Voters may request 2020 absentee ballots

How did you celebrate our nation’s birthday?  I hope you found a few minutes to reflect on what it means to be an American, and said a prayer and thanks for all those that went before us to make it possible for us to live, work, worship and speak freely. 
I spent part of my holiday on a radio talk show hosted by State Senator Kim Hammer.  Senator Hammer is a Missionary Baptist pastor and hospice chaplain in Benton, who represents Senate District 33. His other guests were my friend, State Senator Dave Wallace, a highly decorated Army pilot (Air Cavalry) and businessman from Leachville, and Will Beams, the immediate Past Commander of the Department of Arkansas Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). We spoke of challenges for Veterans and our nation and also the pride we share at having worn the flag of our nation in military service.   
This week will be a busy one for legislators in Little Rock.  Several committees are meeting, including Joint Education and Aging, Children, Youth, Military and Legislative Affairs.  Broadband concerns in rural Arkansas and COVID-19 concerns amid the start of the school year will also be on the agendas. I’ll let you know about those and also the reports we will hear in the Early Childhood Caucus next week.  
Last week was difficult for those tracking the rise in positive cases in our state.  We broke records, and not for the good. While we know that wearing masks can curb the spread of the virus, we have seen a continued spike in cases.  The Governor gave a very visual message in one briefing, holding a mask in one hand and a football in the other.  He noted that if Arkansans want to enjoy football this fall, we must practice social distancing and wear masks in public settings.  
Voters concerned about the risk of the virus at 2020 Election polling sites can now request absentee ballots without fear of breaking the law. The Governor joined Republican and Democrat party leaders in a bi-partisan announcement last week. What must you do if you want an absentee ballot?
    Request an Absentee Ballot Application by contacting your County Clerk or download the application from the Secretary of State’s website.
    Return or mail the Absentee Ballot Application back.
    Receive your Absentee Ballot from your County Clerk’s office.
    Fill out your Absentee Ballot and return it to your County Clerk’s office by October 27th.
Your ballot must include a copy of a Photo ID.
For more information on this process, call your County Clerk.  I’m also happy to help you get more information about this process.
Arkansas’s new Fiscal Year (FY) began July 1, 2020, and we started off with positive news about the state budget.  At the beginning of the pandemic, economic forecasters predicted a drastic loss in state income, and agency budgets were immediately scaled back. We now know that while general revenue for FY 2020 was $168 million less than the year before, it was $369 million above what economic forecasters predicted in the wake of the health emergency.
It is with much relief that we can now report the budget outlined in the Revenue Stabilization Act for FY 2020 ended fully funded with $3.2 million in excess as a result of: (1) Better than expected sales tax collections from retail activity and vehicle sales; (2) Individual income tax payments from filings ahead of the shifted July 15th due date; (3) Reduced individual refund claims related to the shifted tax filing date; and (4) Continued gains in corporate income tax.
The negative financial impact of COVID-19 was still evident in low annual growth from sales tax and payroll withholding tax. State budgets are directly linked to how well the economy is performing. Unemployment numbers in Arkansas are also better than the national rate, with 9.5%, compared to the national unemployment rate of 13.3%.
As we look forward to a new state fiscal year, Ashley County veterans and supporters can look forward to October 17, 2020, and “Veterans Recognition Day” in Crossett.  This will be the second year for what will be an annual parade. Veteran Bill Mayo is chairing the planning and is happy to visit with interested persons or businesses. Email him at  mayobilly99@gmail.com, call him at (903) 391-4584, or write:  Veterans, P.O. Box 496, Crossett, AR 71635.
How have you recognized a special day or person during the pandemic? A very dear friend, Elgenia Ross of Monticello, celebrated a special birthday last week as a surprise parade of vehicles circled her neighborhood with balloons, posters, and honking horns. Earlier that day she “Zoomed” with friends and well-wishers from across the country. I’d love to hear about your special events!
I also have a shout-out for Monticello’s Crayton Harris, who just turned 10 and has earned his “ticket” back to Loretta Lynn’s Ranch to race the 2020 Loretta Lynn Motocross National Event in the 65cc (7-9) Mod class. Crayton will compete as one of the top 42 riders in his age group from around the world. Check out more of this sweet young man and the sport of Motocross through his YouTube videos (“Crayton Harris Swan MX 2017, 2018, 2019”) and through his Facebook page @Crayton Harris #116.
Want to highlight good things happening in Southeast Arkansas? It’s an honor to serve as State Representative and that’s one of my favorite things to do.  Email me at leanne.burch@arkansashouse.org, leave a message at (870) 460-0773, or message me on Facebook @BurchforAR.  I look forward to hearing from you. 

The Advance-Monticellonian

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