GOP women legislators form caucus, roll out ‘BIG’ agenda

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 1,008 views 

Twenty-one female Republican House and Senate members officially formed a caucus on Wednesday (Jan. 23) and put forth a package of legislation to address child care, juvenile justice reform, health, education and economic development.

Calling themselves the Arkansas Republican Women’s Legislative Caucus, the state legislators announced their formation at the Old Supreme Courtroom at the state capitol while unveiling bills to allow municipalities to expand rural broadband access; make it easier to open and access child care facilities; and to find funding to make UAMS a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. The UAMS funding stream from the state for the cancer center designation would be between $10 million and $20 million per year.

Other bills include changes to improve school-level reading plans in public schools, a reorganization of the Youth Justice Reform Board, which guides policies related to juvenile justice, and an effort to put more money into community-based alternatives for juvenile offenders.

The caucus’ package was called the “Dream B.I.G.” initiative with the “B.I.G.” standing for “Bold Initiatives for the Good of Arkansas.”

In attendance at the press conference were other statewide elected officials, including all of the Republican constitutional officers except for Gov. Hutchinson. There were several Republican male members of the legislature and some Democrats in the audience supporting all or parts of the legislative package.

Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, who opened and closed the press conference, said the package of bills proposed have all been filed and would begin moving through the committee process next week. Irvin said the governor is supportive of the legislative package, but negotiations with him and other lawmakers are still ironing out potential details and funding.

The 21 members of the Arkansas Republican Women’s Legislative Caucus are:
Rep. Sonia Barker
Rep. Mary Bentley
Sen. Cecile Bledsoe
Rep. Karilyn Brown
Rep. Sarah Capp
Rep. Frances Cavenaugh
Rep. Cindy Crawford
Rep. Carol Dalby
Sen. Breanne Davis
Rep. Jana Della Rosa
Sen. Jane English
Rep. Charlene Fite
Rep. Michelle Gray
Sen. Missy Irvin
Rep. Robin Lundstrum
Rep. Julie Mayberry
Rep. Gayla McKenzie
Rep. Rebecca Petty
Rep. Laurie Rushing
Rep. Nelda Speaks
Rep. DeAnn Vaught

The legislative package includes:
HB 1225
HB 1226
SB 150
SB 151
SB 152
SB 153