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State Representative Weekly Report – October 7, 2013

BY NATE BELL –

My normal policy is to do my best to focus on Arkansas issues and to leave federal government issues to those elected to address them.  At times, state and federal issues overlap each other and in effect federal issues become state issues. One of those issues is the PPACA which is commonly known as Obamacare. As anyone who knows me can attest, I have very strong opinions about Obamacare and its negative effects on our state. That being said, I believe the PPACA is fatally flawed and headed toward complete fiscal failure absent additional legislation and/or funding. Arkansas is now feeling the impact of the federal government shutdown due to a budget dispute between the President and Congress over funding for Obamacare.

Federal government closures due to budget disagreements and disputes over program funding are nothing new. This is the 18th time in the last 40 years that the government has been partially closed. Both political parties are attempting to blame the other for the closure just as they have done in previous circumstances. For historical context, Democrats controlled the House during fifteen shutdowns and were in control of both chambers during eight. Five shutdowns happened while one party controlled both chambers AND the Presidency.  While shutdowns are more likely to occur in a divided government they are caused by legitimate and welcome disagreement between equal branches of government who disagree about policies.

Defunding programs and agencies as a part of budget negotiations is a normal part of the process.  For example, the ninth shutdown ended with House Democrats managing to defund a defense department missile program. Congress also shut down the government five times due to disputes over abortion funding.

The actions of the federal government during the current closure are unprecedented. Barricading of open air monuments, hunting areas, boat ramps, parking lots, websites, businesses and even evicting people from their homes has not been a part of any previous government closure. It is clear that politicians in DC want to make this budget dispute as painful and disruptive as possible in the lives of hard working Americans.

I believe it is important to address how our state government is responding to the temporary closures. Many Arkansas state agencies rely on federal funds for some or all of their operating and programming funds and 685 state employees are currently furloughed due to the shut down. Our state also has 12,864 federal civilian employees and a large percentage of them are currently furloughed.

Real people are being hurt by the choice to shutdown the federal government. All Americans understand that. It has become painfully obvious that one of the main reasons real people are being hurt is because the federal government has inserted itself into our lives in many areas where it has no business meddling. It’s time that we reexamine the overall reach of the federal government into the affairs of individuals, communities and states. Government closest to the people is most responsive to the people.

I’m confident that no one in the Arkansas legislature would have chosen to close AmberAlert.gov while leaving the EPA and IRS operating as usual.  The Arkansas Legislature has a history of working together to solve problems in a bi-partisan way. I’m proud of that tradition and that it has continued through the transition from total control by one party to the more balanced government we have today.  We need more of those same common sense “people first” attitudes in Washington, DC.