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Calling Mark Pryor

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., says he’ll hold six more “town hall meetings” by phone in response to a high demand from Arkansans who want to discuss health care reform, the economy, climate change and other issues — but mostly health care reform.

A news release from Pryor’s office says the senator received questions on a wide range of issues during two telephone town halls and several personal appearances he made in the state last week, but “participants primarily shared concerns about health care.”

Pryor will hold two meetings this Tuesday, two more on Aug. 27 and two more on Sept. 3. A meeting schedule, including phone numbers and ID codes, is available here.


Magnolia to get $150,000 grant

LITTLE ROCK — A statewide disaster response center in Magnolia is to receive a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, it was announced today.

The offices of U.S. Sens. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, announced the grant for the Southwest Arkansas Planning and Development, Inc., to help the state recover from the devastating tornadoes, flooding and storms in 2008.

The center will have professional and volunteer personnel to assist areas declared presidential disasters with recover efforts to assess economic lo9sses, development an economic recovery strategy, develop disaster recovery and mitigation projects, coordinate project implementation and evaluate both short and long term recovery for the region.

Nearly every county in the state was declared a disaster area in 2008 because of severe storms, tornadoes, flooding and the remnants of Hurricane Gustav and Tropical Storm Ike.


Beyond the V-chip

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor is prodding the Federal Communications Commission to do more to help parents block scenes and language inappropriate for children from TVs and computers.

The Pryor-sponsored Child Safe Viewing Act is headed to President Bush’s desk after the Senate gave final congressional approval to the measure.

It requires the FCC to continuously review and implement blocking technology as it is developed, something Pryor says the agency has failed to do since Congress in 1996 required television manufacturers to embed the V-Chip in televisions to allow parents to filter some content according to a rating system.

The senator says parents today want more help in blocking an increasing amount of sexual scenes and violence shown on more than 500 TV channels and video streaming over the Internet.

“Today’s technology to protect children from indecency goes above and beyond the capabilities of the V-Chip,” according to Pryor. “It’s time for the FCC to take a fresh look at how the market can empower parents with more tools to choose appropriate programming for their children. This bill is a pragmatic, sensible approach where parents, kids and technology can all benefit.”


Pryor: Obama could have won state

Barack Obama could have won Arkansas if he had campaigned here, according to U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.

“I think if Obama had come here and worked here and allocated some resources to Arkansas, we could have been like North Carolina or Missouri or some of these other states who were very close, and we could have won the thing. … They made the right decision nationally, but I do wish the Obama campaign had spent some more time here,” Pryor told reporters.

As of today, provisional ballots are still being counted in Missouri and no winner has been declared.

Pryor, who campaigned in the state on Obama’s behalf, said Arkansas’ election results — 58.6 percent for McCain, 39 percent for Obama — also may have been affected by former first lady Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the national Democratic primary and “probably some other factors.”

Obama’s most recent appearance in Arkansas was in October 2006 at a rally for Mike Beebe and other Democratic candidates.


Democratic rallies set

Bill Clinton’s sweep through his native Arkansas tomorrow and Saturday on behalf Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama and the rest of the party’s election ticket is set.

The former president, along with Gov. Mike Beebe and former Arkansas Govs. and U.S. Sens. Dale Bumpers and David Pryor, will headline a get-out-the-vote rally at 5 p.m. Friday at the corner of Fourth and Main streets in North Little Rock.

The quartet will follow Saturday with an 11:30 a.m. rally in downtown Pine Bluff and a 1 p.m. appearance in Jonesboro. They’ll be joined at various stops by Democratic Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln, along with Democratic Congressmen Marion Berry, Vic Snyder and Mike Ross.

Obama has not visited Arkansas since an October 2006 appearance in support of Beebe and other state Democrats. Republican John McCain has visited the state twice since becoming the GOP presidential nominee. Former Arkansas and U.S. first lady Hillary Clinton headlined a rally for Obama in Little Rock two weeks ago.


Arkansas Poll

Arkansans appear ready to back John McCain for president on Nov. 4, according to results of the annual Arkansas Poll released Thursday.

The poll shows McCain with a 51 percent to 36 percent lead over Barack Obama among registered voters. The poll by the University of Arkansas has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

Results of the comprehensive survey can be found at the Arkansas Poll Web site.

When asked about Initiated Act 1, which would prohibit unmarried couples living together from adopting or foster parenting children, 55 percent of respondents said they opposed the measure proposed by the conservative Family Council.

Arkansans do seem to like Lt. Gov. Bill Halter’s proposal for a state-run lottery to fund college scholarships, with 65 percent of those polled saying they favored Proposed Constitutional Amendment 3.

An overwhelming 56 percent of respondents said the economy was the most important issue facing Arkansans today. Last year, about 29 percent cited the economy as the key issue,

“In our 10 years of polling, no issue has ever been ranked that high,” said Janine Parry, a UA political science professor and director of the Arkansas Poll.

Also, only 27 percent of Arkansans said they approved of the job President Bush is doing. That’s substantially down from the president’s first year in office, when 87 percent approved of his job.

Approval ratings for other politicians were: Gov. Mike Beebe, 74 percent; Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., 54 percent; Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., 56 percent; Rep. Marion Berry, D-Gillett, 50 percent; Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Little Rock, 57 percent; Rep. John Boozman, R-Rogers, 52 percent; and Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, 62 percent.


Esquire endorsements

In addition to naming Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., as one of the nation’s 10 best lawmakers, Esquire magazine in its November issue endorsed Pryor and all four House members from Arkansas for re-election.

The publication made picks in 482 races across the country. Its pick for president was Barack Obama.

No one in Arkansas faces major party opposition. Like Pryor, Reps. Vic Snyder, D-Little Rock, John Boozman, R-Rogers, and Mike Ross, D-Prescott, have Green Party opponents. Rep. Marion Berry, D-Gillett, is unopposed. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., is not up for re-election.

Here are Esquire’s comments associated with the endorsements of Arkansas congressmen:

For Berry : ” … We feel all incumbents should be opposed. In this case, however, farmer/congressman Berry is a good fit for this Delta district.”

For Boozman: “The privately reasonable politician in John Boozman too often gets drowned out by the publicly reactionary one. From the draconian LEAVE act — as xenophobic a piece of immigration “reform” as we’ll see in this lifetime — to the childish GOP sit-in on offshore drilling, he consistently picks the worst issues on which to take a partisan stand. Arkansas ought to have at least one Republican in its delegation. But Boozman needs a strong opponent in ’10.”

For Ross: “When FEMA parked 10,000 trailers destined for Katrina victims in a field in Ross’ district, he demanded that they be moved — not because they were an eyesore but because they’d sink into the mud if it rained. That’s the sort of local knowledge that underlies good governance.”

For Snyder: “Would Arkansas elect to a seventh term a guy who supports needle-exchange programs, opposed the Iraq war, supports abortion rights and opposes the embargo of Cuba? Yep. So would we.”

The November Esquire is on newsstands now.


Esquire: Pryor among 10 best lawmakers

Esquire magazine in its November issue named Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., as one of the 10 best members of Congress.

Pryor, who is finishing his first term in office, is the only Arkansan on the 10 best list. No one in the Arkansas delegation appeared as one of the 10 worst lawmakers, either.

The magazine said of Pryor: “This scion of a political family has proved himself to be a formidable senator in his own right. As a freshman, he took the lead in forging the bipartisan ‘Gang of 14′ that saved the Senate from Bill Frist’s reckless ‘nuclear option’ on filibusters. Indeed, Pryor’s balance of center-left economics and center-right social positions ought to be the model for a new generation of Southern politicians.”

Others on the 10 best list were: Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala.

The 10 worst, as named by Esquire, were: Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., and Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.


No thank you, Mr. President

Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, both D-Ark., — like dozens of others in Congress — weren’t so eager to support President Bush in his last year in office, according to a study by Congressional Quarterly.

The publication compared voting records from this year to the president’s previous seven years in office.

Lincoln aligned with Bush’s positions on votes this year just 42 percent of the time. Her presidential support pre-2008 had been 62 percent.

Likewise, Pryor had been with Bush 56 percent of the time since the freshman senator took office in 2003. This year, he was a Bush ally for just 45 percent of votes.

Still, both supported Bush more often than the majority of Senate Democrats. The median for the party was 50 percent with Bush until this year. The 2008 median for all Senate Democrats was 34 percent, according to the study.

The publication noted that support for the lame duck president declined among both parties in both houses of Congress this year. Lawmakers who face tough re-election bids were also more likely to abandon the president on key votes, the study suggested.


House clears bailout on second try

The House voted 263-171 in favor of a $700 billion financial rescue plan. All four Arkansas congressmen voted for the measure.

The package passed the Senate on Wednesday. It now goes to the president, who is expected to sign it.

The Arkansas delegation in the House and Senate supported it even though public feedback that was decidedly against using taxpayer money to prop up imperiled financial institutions. Lawmakers said they backed the bill because it was the best way to stave off an economic crisis.

It was the House’s second attempt to pass the controversial bailout bill, which failed Monday despite the Arkansans’ support for it.

Opponents decried the legislation as improper government intervention in a crisis caused by Wall Street. Other foes demanded more help for homeowners caught up in the subprime mortgage mess.

Arkansas’ delegation is Sens. Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln, both Democrats, and Reps. Marion Berry, D-Gillett, John Boozman, R-Rogers, Mike Ross, D-Prescott, and Vic Snyder, D-Little Rock.