After all the talking, scheming, and planning, it is time to begin. Monday marks the first day of the 89th General Assembly, and it will look quite different from anything before at the Arkansas State Capitol.
Much has been made of the transition to a two-party state over the past few years, and it is time to see how good it will be for the citizens and our future. I believe it will be a benefit for Arkansans and will bear little resemblance to our Federal counterparts in Washington.
Elections are over. It is now time to govern, and I believe you will see opportunities for bi-partisan consensus from the little things to the big things.
While the campaign season is marked by party politics, good or bad, and until something changes in the way we hold elections, we stand for a party and espouse our ideals.
After the election, we stand before our citizens as public servants who represent all people in our districts, and it is to all of our benefit to act honorably, with integrity, and with much responsibility.
I believe when we get to Little Rock there become many “alliances,” not a lot different than the reality show Survivor, except most of us gain weight not lose it like the contestants on that show! You will see many factions formed beyond party allegiances. Urban/Rural. Conservative/Progressive. Pro-this/Anti-that.
This Session will be one of intrigue.
Can the Republicans maintain their stands as the Majority party in both Chambers? How will the Democrats respond to the past elections and will both sides work together? Many of you have seen these questions posed by every editorial writer in Arkansas, but they are about to be answered, and there will be quantifiable facts to justify the effectiveness of the new reality in Arkansas Politics.
From a broad perspective, I believe there will be two issues that will dominate the dialogue for most of the next three months. Those will be dealing with the Medicaid shortfall and tax cuts/reforms. The third, and equally large, issue is the Medicaid expansion, and yes, I do believe it is its own stand-alone issue and will be dealt with when many more facts are forthcoming that simply aren’t available to us at this time.
I have several objectives this Session. As chairman of the Senate Revenue and Tax Committee, it will be a priority of mine to help shape and form the tax policy for the next two years (and beyond).
In doing that, we simply must be responsible and prudent with our reforms. We cannot jeopardize the solid base we have in Arkansas of a balanced budget and living within our means. We also cannot continue to hope things will get better if we don’t begin the discussion of reforming our income tax structure and brackets, helping provide manufacturers with the most tools possible to succeed, and also working to help create jobs by improving the business climate here in the state.
There are many others who need help and deserve to be acknowledged, like the agriculture and farming community, who have been devastated by high energy prices and inclement weather cycles. I hope to be able to help craft policies that will serve all of us well and allow us to grow our economy.
On a local level, I think it is important to continue to preach relevance and credibility. Our region is in a position to have more influence this Session, and I hope that we use it responsibly and judiciously to serve our people well. It is important to all of us to have a seat at the table when critical decisions are being made. It doesn’t just happen though. Careful, strategic efforts in the way we conduct ourselves, the legislation we choose to carry and support, and once again, the alliances we choose to make will all play into the opportunity for us to be leaders in the state.
This will be a unique time in history, and I am excited to be a part of it.
I look forward to representing my district and will do it with integrity and honor. I am very appreciative to my family, first of all, for the sacrifices they make in allowing me to serve. I could not begin to express to them my appreciation for their role in all of this.
Now it is time for action.
Ronald Reagan said the following, and the words still ring true: “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”
In close to 90 days, I hope to follow up this report with stories of success, foundations of progress, and a further vision for where we want to be. Together, we can make great strides in our journey, and I look forward to working with you and for you. Don’t hesitate to contact me by email or phone if there is something I can assist you with or a problem that needs addressing.