Arkansans Unite to Put Families First
Hundreds of Arkansans from across the state gathered in Little Rock Tuesday to ask legislators to focus on the unmet needs of hard-working families.
The Arkansas Citizens First Congress took to the Capitol steps, calling for safer, smarter and economically viable communities.
“The Arkansas legislature recently passed $102 million in tax cuts,” said CFC Co-Chair William El-Amin. “Low-income families saw no tax relief at all despite already being taxed more than any other income group. Legislators continue to propose further tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Arkansans, but this is the wrong priority for Arkansas today. It's time to put Arkansas families’ needs first in future spending.”
CLICK HERE for a Video of Advocacy Day in Action (https://t.e2ma.net/click/yabyi/68243d/6glg7b)
Retired Teacher Alyce Love asked legislators to support pre-K, afterschool and Summer programs. Arkansas' award winning pre-K program has not had a cost of living increase since 2008 and is overstretched.
“We know the benefits of having those programs,” she said. “Not only do we have happier children, we have healthier children and they can be successful when we have this early process.”
Love traveled from Dumas to request a level playing field for all Arkansas kids.
“We know that the funding for schools is different in the Delta from where it is in other parts of our state,” she said. “Our kids are hungry because of our low income areas and lack of jobs to support working families.”
El-Amin, also the Gould Police Chief said Arkansas should invest in more parole officers to cut down caseloads and improve supervision, rather than new prison beds.
“These are real priorities, not building new prisons,” he said. “The current caseload average for probation and parole officers is 118, far more than they can safely and effectively manage. We need to ensure inmates and offenders remain on track with their discharge plan.”
El-Amin also called for increased funding for reentry programs to reduce recidivism and prison overcrowding.
“We need to equip inmates with the necessary skills to return to the workforce,” El-Amin said. “Investing in these programs will save Arkansas millions in the long run.”
Tamika Edwards wants legislators to fix holes in Arkansas' child welfare system.
“We need to give abused and neglected children the care and protection they need,” she said. “There are a number of children in Arkansas who struggle because of the unfunded child welfare system.”
She also called for a state level Earned Income Tax Credit.
“Arkansas continues to struggle with poverty rates above the national average, and growing numbers of children in poverty,” she said. “A state level refundable EITC is one of the most widely accepted and successful methods for fighting poverty and encouraging workforce participation.”
Huttig Alderman Van Page also spoke at the event, calling for better poll worker training and same day voter registration.
“Our 2014 election was a disaster to say the least, and I know it’s not just us,” she said. “This was a statewide thing. Our poll captains and poll workers were not adequately trained.”
Page says poll workers were unprepared when a machine went down on election day.
“They didn’t have a clue what to do because they never touched the machine during their training,” Page says. “A lot of people lost their right to vote because they had to work and they had to leave.”
The event was part of the CFC’s South Arkansas Legislative Advocacy Day. Members from Magnolia, Dumas, Huttig, Strong, Monticello, Prescott, Marvell, Gould and Starr City met with legislators, and sat in on committee hearings to learn about the legislative process firsthand.
“We just really come together and voice our opinion and hear what the legislators are saying,” says Retha Spencer of Gould. “We’re joining to move our town, the economy, the working people forward.”
Pamela Blake of Huttig wants legislators to know South Arkansans are paying attention.
“I was always taught that a closed mouth is never fed,” Blake says. “We’re here to show our voice. We’re here to show our strength, and that we care.”
Senator Joyce Elliott D (31) grew up in South Arkansas, and says the heavy turnout is exciting.
“It is really gratifying for me and encouraging for me to see people from South Arkansas come to Little Rock and advocate for their own interests,” she says. “These are the things that it takes to make a difference.”
Representative Monte Hodges D (55) was drawn to the event after reading about the CFC Agenda.
“Their priorities were a lot of the same priorities I have,” Hodges says. “When you have the number of people who showed up, who are passionate about these issues, it makes you stand up and take notice. It is really refreshing to see people engaged in the process.”
CFC member LaKenya Williams of Strong wants even more people to get involved.
“If you’re not engaged you will get left out,” Williams says. “You don’t want people behind closed doors making decisions for you.”
The CFC will host 3 more advocacy days this session, on February 25th, March 10th and March 25th. Click here (https://t.e2ma.net/click/yabyi/68243d/m9lg7b) to join our Environmental Advocacy Day Facebook event, and invite your friends. For more information, visit Citizensfirst.org (https://t.e2ma.net/click/yabyi/68243d/21mg7b).
The Arkansas Citizens First Congress is a grassroots coalition of 54 community groups from across Arkansas that works on progressive reform at the Arkansas Legislature.
The Ten Priorities for A Better Arkansas:
Opportunities to learn for all students
A sound state budget, fair taxes and Reauthorize the Private Option Health Insurance
Energy efficiency and renewable energy
Arkansas State Water Plan
Oppose state-level or punitive immigration reform
Prison Reform & Judicial Equality for Mental Health
Fair Election Reform
Worker fairness and safety
Create an Arkansas Civil & Human Rights Commission
Reform eminent domain to protect citizens
1308 West Second Street | Little Rock, AR 72201 US
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