As you read this, you will already know the results of the mid-term elections, but as I write, we remain several hours away from Election Day. Congratulations to every candidate that made the very great effort to run for an office in order to serve others. Congratulations, also, to every voter that exercised his/her responsibility as a citizen to cast an informed vote.

Those that were elected Tuesday to the Arkansas House of Representatives will gather this Friday, November 9, to convene for a House Caucus. It will be the first formal activity in the newly renovated House Chamber. New members will draw for seniority positions, then all members, in order of their seniority, will choose their seat in the chamber for the duration of the 92nd General Assembly.

There are many other activities going on at the Capitol this week. Budget hearings continue, with committee members hearing the proposed budgets for all the various state agencies. A new revenue report was recently released. We have new recommendations for funding education. And there are several important dates ahead leading to the next legislative session.

The latest General Revenue Report shows October revenue at $435.4 million. That is 5 percent more than October 2017 and 5.9 percent above forecast.

Four months into the fiscal year, net available general revenue is now $114.6 million above year ago levels.

Last week, the Education Committee presented the Speaker with recommendations for funding education in the next two fiscal years.

The committee spends more than a year reviewing every component of public education to determine what areas need increased funding. This is referred to as the Educational Adequacy Study.

Currently, the state provides schools with $6,781 per student for the school year. The recommendation from the committee is to increase that to $6,880 per student next year. The recommendation for Fiscal Year 2021 is $6,985 per student. Included in the report is a recommendation to increase the minimum teacher salary by $1,000 each year.

This will bring the minimum salary for teachers with a Bachelor of Arts Degree (BA) to $33,800 and for teachers with a Master of Arts (MA), to $38,450 by Fiscal Year 2021.

It is also time to start planning a trip to the Arkansas State Capitol to see the Christmas lights. The annual lighting ceremony will take place this year on December 1 and the school choir concerts start soon thereafter. You can follow Capitol events on Facebook @ARStateCapitol.

The Red Tape Reduction Working Group will soon finalize its work and will prepare a report and proposal for the Governor. I am hopeful that some strong legislation that will make it easier to obtain employment will come out of the work of this group. I will provide a link to that report as soon as it is available.

A huge thanks to the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce and the Monticello/Drew County Chamber of Commerce for recently hosting the Arkansas Rural Development team as they spoke about available grants to assist rural communities with populations of less than 20,000. For more information, go to arkansasedc.com/Rural-Services/division.

Thanks to all that attended, and also to UAM professor John Davis, who is a member of the Rural Development board and helped organize the informative meetings.

Last Friday evening brought many locals and guests from around the state to UAM’s Gibson Center, to attend the 2018 banquet of the Drew County Branch #6042 of the NAACP. Four groups were selected as special honorees for recognition, including Dwight and Joyce Wells, the Homestead Farm Family of the Year for 2017; Women 2 Women, which was established in 2015 and hosts multiple annual events to give back to our community; Hammons Funeral Home of Warren, and the Flip Foundation, a nonprofit group that seeks to instill Faith, Love, Inspiration and Positivity into the youth of our local communities. Attorney Janetta Kearney, a Gould native, was the keynote speaker with a message about overcoming conflict and hate through conversation and love. Congratulations to all the honorees. It was a privilege to hear of all the selfless work being done by every one of these community leaders.

On Saturday I had the opportunity to participate in a panel with Monticello’s Clarissa Pace and Paige Chase at a luncheon about inspiring women through the experiences of others. It was a very big honor for me to sit beside these two women. Our stories were all different, but each one had an undercurrent of standing up to adversity and working to persevere. A huge thanks to Colleen Hammock and her team for putting together such a wonderful event. And to Colleen I say very publicly - you inspire me! Colleen has a vision to link local women with high school girls in a mentoring program. Expect to hear much more about this in the future.

Thank you for allowing me to continue to represent District 9 for another two years. I look forward to the challenges ahead and I look forward to hearing from you.

Please let me know how I may be of assistance. I may be reached @BurchforAR, by email at leanne.burch@arkansashouse.org and by phone at 870-460-0773.

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