Today the chaos begins as the 90th General Assembly of the Arkansas Legislature convenes to consider more than 3,000 pieces of legislation in less than 90 days -- surrounded by lobbyists representing powerful interests used to having their way in the Capitol. We have a great team of volunteers, staff and interns who are working to make sure the public interest is not lost in the process.
We have resources to help you keep track of the legislative activity. We have a new streamlined website -- please tell us what you think and how we can improve it. We have our new legislative directory of your lawmakers and how to reach them, and maps of who serves on each committee. We are constantly updating the contact information as new information becomes available. During the session we will send alerts to our email list and post regular updates to our Facebook and Twitter accounts. We will also have several advocacy days at the Capitol, where you can join hundreds of your fellow Arkansans to push for better policies and watch your lawmakers in action. We do free trainings on how the legislative process works and how to be more effective advocates for your issues. Let us know if we can help your group.
As always a lot is at stake this legislative session:
- The Private Option health insurance program that is providing quality health care access to more than 250,000 Arkansans, while saving the state budget hundreds of millions, is up for renewal again. It passed the last 2 legislative sessions by a single vote.
- The Governor is promoting a $100 million tax cut but he's yet to disclose which programs and services he will cut to pay for it. Arkansas’ tax system is already upside down -- taxing low income families at over twice the rate that we tax the wealthiest 1%. Last legislative session made the inequality substantially worse.
- The dramatic improvements we've made to our education system are at risk. We are pushing for proven solutions to boost student learning -- including improving pre-k access and quality and funding after-school and summer programs for kids in need.
- We are also working for improvements to conserve energy, create green jobs and protect our water resources.
- Prison reform is a hot topic as the state has a significant overcrowding problem and a broken parole system. We are pushing for improvements to our parole system to reduce recidivism, to offer nonviolent first time offenders alternatives to prison and to make sure that persons with mental illness get the help they need instead of getting lost in our prison system.
- We remain committed to fair and transparent elections. We will push for more training for poll workers and more safeguards for our elections that do not disenfranchise qualified voters.
- Last session we passed wage theft legislation through the House that would help workers make sure they get paid for their work -- this session we will try again to get it through the House and Senate.
- And we will push for eminent domain reform to protect Arkansas landowners from private out-of-state companies taking their property for development projects without giving them fair compensation.
One thing you can be sure of is that many unexpected things, both positive and negative, will come up. Stay tuned and get engaged. You are the most powerful force in Arkansas for fair and accountable government. Let us know how we can help.