to take time and reflect on what’s blessed you this year. We have so much for which to be thankful.
One of the biggest updates I have for you this week is on the federal budget. I know it’s not the most invigorating topic, but I believe it’s one of the most important issues facing our country. Congress is supposed to approve spending caps and then appropriate money to all federal agencies by September, but we’re now at a point where this never happens. Instead, Congress passes continuing resolutions (CRs) that simply move the problem down the road. I voted against a CR this week, because it’s imperative that Congress take time to find bipartisan agreements on funding.
Instead, as impeachment dominates everyone’s time in Washington, Congress has punted its appropriation responsibility to the week before Christmas. This means no one will be talking about funding until the eleventh hour, and will finally attempt to cobble together a hasty deal. If Congress can’t reach a solution, the government will shut down, forcing military personnel and hundreds of thousands of federal workers to live without a paycheck until the issue is resolved.
This is no way to run a government, and it’s why I’ve always fought for a return to fiscal responsibility and a sound budget process. I’ll continue keeping you updated as I watch things develop in D.C.
I hope you have a blessed weekend with family and friends.
November 15, 2019
It’s been quite a week in D.C. The Democrat-led impeachment inquiry into President Trump has dominated the news cycle and distracted Congress from tackling important issues. At one point this week, Speaker Pelosi went so far as to keep the House in recess – meaning we couldn’t vote on legislation – to continue an impeachment hearing. I have consistently heard from my constituents that Congress needs to focus on other things, such as passing USMCA and drafting health care legislation. I couldn’t agree more. Congress needs to get back to the business of legislating, and I will continue working on policy that benefits the Fourth District.
This week, I was glad to meet with students from Alma and Pea Ridge who visited D.C. for a DECA leadership conference. These students had fantastic questions about the legislative process and will make great leaders someday. I also met with the Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Committee. Both groups joined me on a night tour of the Capitol. These tours are a reminder of our nation’s founding principles, and I always enjoy sharing the history inside the Capitol building.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture shared fantastic news on Thursday when China lifted its ban on poultry imports from the United States. Since I’ve been in Congress, I’ve heard from poultry farmers across the Fourth District about the difficulties this ban on imports has imposed. China’s decision to lift this ban will benefit our poultry industry and ensure the United States remains competitive in trade. I’d like to thank U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and President Trump for their efforts in making this possible.
November 7, 2019
This Monday, we will take time to honor our veterans as we celebrate Veterans Day. We are so blessed to live in the United States of America, and owe our thanks to those who fought for our freedom.
During my time in Congress, my office has received far too many requests from veterans who are having difficulty receiving their medical benefits from the VA, many of whom were affected by Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. These illnesses are serious, and it is our responsibility to uphold the promise of medical care that men and women in uniform were given.
President Trump signed The Blue Water Navy Act into law this year. This expands Agent Orange exposure benefits to those who served off the shores of Vietnam. It also includes legislation I introduced that provides benefits to children with spina bifida whose parents were exposed to Agent Orange. Now that we know just how damaging these herbicides were to veterans, there is no reason we should deny benefits to them and their families.
I also introduced the Keeping Our Promises Act. This bill would add nine additional illnesses, recognized by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) as being caused by exposure to toxic herbicides, eligible as a presumptive for VA benefits. Additionally, I introduced legislation to expand exposure benefits to veterans who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Every veteran should have the same opportunity to receive VA benefits no matter where or when they served. I hope to make this a reality for our country’s heroes, and look forward to seeing this legislation brought to the floor for a vote.
Taking care of our veterans will always be a top priority while I serve in Congress. Thank you to the men and women who bravely served our country. If you or someone you know needs assistance with the VA, please don’t hesitate to call my office at (501) 609-9796. My staff and I would be honored to help make sure you receive the benefits you were promised when you signed up to defend our nation.
November 1, 2019
As we kick off the month of November, I wanted to update you on an exciting project I worked on in Washington, D.C. in October.
Last week, I introduced a bipartisan resolution that would formally recognize October as National Dyslexia Awareness Month. Dyslexia is the most common learning disability, affecting one in five people and hindering their ability to read. Many students with dyslexia don’t perform well because their dyslexia isn’t identified, leaving them without the tools they need to navigate the challenges dyslexia presents.
That is exactly why this resolution is so important. When students are screened for dyslexia early on, teachers can teach those with dyslexia how to become fluent readers, despite their disability. This is accomplished through focused, evidence-based intervention, promoting self-awareness and self-empowerment, and the provision of necessary accommodations that ensure success in school.
Dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed, and it is our responsibility to spread awareness so that our students are given the tools they need to excel in reading.
I hope you are able to enjoy the fall weather this weekend and stay warm.
October 25, 2019
If you have been watching the news this week, you know as well as I do that it is a frustrating time to be in Washington, D.C. The impeachment inquiry has proved to be a major distraction from tending to legislative business, but I haven’t let it stop me from working on policy that will positively impact the Fourth District.
This week, we celebrated National Forest Products Week. Roughly 33 percent of the U.S. is forested, and we’re blessed to have an abundance of trees in Arkansas. Did you know that:
- About 86 percent of the land mass in the Fourth District is forested.
- Agriculture is the leading economic driver in Arkansas, and forestry makes up the largest sector of agriculture in Arkansas.
- Trees are renewable and biodegradable, providing an ample amount of resources for products we use daily.
Forest products are part of our everyday lives. Everything from hardwood flooring and building materials, paper towels and napkins, paper office supplies and cardboard shipping boxes all starts with a tree. One of my top priorities will always be giving the forestry industry the necessary tools to succeed so that we can continue using forest products. I was pleased to meet with so many great people in the industry this week and learn about the latest innovation in forest products.
October 18, 2019
After a fantastic two weeks in Arkansas touring the district, I was back on Capitol Hill this week. I never enjoy leaving the Natural State, but this week was it particularly difficult to return to Washington, D.C. to an impeachment inquiry.
House Democrats have withheld information from members of Congress, misinformed the American public, and disregarded precedent on processes for this inquiry. For example, on Wednesday I went to a secure area to read classified testimony from Adam Schiff’s closed-door hearing, but was turned away. If Democrats won’t even let members of Congress know what’s going on, how can we trust the information they’re leaking to the media?
Impeachment is the most serious tool Congress can use, and we should treat it as such. Instead, these cloak-and-dagger inquiries are unprecedented, uncalled for, and unfair to the American people.
Needless to say, this situation is increasingly frustrating. Time that we could have spent voting on USMCA, the Born Alive Act, transportation and infrastructure, and veterans affairs has been wasted on a media frenzy. Our constituents did not elect us to act in a political circus; it’s our responsibility to work on policy that can better shape our country. Even with this distraction, I will continue to do just that.
October 11, 2019
As beautiful fall weather marks the start of harvesting season, I hosted my annual farm tour this week, with stops ranging from Ozark to Pine Bluff. This tour is always a highlight of my year, since farmers and ranchers are the lifeblood of both our state and national economy.
One of the topics that came up frequently was levee breaches and flood damage from earlier this year. I got to see the sand that’s covered part of a farmer’s fields and visit a flooded pump station with the Army Corps of Engineers, and I know how much this damage has negatively affected farmers’ ability to plant and harvest in a timely fashion. Of course, the question is, “What happens now?” We began talking through local solutions with the Corps during a Farm Bureau meeting in Paris, and I’m also working on the Water Resources Subcommittee in Washington to address infrastructure issues on the federal level.
To learn more about each of my stops this week and see photos, keep reading below. I have the utmost respect for farmers in Arkansas and across the country who dedicate their lives to working the land, and it’s my honor to meet you and represent you in Congress.
October 4, 2019
Members of Congress headed back to their districts this week, and I couldn’t wait to be home in Arkansas. I’ve lived here my whole life, but I am still finding new places to explore. This week’s tourism tour was the perfect opportunity to visit some of the beautiful campgrounds, shooting ranges, parks and more that we often take for granted.
Arkansas may not be the first place that comes to mind when people think about tourism, but the Natural State has such a variety of historic buildings and outdoor recreation opportunities to enjoy. Whether you are interested in rock climbing, horseback riding, skeet shooting or camping with family, you can find a place that is perfect for you in the Fourth District.
I had such a great week visiting these locations, meeting the people who own and manage them and discussing how we can better improve access to public lands. Outdoor recreation and tourism are key to our state’s identity, and we are fortunate to have great people on the ground ensuring these opportunities are accessible and enjoyable.
We are so blessed to have these fantastic opportunities for tourism and recreation right in our backyards. As cooler temperatures head our way, I hope you are able to take some time to enjoy the beauty of the Natural State with family and friends this weekend!
September 27, 2019
We’ve heard a lot about impeachment this week, and it’s a word we’ll continue to hear. With the media focusing on the impeachment inquiry that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared, I thought it would be helpful to discuss the topic in my weekly video. You can watch it on my Facebook page here.
Even though it may seem like Congress came to a halt this week, I can assure you that was not the case. In addition to a few Natural Resources Committee hearings, I also met with several constituents who were in D.C., including representatives from Greenhurst Nursing Home in Charleston, Pafford Medical Services in Hope and the Crawford County Adult Education Center in Van Buren. To top off the week, I led a night tour of the Capitol for the Smith family of Clarksville. As your representative, I value each meeting with constituents and my work in committees, drafting policy that will bring positive change to the Fourth District of Arkansas.
The House will be in recess for the next two weeks, and I’m looking forward to spending time in Arkansas. The first week will be spent on a tourism tour, and I plan to visit state parks, stop by small businesses affiliated with the tourism industry and host discussions on access to public lands. The following week, I will travel around the district on my annual agriculture tour, where I’ll meet with local farmers, ranchers and producers across the district. Follow along on my social media accounts @RepWesterman and stay tuned for updates in the newsletter.
September 20, 2019
I spend quite a bit of time driving across Arkansas, and I’ve seen the condition of rural roads in the district gradually worsen over recent years. Unsafe rural roads take away one’s peace of mind when commuting to work, visiting family and friends or even driving to the grocery store. No one should have to worry about the safety of themselves or loved ones just because our roads are falling apart, especially when the road that is crumbling may be the only route to take.
That’s why I introduced the Rural Road Safety Act with Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa) on Monday. This bipartisan bill would restore a funding program for rural roads that was taken away and used elsewhere – we want to give this money back to communities so they can make critical safety improvements. Modernizing infrastructure in the Fourth District of Arkansas and across the country is one of my top priorities, and I am glad to join Rep. Finkenauer in cosponsoring this bill. You can read more about the Rural Road Safety Act here.
The rest of this week was spent in committee hearings, meetings with constituents, a Capitol night tour and a celebrity face you might recognize. I am excited to share more with you in the sections below.
September 13, 2019
The House reconvened this week, and I hit the ground running with a busy legislative schedule in D.C. On Tuesday, I hosted an event to discuss my health care bill, the Fair Care Act, with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). This bill would give coverage to more Americans at a lower cost, while still covering people with preexisting conditions. I enjoyed discussing the details of this bill with AEI and look forward to continuing the conversation about creating better health care.
Many of you participated in the town hall I hosted on Tuesday evening. It was great to give an update on my time in the district last month, as well as answer questions on health care, national parks and public lands, veterans affairs and many other issues. Thank you to everyone who listened on the phone or watched online! If you couldn’t tune in live, you can still view the full town hall at www.facebook.com/RepWesterman. For information on upcoming events, be sure to follow my social media pages @RepWesterman or call my office at (202) 225-3772.
On Wednesday, our nation mourned the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It was a somber day in our country as we reflected on the horrific acts of terrorism that claimed the lives of almost 3,000 Americans. I will always be grateful for the bravery of first responders that rescued survivors, the private citizens who acted courageously and to our troops who traveled overseas to administer justice to those who orchestrated the heinous attacks. Americans showed strength and bravery in an unforgettable, unified response. We must always remember this day.
May God bless you, and I hope you have a great weekend.
September 6, 2019
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visited Arkansas this week to sign a Shared Stewardship Agreement with Governor Hutchinson. Arkansas is the first southern state to join one of these agreements, and it will facilitate healthy forest management by giving local land owners the ability to work closely with the Forest Service. Secretary Perdue also hosted a roundtable discussion with agriculture producers, where we discussed trade and the recent flood damage. I was pleased to have the Secretary in Arkansas this week and look forward to working with him further.
Following the Secretary’s visit, U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen joined me for a tour of the Ouachita National Forest, which spans more than 1.8 million acres in Arkansas and Oklahoma. We made four stops on our tour: the Albert Pike Recreation Area, Walnut Grove Church in Jessieville, the Red Cockaded Woodpecker/ Shortleaf Pine/ Blue Stem Grass Restoration Project and Avant Mining quartz mines. It was great to show Chief Christiansen part of my district and discuss what we can do to help improve policy in our USFS land. I thank her for visiting and taking time to spend in Arkansas’ Fourth District.
I will be back in Washington, D.C. on Monday for legislative business. This month has given me so many opportunities to meet with constituents, and I’d like to thank everyone who took time to make this work period informative, engaging and productive. Each stop offered insight that will help me better serve you in Congress.
August 30, 2019
As the month of August comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on all the people and places I’ve gotten to see during the month. From Coffees with Your Congressman to radio interviews, I’ve gotten to spend this month traveling around the district, as well as enjoy some much-needed time with family.
One of the highlights of the past week was attending the Southwest Forest Products Expo in Hot Springs. I’m always working on forestry legislation in the House, but nothing quite beats seeing the new products and technologies that make the industry possible. Healthy forests depend on sound forest management, and many of the men and women featured at the expo are part of making this scientific management a reality.
To everyone who I’ve had the chance to visit with, thank you for sharing your time with me! If I missed you, I look forward to seeing you this fall when I’m back in the district.
I hope you and your family have a blessed and enjoyable Labor Day weekend.
Connecting with Arkansas Classrooms
Students across the state are back in class for the 2019-2020 school year. As administrators, teachers and pupils begin diving into new lesson plans and formulating goals and objectives to work toward this year, we are all excited for what the future holds.
I believe in interacting with students and teachers through the power of technology. That’s why I plan to continue connecting with Arkansas classrooms via video chatting services like Skype this school year as I have for the past several years. Spending time with teachers and students in our state even while I’m working in Washington, D.C. has proven to be a rewarding and fun experience.
Our educators have an incredibly meaningful and empowering responsibility to prepare students for success. Young Arkansans are well-served by their teachers’ efforts to help them learn, grow and develop the skills and abilities needed to chase their dreams and eventually contribute to our state and their communities.
As a former member of the Rogers School Board, I understand how challenging it can be for educators and administrators to do more with less. That’s why I will continue making it a priority to find ways to support and recognize the critical work they do on behalf of our students.
Having a dialogue with the education community in Arkansas, which I do by hosting video calls with classes across the state, provides me the opportunity to hear what is on students’ minds as well as receive real-time feedback and insight from their teachers.
I’ve hosted these discussions with many classes in the past and have consistently participated in conversations that are beneficial to myself and my staff in Washington and Arkansas. During these discussions, I usually try to help students understand what I do as one of their voices within the federal government in addition to helping inform and bring real-life examples to the lessons they’ve been taught about in civics, history and social studies. Our visits also give me the opportunity to personally tell educators how proud I am of them and how much I, on behalf of the entire state, appreciate what they do.
It’s my honor to represent the people of Arkansas in Washington as one of your United States Senators. Engaging with classrooms to share what I’m working on for our state and answer questions about current events, our government and my own path to public service is a unique and educational opportunity for all involved – and one that I am eager to expand this year.
If you know of a class that would like to connect with me, invite them to reach out to my office in Washington to learn more. I welcome the chance to visit with classrooms and educators in every corner of our state. To all those involved in our students’ education, I send my best wishes for a great school year and hope to talk with you soon.
August 16, 2019
The loss of homes and businesses from the historic flooding in May and June devastated many Arkansans. Floodwaters breached four levees, damaged two pump stations and shut down navigation systems.
However, even in the midst of loss, I saw Arkansans banding together to serve their neighbors and restore their communities. The swift response from Governor Hutchinson, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA and many others is only encouraging. I am proud to call Arkansas home.
Earlier this month, the Arkansas General Assembly invited me to testify before a bicameral joint meeting regarding the record-breaking floods. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to meet with state, local and federal leaders in Arkansas’ Capitol to discuss the next steps to solving this problem.
These circumstances also allowed me to tour some of the water infrastructure in the Fourth District. I followed the Ouachita River with the goal of highlighting water supply, recreation, navigation, energy production and flood control, all of which are main functions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It’s good to get out into the field to see things that need to be replaced and gain an understanding of the problems at hand. You can read more in the “Around the District” section below.
I hold the position of Republican lead on the Subcommittee for Water Resources and the Environment, which falls under the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The insight I gained at each stop on my tour will be valuable as I work on policy in this role.
I have spoken with many farmers and homeowners who are seeking assistance from the federal government. If you are having any issues receiving assistance, please don’t hesitate to call my office at (501) 609-9796.
This problem is not easy to solve, but I am confident that with the efforts of both state and federal government, Arkansas’ water infrastructure can be properly repaired and restored to prevent flooding like this again.
August 9, 2019
It has been a great week in Arkansas! Stops included a visit to the UPS facility in Malvern, a Coffee with you Congressman event in El Dorado, and a few interviews at radio stations. You can read more about those stops in the “Around the District” section below.
I am wrapping up my water infrastructure tour this afternoon and look forward to sharing that with you next week. I gained some fantastic insight along the way that will be extremely valuable when the Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment convenes in September. For an early glimpse of the tour, head to my Instagram account @RepWesterman and click the highlight “Ouachita River.”
For many of you, I know the summer months are winding down as students get ready to head back to school in the coming weeks. I hope you are able to enjoy this time with family and friends as you prepare for an exciting school year ahead.
August 2, 2019
It’s been a fantastic few days back home in Arkansas. During this first week of August recess, I made some visits in Hot Springs, Bismarck and Hope. It is always beneficial to stop by local businesses, catch up with community leaders and answer questions you may have along the way. Whether it be a pharmacy visit, a local museum tour or a Coffee with Your Congressman event, the feedback Arkansans offered at each stop will hold incredible value when I go back to D.C. in September. You can read more about this week’s visits in the “Around the District” section below.
Next week, I will be making my way down to El Dorado to host another “Coffee with Your Congressman” on August 7th. After that, I’ll be heading up the Ouachita River for a water infrastructure tour. I am excited to gain some important feedback on updating and improving dams, levees and navigable waterways so that I can best serve the Fourth District in my role as the lead Republican for the Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment.
AROUND THE DISTRICT
I kicked off the week in my home town of Hot Springs. My first stop was speaking at the Oaklawn Rotary Club. From there, I toured Mid-America Science Museum to see its recent renovations. Finally, I stopped by National Park Community College to get an update on how the campus is expanding in 2020. There are great things happening in Hot Springs, and I am proud to call it home. Thank you to everyone who had me this week!
With Oaklawn Rotary President Terry Edens
Touring Mid-America Science Museum with Diane LaFollette, Executive Director
Touring the National Park Community College campus
On Tuesday, I spent the day making health care related visits. My first stop was at Frontier Pharmacy in Bismarck. Frontier Pharmacy is an independently-owned pharmacy that opened just months ago. After that, I visited Pafford Medical Services in Hope. They offer emergency medical transportation throughout Arkansas and surrounding states. Thank you to both teams for having me. The perspective gained from these visits is extremely valuable to me as I work on health care legislation, including my bill The Fair Care Act. To learn more about my work on health care policy, click here.
L-R: Dr. Nick Dziurkowski, Dr. Brittany Sanders, Dr. Melanie Overley, Rep. Westerman, Will Pequignot, Jonathan Hardage
L-R: Ben Gresham, Rep. Westerman, Suzie Barham, Jamie Pafford-Gresham
Keep up with my interns!
Lately, I have been sharing quite a bit about what my D.C. interns have been doing this summer, but not all my summer interns work in D.C. My office offers internships in its district locations as well. Kavi is an intern in my Hot Springs office. He is a rising sophomore at Hendrix University studying political science. Kavi attended several of my district visits with me this week, including the Oaklawn Rotary Luncheon and the Mid-America Science Museum. Thank you, Kavi, for your hard work and service to Arkansas’ Fourth District!
Coffee with Your Congressman
It was great to visit with everyone who attended “Coffee with Your Congressman” in Hope this week. If I missed you in Hope, I will be hosting another coffee event in El Dorado on August 7 at 4:00 in the SouthArk Library Auditorium. Details are below! If you have any questions, give my office a call at (870) 864-8946.
July 19, 2019
If you turned on the news this week, I’m sure you saw that D.C. politics have reached a fever pitch. What we saw on the House floor this week should not be tolerated. Democrat members wasted valuable time on partisan show votes and yelling matches, both in person and on social media. Speaker Pelosi couldn’t even talk about President Trump without violating House rules on personal criticism and ridicule.
This is not what Congress is here to do. I am in Washington, D.C. to legislate on your behalf, which is why I wanted to give an update on two bills that passed the House this week.
The first, H.R. 748, was a bipartisan bill I cosponsored with Connecticut Representative Joe Courtney. This legislation would eliminate the so-called “Cadillac Tax,” an Obama-era regulation that would tax many Americans’ employer-based health insurance. I also included a repeal of the Cadillac Tax in the Fair Care Act, because I believe employees should be able to choose the health care plan that’s best for them without shouldering staggering taxes. I’m glad to see this legislation pass the House, and hope the Senate votes on it quickly.
A second bill that passed the House this week was H.R. 582, the Raise the Wage Act. Like many of House Democrats’ bills, this legislation seems like a good idea on the surface, but would actually be detrimental to hardworking Americans. I completely support every worker in the country making a fair wage; however, federally raising the minimum wage to $15 would cripple small businesses and have a drastic impact on entry level jobs and lesser-skilled workers. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that raising the minimum wage to $15 could cut up to 3.7 million jobs. By attempting to enact this sweeping change, members fail to realize that many young people – including myself at one time – need these entry-level or part-time jobs to gain experience. More than 80% of economists agree that raising the wage would have a negative impact on youth employment. That’s why I voted against the bill, because I believe it would harm the very people it claims to help.
Finally, I know some parts of Arkansas were affected by heavy rains this week. If you are having issues getting federal assistance or filing a claim, I encourage you to call my office at 501-609-9796 to see if we can help.
July 12, 2019
I ht the ground running in D.C. this week, starting off at the White House as President Trump updated the nation on our successful environmental practices. It’s possible to expand U.S. energy production while still protecting our valuable natural resources, and I believe the work I’m doing in the areas of forestry and natural resources is accomplishing these goals. After this event, I was back on Capitol Hill for committee hearings and meetings.
The highlight of the week was “The Science of Reading: Understanding Dyslexia” roundtable discussion I hosted on Tuesday. Dyslexia affects a staggering one out of five people in our country. As co-chair of the House Dyslexia Caucus, I believe that we must help everyone learn to read so they can then read to learn. Those with dyslexia simply need to be taught how to read in a different way, and students with dyslexia need to be identified early in their education so they can get access to the proper resources. I hosted a briefing with educators, researchers, medical professionals and advocates to inform listeners on how to recognize and address dyslexia. It was a fantastic event, and I look forward to continuing the conversation on how we can make sure every student has the tools they need to read and learn.
July 5, 2019
After a busy month of June, I was grateful for a week spent in the district. I had the opportunity to travel around and meet with constituents and businesses in the Fourth District, and it was great to hear your feedback on how I can best serve you in Washington. Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin also joined me for a day in Crossett.
This week was a chance for us to pause and reflect on the freedoms we are blessed with in America. I’m thankful for every man and woman who has fought and died to protect our country throughout the years. When our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia 243 years ago, there’s no way they could have envisioned all that lay ahead for the new country. Over the years, we have experienced war and peace, technological triumph and economic recessions, new frontiers and old difficulties. Above it all, we have been blessed with freedom. America has undergone seasons of incredible change and impossible hardship, but has emerged victorious and stronger than ever.
I’m proud to be an American, and honored to celebrate our great country.
June 28, 2019
I’ve been back in D.C. the past few days for one last week of session before the House breaks for a brief recess. This time of year, my office is busy with lots of visitors who are in D.C. for summer vacations. I always enjoy talking to those who stop by the office for a Capitol tour. If you are heading to D.C. soon and would like to schedule a tour, give my office a call at (202) 225-3772. We’d love to see you!
For those who participated in my telephone town hall on Tuesday, it was great to hear from you and answer your questions. We talked about issues from rural broadband to highway infrastructure to health care, specifically my efforts to eliminate DIR fees from small town pharmacies. If you didn’t have a chance to participate this week, you can watch the conversation on my Facebook page.
On Wednesday night, my colleagues and I traded our suits for baseball uniforms for the annual Congressional Baseball Game. Since 1909, Republicans and Democrats have taken to the field for some friendly competition. This was my first time playing baseball, and my position was base runner. Even though the Republicans lost this year, it was a great night for a great cause. All of the proceeds from the game go to the Congressional Sports for Charity foundation.
June 21, 2019
After some difficult weeks for Arkansas, I was so glad to hear the news on Wednesday that the Civilian Conservation Center (CCC) in Cass will remain open. This program provides valuable training and employment to many young people in rural communities, which is why Senators Boozman and Cotton and I sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Labor expressing concern about the proposed closure. President Trump listened to the concerns of Congress, and reversed his decision to consolidate CCCs.
This week I also had the honor of hosting speaker and advocate Hasan Davis in Hot Springs. Mr. Davis shared his moving testimony about how his undiagnosed learning disabilities led to problems in school, bullying, and gang influences. As co-chair of the House Dyslexia Caucus, I’m honored to help educate parents, teachers, and law enforcement officials on how to recognize and address learning disabilities early on, to keep children from being left behind in school.
I also wanted to let you know that I’ll be hosting a telephone town hall on Tuesday, June 25 at 7pm CT. This is a chance for me to hear from constituents, answer questions, and learn more about how I can serve you in D.C. If you’d like to participate, you can watch the forum live on facebook.com/RepWesterman, and ask questions in the comments. I hope you can join!
June 14, 2019
There are now more than 460,000 students enrolled in Arkansas public schools. And an additional 18,000 attend an open enrollment charter school.
School districts range in size from less than 300 students to nearly 22,000 students. Charter schools range from about 60 students to more than 3,000.
How we fund education in our ever growing schools and provide for changing needs is through a process that begins in Education Committee meetings.
The House and Senate Education Committee met this week to begin that process for the next biennium.
Arkansas schools received many different types of funding totaling nearly 5.9 billion in 2017-18. Generally speaking, about half of school district/charter school operating revenue comes from state sources, about 40% is generated locally and about 10% comes from the federal government.
Foundation Funding primarily consists of local property tax revenues and the state aid portion of foundation funding. To determine the amount of foundation funding, Arkansas uses a specific formula, known as the matrix. The matrix calculates the per-student funding based on the cost of personnel and other resources needed to operate a prototypical school of 500 students.
Legislators involved in the biennial Adequacy Study determine the resources included in each line of the matrix and the dollar amount needed to fund it.
In the most recent legislative session, we increased the per-student funding from $6,713 to $6,899 per student for the 2019-2020 school year. It increases funding to $7,018 per student the following school year.
The committee was also presented with information on student outcome measures. In 2016, the state began administering the ACT Aspire assessment. The 2018 ACT Aspire scores show a decrease in 4th grade students scoring ready or above in math and an increase in the 8th grade math scores.
Arkansas’s high school graduation rate has increased since 2011 to 88% of high school students. While the overall increase mirrors the national trend, Arkansas has consistently achieved higher 4-year graduation rates than the national rates.
The committee is scheduled to meet again on August 19. You can watch all Joint Education Committee meetings online atwww.arkleg.state.ar.us.
Thank you to everyone who attended The Science of Reading on Tuesday, and to all of the advocates who participated in Say Dyslexia day on Capitol Hill. I’d like to give a special thanks to Dr. Gina Forchelli, Dr. Brett Miller, Dr. Christy Hovanetz, Ms. Katherine Schantz and Mr. Brent Sopel for participating in the panel discussion. I am encouraged by our conversations and look forward to continuing my work on the House Dyslexia Caucus. To watch the entire program, click here.
The Say Dyslexia rally on the Capitol lawn
The Science of Reading briefing inside the Library of Congress
On Monday afternoon, President Trump delivered remarks on our nation’s environmental leadership at the White House. Under this administration, we have seen a renewed commitment toward watershed health, sound forest management practices and clean, domestic energy production. I am honored to have attended the event and excited to continue working on policies that steward our environment well. You can read President Trump’s remarks here.
My vantage point as President Trump spoke inside the White House’s East Room
This week, Unity Baptist Church students from Hope stopped by my office for a Capitol tour. I hope they enjoyed their visit and wish them safe travels on their way back to Arkansas this weekend. If you are heading to D.C. and would like to visit the Capitol, give my office a call at (202) 225-3772. Whether your group is large or small, my staff and I would love to have you visit!
Visiting with Unity Baptist Church members in my office
Keep up with my interns!
Last week, I welcomed Hannah to my D.C. office. Hannah is a rising sophomore at the University of Central Arkansas and is majoring in social studies. She is excited to make new connections during her internship.
L-R: Kassandra, Amy, Rep. Westerman and Hannah inside the East Wing of the White House
All three of my current interns toured the White House on Wednesday morning. Visiting the White House is a fantastic experience, and I am glad that each of them had the opportunity to visit.
Registration for the 2019 Congressional App Challenge is open! This competition is available to any high school or middle school student, and is a chance for young people to practice coding techniques by designing their own app.
The winners from each congressional district are invited to DC to feature their app, and their designs are also displayed in the U.S. Capitol for a year. Below are two of the 2018 winners, Hayden and Devin, showing me how to use their “Find My Teacher” app.
This is such a great opportunity for students interested in computer science, and I hope to see a lot of participants from the 4th District this year. For full details, click here.
With 2018 winners Hayden and Devin, students at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts
June 7, 2019
I spent the first half of the week in Washington, D.C. It was a quick three days, but exciting nonetheless. One of the highlights was leading a tour of the Capitol for the De Queen Quiz Bowl Team. These students travelled to D.C. to compete in the National Quiz Bowl Championship. I could not be more proud of the team and the hard work they put into this competition. I also welcomed three new interns to my D.C. office. These interns will answer phones, lead Capitol tours and assist my staff with legislative correspondence.
While I was in Washington D.C., my heart and mind were back in Arkansas with all of those who have been affected by the record-level flooding. Because legislative business was only scheduled for three days this week, I was able to visit with local officials in impacted communities in the Fourth District. I have been impressed with the coordination between the local communities, state officials, the National Guard and the Governor’s office who have utilized an all-hands-on-deck approach to flood relief. I’ve seen communities rallying together in their time of need, and that’s what makes me proud to be an Arkansan. We will emerge from this stronger than ever before.
I know many of you were evacuated, lost your homes and crops, or watched floodwaters devastate your community. I encourage you to call my main district office at (501) 609-9796 to see how I or my staff can help you.
May 31, 2019
This was a tough week for Arkansas. My prayers are with every family, business owner and community that the devastating floods have impacted. However, in the midst of loss, Arkansans have shown incredible strength and resilience. I want to extend a special thank you to every first responder and national guardsmen who has been working around the clock to save lives and protect property.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to join Major General Mark Berry and the AR National Guard for an aerial survey of flood damage. Seeing the loss of hundreds of homes and thousands of acres firsthand makes this far more than a news headline.
The journey to full recovery will be long, but I’m committed to doing everything I can on a federal level to aid Arkansans. Last night, President Trump issued an emergency declaration in Arkansas, allowing FEMA to provide immediate assistance to the 16 flood-affected counties. When I get back to D.C., I will work closely with the water resources subcommittee on improving Arkansas’s levee and dam infrastructure to reduce future flood risks.
The stories of communities banding together to help their neighbors should give us all hope for the days ahead. I think that says a great deal about our state and the kind of people we have here.
May 24, 2019
I’m so grateful for the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and Memorial Day is a time for us to honor their legacies.
As we approach the 75th anniversary of D-Day on June 6th, I’m reminded of Harold “Gene” Sellers, an Arkansan who was one of the first men to die that day. He parachuted behind enemy lines, and his sacrifice allowed other Americans to storm the beaches of Normandy. Mr. Sellers was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star posthumously.
Mr. Sellers is only one of many brave Arkansans who gave their lives in service to their country. You can read about several other Arkansas heroes below. We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude.
I encourage everyone to take time this Memorial Day to remember our American heroes who gave their lives protecting the freedom we hold so dear. Have a wonderful weekend with friends and family.
Remembering Arkansas’s Heroes
Fieldon B. Huie Jr. was born in Formosa, AR, and entered the U.S. Army in September 1942. Before his deployment in May 1944, he transferred to the 4th Infantry Division. On June 6, 1944, Mr. Huie led the 4thInfantry Division as the first wave to attack Utah Beach. After landing on D-Day, Mr. Huie continued moving inland with his men, and was killed in action while fighting bravely for his country.
In one of her last letters to her husband, Ruth Huie wrote, “Honey, just come back that’s all I’m asking. Anything else I can take as a soldier’s wife should. I’m depending on you so don’t fail me. I love you so that these next few months will just be wasted months because you are not around. The one consolation is they can be made up. All my love, Ruth.”
Jeremy, Ben, and Beau Wise grew up in El Dorado, AR, and enlisted in the military one after the other. Jeremy retired as a Navy Seal and began working as a defense contractor in Afghanistan in 2009, hoping to spend more time with his family while still serving his country. While the Wise family was celebrating the birth of Ben’s son in Washington, word arrived from the Middle East: Jeremy had been killed by a suicide bomber at a CIA base in Afghanistan.
Ben and Beau both went back overseas not long after the funeral. In January, an insurgent shot Ben after he and his comrades rescued women and children in Afghanistan. A medic until his final moments, he attended others’ wounds before he was flown to a hospital in Germany. He died on January 15th, just before his parents arrived to say goodbye.
Herman Davis was one of Arkansas’s most decorated WWI soldier, and General John Pershing listed him among his “100 Greatest Heroes of the World War.” Although he survived combat, Mr. Davis died shortly after the war ended, due to lingering effects of poisonous gas inhaled on the battlefield. On Memorial Day in 1925, his hometown erected the Herman Davis Memorial in his honor.
The list of names goes on. These fallen soldiers and countless others are not forgotten – their legacies continue through their families and the freedom Americans cherish. We can never repay them, but we can honor them and pass down their stories for generations to come.
This preservation of history is one of the reasons I’m so grateful to be a part of the Veterans History Project, which provides an avenue for veterans to share their stories and remember their fallen comrades. The Library of Congress is recording these personal accounts in an archive. If you or someone you know would like to participate in the Veterans History Project, please call my office at (501) 609-9796. You can learn more about the Veterans History Project here.
Army Chaplain David Witte recording a veteran’s account
May 17, 2019
This week, one of my district staffers got to come to DC and attend hearings and meetings with me, as well as work alongside my staff. It was great having her here and watching her experience a different side of the office!
I’ve heard from a lot of my constituents about the Equality Act, which the House voted on Friday. You can watch more of my thoughts in the video below, but I want to take a moment to talk about misleading bill names. You may remember last week’s so-called “Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act,” which actually had nothing to do with preexisting conditions. Safeguarding those with preexisting conditions is a key component of my health care legislation, but I voted against Democrats’ bill because it was a messaging tool for liberal ideologies that didn’t protect Americans. The “Equality Act” is another side of the same coin, as it would be better named “The Identity Politics Act.” These misleading names serve only to confuse and distract Americans from the real issues, which is why I’m committed to informing constituents about what the bills actually contain.
I’m continuing to advocate for the Fair Care Act, the Keeping Our Promises Act, and the Resilient Federal Forests Act – all bills that directly impact Arkansans and improve health care and the environment. As always, if you have questions or concerns, please call my office at 202-225-3772. I look forward to seeing all of you coming to DC for summer vacation!
May 10, 2019
This week saw lots of Arkansas visitors – not only was it the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce’s annual DC visit, but the Arkansas State Chamber was also in town meeting with the congressional delegation. Trips like this take months of planning, so thank you to everyone who made the effort to visit the Capitol! I’m glad we were able to discuss issues from harbors to health care. This week was also National Small Business Week, which is fitting because many of the Chamber’s members are business owners themselves. You all make such a difference in your local communities, and I’m honored to represent you.
I’m always amazed at the talent exhibited by students in the Fourth District, and it was on full display this week! Congratulations to the top five winners of the 2019 Congressional Art Competition, and I look forward to seeing Tracy’s winning piece in the Capitol every day when I go to vote on the House floor. Make sure to check out all the winning pieces below! Students from the Arkansas School of Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts (ASMSA) came to DC and got to climb the Capitol dome, visit with the Hot Springs Chamber, and tour DC. I also met the students who won a nationwide app challenge, and they gave me a firsthand look at the app they designed – it helps students find their teachers, which is great for those new to campus or unfamiliar with a new professor. I told them they need to expand their design to help me find my way around the Capitol!
I hope you have a blessed weekend, and a wonderful Mother’s Day.
April 26, 2019
I’ve been back in the Fourth District all week, and made quite a few stops across the state. On Wednesday, I hosted a rural broadband roundtable discussion in Monticello. Reliable internet connectivity is often the backbone of job searching, community development and economic growth. Unfortunately, tech developers continue overlooking rural parts of my district. We’ve already had success with grants and other incentives to expand service, and events like this roundtable help me understand each county’s challenges and discuss new opportunities moving forward.
Other stops this week included the 1st Annual Buffalo National River Science Symposium in Harrison, a Farm Bureau Policy Summit in Little Rock, a tour of CRH Americas Materials in Foreman and a Weyerhauser Open House in Hot Springs. These past two weeks in Arkansas have given me great insight on important issues, and I’m grateful for the conversations had during this time as I prepare for the legislative session ahead.
April 19, 2019
April 5, 2019
After a busy week addressing health care, pro-life petitions, and other legislative topics in D.C. I returned home to spend some time in the Fourth District. This trip was a little different than others – I had the opportunity to host California Congressman Jared Huffman in Hot Springs today. Rep. Huffman and I both sit on the Natural Resources Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. I enjoyed showing him the Natural State and discussing bipartisan solutions to issues affecting both of our districts.
This was a productive trip, and it was helpful to explain my perspective right in the heart of my district. I enjoyed hosting Rep. Huffman, and I look forward to visiting his district in California later this year.
- For weeks, GOP members have asked House Democrats to bring a bill to the House floor that would protect infants born alive after failed abortions, and they continue refusing to take a stance. I joined a host of my Republican colleagues on Tuesday in signing my name to a discharge petition to bring this bill to the floor. Click here to watch more of my thoughts on protecting life. You can also read an op-ed I wrote with Arkansas State Rep. and former OB-GYN Joe Cloud here.
- I always enjoy giving night tours of the Capitol when I am in D.C. If you are planning on visiting the area, give my office a call at (202) 225-3772. My staff or myself would be glad to guide you through the Capitol and show you its art, architecture and history.
March 29, 2019
Reforming the juvenile sentencing process is overdue in the U.S. For too long, we’ve thrown young people into the justice system with an inadequate understanding of why crimes occur and what can be done to appropriately address them. That’s why I introduced three juvenile sentencing reform bills this week, to provide an avenue by which minors can reform their lives instead of languishing in federal prisons.
One of the bills, named ‘Sara’s Law’ after Sara Kruzan, recognizes that girls and boys trapped in sex trafficking may resort to violence to escape. Current law all but mandates that they receive a harsh sentence, often decades in prison after already experiencing years of abuse. Sara’s Law would provide a way for minors to receive justice as well as space to heal.
Put simply, laws that work for sentencing adults may not be appropriate options in the sentencing of juveniles. The goal of the justice system should be to reform and rehabilitate young people that have committed crimes, not to lock them up and throw away the key. I’m honored to introduce legislation that begins a national conversation on these systemic problems, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support it. Justice is not a partisan issue.
March 22, 2019
The House of Representatives was in recess all week, so I’ve been working in Arkansas and enjoying a break from city life. I started the week in Hot Springs with a tour of Levi Towers, rental apartment units that provide affordable housing for low-income seniors. I’m so glad we have this facility in my hometown and hope to see the model expanded throughout Arkansas to help others in need.
I also had the opportunity to visit Union Tank Car in Texarkana, a plant that manufactures rail cars and plans to add 50 new jobs to their growing business. This is exciting news for Miller County! Along with those tours, several constituents stopped by my district office for meetings. It’s always helpful to visit about different issues and learn what I can do in D.C. to help those back home.
In Washington, D.C., my staff was busy giving Capitol tours to families and school groups who traveled to the city for spring break. D.C. is an exciting place to visit this time of year, especially now that the cherry blossoms are starting to bloom. If you visited my office, I’m sorry I wasn’t there to personally say hello, but I hope everyone enjoyed their visit to our nation’s Capitol. If I or my staff can ever be of further assistance, please call (202) 225-3772.
March 15, 2019
I’ve spent this week working in Washington, D.C. After a busy few days of constituent meetings and committee hearings, the Working Forests Caucus and Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus hosted a panel discussion on collaborative species conservation. I’ve seen the positive impact on wildlife because of sound forest and wetlands management in Arkansas. Areas that once only saw traces of wildlife are now abundant with different animal species, all thanks to proper management. I know the science works because I’ve seen it firsthand. It was exciting to have this discussion at yesterday’s caucus meeting, and I’m optimistic about what can actually happen with our forests and with our wildlife with the innovations we see in forest products today.
Next week, the House will be in recess, so I will be working back in the Fourth District. I know for many schools in Arkansas, students will be on their spring break. I hope this week is a time for many families to spend time together. If you will be visiting D.C., I am sorry to miss you, but wish you safe travels to our nation’s capital.
March 8, 2019
LITTLE ROCK – The legislature has approved and the governor has signed a package of bills sponsored by female lawmakers. The coalition of legislators dubbed their package “Dream BIG for Arkansas.”
Act 198 expands access to the Internet by allowing towns, cities and local government entities to acquire, lease or build facilities to deliver broadband services.
Act 181 the process of designating the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at UAMS as a National Cancer Institute.
Act 83 requires schools to include literacy in their school improvement plans, and to follow curricula and use materials and methods proven scientifically to be effective in helping children with dyslexia.
A driving force behind the bill is the recognition that only 38 percent of third graders read at “ready” or “exceeding” on 2018 standardized reading tests (ACT Aspire).
Act 131 encourages entrepreneurship in child care facilities, especially in rural areas and other places where there is a lack of child care. It requires DHS to simplify its licensing requirements and grant applications, and to eliminate duplication and unnecessary paperwork.
The legislature has enacted most of a package of bills proposed by the veterans’ caucus, including Act 171 to ease the deadlines for school transfer applications for children whose parents live on a military base.
Act 148 authorizes the Adjutant General of Arkansas to remove officers from the National Guard if they are substandard in carrying out their duty, deficient in character, medically unfit or unsuited for military service.
The governor’s authority to order the militia into service now includes using the militia to address cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities in state information systems, thanks to Act 149.
The former site of the Southeast Arkansas Community Correction Center may be donated to an Arkansas-based non-profit organization that serves veterans, under Act 160. No inmates have been housed at the site since 2016.
The Senate approved SB 445 to permanently move the date of primary elections to March in years when there is also a presidential election. Our primaries have traditionally been in May, and in both major political parties the eventual candidate has virtually wrapped up the nomination by then. The goal of moving up the date to March is to make the Arkansas primary more relevant in national politics.
The Senate Committee on Revenue and Taxation advanced SB 447 to increase the homestead property tax credit from $350 to $375. In 2018, a total of 716,525 property owners received tax credit benefits of $230,000,000.
The act will save homeowners more than $12.5 million a year. It also transfers $8.2 million from the excess amounts in the property tax relief fund into a grant program for updating voting machines. The state chief financial officer will determine the amount needed to maintain the property tax relief fund, and any excess will be transferred to general revenue for tax relief.
The excess also can be used for financial aid to school districts whose revenue has declined as a result of Amendment 79, which voters approved in 2000 to create the homestead credit and place limits on growth in taxable value of property.
March 1, 2019
After more than a year of preparation, I’m excited to say that this week I introduced my health care bill, the Fair Care Act. My staff and I began working on this legislation when Obamacare repeal and replace negotiations failed in the Senate, because I believe there are bipartisan solutions to the health care issues facing millions of Americans.
The Fair Care Act insures more people at lower costs, covers individuals with preexisting or high-risk conditions, increases competition in the marketplace, and reduces prescription drug costs. I’ve taken policy and ideas from a variety of bipartisan bills members have introduced in recent years, and I am eager to begin a national conversation. To learn more about the bill, visit my website here for an extensive summary of its provisions.
I also had the opportunity to meet with lots of constituents who visited D.C. this week, one of whom was Max Aylor, a high school sophomore from Dardanelle. He was here for the Disciples of Christ United Nations Seminar, and part of his application process included writing an 8-page paper on immigration and the economy. I enjoyed discussing these issues with him, answering his questions, and talking about his future plans. I’m always grateful for the chance to meet with Arkansans here in D.C., so be sure to contact my office if you are planning a visit. I would love to see you.
February 08, 2019
This was a busy week in Washington, starting with President Trump delivering an inspiring State of the Union address. Under the Trump administration, America has seen low unemployment rates, effective mechanisms to lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs and strong efforts to secure our southern border to end illegal immigration, drug flow and human trafficking.
I was thrilled to hear the president say he will continue fighting for the lives of the unborn. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise introduced a measure the day after Trump’s address that would force Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring a bill to the floor safeguarding all babies born alive after an abortion. Protecting living, breathing infants should not be a partisan issue.
President Trump also called for bipartisanship in his speech, and shortly after both the Natural Resources Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee kicked off their first full hearings. We have exciting opportunities ahead of us this year. Whether it’s highway construction, burst water pipes or a burning national forest, resource and infrastructure issues affect everyone. It’s time we invest in them.
I remain committed to fighting for all issues affecting the Fourth District, and encourage you to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.