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Arkansas legislative leaders, both newly elected and reelected, look ahead to 2025 • Arkansas Advocate

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Arkansas legislative leaders, both newly elected and reelected, look ahead to 2025 • Arkansas Advocate


The Republican supermajorities in both chambers of the Arkansas Legislature will see some changes and some constancy in its leadership in advance of the 2025 legislative session.

Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, will be Senate President Pro Tempore for another two years, while Rep. Brian Evans, R-Cabot, became House Speaker Designate last week with an overwhelming 91 votes from the 100-member body. The speaker’s position must be affirmed by the House when the 95th General Assembly convenes in January.

Evans promised his colleagues “a direction of firmness, fairness and consistency” in a speech before the vote Thursday.

“A leader is only as good as the team that they lead, and good leaders understand the importance of working together, communicating well and building strong relationships, built upon trust and respect,” he said.

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After legislative staff counted the ballots and declared Evans the winner, his sole opponent, Rep. Johnny Rye, R-Trumann, was the first member to congratulate him on the House floor. Rep. Jack Ladyman, R-Joneboro, had also been running for speaker before withdrawing May 6 due to health issues within his family.

House Speaker Designate Brian Evans (right), R-Cabot, accepts congratulations from his fellow Republican Reps. (from left) Marcus Richmond of Harvey, Les Warren of Hot Springs and John Maddox of Mena on the House floor Thursday, May 9, 2024. (Tess Vrbin/Arkansas Advocate)

Evans told reporters Thursday that he appreciated his colleagues’ confidence in him and that outgoing Speaker Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, “has done a tremendous job” in his position. Shepherd is running for an eighth House term but declined to seek a fourth term as speaker.

The House has 82 Republican members; Evans and Shepherd are among the 57 Republicans facing contested races in November’s general election.

Evans was a member of the Cabot School Board for 10 years before being elected to the Legislature in 2018. He has been chairman of the House Education Committee since January of last year, and he helped Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ office draft the LEARNS Act, a wide-ranging 2023 law that changed several aspects of the state’s public education system.

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“Gov. Sanders has said through her administration multiple times that the LEARNS Act is fluid,” Evans said. “There are going to be things, as it’s being implemented now in our school systems, that we’ll need to come back and take a look at and tweak a little bit.”

Among House Republicans’ other policy priorities are criminal justice, as exemplified by the Protect Arkansas Act of 2023, and the ongoing effort to cut income taxes, Evans said.

Later last Thursday, House Republicans privately elected Rep. Howard Beaty of Crossett as majority leader for 2025, succeeding Rep. Marcus Richmond of Harvey. Beaty defeated Reps. Aaron Pilkington of Knoxville and Keith Brooks of Little Rock.

Beaty said in an interview Monday that his background in economic development gives him the organizational and relationship-building skills necessary to lead the caucus. He has been in the House since 2019.

Republican Reps. David Ray of Maumelle (left) and Howard Beaty of Crossett listen to the Speaker on the House floor Monday, September 11, 2023. (John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)

He told his colleagues while seeking their votes that he believes they all value the variety of perspectives among them.

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“[We have] different perspectives but a common purpose, and I think that common purpose is where the power of caucus comes in,” he said.

Beaty selected Rep. David Ray of Maumelle as the caucus policy chair and said Ray is a good fit for the job because he “lives and breathes policy.”

Rep. Stetson Painter of Mountain Home will succeed Rep. Jon Milligan of Lake City as House Majority Whip. On X (formerly Twitter), Painter congratulated Evans and Beaty on their new roles and said he hopes the three of them “will be a great leadership team for the House.”

Legislative whips are responsible for ensuring that members of their party participate in meetings and vote in line with the party’s values.

The 18 House Democrats will choose a new minority whip since Rep. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, is not running for reelection. The caucus election will be May 29, said Minority Leader Tippi McCullough, D-Little Rock, who will defend her leadership position.

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She said the party hopes to increase its numbers in the general election.

“We lost four seats due to redistricting [in 2022], so hopefully we can start to move forward again,” she said.

Senate leadership

On May 2, Hester fended off a challenge from Sen. Terry Rice, R-Waldron, to win a second term as President Pro Tempore. Sen. Blake Johnson, R-Corning, will continue as Senate Majority Leader, and Sen. Breanne Davis, R-Russellville, is set to succeed Sen. Ricky Hill, R-Cabot, as Majority Whip.

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Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs
(John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)

“The most important thing to understand in leading the Senate is that members don’t get told what to do,” Hester said in an interview. “But if you ask them to do something with a legitimate reason, typically you can get done what you need.”

Two years ago, Hester defeated the sitting president pro tempore, Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana.

One of Hester’s strengths as a leader is his communication skills, said Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, who was president pro tempore from 2013 to 2019.

“The way that he’s able to communicate with members and keep them involved and engaged is really to his benefit, and I anticipate that to continue on as we move into the next session,” Dismang said.

Senate Minority Leader Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, added that Hester has “always treated our caucus fairly.”

Similarly to Evans, Hester said Senate Republicans’ policy priorities for 2025 will include tax cuts and aspects of the LEARNS Act.

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“I think we’re going to double down on education freedom for students,” Hester said, referring to the Educational Freedom Account voucher program created by the LEARNS Act.

He added that the Legislature should “continue to look into IT-type concerns for minors.”

Last year, Sanders signed the Social Media Safety Act, which would require new users on large social networks to provide information verifying their age. A federal judge temporarily blocked the law before it took effect.

Sen. Greg Leding of Fayetteville asks a question of Sen. Breanne Davis, lead sponsor of Senate Bill 294, which would enact the governor’s education program, during a meeting of the Senate Education Committee Wednesday morning in Little Rock. (John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)
Sen. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville (John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)

Meanwhile, the six Senate Democrats won’t hold leadership elections until after November’s general election. The only member expected to leave the Senate is Minority Whip Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, who is retiring after a 20-year stint in the Legislature.

Leding will reach his term limit in 2027, and he said he hopes to continue being minority leader for his final two years. He held the same position for one term in the House.

“I haven’t heard of anybody eager to replace me,” Leding said.

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Arkansas

Arkansas parents adopt boy who lived in 25 foster homes

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Arkansas parents adopt boy who lived in 25 foster homes


After being sent to 25 homes in just four years, an Arkansas foster child has found his forever home.

Cassie and Bradley Kissinger joined “America’s Newsroom” with their newly adopted son, Luke, 11. 

“I know that this is going to be forever… I never thought that forever was a thing anymore,” he said.

According to the U.S. Administration for Children & Families, 53,700 children were adopted in 2022; 368,500 children were in foster care that same year. The amount of children in foster care has been steadily declining over the previous four years. 

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FOSTER CARE SHORTAGE IN MANY STATES AS COLORADO NONPROFIT SEEKS MORE PARENTS WILLING TO HELP

Cassie said she grew up in a family of fostered and adopted children. This inspired her to adopt a child of her own. When she discovered Luke through his Project Zero video, she “immediately knew that he was ours.” Project Zero is an Arkansas organization that helps waiting children find families. 

After the years in foster care, Luke said he was “shocked” he found his forever home. 

Bradley said they had “no doubt since day one” that Luke would fit into the family. The couple also has a 14-year-old girl and another 11-year-old boy. 

“They’re one of the best brothers and sisters I’ve ever had,” Luke said.

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NORTH DAKOTA RANKED BEST STATE FOR CHILDBIRTH, MISSISSIPPI RANKED WORST: REPORT

Luke’s parents’ advice to those looking to foster a child or adopt is, “just go for it.” She said it’s not an easy road to be a foster parent, but it’s even harder for the children. She stresses that children need a stable and loving home as they walk through life. 

The More Than Enough dashboard allows users to discover the foster care situation in their local community. It provides information on children in each county awaiting adoption, children in foster care placement and more. 

Everyone should have a family by their side when they go through life, get married and have their own families, Cassie said. No one should do it alone. 

Cassie Kissinger works for The C.A.L.L. in Arkansas, which aims to recruit foster and adoptive families. Similar organizations exist in states around the U.S. 

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Since it’s been a while since he played a sport, Luke said he’s excited about playing football this summer with his new family.



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Arkansas baseball to host NCAA Regional

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Arkansas baseball to host NCAA Regional


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KAIT) – Baum-Walker Stadium has been selected as one of 16 NCAA regional sites.

Arkansas, selected as a host for the second consecutive season, will host regionals for the 11th time in program history and the 10th time under head coach Dave Van Horn. Each regional field features four teams, playing in a double-elimination format. All 16 regionals are scheduled to be played from Friday, May 31 to Monday, June 3 (if necessary).

Arkansas is one of five SEC programs, along with Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas A&M, that will host a regional.

The full 64-team field, top-16 national seeds, first-round regional pairings and site assignments will be announced at 11 a.m. CT Monday, May 27, on ESPN2. The committee will set the entire 64-team bracket through both the super regionals and the first round of the Men’s College World Series and will not reseed the field after play begins.

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Selection of the eight super regional hosts will be announced on www.NCAA.com/mcws, at 9 a.m. CT Tuesday, June 4.

For complete coverage of Arkansas baseball, follow the Hogs on Twitter (@RazorbackBSB), Instagram (@RazorbackBSB) and Facebook (Arkansas Razorback Baseball).

To report a typo or correction, please click here.





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Honoring the nation’s fallen servicemen is true meaning of holiday | Arkansas Democrat Gazette

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Honoring the nation’s fallen servicemen is true meaning of holiday | Arkansas Democrat Gazette


Since 1971, Americans have observed Memorial Day as a legal federal holiday occurring on the last Monday of May. Commonly known as the unofficial start of summer, it is part of a three-day weekend filled with cookouts, travel and concerts and, most important, ceremonies honoring the nation’s war dead.

Before it was Memorial Day, it was known as “Decoration Day,” a tradition that began in the aftermath of the Civil War as cities and towns in both the North and South set aside days to decorate the graves of the fallen. And it had nothing to do with summer celebrations and retail sales. It was simply a time of healing as Americans sought to honor those who died in the nation’s deadliest war.

The first nationally proclaimed “Decoration Day” took place on May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery, the nation’s most sacred burial site for veterans. However, the origin of the holiday itself has become unclear over time with more than 25 cities and towns laying claim as its birthplace.

    Women prepare for Decoration Day in 1899. (Library of Congress)
 
 

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THE BLUE AND THE GRAY

The practice of decorating graves with flowers dates to ancient times, and following the Civil War with its devastating casualties, citizens across the country had begun decorating the graves of the war dead.

According to “The Genesis of the Memorial Day Holiday in America” by Daniel Bellware and Richard Gardiner, the first request for a decoration day holiday came from Mary Ann Williams, secretary of the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Ga. Williams wrote a March 10, 1866, letter to the Columbus Daily Sun that called for establishing “at least one day in each year to embellishing their humble graves with flowers.” The letter soon appeared in newspapers across Georgia and throughout the South leading to establishment of April 26, 1866, as “Decoration Day.” However, a Memphis newspaper erroneously reported the date to be April 25, which prompted a group of women in Columbus, Miss., to go ahead with their decorating a day earlier, thereby staking their claim as to being first. They also decorated the graves of both Confederate as well as Union soldiers who died fighting on Southern battlefields. This inspired poet Frances Miles Finch to write the poem “The Blue and the Gray,” which included this stanza:

“From the silence of sorrowful hours

The desolate mourners go,

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Lovingly laden with flowers

Alike for the friend and the foe:

Under the sod and the dew,

Waiting on the judgment day,

Under the roses, the Blue,

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Under the lilies, the Gray.”

The poem’s popularity helped spread the word of the event to cities in the North, Bellware and Gardiner wrote. Inspired by people in the South, Maj. John A. Logan, the head of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union Army veterans, decided a national decoration day should be established. On May 5, 1868, the GAR issued General Orders No. 11 or the “Memorial Day Act,” officially establishing “Memorial Day” as the date to remember the war dead and decorate their graves with flowers, according to the National Cemetery Administration of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The department said he chose that date because it was a time when flowers would be in bloom across the country.

In the order, Logan wrote that the nation should never forget the costs of the war. “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of times, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

  photo  A Memorial Day ceremony at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. (Library of Congress)
 
 

In 1873, New York became the first state to officially recognize the holiday and by 1890 all of the previously known Union states also adopted it. After World War I, the event was expanded to include the fallen Americans of all wars. Still, there was no official federal holiday approved by Congress. In 1950, through congressional joint resolution, lawmakers requested that the president issue a proclamation “calling upon the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period during each such day when the people of the United States might unite in such supplication.”

Another congressional resolution in 1966, which was proclaimed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, officially recognized Waterloo, N.Y., as the birthplace of Memorial Day. (Waterloo, led by Henry C. Welles, a local druggist, spearheaded a decoration/memorial day that took place on May 5, 1866.) Two years later, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed to become effective in 1971 and designated Memorial Day a national holiday. The act also moved it from May 30 to the last Monday in May, creating a three-day weekend for American workers.

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In 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance Act became law. It created the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance, which promotes Memorial Day commemorations. It also encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a moment of silence to remember and honor those who died in military service.

“It’s a way we can all help put the ‘memorial’ back in Memorial Day,” said Carmella LaSpada, the first executive director of the commission.

In a Washington Post article, LaSpada said she was inspired, in part, to raise awareness about Memorial Day’s true meaning when she met a group of schoolchildren in Lafayette Park in Washington and asked them what Memorial Day meant.

The article says the children responded, “That’s the day when the swimming pool opens.” She responded: “True, but remember that we can go to the pool or a baseball game because brave Americans died for our freedom.”

  photo  Wanda Malone (left), Linda Townsend (top left) and Paulette Yarbrough (right) all of Heber Springs plant flags in front of headstones in preparation for Memorial Day on Wednesday, May 26, 2021, at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery at North Little Rock. More photos at www.arkansasonline.com/527flags/ (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)
 
 



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