Weekly Columns

The New Year gives us an opportunity to start fresh. It marks a time of year of optimism and change. While we reevaluate our own lives and make resolutions, business, community and government leaders are also making goals as they plan and prepare for a new chapter. My office is preparing for the future and how we can be the most helpful to Arkansans. Helping constituents navigate the bureaucracy remains at the top of my list of priorities. 

In 2013 we received nearly 2,800 requests for help from Arkansans with a wide range of issues involving the federal government. The vast majority were related to military and veterans issues while more than 500 requests for assistance involved problems with Social Security and Medicare. We also helped with issues involving passports, IRS paperwork, veterans’ awards and many other problems.

As we plan for 2014 we want to make sure we make it more convenient for Arkansans to use our services to help cut through the red tape of the federal government. We’ll be hosting mobile office events across the state as we continue to help facilitate the requests of Arkansans involving the federal government and continue outreach to county officials and participate in civic meetings to look for opportunities to help.

In the coming year I look forward to continuing our work toward further spending reductions. This begins with approving appropriations bills, a process that Washington has failed to do for number of years. Following this proper procedure allows for proper oversight to help eliminate waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

The Senate passed a bipartisan Farm Bill in 2013 and we are now working to craft a compromise bill with the House that will protect our farmers and provide certainty to the agriculture community while supporting cost-saving measures. I’m confident that we will have a bill that both chambers can support early in 2014.

The Senate also passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). This major water resources law improves our nation’s water resources policy to expand opportunity, promote commerce, and reduce flood risks. The legislation that passed the Senate improves oversight of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects in Arkansas, increases coordination between the Corps and non-federal project sponsors and stakeholders, ensures more reliable maintenance of Arkansas ports on the Mississippi River, and improves levels of service at Corps navigation projects. WRDA and the Farm Bill are both job creation bills for Arkansas. As the economy continues to lag, putting Arkansans back to work must remain a priority in 2014.

While media reports indicate that Congress is at a stand-still and unable to work together, that is simply not the case. We were able to pass important pieces of legislation in 2013 and that could not have happened without bipartisan support. I’m hopeful that will find common ground to advance the policies important to our national interests both home and abroad in 2014.

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