Weekly Columns

If you’ve ever wondered who inspires the legislation I sponsor and support, the answer is you. Well, maybe not you personally, but Arkansans just like you. Being a voice for Arkansans during the creation of policies on issues important to our state is a big part of my commitment as your representative. I’m a firm believer that solutions should come from the people who understand the problem the best.

I followed this approach when I introduced legislation to make federal child nutrition programs more efficient and flexible during the summer months when school meals are not available. Ensuring that no child goes hungry is a challenge in our state, so I worked with Arkansas hunger relief agencies to learn how summer meal services can be improved for students, particularly those in rural areas. I incorporated their suggestions into the Hunger Free Summer for Kids Act, which has been included in a larger bill to reauthorize child nutrition programs that I will be working to get through Congress before the end of the year.

Another recent example of putting this philosophy in action was our effort to take the lessons learned from the Seed to Sawmill Tour to work for the betterment of the country. On this tour, Congressman Bruce Westerman and I visited various sites around Arkansas’s timber rich Fourth Congressional District to see firsthand proper forest management techniques and the positive environmental impacts achieved through conservation efforts. Just weeks after the tour, I was able to bring to the table what we learned from those involved in managing Arkansas’s 19 million-plus acres of forests when the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry advanced the Resilient Federal Forests Act authored by Congressman Westerman.

It’s not just taking ideas and best practices that I see while I’m home that inspires legislation. Sometimes, those ideas are brought here from Arkansas.

After a Riceland Foods representative appeared before the Senate Agriculture Committee to testify about the challenges facing agriculture producers to export their goods to Cuba, I introduced legislation to address this issue. My bill to lift the ban on private banks and companies from offering credit for agriculture exports to Cuba was directly influenced by Arkansas farmers and exporters looking for a level playing field.

Other times, it is simply about getting knowledgeable Arkansans to Washington to share what's working in our state with my colleagues in the Senate. That’s why I pressed the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs (VA) Committee to hold a hearing about VA’s Diffusion of Excellence program and how an innovative program in Arkansas is being rolled out in facilities across the country. Dr. Kimberly Garner, a geriatrician who leads clinical demonstration projects and educational development at the Little Rock VA Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center, shared her efforts to improve services for our veterans during the recent hearing. This was important to giving my colleagues ideas to share with VA officials in their home states.

I believe in using the power of the office for good. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to highlight the great work Arkansans are doing to make our communities, state and country better. I’m proud to be able to incorporate the ideas I hear from people around the state into policies that improve the lives of Arkansans and all Americans.