Welcoming the 90th General Assembly

November 24th, 2014

The Arkansas House and Senate are currently preparing for the upcoming legislative session that begins on January 12, 2015. Following the November elections, the Republican Party expanded their control in both chambers of the Arkansas Legislature. They now hold a 64-36 advantage in the House and a 24-11 advantage in the Senate.

This session is set to center around two main issues: tax cuts and the Private Option. Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson centered his campaign on a $100 million middle-class tax cut, so legislators are expected to take up his cause. Many believe the most controversial issue facing the legislature this cycle will be the renewal of the Private Option, Arkansas’ version of Medicaid expansion. This piece of legislation narrowly passed in the 2013 legislative session and is expected to face even more opposition this cycle.

Leadership in the House and Senate are also expecting legislation addressing issues such as tort reform, education, and tweaks to the lottery. The State of Arkansas is also facing a critical issue with prison overcrowding that must be addressed sooner rather than later.

The 2015 Legislative Session is shaping up to be very exciting. Arkansans voted for a change in leadership and direction. Now we get to see those changes in action. Stay tuned for more updates.

View the new committee memberships below.

inVeritas Involved :: Hunger Relief Alliance

July 29th, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (July 28, 2014) – inVeritas was proud to support the Southern Legislative Conference/Mark Norris Campaign Against Hunger event this past weekend. Lawmakers from 15 different states came together in Little Rock to attend the 68th Annual Southern Legislative Conference. The conference continues to support Mark Norris’ campaign against hunger by packaging meals. More than 500 volunteers gathered at the Statehouse Convention on Sunday to continue the tradition to help package meals for the hungry.

Today, there are more than 49 million Americans, including 16 million children, classified as food insecure. While this is a national problem, the statistics are higher in the South. In Arkansas alone, more than 560,000 people are food insecure.

This year, with the help of sponsor CenturyLink, volunteers packaged over 50,000 meals, 30,000 more than previous years.

inVeritas inside: Special Session

July 2nd, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (July 2, 2014) – For the second time in eight months, Governor Beebe called a special session to address the increase in insurance premiums for teachers and public school employees. The legislature also addressed prison overcrowding and lottery restrictions.

This special session certainly was special, as the House of Representatives had the privilege of meeting in the Old State House. In this historic downtown museum, representatives cast votes and passed legislation for the first time since 1909. In 1837, then Speaker John Wilson fought with Representative J.J. Anthony after a heated debate in the same room the 89th General Assembly convened to address prison overcrowding. The two battled with knives, and Speaker Wilson ended up killing Representative Anthony on the House floor.

This is the same building where Arkansas’ constitution was signed. It is also the oldest state capitol building west of the Mississippi River. Representatives Tommy Thompson and Charlene Fite dressed in 19th century style clothing to commemorate this special session. Some lawmakers even arrived by horse-drawn carriages.

While the second special session of the 89th General Assembly was mainly engrossed by the history of the downtown museum, the legislature was able to pass a number of bills and conclude the people’s business in less than 48 hours. The legislature passed a package of bills that would avoid a 35% increase in insurance premiums that thousands of teachers and public school employees were estimated to face this fall. The proposals included transferring roughly $4.6 million a year from school districts’ payroll tax savings to the health insurance plans covering about 47,000 teachers and other public schools employees; making part-time school employees ineligible for coverage; making spouses of school employees and other state employees ineligible for coverage if they can obtain insurance through their employers; requiring verification of dependents’ eligibility; requiring employees in high-deductible plans to enroll in health savings accounts; and limiting coverage for weight-reduction surgery.

The legislature also freed up about $6.3 million from the state Central Services Fund to fund over 600 additional prison beds. Lastly, a bill that would prohibit the lottery from introducing monitor games passed with an overwhelming majority. This moratorium will expire March 13th,2015, allowing the legislature to decide in the next regular session whether to continue the ban.

inVeritas involved :: ACCESS Bingo Bash

June 16th, 2014

For the third straight year, inVeritas has been actively involved in supporting ACCESS, a non-profit resource center offering full-time education, therapy, training and activities for children and youths with learning disabilities. This unique organization serves families from throughout Arkansas and many surrounding states. ACCESS is composed of a preschool, an evaluation and resource center, ACCESS Academy for individuals 5-21, and ACCESS Life for ages 18-35. They also offer in- and out-patient therapy programs.

ACCESS was founded in 1994 and comprises three main branches: ACCESS Evaluation and Resource Center; ACCESS Therapy; and ACCESS Schools.

inVeritas’ Vice President of Research, Kelly Sullivan, and Director of Government Relations, Jay Robbins, are serving on the ACCESS in Action young professionals group again this year in hopes to raise more than $20,000 for the ACCESS Tuition Assistance Fund. This group organizes an annual bingo bash, raising money for academy scholarships.

“ACCESS is such an incredible place, said Jay. “Since its inception 20 years ago, ACCESS has inspired so many children and young adults throughout this great state, and it has certainly inspired me.”

In 2013, inVeritas served as the title sponsor for the event, which raised more than $20,000. inVeritas also served as a silver sponsor of this year’s Starry Starry Night, ACCESS’ biggest fundraiser of the year.

“We are thrilled to have Jay and Kelly of inVeritas back on the Bingo Bash committee this year, said ACCESS Executive Director Tammy Simmons, M.S., CCC-SLP. We could not fulfill our mission without organizations like inVeritas, and we are proud to have them as a sponsor again this year.”

The eighth annual Bingo Bash, chaired by AOC Public Education Coordinator Corey Gilmore, is scheduled for Thursday, July 17, 6-9 p.m. at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic Church. Bingo Bash tickets are $40 per person and can be purchased from any committee member or by calling ACCESS at 501-217-8600. For more information on ACCESS, visit their website at www.accessgroupinc.org.

inVeritas inside: Primary Elections Analysis

May 27th, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (May 22, 2014) – There is much we can learn from Tuesday’s primary election results, but the key takeaway was the low voter turnout. Only 20% of the 1.6 million registered voters in Arkansas cast a ballot in this year’s primary election. In addition, for the first time in our state’s history, more Republican ballots were cast than Democratic ballots. Of the 330,000 plus who voted, only 175,000 will have the opportunity to vote in the primary run-off on June 10th for the state’s next Attorney General.

Over 400 candidates filed in early March to become an elected official in Arkansas; a number that was drastically trimmed late Tuesday night. There were 22 primaries for state House seats, where eight races were decided at the polls and one is set for a runoff. Three of five incumbent Arkansas state representatives who faced primary election opponents lost their seats. Incumbent Representatives John Hutchison, R-Harrisburg; Randy Alexander, R-Springdale; and Fred Smith, G-Crawfordsville, all lost Tuesday night, while Representatives Sue Scott, R-Rogers, and Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville, were able to pull out a victory. The private option vote appeared to be a factor in two of those races.

There were four state Senate races contested in the Republican primary. In three of those races, the winner was decided since no Democrat filed to run against them in the general election. Representative Terry Rice defeated incumbent Senator Bruce Holland for Senate District 9. While Representative John Burris, one of the private option architects, is headed to a runoff with Mountain Home businessman Scott Flippo, incumbent Senators Missy Irvin and Bill Sample easily won their respective primaries.

Looking ahead to November, in the Arkansas Senate, there are 18 seats on the ballot this year; 11 of which are held by Republicans and seven by Democrats. 11 of the Senate incumbents are unopposed – six Republicans and five Democrats. In the Arkansas House of Representatives, all 100 House seats are up for election. There are 51 unopposed House candidates – 27 Republicans and 24 Democrats. The other 49 contested House seats include 25 held by Republicans, 23 held by Democrats and one by a Green Party member – who was defeated Tuesday’s primary.

An overview of the big winners shows:

Republican Asa Hutchinson and Democrat Mike Ross won their parties’ nominations for governor;

Little Rock Banker French Hill won the Republican nomination in the 2nd Congressional District;

State Representative Bruce Westerman defeated Tommy Moll in the Republican primary for the 4th Congressional District;

Congressman Tim Griffin defeated two Republican opponents in the primary race for the next lieutenant governor;

Saline County Circuit Clerk Dennis Milligan defeated Representative Duncan Baird for state treasurer in the Republican primary;

State Representative Andrea Lea more than doubled her opponent’s vote totals in the Republican primary for state auditor;

and Court of Appeals Judge Robin Wynne narrowly defeated Little Rock lawyer Tim Cullen in the Supreme Court race.

Summing up, the general election in November will include four congressional seats, the governor’s office, six constitutional offices, 100 state House seats and 18 state Senate seats. The next five months should be very intriguing, as one of the most anticipated election years in our state’s history has taken shape.