The past few weeks have been difficult, but our community remains resilient and strong. As some continue to deal with the aftermath of the massive flooding, other constituents, including my own family, are dealing with the aftermath of tornadoes and strong storms.
As of this past Saturday afternoon, there were still some in Drew and Chicot counties without power. As you move about your hometown, please be careful of debris and downed power lines. Strong winds uprooted entire trees and knocked down electrical wires in some areas. Also, some roadways are still not safe or clear for passage. Please remain aware and seek safety and information before navigating challenging locations and situations.
Let us continue to pray for and be kind to our neighbors as we make efforts to triumph over our community challenges.
Caring for our community is what I consider a large part of my job as a public servant. Keeping you informed is also important. We have had an eventful few weeks, but I would like to share a few legislative items that will be upon us before we know it.
Did you know that all new laws or “Acts” passed without emergency clauses in our 2019 regular session will take effect on July 24 this year unless otherwise stated in legislation? To that end, I visited with the Dermott Chamber of Commerce last Thursday, and I shared some highlights of our legislative platform that will be enacted this year. While in session, the Assembly addressed over 2000 bills and enacted almost 900 of those. Focus topics included: transportation, education, law enforcement and juvenile justice reform, state agency transformation, business, and rural development.
For example, transportation includes Act 416 adding $95 million to highway improvements in three ways: 1) diverting revenue from casino gaming; 2) wholesale taxes on fuel and diesel; and 3) registration fees for hybrid and electric vehicles. Additionally, HJR1018 will permanently extend the half cent sales tax designated for highway improvements that was originally set to expire in 2023.
Education includes Act 170 increasing minimum starting pay for teachers from $31,400 to $36,000. Act 667 increases foundation funding from $6,713 to $7,018 per child in public school systems.
Agency transformation will reduce cabinet-level positions from 42 to 15 creating the largest state government reorganization in 50 years. This reorganization is expected to save taxpayers $15 million per year.
Judiciary Act 189 is designed to restore families with risk assessment and diversion options for at-risk youth to keep them out of the criminal justice system.
I have previously mentioned that I will be making some rounds to communicate how these new laws will impact our District. I will be speaking at various municipal and community organized meetings. Please continue to watch for updates and scheduling.
Each week I like to share informative as well as useful information that constituents might possibly use to better themselves or their communities. If you have questions about any legislation or the legislative process, feel free to contact me via email at [email protected] or by phone at 501-682-6211.