During my time as a Circuit Court Judge for Benton County, I presided over many cases involving drugs, property crimes, and violence. I would look over the bench and see a human being whose life was literally falling apart. How did they get to this place?
If you know me, you know that I am passionate about criminal justice reform. I believe we must start at the root of the problem: inadequate education and job training. We need to make sure that all members of our community are educated and prepared for the workforce. We need to interrupt the cycle of poverty with good-paying jobs that contribute to a thriving state economy. Every Arkansan deserves the opportunity to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Given the opportunity to serve as your State Representative I will work hard every day to improve the quality of life for all Arkansans.
I intend to work hard to assure that every Arkansan has adequate health insurance coverage. We know that most folks are just one illness away from Bankruptcy if they don’t have good coverage. Too many in our State are not able to obtain the medical care they need. Let’s change that.
We need to overcome the stigma associated with mental health care and assure that people have better opportunities to access mental health services.
As a Legislator, I would work to preserve and strengthen existing health care laws.
Much can be done to reform our criminal justice system, resulting in millions of savings to the taxpayers, if we are willing to reassess our current juvenile detention and adult prison system. Are we really getting the results we want? The adult prison system costs our State almost a half-billion dollars each year for overcrowded jails and prisons and a revolving door of re-offenders. The attitude of “lock them up and throw away the keys” is fiscally non-sustainable and does not make us safer. Instead of building more prisons, I believe we should focus on common-sense policy changes that would make us safer while reducing our prison population.
Consider the number of persons with addiction that we continue to send to prison. The Governor of Arkansas has declared opioid addiction a genuine health crisis. The State Attorney General is suing big pharma for deceiving physicians and patients, causing many Arkansans to become addicted to opioids and other drugs. It makes sense that we should spend our resources on helping these people through medical treatment and counseling to break the cycle of drug addiction and to resume a healthy life, contributing to society. We need to start investing in more Drug and Veterans Courts and create new Mental Health Courts, all of which are now time-tested successes nationally. There are a multitude of alternatives to incarceration that should be explored if we want to spend taxpayer dollars effectively.
Einstein says insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.
In the past, I always heard politicians say, "Our children are the future and we must pave the way for a better life for them." That voice is muffled in the Arkansas Legislature today. I believe Arkansas' leaders should insist that the single most important commitment we make is to provide a high quality free public education to every child in this state.
Education starts with pre-K and Head Start, or special education programs. We currently leave thousands of children without access to quality early childhood education. The Lakeview Court Decision requires "adequate funding" for public schools, but there are signs that the Legislature is not meeting its mandate. Inequity can be seen in districts where school buildings are in need of repair, teachers lack training resources and students do not have the school supplies they need to learn. Our children ARE our future and I will work hard to get all our kids the resources they need to learn and achieve their dreams.
One of the single most honorable things a man or woman can do in this life is to provide a service to another and be paid for it. We all feel proud when we are able to earn a living for our family. Our goal should be for every Arkansan to have a good-paying job that contributes to our thriving state economy. The Natural State is a beautiful place and offers a good quality of life for all who live here. Companies will seek us out if they are persuaded we have the skilled employees to meet their needs.
As a State, we must prioritize a trained workforce by investing in college education, technical trade schools, and career centers. We often hear about low unemployment is in Arkansas, but what we don't hear is that Arkansas wages are near the bottom when compared to other states. As a result, about one in five Arkansans lives in poverty, and the poverty rate for children is even higher at 27 percent. We need to do better for Arkansas workers.