Mar 21, 2011

Legislative Update From Mary "Prissy" Hickerson

(Note: Mary Hickerson's report is provided from Little Rock, Arkansas to the Texarkana GOP and our readers.  Thank you Prissy for this update!)
Highway funding, transparency and tax reform were the issues during week nine of the 88th General Assembly. With less than one month until adjournment, House members kicked it up a notch, moving much more quickly and covering twice as many pieces of legislation. 
Meeting the deadline to file bills this session, lawmakers in the Arkansas House stirred over 300 new bills into the pot by Monday afternoon.  Since the legislative session commenced in January, 2,235 bills, resolutions and appropriations have been filed in the House and Senate.  Out of those, 1,231 were filed by House members.
Streamlining state government begins with increasing transparency, which is why on Tuesday the full House voted 87 to 6 in favor of Senate Bill 221, the Arkansas Financial Transparency Act.  When signed into law, the bill will establish an online database to track state spending. You deserve to know how your tax dollars are being spent and I am proud to have voted in favor of giving you access to the state checkbook.
“Lignite” is the new buzzword this session, as lawmakers and elected officials discuss avenues to spur job creation in the state. Midweek, we passed a House resolution to support a study of lignite mining and the funding of lignite research. Lignite is a type of brown coal that is abundant in South Arkansas.  By responsibly exploring this industry, we have the potential to create much-needed jobs and grow our state economy.  I voted for this resolution because I feel it is so important to Arkansas.
The full House passed a bill Wednesday to require any suspect arrested for rape to submit a DNA sample. The measure amends “Juli’s Law” which already requires DNA samples for other violent crime offenders. We also passed a bill to create an investment tax credit for rehabilitation and development projects in business-improvement districts. Both measures are headed to the Senate for consideration. 
Unfortunately for the Arkansas House, on Wednesday, Democrat members on the Senate Public Health Committee blocked Senate Bill 709, the Healthcare Reform Accountability Act, from reaching the Senate floor and House chamber. The measure would require state agencies to report the financial impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to the Legislature upon implementation. I believe this bill would have protected the integrity of our General Assembly and citizens who deserve to know how the federal healthcare law will be implemented in our state. 
Legislators in the House approved a measure that would ask voters if they want to raise the tax on diesel to increase funding for our state’s road system. House Bill 1902 proposes a 5-cent diesel tax increase to finance improvements on interstate highways. This proposal is part of a larger plan that includes a bill to also ask voters if they want to approve a half-cent sales tax increase for the funding of four-lane highways. I voted for this bill because, even though it increases taxes on diesel fuel, it will be at the will of the voters.  And the Arkansas Trucking Association, whose members will bear the cost of the tax, are fully in support of the issue.  They recognize that the interstates are getting in bad shape again and this causes problems for their trucks. The diesel tax increase will now move forward to the Senate for consideration.
Speaking of tax increases, a potential increase in the severance tax on natural gas is fueling debate among lawmakers and industry executives. From a potential citizen-led initiative to increase the severance tax on natural gas to a flat 7 percent to various pieces of tax and regulatory legislation affecting the industry, officials are growing concerned that such proposals may negatively impact the economic benefits of the natural gas industry.  As a result, on Thursday House and Senate members announced the formation of the Fayetteville Shale Play Caucus, which aims to protect natural gas exploration in the state.
 On a side issue, I had a Texarkana resident ask me why I voted against HB1873.  This bill would mandate that employers allow their employees to keep their licensed weapons in their vehicles while the vehicles are parked at the work site parking lot.  While I am a strong proponent of the right to keep and bear arms, it should not trample on the rights of others.  I agree that a vehicle is personal property and you should be able to keep a gun in your vehicle, but I believe that employers also have the right to make policy for their workplace and their property.  A bill is floating around with this same language for churches.  If it comes before the House, I will vote no because I do not believe the state has any right to impose such a law on churches.  Those decisions rightfully belong with the church congregations. Let me know how you feel on this issue or any other issue that is pending.
As your Representative, I am honored to serve you in the Arkansas House of Representatives. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have. My email is
I also encourage you to visit where you can live stream committee meetings and proceedings happening on the House floor from anywhere in the state. 

Mar 15, 2011's Report on Palin and the GOP

I received an email today from Mr. Soto, Jr. with the site.  He had read an article here and contacted me with a link (see below).  The video deals with the possibility that Sarah Palin may be the front-runner for the GOP in 2012.  His site draws on several news sources to make an informed commentary about issues.

Please visit:

Palin and the GOP

(our thanks to Mr. Joey Soto, Jr. for this link and information)

Mar 13, 2011

What if there never was a Republican Party?

Some people would be perfectly content if the Republican Party never existed. Well, it's time to take a cold hard look at what would not have been had the party never existed. In this case, assuming the party never existed, then here is a list of things that would still be in place or never exist:

Slavery – The Republican Party was formed against slavery. If there had never been a Republican Party, then we would still have slavery.

Women's Rights – Forget having the right to work, vote, or even have a woman's voice heard in a legal case. Don't even think of going to college, making money or having any rights in a divorce. Without Republican Party support, women's rights would have never occurred.

Civil Rights – In the first place there would have been no reason for Civil Rights since Slavery would still be in use. Even if by some unknown reason slavery had been abolished without the Republican's work, then Civil Rights would have failed. Democrats argued against Civil Rights. Al Gore, Sr. (that's right Al Gore's dad) was one of the biggest opponents to Civil Rights. Eisenhower (a Republican President) would have never been President and therefore would have never sent the U.S. Army to Little Rock to force a Democrat Governor to allow African American Children to attend public school. There would have been no Civil Rights and certainly no equal education. It should be no surprise that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a registered Republican.

Clean Air – Take a deep breath and enjoy. While both Democrats and Republicans have been for and against legislation to keep our environment clean, it was Republican President Nixon who first pushed for and signed the first Clean Air Act into law. This started the work that is still being done for our environment today. Without Republicans, say goodbye to that fresh air!

Interstate Highways- Take your car down an old highway at 55 mph and then drop to 25-30 mph for each small town along the route. Do this from places like Little Rock to Dallas and see how long it takes you to get there because without a Republican President (Eisenhower again) those interstate highways would still be a thing of science fiction.

African American's Right to Vote – Considering that without Republicans African Americans would still be in slavery, it's almost a mute point, but without Republicans, in 1869 African Americans would have never received the right to vote.

Hawaii – love going to Hawaii without a passport? You can forget that since the Republicans pushed for Hawaii to become part of the United States. Without Republicans you would enjoy Hawaii just like taking a trip to any other country.

NASA – While the current Democrats seem intent on destroying the space program, it was a Republican idea and push that started the program thus allowing a later administration under John Kennedy to push for the moon. No more space shuttle, no more space exploration without Republicans.

African American Governors – Republicans sponsored and helped elect the first African American Governor. Without Republicans, this never would have happened.

Hispanics in Government – At some point it would have happened due to population changes, but Republicans had the first Hispanic U.S. Senator and President Reagan had the first Hispanic member of a Presidential Cabinet. No Republicans, likely a different outlook on Hispanics in government.

Japanese American Concentration Camps – It sounds bad, but the fact is the United States locked our own Japanese people, U.S. Citizens, in what was considered concentration camps during World War Two. It was claimed to be for their protection and for the protection of the United States. It took a Republican President to sign an order to release the remaining 120,000 Japanese Americans in those camps (Eisenhower who wasn't elected until 1953!).

The impressive list of accomplishments by the Republican Party and it's leaders goes on and on. Had there never been a Republican Party, it is very likely that many people, women, African Americans, Japanese Americans, and Hispanics to name a few would have never enjoyed the rights our government must provide to them today. There is a common theme on some Republican websites that says “Republican for a Reason,” but in truth most Republicans have been “Republicans with a reason”. At this pivotal time in history, the Republican Party stands ready again to defend American's and their rights because we are Republicans with a reason.

Mar 7, 2011

Texarkana Gazette Targeting Judge Larry Burgess?

Larry Burgess ran his campaign with a promise to get away from the “good old boy” politics, and the “business as usual” attitudes that he saw as a major problem for Miller County.  He ran with support of the Miller County Patriots and the Miller County Republican Committee.  He also ran with the support of the majority of the Miller County voters. 

On Sunday March 6th, the Texarkana Gazette ran an article called “Grave Concern”.  The article focused on the fact that Judge Burgess could not dig graves for people unable to afford them with county money.  Burgess lived up to the campaign promise he had made to use county money as it should be.  He is supported by laws, and common sense (the view the county might have to repair damage to other graves).  Simply put, Judge Burgess not only lived up to his campaign promise, but he also demonstrated that he is not willing to let his office act outside the law.  The Gazette gave front-page coverage to the policy and wrote a title that almost sounds like it is against Burgess.  “Grave Concern” is a unique twist on words that could be taken negatively.  The article goes on to say that the preparation of graves by the county has been being done for years.  The implication is that poor Judge Burgess isn’t going to play along with business as usual…Big surprise, Judge Burgess again is following up on his campaign promise.  He is going to do things by the law.

It was interesting to find Judge Burgess’ name once again thrown into the spotlight with Monday’s edition of the Gazette (yes, the 7th) with the headline “Smith Park caretakers evicted:  County Judge Burgess says health problems to blame.”  Some figures state that around 44% of people only read a newspaper headines.  If that figure is true, then 44% of Burgess’ voting public is going to see that Judge Burgess evicted the caretakers due to health problems.  Since most people at least look at the pictures, the readers are then going to see an elderly couple standing on the front porch of the home at Smith Park.   The article goes on to capitalize on the fact that John Feutral is 74 and his wife, Hazel, is 72.  To inflict more for the reader, it is noted that they have lived in the park since 1992.  After the initial shots are fired at Burgess, the article does include the fact that the county has paid for the house, utilities, and that the Quorum Court actually discussed it.  The article appears to indicate that the Quorum Court was unable or unwilling to evict and that Burgess “announced the eviction during a recent Quorum Court meeting.”

When reading these articles, apparently taking aim at Judge Burgess, a few things need to be kept in mind.  First, Judge Burgess is doing exactly what he said he would do.  He is not playing “good old boys” politics, and he is protecting county money and interest.  The law clearly does not allow the county to dig graves.  It can be amended, but as it is currently written, Judge Burgess is doing the right thing.   By not digging graves, he is following the law and possibly saving the county from a potential lawsuit if the county caused damage to other graves.   The Feutral’s have lived rent free with their utilities paid by the county for nineteen years, and on top of this they get another sixty days before they need to leave.  In the real business world, when an employee is no longer able to perform his or her duty, the company lets them go.  In most cases the company does not give a sixty-day notice, and in most cases rent and utilities is not part of the employee benefit package.  The fact is the Feutrals have enjoyed a benefit that few other Miller County residents have had at the expense of the county. 

Instead of making it appear that Judge Burgess is being heartless and uncaring, the Texarkana Gazette should consider the fact that he is doing exactly what he promised voters.  By trying to introduce ways the county can help with graves and by working with the Feutrals Burgess has shown that not only is he going to follow the law and his promises, but he also has a compassionate side and wants to work with people.  Burgess should be cheered for his efforts and Miller County should back him one hundred percent.

Mar 6, 2011

Beth Anne Rankin Still Matters

 A lot of politicians fade out of the limelight once they are defeated in an election.  Unless you are an ex-President, you are regulated to the “graveyard of politicians” at the end of election night.  The world is full of people who can boast that they once ran for this office or for that office, but ultimately nobody likes to be associated with the one who lost.  This is not the case with Beth Anne Rankin.  She is currently being booked as the guest speaker for countless Lincoln Day Dinners and other events in Arkansas.

Beth Anne carried a charm and a fighting spirit into the election with Mike Ross that few people have seen in the fourth district of Arkansas in years.  She had the charm that instantly made you like her because she listened to what you had to say, commented on it, and even incorporated it into her drive for the election.  She had a fighting spirit that refused to give up.  She refused to accept the odds were against her, the money was against her, and the political machine of Mike Ross was intent on crushing her to the point of even resorting to lies.  What Mike Ross and the rest of the Democratic Party did not realize as they pounded the feisty red head in the final stretch of election night was that they were in essence creating a hero for the Republican Party.  On election night Beth Anne Rankin became the Republican Party’s “Rocky”. 

Beth Anne Rankin took on the champ and she went the distance.  Much like the fictional Rocky, few people in the initial start of the fight expected Beth Anne to do much.  However, as each round of the battle went on, the chant grew steadily from “Ross, Ross, Ross, “to” Rankin, Rankin, Rankin.”  Political power figures such as Mike Huckabee, and Dick Morris started coming out of the woodwork and endorsing Rankin.  The chant and drive so threatened the political machine of Ross that the campaign began to follow Rankin around and film her speeches, publish lies, and slander her anyway they felt would topple the red-headed fire engine from south-Arkansas.  Unfortunately for Ross, each time he knocked Rankin to the mat, she simply climbed back up before a ten count could be issued and fought back. 

In the end Rankin went down on election night swinging until the final count was brought in to the state offices.  Ross emerged still the winner and still in control as one of the only Democratic survivors of the night for Arkansas.  He was heading back to Washington.  Unfortunately for Ross, the damage Rankin did on election night and during the campaign may be irreversible for the entrenched Democrat.

There is one important lesson that Mike Ross should carry away with his victory over Rankin.  American’s love sequels and they love the underdog.  By knocking Beth Anne down now and winning, Ross may well have propelled her into the next battle.  Remember, there was a “Rocky II” and in case Ross doesn’t remember what happened in that movie, the Republicans will give you a hint…Rocky won the second time around.