inVeritas involved :: No Kid Hungry Summit

April 20th, 2015

This week, inVeritas Creative Director Amy Kelley Bell joined her husband, Chef Matthew Bell, at the No Kid Hungry Summit held in Washington, DC. Amy learned about the progress No Kid Hungry has made both in Arkansas and nationwide with programs like Breakfast in the Classroom, Summer Meals and Cooking Matters.

It is no coincidence this summit was held at the same time Congress is looking at the Childhood Nutrition Reauthorization bill. The summer meals program, funded by CNR, was created in 1968 to help kids in need find a nutritious meal while school is out. This bill has not been changed in over 40 years. The current program operates with a one-size-fits-all approach, and this just does not work in many communities – especially those in rural areas.

Coach Larry Clark of Little Rock created a program called Life Skills for Youth 25 years ago. His program has been helped immensely by the No Kid Hungry summer meals program, through Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. Coach Clark is serving almost 400 children a day during the summer at his southwest Little Rock location. Recently he sponsored another feeding site in Brinkley – and he has found that due to the program’s current restrictions, he is not able to reach the majority of the children in Brinkley.

In rural areas, transportation challenges mean six out of seven kids who qualify for these summer meals are not receiving them. The money from CNR is allocated, but bureaucratic red tape is preventing sponsors like Coach Clark from reaching these children in rural areas.

With No Kid Hungry’s proposed changes to the Childhood Nutrition Reauthorization, organizations like the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance could work more easily with sponsors like Coach Clark to make sure a larger majority of children in rural areas are receiving meals during the summer months. Rather than requiring children in rural areas to come to a central, congregate feeding site, sponsors would have the ability to deliver meals to children in need.

At the No Kid Hungry Summit, Amy Bell, Chef Matt Bell and Coach Clark sat down with the Arkansas delegation to discuss the reauthorization of child nutrition programs, such as summer meals. Amy had a very personal connection to this program, as her mother was a former public school teacher. One year during a Christmas party at school, Amy’s mother found one of her students crying. She pulled him aside and asked why he was upset. He had just realized they were not going to be back in school for almost three weeks, and was terrified about the upcoming break because he did not receive regular meals at home. Amy’s mom packed him a care package with food items he could eat without having to cook himself and prayed this would help make his Christmas break an easier one.

If this child was stressed about how he would find nutritious meals over a three-week break, imagine what he faced during three-month summer breaks each year. These programs are vital to keeping America’s children engaged and focused in their education, even in the summer months. Public education is a vehicle we have given our children to unlock their potential. A significant number of children using the public education system are below the poverty line and count on meal programs as one of their only substantial and nutritious meals they will receive all day. If their education is the vehicle to unlocking their potential, meal programs are the fuel to get them to the finish line.

Amy Bell, Chef Matt Bell and Coach Clark had successful meetings with Senator John Boozman, Senator Tom Cotton and Congressman French Hill. They shared their personal stories for why it is important for them to reauthorize childhood nutrition programs like summer meals. Their voices alone made a small impact, but with your help we can make sure CNR will receive the full support of Arkansas’ delegation. Click here to send a letter to your member of Congress to share with them why the summer meals program is important for Arkansas’ children in need.

43% of low-income families go without enough food during the summer months. On average, families’ monthly food budgets increase by $300 during the summer break. Families below the poverty line are having to choose between paying the light bill and feeding their children. The good news is that Arkansas went from last to first in summer meals served from 2012 to 2013! Due to the hard work of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance in partnership with No Kid Hungry, Arkansas has become an example for other states in how to best implement programs such as Summer Meals, Breakfast in the Classroom and Cooking Matters.

Please consider donating your time or money to No Kid Hungry to help their efforts in implementing programs such as summer meals. Feeding hungry children in America is a problem we should be able to easily solve. With your help, we can make #NoKidHungry a reality.

Choosing the right social network

April 10th, 2015

In a previous blog post, we said the #1 social media mistake businesses make is choosing the wrong network. There are numerous social networks online, and the possibilities of where to share your message are growing every year. While it’s nearly impossible to be on every social networking site, many companies struggle to try to have a presence on most of them.

You’ve been told: “You have to be on [some network] because everyone else is.” This is simply not true.

Take a step back. Ask yourself who your target customer is. What demographics does your customer fall within? How do you envision your customers engaging with you? Are your posts going to be driven by information or visuals?

Once you have a clear vision of how you plan to share your message on social media, you will know which site(s) to choose.

We love this graphic, created by, which gives you a statistical guide to choosing the right platform for your business’ message.

What Social Media Platforms Are Best Suited For Your Business
Courtesy of: Quick Sprout

90th General Assembly Legislative Overview

April 6th, 2015

The 90th General Assembly recessed Thursday, April 2. During the 81 day session, over 2,062 bills were filed, down slightly from the previous two regular sessions. The legislature will adjourn sine die on Friday, May 8.

For the first time since Reconstruction, Republicans controlled both the governor’s office and the Legislature. Although the early days of the session ran without much incident, the latter days were filled with a several challenges. Highlights from the session, including spending and tax cuts, health care, prisons, first veto, constitutional amendments, and RFRA are included below.

In the final week of the session, lawmakers passed a $5.18 billion general revenue budget, an increase of $133 million from the previous fiscal year. The budget featured increased funding for schools, Medicaid and prisons, with a 1 percent increase for most other state agencies. Funding for higher education remained the same. The Arkansas Science and Technology Authority and the Department of Health faced the two largest decreases. The budget also included a $4.3 million rainy day fund. While Gov. Hutchinson’s initial draft lacked funding for General Improvement Fund projects, the budget passed by legislations featured $20 million in GIF funding, with the House and Senate receiving $10 million each. The governor will have another $20 million for projects that he finds most important.

Lawmakers also approved two significant tax cuts, including Gov. Hutchinson’s $102 million middle-class income tax cut. The legislature also voted to reinstate a 50% exemption rate on capital gains set in the last legislative session.

Health Care

Lawmakers swiftly addressed the future of Arkansas’ private option, a marked change from previous sessions. In late January, Gov. Hutchinson released his plans for health care reform and signed the measure into law by mid-February. The legislation will end the private option by Dec. 31, 2016 and created the Arkansas Health Reform Legislative Task Force to present a report detailing the alternatives to the private option by the end of 2015.

The task force plans to hire a consulting group to assist with the report, which will be due by the chosen consultant Oct. 1. The task force plans to consider where the state’s Medicaid and private option are right now, where the task force wants them to be and actions necessary to get them there. The task force plans to meet at least once a month for the rest of the year to determine the fate and next steps of the program. Prison Overcrowding

Gov. Hutchinson released his prison reform plan in February to overhaul the current criminal justice system. The $32 million plan to curb prison crowding called for prison bed expansion, re-entry programs and centers, alternative sentencing courts and more parole and probation officers.

The legislature passed Senate Bill 472 by Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson as part of the $32 million plan to increase prison-bed space, expand parole services and reduce recidivism over two years.

The proposal includes a “pay for success” program to look for ways to reduce recidivism; working with non-profit groups and others to help with job training; having more funding for specialty courts like drug, mental health and veterans courts; as well as allowing police officers and Arkansas Department of Community Corrections officers to have the authority to do warrantless searches on probationers and parolees.

First Veto

Gov. Hutchinson used his veto power for the first time during the final days of the session, citing constitutional concerns over a bill involved assigning property rights to people’s names, voices and signatures. The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Jon Woods, went to the Senate floor to seek to override the veto. The override attempt failed by a 12-14 vote. Constitutional Amendments

Lawmakers filed a total of 41 proposed constitutional amendments this session. After considerable pushback from legislative leadership, the House and Senate approved three constitutional amendments for the November 2016 ballot:

• Sen. Eddie Joe Williams’ SJR3 would allow the governor to maintain his or her powers when he or she leaves the state. Currently, the lieutenant governor currently acts as governor when the governor exits the state. • Rep. Jack Ladyman’s HJR1027 would increase the terms of county judges, sheriffs, and other county officials from two years to four. • Sen. Jon Woods’ SJR16 would remove the cap on super project general obligation bonds issued under Amendment 82. Currently, the cap is set at 5% of the state budget. The amendment also gives the legislature the power to determine the size of incentives offered to employers, would allow cities and municipalities to provide economic development infrastructure and services, and would let cities and municipalities sell voter-approved bonds for infrastructure and incentives.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

The final days of the legislative session were filled with intense debate over a bill widely criticized for what many said would result in discrimination against the LGBT community. Although the bill made its way through the legislative process and Gov. Hutchinson said he would sign the bill, a large grassroots effort coupled with public criticism from some of the state’s largest employers caused Gov. Hutchinson to reconsider his stance. On the penultimate day of the session, Gov. Hutchinson asked lawmakers to modify an already existing bill with amendments that mirrored the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Three Things to Consider During an Employee Background Check

March 23rd, 2015

Looking to hire a new employee? You’ve reviewed countless resumes, asked tough questions during the interview process, and called numerous references. Once your applicant pool is narrowed down, perhaps you should consider conducting a little due diligence to better evaluate your top candidates. Background screening is quickly becoming a simple, yet effective way to ensure you make informed hiring decisions.

Three Things to Consider During an Employee Background Check

Criminal and Civil Records. Will the potential hire have access to the company’s financial information? Reviewing a potential hire’s criminal and civil record is an inexpensive way to identify potential vulnerabilities. A criminal conviction for fraud or a previous bankruptcy filing may be an important predictor for a job candidate’s suitability to handle company finances.

Social Media Presence. We all know social media has changed the way businesses connect with consumers, but have you considered its role in the job search process? From their favorite sports team to how they spend their free time, social media is one of the easiest ways to learn more about potential hires. While a candidate’s social media presence should not be used to make final employment decisions, a thorough screening can help identify any offensive material or objectionable behaviors before the candidate is hired.

Verification of Education, Licensure. Imagine finding out your newly hired attorney is no longer licensed to practice or that your new hire didn’t really earn a degree in accounting. In most cases, education verification is a simple and straightforward process. By ensuring potential hires have the required educational background and licensing, companies can help minimize the risk for not conducting pre-employment background checks.

Background screening is an effective way to help companies make informed decisions, and inVeritas can help you ensure your potential hire is a good fit for the position. We provide customized research suited to meet your specific needs. Contact for guidance on how to ensure you are prepared to make an informed hiring decision.

inVeritas Inside the Capitol

March 23rd, 2015

Last Monday marked the deadline for the House to fill in any shell legislation. The Senate was not bound by the same restriction, however, and amendments remained steady throughout last week. The legislature is expected to consider the governor’s proposed $5.2 billion budget for fiscal 2016 by the end of this week. They are also expected to complete work on legislation complementing Gov. Hutchinson’s $32 million plan to curb prison crowding, along with measures to improve the state’s workforce development program, to restore capital-gains tax cuts, and to change the size and eligibility for lottery-financed scholarships. House Speaker Jeremy Gillam said he expects to wrap up the session by the end of the month.

Arkansas Health Care Reform Task Force

The Arkansas Health Care Reform Legislative Task Force announced that it will present its alternatives to the private option to Gov. Hutchinson by December 15. The task force will hire a consulting group to assist with the report, with a report from the chosen consultant due October 1. The task force plans to release an RFP from consulting groups this week and have it out for bid before hiring a consultant in mid-May. Chairman Jim Hendren said the task force would consider where the state’s Medicaid and private options are right now, where the task force wants them to be and actions necessary to get them there. The task force plans to meet once a week for the remainder of the session and then at least once a month for the rest of the year.

Legislative Pay Raises

The Independent Citizens Commission voted to adopt its review of salary increases for Arkansas’ legislators, constitutional officers and judges. The biggest pay raise under the plan would be for House and Senate members, who would see their salaries increase from $15,869 a year to $39,400. Salaries for the House speaker and Senate president would increase from $17,771 to $45,000. The panel’s vote also raises pay for all constitutional officers but the lieutenant governor. The governor’s pay would increase from $87,759 a year to $141,000, while the attorney general’s pay would rise from $73,132 to $130,000. The panel is calling for more modest raises for the state’s judges, including members of the Arkansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. The raises are expected to cost the state about $5 million.

State Treasurer Violation

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge concluded her investigation into circumstances where Arkansas Treasurer Dennis Milligan hired his cousin in violation of state law. Milligan paid a $1,000 fine and repaid nearly $7,000 in salary received by his cousin, who improperly held a job in his office for about a month.

Session Highlights

Arkansas lawmakers moved last week to restore a 2013 capital gains tax break. The House Revenue and Taxation Committee endorsed a proposal to raise the percentage of a capital gain that is exempt from the state income tax. The proposal raises the exemption to 45% this year and back to 50% on July 1, 2016. It also restores an exemption for capital gains of more than $10 million. The bill heads to the full House, where more than half the members have signed on as co-sponsors. Committee Chairman Joe Jett said his committee was holding off on considering other tax cut proposals as legislative leaders craft the bill detailing the state’s $5.2 billion budget for the coming year. Other proposed tax breaks include exemptions benefiting veterans and farmers.

The Arkansas Legislature announced it would not refer any proposed constitutional amendments to voters for the ballot in the 2016 general election. Representatives and senators were unable to reach a consensus on which of 41 proposed constitutional amendments to refer to voters. This would be the first time since 1971 that lawmakers meeting in regular session did not refer any proposed amendments to voters.