Arkansas is one of the most beautiful places on earth with the best and kindest people ever. There is so much potential for the state and its people to further realize social amenities and business growth.  

After twenty-four years, I've lived in Arkansas longer than any other place and raised my family here. I've worked hard to maintain the same residence in the rural countryside several miles from Eureka Springs.

 

Eight years ago I joined the volunteer rural fire and emergency medical district.  In Arkansas, nearly 80% of firefighters and emergency responders are volunteers, (the national rate is slightly lower, around 70%). Not only are volunteers not paid, but some of the equipment they use has to be purchased by the volunteer.    There are estimates that the volunteers save the U.S. taxpayer from $129 billion to  $165 billion annually by not having all  responders on a payroll. 

Volunteers are rewarded by knowing that they are helping others in what could be the worst day of their lives.  Emergency volunteers offer their communities a very good deal on their services!  But are we asking too much of them?  

I am running for state senate to form a plan that compensates volunteers and their employers for time away from the job site due to an emergency response.

 

There are two big challenges for volunteer departments, the first being  with recruitment and retention of personnel for each department.  In a survey taken shortly before the pandemic, it was reported that the average age of volunteers in rural fire departments was between 60 and 65. Younger adults are reluctant to volunteer because they simply can't afford the time to train and the time to respond to emergencies.  When employees run out the door when the alarm sounds then problems can arise at the job site.  Depending on the work setting there can be flexibility to release employees to emergencies, but then the employee is off the clock and is losing wages that can be critical to their personal income. The legislature should work out a plan that supports workers so they don't have to choose between serving their employer and their community, but to provide compensation for both. 

The concern is not limited to just Arkansas, but is growing into a national problem.  Currently (March 2022) some states are working on bills to provide volunteer responders with tax credits:

Illinois

New Jersey

New York

 

 

I am running for state senate to secure legislation for a comprehensive public safety communications system.

We need statewide legislative leadership in implementing a radio communications platform that moves the departments still using analog systems into the 21st century of digital radios.  While some districts have moved on to using digital systems others are unable to afford the millions of dollars to retrofit their personnel, offices and apparatuses. Throughout the state a system is needed that is compatible across county lines. In Arkansas there are over a thousand fire districts, hospitals, state forestry divisions, ambulance districts, FEMA and law enforcement who are on different systems.  What was the lesson we were supposed to learn from the attack on the World Trade Center towers ?  Radio communication systems are vital to public safety. 

 

ARKSAT

In the previous century, a typical communications satellites cost tens of millions of dollars but in recent years these cost have dropped to tens of thousands due to enhanced technology.  As one drives around the state today the presence of communications towers is practically everywhere. If not now already, then very soon the cost of just one of these towers will exceed that of an array of satellites that can deliver the same capability. 

The main advantage for emergency responders will be for those systems requiring a clear line-of-sight.  Currently, even the radio signal from a 150-foot-tall tower can be blocked in the rugged terrain of many parts of Arkansas.

An advantage for upgrading is that these "nano-satellites" can be periodically replaced.  The orbit for a series of ARKSAT units can be set to a fall back into the atmosphere and burn up by a predetermined orbit when they become obsolete and upgraded, replacement satellites are sent up. This avoids adding clutter to the sky.

The ongoing development of the communications technology would be an exciting venture shared as a team effort at our universities and could also provide much needed high-speed access for rural schools, regional hospitals, emergency services and even businesses.

O.K. so I made up the name "ARKSAT", just a working title.

 

  THE  NEW STATE SENATE DISTRICT - 28

The proposed map for new districts' boundaries in our state appear to be a done deal.  My residence places me in State Senate District 28.   The previous District 5 included parts of  Sebastian, Crawford and Washington Counties. Now Boone and Newton have been added. The areas that remain the same for District 28 are parts of Franklin, Johnson, and all of Carroll and Madison counties. 

“People’s lives have changed, and volunteer department numbers are down,” said State Senator Neil Anderson (R-Rock Island), who serves as a professional firefighter in the Quad Cities. “If we can find a way to attract more volunteer emergency workers with a little incentive, it is something this small that could play a big role in saving someone’s home or their livelihoods. My hope is this bill will help increase and maintain retention rates for volunteer departments who already see greater challenges because of less resources. They deserve this kind of support.”  [Read more]
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