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Speaking for Baker

Republican state Sen. Gilbert Baker says he has hired Alice Stewart as deputy campaign manager and spokeswoman for his U.S. Senate campaign.

Stewart, a former television news reporter, was spokeswoman for Mike Huckabee when he was Arkansas governor and later served as national press secretary for Huckabee’s Republican presidential campaign last year.

Baker, one of seven Republicans vying for the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Senate incumbent Blanche Lincoln next year, says of Stewart:

“Her experience on the state and national level will be a great asset as we work to deliver the message of common sense, conservative leadership.”

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Meeks enters race against Snyder

David Meeks of Conway, who formed an exploratory committee earlier this month, announced today his candidacy to run against Democratic incumbent  U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder to represent Arkansas’ 2nd district.

Meeks, whose work includes teaching at a charter middle school for inner-city youth and as a project manager for Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Florida, has been speaking across the state for conservative groups since announcing his exploratory committee and has been active in social media, forming both facebook and twitter accounts, and maintaining the Web site, whoisdavidmeeks.com.

Meeks is the first Republican to announce his intentions to oppose Snyder.

Snyder is one of Arkansas’ most tenured delegates, assuming his position, along with Rep. Marion Berry, D-Jonesboro, January 1, 1997. He has since rattled off six consecutive election victories, most of them landslide decisions.

Meeks is scheduled to speak to KARN News Radio today on the Dave Elswick show at 2 pm.

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Deputy higher ed chief retires

Steve Floyd, deputy director of the state Department of Higher Education, is retiring after 12 years with the department.

Floyd is officially retiring June 30, but Friday was his last day at work, according to a department news release.

The release quotes Floyd as saying, “I’ve got a lot of outside interests I intend to pursue and I’ve got my beautiful grandchildren to keep me busy. I think I’ll have plenty to do.”

A 1969 graduate of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Floyd served as principal of Sallie Cone Elementary School in Conway from 1973-1976. After receiving his doctorate in education from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in 1981, Floyd served as assistant superintendent of the Russellville School District for six years and as superintendent of the Lakeside School District in Hot Springs for seven years.

In 1994, Floyd was named coordinator and teacher at the Arkansas Tech University Center at Westark Community College (now the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith), where he served until being named deputy director of the state Department of Higher Education in 1997.

Floyd has served twice as interim director of the department, following the departure of Lu Hardin prior to the appointment of Linda Beene to the director’s position, and again two years ago following Beene’s departure and the appointment of the current director, Jim Purcell.

“Having Steve here to help guide me through the process during my first legislative session was truly a great help to me,” Purcell said. “It made all the difference in the world. I hate to see him leave now, but Steve is at a time in his life where he has given years of himself to the cause of education in Arkansas and now he wants to give himself completely to his wife, his children, and his grandchildren.”

Gov. Mike Beebe also praised Floyd for his service.

“Steve has always answered the call to serve Arkansas, and his contributions to higher education will endure well beyond his retirement,” Beebe said. “I thank Steve for his unwavering dedication to education and to Arkansas on behalf of all our citizens.”

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McDaniel on assault weapons

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced today he has co-authored a letter expressing opposition to reinstating a federal ban on assault weapons — something President Obama has said he will not seek.

McDaniel says he and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott co-wrote a letter, signed by 21 other state attorneys general, informing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder of their opposition to reinstating the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which banned certain semiautomatic firearms known as “assault weapons” and was allowed to expire in 2004.

Obama pledged during his campaign to seek renewal of the ban, but in April he said he would not seek to revive the ban and would instead seek greater enforcement of existing laws.

McDaniel is expected to run for re-election next year, but he says the letter was not about getting re-elected.

“Our decision was based on the fact that earlier this year there was discussion about the reinstatement of the ban, and we didn’t agree with that. … The discussion of the ban reinstatement was what drove our policy, not my election or General Abbott’s, who is a Republican,” he said.

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Baker honors crisis center workers

State Sen. Gilbert Baker today thanked crisis pregnancy care center workers for their service to Arkansas families.

“You serve families typically that are in crisis situations, and you serve those families from a strong pro-life (position), meeting the needs of children and moms, dads, boyfriends, whatever,” Baker, R-Conway, said during a ceremony in the Senate chamber.

Baker, a former member of the board of directors of a crisis pregnancy care center, said elected officials pass laws and set public policies, but “at the end of the day you folks are right there on the front line.”

Forty-two centers across the state provide services to women facing unplanned pregnancies, including counseling, pregnancy tests and referrals to other support services.

Baker read a citation honoring the workers and presented it to Kathie Archer, who runs a crisis pregnancy care center in North Little Rock. Also taking part in the ceremony were Sen. Sharon Trusty, R-Russellville, Rep. Davy Carter, R-Cabot, Rep. Robert Dale, R-Dover, and Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life.

Baker, often mentioned as a possible GOP challenger to U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln in 2010, told the Arkansas News Bureau he remains undecided on whether he’ll run.

“I’ve got young boys at home. Of course I love my legislative service and all that, but the main thing is just family considerations,” he said.

State Sen. Kim Hendren of Gravette is the only Republican who has announced as a candidate for the Senate seat, and Little Rock businessman Curtis Coleman has formed an exploratory committee to test the waters. Baker said he will not base his decision on the landscape of the race.

“I think a primary is going to be healthy for whoever runs, and my decision is not based on who’s in and who’s out. It’s just strictly, could I run a race and could I serve with my family constraints?” he said.

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Tea party organizers plan another event

The organizers of the April 15 “tea parties” around the state say they will hold another event Monday from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Little Rock’s River Market Amphitheater to promote fiscal responsibility in government.

Speakers are scheduled to include state Rep. Dan Greenberg, R-Little Rock, and Dave Elswick, program director and on-air host of radio station KARN.

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Coalition hosts vigil for EFCA at Sen. Lincoln’s office

The “Turn Around Arkansas” coalition is rallying at Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s Little Rock office in an attempt to push her toward approving the Employee Free Choice Act, labor’s highest legislative priority.

The coalition, with members such as ACORN, Sierra Club, and the AFL-CIO, is hosting a 24-hour vigil, delivering hundreds of hand-written letters asking for support of the bill, and then rallying at the Arkansas Statehouse on Thursday.

Lincoln came out against the bill “in its current form” at a meeting of the Political Animals Club in early April, and has said her door is open to a possible compromise, yet one has not been offered by either labor or business.

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Lincoln Day announcement?

Former U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin is slated to speak to the Saline County Republican committee at an annual gathering of the local GOP members.

Griffin is one of several names floating around as a possible opponent to two-term incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln in her 2010 re-election campaign. He announced his consideration of the running against Lincoln in December, but has yet to announce his candidacy.

Last week in an interview with the Arkansas News Bureau, Griffin said that whomever the candidate may be, he believes they must announce before June 1.

The Saline County GOP will host their annual Lincoln Day Dinner Friday, April 24th at the Bauxite Community Center at 7:00 p.m., with a reception in Bryant at Luigi’s Pizza at 5:30. Reps. Ann Clemmer, R-Benton, and Dan Greenberg, R-Little Rock, will host the dinner and reception respectively.

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Working overtime

LITTLE ROCK — The Legislative Joint Budget Committee was today this morning that they will have to work Friday if they want the session to end April 9.

Rep. Bruce Maloch, D-Magnolia, co-chairman of the committee, said the Revenue Stabilization Act bill and the General Improvement Fund bill should be ready for approval, as well as numerous other budget bills.

The RSA bill prioritizes spending while the GIF bill stipulates how the end of the year surplus money will be spent.

There was a little friendly grumbling by senators on the committee after Maloch’s comments because the Senate has, so far this session, not worked Fridays.

Not to worry, Senate Pro Tem Bob Johnson, D-Bigelow, said yesterday that there is a pretty good the Senate will meet in session Friday, too.

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Stop it

The House chairman of the Joint Budget Committee pleaded today with House members to stop filing appropriation bills.

“I’m pleading with you to limit the filing of those bills, because I do not think it serves any purpose,” said Rep. Bruce Maloch, D-Magnolia.

Maloch said umbrella appropriation bills will be filed to cover the agencies and organizations that members want to help, and all House members will be invited to sign on as co-sponsors.

“We’ll have all the colleges and universities there, we have mechanisms for fire departments, boys and girls clubs and all of these type things,” he said.

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that legislators cannot direct appropriations to specific local projects.

“These individual bills that are being filed are not going to be funded,” Maloch said.

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