Seark Today asked Arkansas House District 9 candidates State Rep. LeAnne Burch, a Democrat from Monticello, and her challenger, Howard Beaty, a Republican from Crossett, a series of questions via e-mail. Below are the questions and Rep. Burch’s unedited answers. See Mr. Beaty’s Q&A HERE

Burch Biographical Sketch

Do you support or oppose the proposed constitutional amendment to impose a permanent half-cent sales tax for highways and roads. Why?

I support the amendment because I support investing in our transportation system by continuing the half-cent highway sales tax. If not extended, the current tax will end in June 2023 and will result in an annual road and bridge budget decrease of 30% ($44 million for cities; $44 million for counties). We need the safety benefits of well-repaired roads and bridges, and good roads attract businesses and increase job opportunities.

What bills have you sponsored or strongly supported that you believe will have a long-lasting impact on people of District 9? Elaborate.

I was proud to draft and sponsor “Jacob’s Law,” which became Act 654 in 2019. It supported law enforcement by clarifying the definition of “motor vehicle” in accidents involving serious injury or death. It honored the life of Jacob Bishop, a UAM student killed in an agriculture accident. It also helps protect property owners. I believe it makes all Arkansas safer.

I have sponsored or co-sponsored numerous pieces of legislation supporting and protecting children and endangered seniors, and strengthening child and adult maltreatment laws (Act 968, Act 541, Act 956, Act 326, Act 714). I have been part of legislation to support military and military families and veterans (Act 515, Act 493, Act 131, Act 281, Act 926, Act 459, Act 149, Act 915, Act 635), to increase teacher salaries (Act 170), and to put more people to work (Act 600, Act 480). There is much more, but I routinely work on bipartisan legislation to benefit the people of District 9.

The main committees on which I proudly serve are the House Education Committee and the House Early Childhood Subcommittee and the House Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative & Military Affairs Committee and the Joint Performance Review.

Do you agree with Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s statewide mandate to wear masks? Why or why not?

Mask wearing is one of the least restrictive ways to do our part to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Unprotected close contact with others is one of the fastest ways to spread this disease, and sometimes we forget that people can be carriers and not showing any symptoms. I do support the Governor’s mandate.

Eighteen Republican state lawmakers recently filed a lawsuit to end the health emergency that Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared. Do you support their efforts? Why or why not?

I do not. The 18 lawmakers that filed the suit against Dr. Romero, the Secretary of the Department of Health (not the Governor), allege that lawmakers should have been called into session to approve the Governor’s emergency health measures. The Governor has emergency powers to keep the people of Arkansas safe. He issued the health directives based on his assessment that timely action was necessary. The Governor did seek input from legislators but did not call us into a special session, which would have been costly to taxpayers and difficult during an election season.

Your opponent recently released campaign material critical of your votes on abortion, voting to spend taxpayer money in communist China, and a cell phone tax. Respond to each one individually:

My opponent doesn’t expect people will check into his dishonest representations, so I appreciate the opportunity to set this record straight.

He misrepresented my anti-abortion stance and added pictures of federal lawmakers I neither know nor support in one mailer. As a Christian who believes in service, truth, courage, and honor, my anti-abortion position means that I am strongly pro-child and pro-family. We must prioritize women’s healthcare, access to birth control, education programs, hunger, and food insecurity when entering pro-life discussions. These are the cornerstones to reduce abortion and reduce unplanned pregnancies and empower families with resources they need to be healthy.

Knowledge of and support for families, foster children, and Arkansas adoptions are also incredibly important, and without understanding these issues, our women and children will suffer. We have to break cycles of poverty and lower staggeringly high teenage birth rates. These are issues I champion and will continue to fight for.

In another mailer, my opponent tried to scare the people of District 9 with a flyer overlaying a picture of me with Communist China’s flag. Most of my constituents know I spent 30 years of my life in the U.S. military, where I swore to protect and defend our Constitution against all foreign and domestic enemies. I’m guessing in his haste to misrepresent me as a supporter of communism, he failed to take the time to understand the bills he tried to attack me for. The three bills he ridiculed me for supporting were the last three funding bills for the entire Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC). That mailer exposed my opponent’s complete lack of understanding about

• The AEDC and its support for District 9 as well as the Crossett Economic Development Foundation that he currently chairs,
• The legislative process,
• Legislative support for Arkansas businesses, farmers, industry and jobs.

The people of District 9 recognize his enthusiasm for fear-mongering and don’t appreciate his frenzied approach to attempt to tie this vote to a vote for communism. I stand for jobs and business and have worked the last four years to support bi-partisan legislation to bring Arkansas more and better-paying jobs.

In yet another deceptive mailer, my opponent portrayed me with Mike Bloomberg, who I met once in the Capitol hallway on my way to a meeting. The mailer was another example of my opponent’s willingness to use dirty tactics for personal gain, a typical pattern in his mailers and actions. In reality, I am a proud gun owner, a military veteran, and a 2nd Amendment supporter.

He got approval from the NRA because he filled out a survey pledging blind allegiance to someone else’s plan. I support legislation only when I have studied that legislation and know it will benefit my constituents and the rest of Arkansas. He doesn’t appear to share my values.

I’ve heard that my opponent has spoken negatively of my vote for the Republican-sponsored “911 bill,” also known as the “cell-phone tax” bill. County judges, emergency responders, law enforcement, and legislators of both parties universally supported that bill because it supported law enforcement and emergency responders in rural Arkansas, and I’m proud I was able to vote for it. Our aging 911 systems were funded in part by taxes on landline phones, which have been primarily replaced by cell phones. Thanks to that vote, we can look forward to updated technology and a safer Arkansas for all of us.

Campaign tactics and legislation ethics go hand in hand, he’s showing us his willingness to be deceitful, his lack of understanding about the legislative process, and his overall lack of effectiveness.

If you could ask your opponent one question what would it be? Your opponent will be allowed to reply.

I’d ask my opponent where he stands on taking money from our public schools by giving tax breaks or vouchers for attending private schools. I have consistently voted against those bills in the past 4 years, despite the push by the Lieutenant Governor and other members of the Republican Party to pass this legislation in Arkansas.

Mr. Beaty’s Reply:

I support the right of the parent to be able to choose the best educational option for their child. One specific example relates to parents of children with special needs. Some schools and districts are better able to meet the specific needs of the child. The parent should have the right to place their child in the best learning environment possible.