Towards the end of the regular monthly meeting of the Republican Committee, Republican Chairperson Julie Feil refused to let a statement by Republican Representative Josh Miller, be read. Miller was unable to attend, and sent a statement to be read.

After Sen. Missy Irvin spoke, Feil said there wasn’t time to read the statement of Rep. Miller. Feil then asked Jay Cupit, of The Other Side, to speak, followed by Judge Jerry Holmes who announced the “Feed a Senior Fundraiser” will be at 6:00 p.m. at the Community Center. Last year they served about 700, he hopes to feed 1,000 people this year.

Sen. Missy Irvin, who had just came in from the capitol, was there to talk about the set of bills that the Republican Women’s Legislative Caucus had presented.

“It’s been a very, very busy session,” said Irvin.

Irvin said she realized, after the 2018 election, that there were 22 Republican women in both the Senate and Congress.  The women decided to work together, to introduce legislation, “About the things that we care about.”

“We went right down the middle of the road, so to speak, and created Dream BIG for Arkansas, BIG stands for Bold Initiatives for the Good of Arkansas.” said Irvin. She then detailed the five bills that the Governor signed into law on Wednesday.

The bills will address issues such as reading proficiency scores, the need for more quality, daycares. 

“I have worked with DHS to help facilitate helping businesses to open daycare facilities.”  Irvin then went on to discuss the broadband issues and told the audience that there were some laws made previously which made it more difficult for people to get affordable broadband.

“This was a big fight at the capitol,” said Irvin. “There is money in the USDA and the Farm bill for broadband, and now because of our bill, cities and counties can go after this money,” said Irvin.

Irvin then discussed the juvenile justice bill that she has worked on for over six years. She discussed getting the juveniles the help they need, instead of incarcerating them. “These are lives we need to save.” said Irvin.

A question was asked about the backups at the state crime lab, which cause even more issues with the judicial system. Irvin said they are trying to find more funding on this, especially rape kits. “There are rape kits sitting there that have never been processed and that is unacceptable.”

“These five bills are common sense bills, not just Republican bills. They all passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate.” said Irvin.

Another law that was passed is related to gun law that replaces a law that previously stated that if confiscated guns had to be destroyed. They have now been given the ability to trade these guns into a federally licensed firearms dealer and receive credit to buy other equipment.

Irvin told the group that over 500 babies are alive today because of the passage of a bill that allows women to reverse a chemical abortion if they change their mind within 24 hours of the first dose of the chemical abortion pill. She spoke on the Safe Haven bill, which allows women to safely and anonymously give up their baby.

Irvin explained why there has been such delays in the medical marijuana process. According to Irvin, there have been several lawsuits and challenges that have slowed down the process.

There was much discussion about the gas tax, which, Irvin explained,  is the only way roads are funded. General funds are not used for roads. The federal government has mandated that the car companies build more fuel efficient cars, then the state government gets less revenue, so they passed a gas tax to bring in more revenue.

She told the group they could go to the Republican Women’s Legislative Caucus page on Facebook and see a video of their work.

Governor Asa Hutchinson held a bill signing on Wednesday to sign into law the bills sponsored by the Republican Women’s Caucus:

SB150 – An act to amend the Telecommunications Regulatory Reform Act of 2013; to provide additional access to Federal Communications Commission-defined broadband service; to declare an emergency; and for other purposes.

SB151 – An act concerning the pursuit of a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; to create the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences National Cancer Institute Designation Trust Fund; and for other purposes.

SB152 – An act to improve outcomes for youth and families through the transformation of the juvenile justice system; and to reform the juvenile justice system to utilize validated risk assessment tools, create a plan for diversion options to maximize the benefits for juvenile offenders, and develop a plan for the reinvestment of funds into community-based services.

SB153 – An act concerning school-level improvement plans and the Right to Read Act; to require that a public school include in its annual school-level improvement plan a literacy plan; to require that the curriculum, professional development, and graduate studies recommendations for a public school district and open-enrollment public charter school be in accordance with the science of reading; to require that the Department of Education create an approved list of curriculum programs that are supported by the science of reading; and for other purposes.

HB 1225 – An act to encourage child care facility entrepreneurship in Arkansas; concerning the duties of the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education within the Department of Human Services; and for other purposes.

Rep. Josh Miller wanted this statement read at the meeting:
“I would just say that our job as legislators is to prioritize the spending of the tax revenue.  What was passed this week was unfortunately the product of a legislative body that was unwilling to do the tough job of prioritizing how we spend money.  Instead, they just put more of a tax burden on Arkansans who are paying enough already.  We don't have a revenue problem, we have a prioritizing the spending problem.  It was disheartening to see Republicans do this.  Thank you so much for giving me the honor to represent this district.”

Rep. John Payton had talked with Jacque Martin and shared this with her:
“2017-2018 168 million revenue growth.  Average annual revenue growth for last 8 years well over 100 million per year. New taxes were not needed New priorities are!!!” He also sent a list of bills with a statement. "Research these and you'll have several examples of where the growth goes to low priority projects"-Rep. John Payton (See box)