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Congress honors two Arkansas natives

U.S. Rep Mike Ross, D-Prescott, honored former state legislator James Jordan of Monticello and former Navy SEAL Jeremy Wise of Virginia, an Arkansas native, with separate entries today in the Congressional Record.

Jordan died Dec. 27 at the age of 84. He was elected to the state House in 1986 and served for 12 years.

Wise, a 35-year-old private contractor, was killed Dec. 30 in an attack on a CIA outpost near Khost, Afghanistan. He was raised in Arkansas and graduated from Hendrix College in Conway.

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Ross wants watermelon stamp

U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Prescott, wants a stamp commemorating the watermelon.

“For many years, watermelons have been a staple of American life, especially in Arkansas’ 4th Congressional District where farming has helped shape our culture and way of life,” Ross said today in a letter to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee.

“For instance, in my hometown of Hope, an annual watermelon festival is held which allows families and friends to come together and enjoy locally grown watermelons while participating in a great number of events that support the local community,” Ross wrote.

Ross said he supports a petition by the National Watermelon Promotions Board and National Watermelon Association calling for a watermelon stamp.

“The watermelon growers of Arkansas represent a significant portion of the agricultural sector, one of the greatest contributors to our local economy,” Ross said in the letter. “On average, Arkansas watermelons have accounted for nearly 3,000 acres of cultivated farmland per year. This multimillion-dollar industry employs many people whose families depend on the success and preservation of the watermelon as a staple of American life.”

A watermelon stamp “would allow America to show thanks to the hard work and dedication of our local farmers for their help in providing both local and national communities with such an important crop,” Ross wrote.

The committee recommends about 25 new subjects for commemorative stamps each year. The selection process can take up to three years.

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Beebe: Health care debate should be civil

Public debate over health care reform is healthy but should be civil, Gov. Mike Beebe said today.

The subject came up while Beebe was fielding calls on his monthly radio program, “Ask the Governor,” on the Arkansas Radio Network. A caller asked if Arkansas would be able to “push back” if a reform bill ultimately passed by Congress contains unfunded mandates for the states.

“I read or saw where both Congressman (Vic) Snyder and Congressman (Mike) Ross got some push-back the other day,” Beebe said, referring to a public forum Wednesday at Arkansas Children’s Hospital during which audience members heckled and jeered at the two Democratic congressmen.

On Thursday, Sen. Blanche Lincoln criticized the rowdiness of audience members at recent public meetings on health care. Lincoln told reporters Thursday that efforts to disrupt public forums are “un-American,” though she later said she should not have used the term.

“I think the debate on this is healthy, as long as it’s a civil debate,” Beebe said today. “I think people are scared, I think people are unsure, I think people are uncertain. Part of the whole democratic process is to voice those concerns to your elected representatives, and I think that is going on and I think it should go on. Again, I hope it goes on in a civil and constructive fashion.”

Beebe told the caller Arkansas would have to comply with any federal mandates, but he added, “We need to slow down a second here, because first of all, I don’t think anything that they’re talking about right now is necessarily what you’re going to see come out of Congress, based upon what I keep hearing.”

Beebe said there is “a whole lot of information out there that’s scaring the heck out of a lot of people,” including rumors that seniors’ health care will be cut off or rationed.

“It’s not going to happen, in my opinion, and if it does I will be one of the most shocked people around. I just cannot see that occurring,” he said.

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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.

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TV ads urge Ross to support clean energy bill

LITTLE ROCK — Wildlife groups are sponsoring a television ad campaign this week urging 4th District Congressman Mike Ross to support the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

The ads are running in the Little Rock television market.

Ross is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is considering the measure. 

The campaign, backed by the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund and several other national and local wildlife groups, urges Ross  to vote for the legislation the groups say is a strong clean energy bill that offers important environmental protections to reduce the effects of climate change on fish and wildlife habitats.

“Hunters and anglers want fast action to safeguard natural resources and reduce the effects of climate change in the places where they fish and hunt — places they want to protect for their children and grandchildren,” says Ellen McNulty of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation.

The group says hunting and fishing are economic engines in Arkansas that drive jobs and general hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

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Blue-Dog deficit-buster

Fourth District Congressman Mike Ross says he’s ready to back a made-in-America stimulus package.

The lead dog of the fiscally conservative Blue-Dog Democrats in the U.S. House says while he’s a stickler for pay-as-you-go for new mandated spending, tough times require tough measures.

Ross says he and members of the Blue-Dog coalition are ready to sign on to President-elect Obama’s deficit-financed stimulus plan because of the current economic crisis.

Ross told the Fayetteville Political Animal’s Club today the last stimulus package was backed by borrowed money from China and people used the money to slice credit card debt or buy more made-in-China goods. “Whose economy did that stimulate?” he asked.

Ross says Obama’s plan would build roads and other infrastructure that will provide jobs in the short-term and avenues for growth in the long-term.

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Ross: Recession to be worst since 1920s

The U.S. could be just months away from “the toughest economic times of our lifetime,” U.S. Rep. Mike Ross. D-Prescott, said today in a conference call with reporters.

Ross said things could be worse. The $700 billion financial bailout plan approved by Congress last month should prevent another depression like the one that followed the 1929 stock market crash, he said.

“I think the actions we took in the financial sector back in October will avoid a 21st century Great Depression, but I do think we’re headed for the worst recession in our lifetimes, and I don’t think we’re anywhere near hitting the bottom,” Ross said. “I think we’re probably six months to perhaps a year and a half away from seeing the worst times that are ahead of us.”

Asked if the nation needs another “New Deal,” the economic recovery plan that Franklin Roosevelt initiated in the 1930s, Ross said it past time time for something similar.

“If you think about it, President Roosevelt and the WPA (Works Progress Administration) program and President Eisenhower and the interstate (highway) program were the last two presidents, one Democrat and one Republican, that made any significant investment in our nation’s infrastructure. I think it’s past time that we do that, and I think it’s a great way to jump start the economy,” he said.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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