Sunday, August 21, 2016

State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Eddie Cheatham

August 19, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – During the first three months of this year 1,093 children in Arkansas were placed in foster care.
During the same period 808 children were released from foster care and most of them, 70 percent, were reunited with parents or went to live with a relative. About 20 percent left foster homes because they were adopted.
When previous admissions are counted, at the end of March there were 4,791 Arkansas children in foster homes. That was an increase of 4 percent over the total number of foster children in Arkansas at the end of December.
The most common reason for removing children from their homes was drug or alcohol abuse by their parents, combined with neglect. Physical abuse was the reason that 12 percent of the children were removed from their homes, and sexual abuse accounted for 4 percent of the removals.
About 3 percent of the children had been abandoned and about 10 percent were removed from their families due to inadequate housing.
Of the children in foster care in Arkansas, 91 percent are visited monthly by a case worker or another employee of the Division of Children and Family Services.
State law requires that a DCFS employee initiate an investigation within 24 hours when the division receives a Priority I report, and within 72 hours when it gets a Priority II report.
The division met this requirement in 84 percent of reported cases during the first three months of 2016, which is a 2 percent improvement over the final three months of 2015, according to a report from DCFS to the Senate Committee on Children and Youth.
Failure to carry out prompt investigations and timely assessments can result in tragedy. Texas is trying to fix a child protection system that a federal judge has called “broken,” and which is plagued with high staff turnover and low morale.
In Dallas, 40 percent of reported cases were delinquent, either because of a lack of regular visits by case workers or a slow response after initial allegations were made. Child deaths in reported cases of abuse and neglect in Dallas County went up 71 percent last year.
Most reports of child abuse and neglect are unfounded, but even so they must be investigated. Arkansas received 9,071 reports during the first three months of the year. Of those, 1,568 were considered the most serious and were referred to the State Police, which has a Crime Against Children Division. The other 7,503 were investigated by the Division of Children and Family Services.
Of all the cases reported, 25 percent were substantiated.
In 2013 the state began placing the moderate and low-risk cases in a category called “Differential Response.” For example, children were allowed to skip school, their clothing was inadequate or they didn’t get medical care when they were sick. In those cases, a DCFS worker will visit the family within 72 hours and will offer services. The goal is to keep the child out of the system.
Participation by the family is voluntary, but if the family refuses the DCFS staff may then open a case, especially if during the visit to the family the worker has reason to be concerned about the child’s safety.

City Council Filings Are Completed

Friday August 18,2016 at noon was the deadline to file as a nonpartisan candidate for city council in Warren, Hermitage and Banks.  In all three cases, the elected officials run nonpartisan withe the elections to be held at the general election in November, 2016.

The filings are as follows:

City of Warren
Ward One, Position one-
-Tony C. Marshall
-Angela Thomas Marshall
-Greg Morman

Ward One, Position Two
-Joel Tolefree

Ward Two, Position One
-Marty S. Reep

Ward Two, Position Two
-Jimmy Moseley

Ward Three, Position One
-Dorothy Henderson

Ward Three, Position Two
-Zachary Burks

City of Warren Treasurer-Robert C. Milton

City of Banks
Position One-Dixie Young
Position Two-Martha Wolfe
Position Three- April Meadows, Keeton Hudson
Position Four- Debra Woodfin, Mary Kathy Hall
Position Five- Nellie s. Chapa, Shirley K. Smith

City of Hermitage
Ward Two, Position One-Carol Bell
Ward Two, Position Two-Tonya Kendrix

Those elected will take office on January 1, 2017.  In the City of Warren, each alderman is voted on by only the people that reside in the ward in which the candidate is seeking election.  The person running must be a registered voter in the ward.

In Hermitage there are four positions for alderman. Ward One, Positions 1 & 2 and Ward Two, Positions 1 & 2.  No candidate filed for either position in Ward One.

From the State House of Representatives: Jeff Wardlaw

Last September, legislators made visits to more than 120 school districts. That is nearly half of all school districts in Arkansas.

      The first “Take Your Legislator to School Month” was a huge success.  We knew heading into the event that this would help strengthen our relationship with students and teachers, but we discovered that is only the beginning of the benefits to this program.

      We are now preparing for our second year. In the 2015 Regular Session the Arkansas General Assembly passed a resolution designating September as annual “Take Your Legislator to School Month”.

HCR1008 encourages public school districts to plan special events with their local legislators. Examples include the following:

Showcasing district/school innovative solutions and successes.
Organizing faculty and staff to discuss possible solutions for issues and challenges.
Scheduling guided tours of the district campus and classrooms and providing opportunities for legislators to speak to students.
Sponsoring a panel discussion with administrators, teachers and students to address issues facing the school.
During our visits last year many of us were able to see firsthand just how rapidly our classrooms are changing to prepare our students for college and the workforce.

   The visits also allowed teachers to have one on one conversations with us.  Many of us continued to hear from those same teachers throughout the year.

We devote over 43% of all net available General Revenue to K-12 education.  Our education committee hears testimony hundreds of bills every session and studies our progress continually in the interim.  Relationships with our schools can help provide us with the valuable insight needed to vote in a manner helpful to students and teachers.

On our website, www.arkansashouse.org, we have a section titled  “Kids in the House”.  There you will find all the materials your local school district will need to take advantage of this opportunity.  In the materials we have included a spreadsheet listing the members who represent all 257 districts in our state.

      You can also find materials your child or student can use throughout the year to help better understand the legislative process.

      We can’t wait to see what we learn from our students and teachers this year.

Monday, August 15, 2016

State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Eddie Cheatham

August 12, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – As parents and students prepare for the new school year, administrators are on the lookout for any changes in state policy on transfers and transportation.
There is a history of litigation affecting the Arkansas law that allows students to transfer to schools outside of the district in which they live. The 1989 school choice act was stricken in 2012 by a federal judge who ruled it unconstitutional. The legislature enacted a new school choice law in 2013 and updated it last year.
The school choice law strikes a balance between competing interests. On one hand, parents are allowed to place their children in what they believe to be the best local school, even if that school is in a neighboring district and not the district in which they live. On the other hand, in order to prevent segregation, school transfers are not allowed when the affected district is under an active court order to desegregate.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

From the House: Representative Jeff Wardlaw

During the most recent Regular Session our committee rooms were used an average of six hours a day. Committees rooms are where our lawmaking process begins.  The rooms are where bills are first considered and publicly debated, where your voice can be heard before a bill makes its way the House Chamber.
Since these rooms are some of the most heavily-used facilities in the Capitol, it is important to all of us to make sure they accessible, functional, and represent the integrity of the historic nature of the Capitol.  It is for that reason that a major restoration project is now taking place.
Contractors are now replacing the furniture, carpets, ceilings and audio and visual equipment in rooms 149 and 151.  The House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee for Insurance and Commerce meet in room 149.  The House Committee for State Agencies and Governmental Affairs and the House Revenue and Taxation committee meet in room 151.
The majority of the project is being funded by an $824,000 grant from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council. Funds from the Bureau of Legislative Research and the House’s operating budget are supplementing the project.
Over the years the original furnishings and woodwork have been replaced with mismatched pieces.  Use of these Committee Rooms and adjoining offices has increased exponentially since the 1960s, and has taken a heavy toll on
the fixtures, finishes, and mechanical systems.
The project will include replacement of non-historic
mid-century paneling, finishes, and fixtures with historically appropriate materials and designs. We are also reallocating space and traffic to make these facilities more accessible.

We will be updating the progress on our social media sites.  Phase I of the project is expected to be completed by November 2016.  House leadership will apply for more funding to renovate Committee Rooms 130 and 138 after the 2017 Regular Session.
Much of the Capitol, including our House Chamber, has undergone extensive restoration projects in recent years.  This is a continuation of that effort to ensure this building is one Arkansas can continue to be proud of.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Boozman Statement on Fallen Sebastian County Deputy

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman released the following statement after Sebastian County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Cooper passed away from injuries he sustained while in the line of duty:

“Deputy Cooper was a dedicated member of the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office who put his life on the line every day to defend our community. He was a brave hero who led a life of service and died serving and protecting the people of Arkansas. I join with all Arkansans as we mourn the passing of this selfless servant and keep his family and loved ones and all of the law enforcement community in our thoughts and prayers.”

Friday, August 5, 2016

State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Eddie Cheatham

August 5, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – In a transaction that was termed “unique” by the governor, the state Health Department sold its in-home care operations to a private corporation based in Kentucky for $39 million.
The Health Department set up the in-home care program in 1968, when fewer health care options existed in rural Arkansas. Now, about 13,000 patients receive some form of care in their homes. That number is down about 28 percent over the past five years.
The Kentucky company is based in Louisville and is called Kindred Healthcare, Inc. Under the terms of the sale, it acquired the Health Department’s licenses to provide home health, personal care and hospice services. It agreed to retain all current employees for a year and to continue providing services to current patients.
The Health Department operated its in-home care program in 69 counties and Kindred will operate in 70. The Department’s Maternal and Infant Home Visiting program will not be sold to Kindred.
A key factor in the state’s decision to sell the in-home care program was that it competed against private sector companies. That was not the case when it was first established.
Another factor was that it was becoming a drain on tax revenue. Over the past five years revenue had dropped from $71.5 million to $58.5 million. Its costs have gone up while its revenue declined and therefore it could not be sustained over the long term, according to Department officials.
Arkansas was one of a very few states that operated an in-home health program. Kindred was one of six companies that put in a bid to buy the program, and one reason it was chosen was that it agreed to maintain services for patients in rural areas for at least a year.
About 300 Department employees in the program will be able keep their jobs for a year. It also hired about 1,500 contract employees last year. In 2011 it hired about 3,000 contract employees.
Kindred and its subsidiaries operate in 2,700 locations in 46 states. They have about 102,000 employees and annual revenues of about $7.2 billion.
Patient Care Initiative
Arkansas is one of 14 regions in which primary care physicians may qualify for incentives from the federal government if they adopt new models for treatment and billing.
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that physicians in Arkansas can apply until September 15 for the incentives, which are designed to encourage new and different billing and treatment practices, rather than strict fee for services methods.
The incentives encourage preventative care and 24 hour availability to care, especially for patients with chronic illnesses. It also provides incentives for the primary care physician to more actively coordinate a patient’s care with specialists, hospitals and rehabilitation clinics.
Primary care physicians who participate will receive a monthly fee for keeping patients healthy. They will be encouraged to improve communications with patients and their families, so that patients take more responsibility for health and life style decisions.
The new incentives are meant to build on a 2012 primary care plan by the federal CMS to change the traditional fee for service method of billing for treatment.