Dr. Boozman's Check-up

This week, the State Department marked the ten-year anniversary of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).  Started under the vision and leadership of President George W. Bush, this program is a success story worth celebrating.

In 2003, when signing the legislation we passed to create the program, President Bush called PEPFAR "a medical version of the Marshall Plan." And it truly is. Prior to the program, an estimated 100,000 people were on anti-retroviral drugs in sub-Saharan Africa. Five years later, when President Bush left office, close to two million people were receiving these life-saving drugs. One million babies have now been born HIV-negative thanks to PEPFAR's mother-to-child interventions.

Along with tackling HIV in Africa, President Bush was instrumental in fighting malaria on the continent. By the time President Bush's left office, his initiative had halved the cases of malaria in fifteen African countries.

A common thread in these success stories is that neither program relies solely on the government. While the government has a role to play in these battles, faith-based organizations are doing exceptional work in tandem. As a former member of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, we examined how federal funds can help public-private partnerships and reach populations of rural Africans to improve the health and education of this epidemic. Government can’t solve the problem on its own. These organizations are vital to this fight.

As we mark the ten years of lives that PEPFAR has saved, it is not enough to celebrate the successes. We must continue to the good work of this program.

The American people have always risen to the challenge to help our global neighbors. We recognize that we have moral responsibility to respect the dignity of all human beings no matter what country they call home, and that is why I am an advocate of global health initiatives. 

Small businesses play an integral role in securing the success of our economy. They represent core values that are at the heart of America. That is why this week we are celebrating National Small Business Week. This is a national initiative to encourage the support of our nation’s small businesses. 

Small businesses are the engines of our economy. Small businesses represent the hard working middle class. By supporting small businesses, we reinvest in our local economy and support more jobs in our communities. Over the past two decades, small business owners have created more than sixty-five percent of the new jobs in the United States. They employ about half of all private sector employees, and create two out of every three jobs in the U.S. each year. They also represent key American values such as the value of hard work, the capacity to take risks, and the opportunity for success. 

In Washington, we need to provide small business owners with predictability. Right now, these business owners are operating in an environment of uncertainty. If they don’t know the rules of the game, how are they expected to make the types of sound investment decisions that create jobs? Washington needs to rein in federal spending, reform our tax code, and reduce regulatory burdens, then we will realize the true private sector job creation and economic growth that small businesses generate. 

At home, an easy way to support this initiative is to buy local products and to hire local contractors for the services you need.  By supporting American small businesses, each of us can help revitalize our economy, and strengthen this backbone of our economy. 

Jun 19 2013

Happy Juneteenth

On June 19th, 1865 a troop of Union soldiers came riding in to Galveston, Texas. The news they brought with them would not only change the state of Texas, but it would change the United States.

Major General Gordon Granger, USA
Commanding General, Department of Texas
To the people of Galveston and the State of Texas

 General Order No. 3

"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

These words were the first taste of freedom that slaves had in Confederate Texas. Although President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect two years before, there were not enough Union troops in Texas to enforce the executive order. When General Granger arrived in Galveston with his men two months after the end of the Civil War, the last slaves in the United States were set free. Slaves in Texas began moving north towards freedom, or east to find family in other Southern states.

The day General Granger arrived in Texas was eventually celebrated as “Juneteenth.” For the past 148 years Americans across the nation have come together to celebrate Freedom. Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

With the ushering in of the 20th century, interest in Juneteenth began to decline. However, it resurged with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. The holiday was officially recognized on June 19, 1980 thanks to the efforts of African-American Texas State Legislator Al Edwards.

Although not all states participate in Juneteenth celebrations, I am proud to say that Arkansas is one of the many that does. With celebrations across the state, Arkansans come together to honor the struggles of those who came before us. We come together to commemorate Arkansas’ diverse history. We come together to celebrate how far we have come as a state and as a nation; to challenge ourselves to keep moving forward. We come together united under one common theme: freedom. I hope you gather with others and celebrate and reflect on what this holiday means to all Arkansans and Americans. Happy Juneteenth!

Jun 18 2013

Visiting with KASU

I started this morning off visiting with KASU in Jonesboro about the NSA controversy, the Syrian conflict, the Farm Bill, immigration reform and more. You can listen to the interview in its entirety over on KASU's website.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’m glad that the Committee is exploring ways to do more with less. We must stretch investments further, while reinvesting every dollar collected through federal fuel taxes into safe and reliable transportation infrastructure. Maintaining our roads and bridges is vital to economic development in Arkansas. At a hearing today, our Committee examined these issues. Last year, Congress passed new highway legislation, known as MAP-21, with broad bipartisan support. This legislation will improve our roads and bridges conditions, and it requires the U.S. Department of Transportation to eliminate wasteful bureaucracy that causes costly and harmful delays to projects. You can watch as I question witnesses from the Department of Transportation to make sure that these cost-saving reforms are implemented as required by the law.

The American flag is one of the most recognized symbols throughout the world.  It is seen as a beacon of opportunity, democracy, and power. Seeing our nation’s flag waving in the wind is a familiar sight but we need to remember what it represents. 

Before the war of 1812, no significant meaning was attached to the flag. This changed when Francis Scott Key saw the American flag waving through the smoke after the battle of Fort McHenry. Key saw more than a tattered flag; he saw a symbol that represented bravery, sacrifice, and patriotism and wrote a poem that became our National Anthem. You can see the flag that inspired these famous words on display at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. 

Imbedded in the American flag are our nation’s rich history and the stories of the men and the women who helped shape our country and those who fought to defend and preserve our freedoms. 

When lowered to half-mast, the flag becomes a sign of our collective mourning in honor of great Americans who have passed on. Last week flags in Arkansas flew at half-mast to pay tribute to Scott County Sherriff Cody Carpenter and Wildlife Officer Joel Campora, public servants who lost their lives in the recent flooding. Across the nation, the flag flew at half-mast to honor WWII veteran and New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg. Seeing the flag at half-mast is a painful, yet necessary reminder of those who have given so much to our country. 

The American flag embodies everything that makes the United States of America a great nation. Representing the people of our nation, the American flag is a strong symbol of national pride.

The immigration debate starts, the farm bill passes, I host another telephone town hall and more in this edition of the “Week in Review”

  • Recovering from Severe Weather: Arkansas is no stranger to severe weather, including the recent floods that took the lives of Scott County Sheriff Cody Carpenter and Arkansas Game and Fish Officer Joel Campora. My column this week honored their lives and outlines efforts to protect Arkansans from severe weather.
     
  • Continuing our Commitment to our Veterans: As a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs I have a unique opportunity to help improve the quality and delivery of veterans’ benefits.  This week the committee heard testimony from VA representatives and major Veterans’ Service Organizations regarding some of the legislation recently introduced

The Associated Press is out with a story today confirming what we’ve been saying all along about President Obama’s health care law. It is going to make coverage unaffordable for everyone, including the very people the President seeks to provide coverage to— low-income workers.

Because this law is so poorly written, a worker making $21,000 a year may be offered plans with premiums that are near $2,000. Under the law, this is considered “affordable.” 

And this is just the beginning of the costs low income workers could face. For a basic plan, they could also face an annual deductible upwards of $3,000, before the coverage kicks in.

That’s almost a quarter of the annual salary of a worker making $21,000. And this is supposed to be affordable?

It’s further evidence that this law has to be replaced with reform that drives down the cost of health care and makes it truly affordable for every American.

On Monday night, we held our third telephone town hall of the year. Over the course of an hour, I visited with callers from Fayetteville, Ozark, West Memphis, Bentonville, Bryant, Cane Hill, Blytheville, Gentry, West Helena, Springdale, and Gravette. 

The issues that were discussed included: 

  • Holding the administration accountable for the IRS scandal;
  • The President’s health care law;
  • The failures that led to the Benghazi tragedy and its aftermath;
  • Illegal immigration & border security;
  • NSA overreach and the Patriot Act;
  • Food stamp abuse;
  • Excessive federal spending;
  • Second Amendment rights;
  • and the need for stricter oversight of the Administration’s actions

Perhaps the best question came right at the end when a caller asked me, “Why should we trust the government?”

Considering Congress’s approval rating is currently around 15 percent, it’s a tough question to answer.

I believe accessibility, transparency and accountability would go a long way to restoring faith in Washington. That’s why I do these telephone town halls. Just because I am in Washington right now does not mean I am not accountable to the people of Arkansas, so I have to remain in touch when I am away.

The onus is on Washington to change our low approval ratings, not the other way around. I try to remind my colleagues that we have to be home every weekend and we need to hold events like telephone and online town halls when we are away. Most importantly, we have to listen to what our constituents tell us at these events and when they contact our offices via phone, email or letter. It is vital that we listen to our constituents, help them with their individual needs, and represent them in Washington the way that they ask of us.

So please stay engaged. Sign-up for our next telephone town hall. Let me know your thoughts on issues of importance to you. Grab me when see me in Arkansas and let me know what is on your mind.  I am committed to making Washington work for Arkansas and I need you to keep us on the right path.

As a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs I have a unique opportunity to help improve the quality and delivery of veterans’ benefits.  Today the committee heard testimony from VA representatives and major Veterans’ Service Organizations regarding some of the legislation recently introduced.

Included in those proposals discussed were three legislative proposals that we introduced

  • S. 257, the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013 would protect our veterans’ ability to use their GI Benefit at the school of their choice, without facing the liability of having to offset out-of-state tuition fees by paying out of their own pocket.
  • S. 695, the Veterans Paralympic Act of 2013 seeks to reauthorize the Paralympic Integrated Adaptive Sports Program for disabled veterans.
  • S. 889, would mandate that servicemembers be given the choice to take more interactive specialized tracks that fit their transition goals as part of the mandatory portion of TAP 

We also reviewed additional bills of which we are an original cosponsor. These pieces of legislation are critical for expanding veterans’ economic opportunities, protecting veterans’ Constitutional rights, improving the delivery of veterans’ services, and honoring those members of the guard and reserve who have dedicated 20 or more years of their life to serving our nation. 

This legislative hearing is the first step in the right direction to enacting these common sense bipartisan proposals to fulfill all of the promises that have been made to our veterans’ and their families.

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