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by Sarah Skidmore Still, AP

FILE - In this Monday, April 7, 2014, file photo, aluminum bottles of Bud Light beer are on display at Alcoa headquarters in Pittsburgh. Anheuser-Busch says it is buying Seattle-based craft brewer Elysian Brewing Co. for an undisclosed sum, according to reports, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene Puskar, File)

FILE – In this Monday, April 7, 2014, file photo, aluminum bottles of Bud Light beer are on display at Alcoa headquarters in Pittsburgh. Anheuser-Busch says it is buying Seattle-based craft brewer Elysian Brewing Co. for an undisclosed sum, according to reports, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene Puskar, File)

(St. Louis) (AP) – Anheuser-Busch is buying Seattle’s Elysian Brewing Co., further expanding its collection of craft brewers as it tries to offset sagging sales of its flagship beers.

The financial terms of the deal announced Friday were not disclosed.

Anheuser-Busch is the U.S. arm of Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, a Belgian company that is the world’s largest brewer. The company, which makes Budweiser and Bud Lite, has been combatting soft sales by buying up increasingly popular craft brewers.

While nationwide beer sales declined 1.9 percent in 2013, craft beer sales rose 17 percent, according to the Brewers Association, which represents craft brewers.

Anheuser-Busch announced in November that it was buying 10 Barrel Brewing of Oregon, raising the ire of many of its fans. That follows the purchase of Blue Point Brewing Co. on Long Island, New York, earlier in the year. It bought Goose Island Beer Co. in Chicago in 2011. InBev also has a one-third share in a Northwest group that produces Red Hook, Widmer and Kona beers.

Anheuser-Busch and Elysian say the deal will bring the brewer’s popular beers – most notably Immortal IPA – to a larger audience. The deal includes Elysian’s brewery business and its four Seattle brewpubs. It is expected to close by the end of the first quarter.

“Throughout our journey we’ve been focused on brewing a portfolio of both classic and groundbreaking beers and supporting innovation and camaraderie in the beer industry,” Dick Cantwell, Elysian co-founder and head brewer, said. “By joining with Anheuser-Busch we’ll be able to take the next steps to bring that energy and commitment to a larger audience.”

Elysian was founded in 1995 by Cantwell along with partners Joe Bisacca and David Buhler, who will stay on following the acquisition.

The company is the fastest-growing brewery in Washington state. It sold more than 50,000 barrels of beer in 2014, with Immortal IPA accounting for more than a quarter of the company’s total volume.

It also makes a beer called Loser Pale Ale, which says “Corporate Beer Still Sucks” on its packaging. The beer celebrates Seattle-based independent music label Sub Pop Records and the line is a nod to the “Corporate Magazines Still Suck” T-shirt Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain once wore the cover of Rolling Stone.

Cantwell acknowledges that now the joke has another layer, but says the Elysian will keep brewing Loser Pale Ale after the acquisition is complete. The founders say they recognize some fans may be upset by their decision to sell to Anheuser-Busch, but say little will change.

“We have some loyal fans that are questioning it, but we are hoping they will take a breath … and see that what is still in the glass is amazing,” Buhler said.

Elysian’s beer is distributed in 11 states in the U.S. as well as Canada, Taiwan, Australia and Japan.

by Nomann Merchant, AP

(Little Rock) (AP) – The Arkansas Senate has approved middle-class tax cuts funded in part with a repeal of a $21 million capital gains tax cut approved two years ago.

Senators voted 30-3 Thursday to approve the cuts, a key campaign proposal of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

The proposal reduces income taxes by 1 percent for people making between $21,000 and $75,000 a year.

Senate President Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, acknowledged concerns from a handful of senators that they were passing a tax cut before hearing Hutchinson’s full budget proposal. But Dismang says the governor was expected to give more details next week, and that the Senate would have another chance to vote on the bill if the House approves it with amendments, as expected.

by Andrew DeMillo, AP

(Little Rock) (AP) – While Gov. Asa Hutchinson has made it clear he wants to keep Arkansas’ compromise Medicaid expansion in place through the end of next year, what’s less certain is what happens after then for the thousands receiving health coverage through the program.

Hutchinson’s proposal to reauthorize the “private option” and create a task force to look at health care reforms leaves plenty of unanswered questions about the future of a program providing health insurance to more than 213,000 people. The possibilities range from a similar program to a complete overhaul of the state’s Medicaid system.

Lawmakers could move as quickly as next week on proposals setting up the task force and continuing the private option, crafted two years ago as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.

(North Little Rock) (AP) – The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has scheduled a meeting to discuss plans for developing a National Ambient Air Quality Standards state implementation plan.

The meeting is scheduled on Wednesday in the commission room at the Department of Environmental Quality’s headquarters in North Little Rock.

The new air quality standards for particulate matter up to 2.5 micrograms in size, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and lead are being added to the state air pollution control regulations in order to comply with federal standards issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The first meeting on the issue was conducted last month.

Stakeholders representing a variety of interested parties have been invited to participate in developing an implementation plan. Stakeholder meetings are open to the public as well.

(Little Rock) (AP) – Members of Arkansas’ congressional delegation have joined colleagues from other states in urging Secretary of State John Kerry to encourage Iraq to purchase more American-produced rice.

Arkansas Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton and Arkansas Reps. Rick Crawford and Bruce Westerman have signed a letter that seeks diplomatic assistance to improve trade relations with the Iraqi Grain Board. In recent years, the board has bought rice from other nations over lower cost American rice.

The letter asserts that the Iraqi Grain Board has not indicated that American rice is deficient in quality, grade or price.

Arkansas leads the nation in rice production, and rice is the top agricultural export for the state. Nationwide, rice production generates approximately $34 billion in economic activity annually, creating thousands of jobs in rural America.

(Jonesboro) – Students named to the Chancellor’s and Deans’ lists for fall 2014 at Arkansas State University have been announced. Combined, the group has 2,128 students.

The two lists recognize students who achieved the highest grade point averages while enrolled in 12 or more credit hours of study.

The Chancellor’s List (designated as CL) includes students who earned a grade point average of 3.80 to 4.0 for fall classes. The Deans’ List (DL) includes students with a grade point average of 3.6 to 3.79.

Students representing 64 of the 75 counties in the state of Arkansas met the requirements, as did students from 24 states and 23 countries.

The lists are recorded alphabetically by state, county, hometown and name of student:

Baxter, Calico Rock, Samuel Hurst, CL
Baxter, Calico Rock, Emily Johnson, CL
Baxter, Calico Rock, Leisha McCoy, CL
Baxter, Calico Rock, Brayden McCurley, CL
Baxter, Calico Rock, Brooke McCurley, CL
Baxter, Calico Rock, Ashley Moody, DL
Baxter, Calico Rock, Julie Moody, DL
Baxter, Gassville, Rachel Bridgman, DL
Baxter, Gassville, Shane Hemme, DL
Baxter, Gassville, Hailey Thomas, CL
Baxter, Henderson, Ryan Oliver, CL
Baxter, Lakeview, Cheyanne Spoo, DL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Miranda Dickerson, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Jessica Eiden, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Kendl Fischer, DL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Michele Flynn, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Kristin Frank, DL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Shanon Gardner, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Kelsie Harris, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Meagen Harrison, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Kailey Hughes, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Stephanie Hughes, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Madison Ingle, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Samantha Ingle, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Christy Jones, DL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Patrick Leppold, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Katelyn Mangrum, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Kayla Pelt, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Emily Prohl, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Heather Pyszka, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Makenna Seats, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Sarah Shelley, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Mikayla Smith, DL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Aundrianna Summerall, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Hannah Todd, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Rebecca Villiger, CL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Natalie White, DL
Baxter, Mountain Home, Catie Wood, CL
Baxter, Norfork, Shaunya Fraysher, DL
Baxter, Norfork, Crystal Taylor, DL
Fulton, Ash Flat, Brittany Cheek, DL
Fulton, Ash Flat, Carrie Irvin, CL
Fulton, Ash Flat, Zakary Rush, DL
Fulton, Ash Flat, Chloe Sellars, CL
Fulton, Glencoe, Shane Smith, CL
Fulton, Mammoth Spring, Houston Cooper, DL
Fulton, Mammoth Spring, Joshua Johnston, CL
Fulton, Mammoth Spring, Garrett Massey, DL
Fulton, Mammoth Spring, Whitney Rose, CL
Fulton, Mammoth Spring, Caitlin Vanginhoven, CL
Fulton, Salem, Candice Broyles, CL
Fulton, Salem, Demetri Bruner, CL
Fulton, Salem, Heather Curtis, CL
Fulton, Salem, Carrie Davis, CL
Fulton, Salem, Emily Johns, DL
Fulton, Salem, Hannah Lance, CL
Fulton, Salem, Rachael Palumbo, CL
Fulton, Salem, Ryan Rich, DL
Fulton, Salem, Summer Smith, CL
Fulton, Sturkie, Johnny Emery, CL
Fulton, Viola, Racheal Downs, CL
Marion, Flippin, Jennifer Buresh, CL
Marion, Flippin, Taylor Campbell, CL
Marion, Flippin, Tina Sheley, CL
Marion, Flippin, Heather Tyler, CL
Marion, Yellville, Courtney Baker, DL
Marion, Yellville, Patricia Burleigh, DL
Marion, Yellville, Amie Gilley, CL
Marion, Yellville, Cynthia Hummell, DL
Marion, Yellville, Jarod Jefferson, CL
Marion, Yellville, Katelin Kelley, CL
Marion, Yellville, Katie Murphy, DL
Marion, Yellville, Amanda Rogers, CL
Sharp, Cave City, Rebekah Asberry, CL
Sharp, Cave City, Amber Freeman, DL
Sharp, Cave City, Alexandria Johnson, DL
Sharp, Cave City, Aimee Rowlett, CL
Sharp, Cave City, Kerrie Wilson, DL
Sharp, Cherokee Village, David George, DL
Sharp, Cherokee Village, Corey Hayes, CL
Sharp, Cherokee Village, Vincent Roberto, CL
Sharp, Evening Shade, Jessica Qualls, CL
Sharp, Evening Shade, Rachel Woods, DL
Sharp, Hardy, Morgan Lowe, CL
Sharp, Hardy, Jessica Sellers, CL
Sharp, Hardy, Kaitlin Sellers, CL
Sharp, Hardy, Shawn Wright, CL
Sharp, Highland, Faith Black, CL
Sharp, Highland, Whitney Davis, CL
Sharp, Highland, Cassidy Day, CL
Sharp, Highland, Jedidja Hoppe, CL
Sharp, Highland, Jarrett Powell, DL
Sharp, Highland, Garrett Sublett, CL
Sharp, Highland, Shawn Young, CL
Sharp, Sidney, Dustin Headstream, CL
Sharp, Williford, Keith Bagwell, CL
Sharp, Williford, Deborah Dail, CL
Sharp, Williford, Victoria Dienst, CL
Sharp, Williford, Maryellen Wollschlager, CL

Stone, Fox, Megan Geisser, CL
Stone, Mountain View, Caitlin Branscum, DL
Stone, Mountain View, Emily Dixon, CL
Stone, Mountain View, Richard Ivy, CL
Stone, Mountain View, Alyssa Ragsdale, CL
Stone, Mountain View, Jordan Wilcox, CL
Stone, Mountain View, Austin Wilkie, CL
Stone, Onia, Heather Ramsey, DL
Stone, Timbo, Valerie Johnston, DL

MISSOURI
Bakersfield, Jessica Bean, CL
Doniphan, Jonathan Foels, DL
Doniphan, Bretton Hale, CL
Doniphan, Kiera Payne, CL
Doniphan, Michelle Popp, DL
Doniphan, Andrew Short, DL
Doniphan, Jessica Smith, CL
Doniphan, Dwight Ware, CL

Pomona, Jonathan Dillinger, CL

West Plains, MaKenzie Alsup, CL
West Plains, Joseph Meyer, DL
West Plains, Logan Miller, CL
West Plains, Paige Riley, CL

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has released his newest radio address talking about his first full week.

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The first day to the regular session has commenced, and has done so clothed in tradition. The House sends letters both to the Senate and the Governor to signify we are ready for the people’s business. The Speaker opens with beginning remarks, and the Bill of Rights from our U.S. Constitution is recited as a memorial to protect the citizen’s rights and limit the scope of government. This must be the best thought to have in mind while legislating. Afterwards, the House heeds the words of our Missouri Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Inside this document lies the source of government authority, which is the Missourian. This document also declares the Missouri Constitution is subject only to the U.S. Constitution. Also stated is the famed theme of the Declaration of Independence, “that all persons have the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry; that all persons are created equal and are entitled to equal rights and opportunity under the law; that to give security to these things is the principle office of government, and when government does not confer this security, it fails in its chief design.”-Article I, Section 2

Missouri’s Bill of Rights and the U.S. Bill of Rights offer the same constitutional assurance of the rights they jointly cover. Freedoms of speech, religion, assembly and petition are guaranteed. The right to bear arms and formulation of militia are declared. The protection of property and privacy, as well as our use and restraint of the court system are warranted. However, there are other factors covered in our Bill of Rights that is not covered in the U.S. version. The definition of Marriage, organized labor, and the recognition as English as our official language are stated as well.

Now, the General Assembly is off to perform our three constitutional mandates; convene to listen to the State of the State, the State of the Judiciary, as well as to develop and pass a balanced budget.

“Lord God of Hosts, be with us, lest we forget.”—Inscription found inside the Missouri State Capitol

Responding to State of the State and State of the Judiciary

This week, citizens of the great state of Missouri had the opportunity to hear the governor deliver his State of the State Address. The following morning, legislators were honored to have Judge Mary R. Russell, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri, deliver the State of the Judiciary in the Senate Chamber, in front of both bodies of the Missouri Legislature.

These speeches, while steeped in tradition, are a way for legislators and citizens of this state to gauge the intentions of the governor for the upcoming lawmaking session and more. The words, plans and ideas expressed in these events are a kind of weather vane for the legislative battles and successes we can expect to face.

Despite promises to keep fiscal discipline as a value, I am still worried and saddened over the governor’s inattention to expanding vital funding for Sheltered Workshops, cybercrimes task forces and more. There are vital programs that are being underfunded at the cost of thousands of Missourians. This needs to be fixed.

The governor has called for an additional $11 million for pre-school funding and an additional $150 million for public schools. He is proposing an additional $25 million for higher education based on how well they meet strong performance standards. Education is a top priority for everyone in this state, and I am confident that we will progress toward better educating our children this session. By starting the conversation early, we can ensure there is plenty of time for drafting and coming to a consensus on these issues.

The State of the Judiciary once again provided a glance into the ever evolving world of the judicial system in our state. There are many things that play a role in the shaping of legal mechanisms that make up our judicial system. Work done here in the Legislature is sometimes the only way to officially illicit changes that are warranted.

 

I also learned many things that our courts are doing. Judge Russell told us that the Supreme Court has recently adopted a new rule – that if people demonstrate they are unable to pay a fine, municipal judges will be required to give them more time to pay it.

She also told us of success within court treatment programs, like veteran’s courts, truancy courts for youth and more. The system is being shaped to assist people in their unique circumstances, and help them not only learn from their mistakes, but make positive strides to better their lives.

I look forward to seeing what the rest of session holds. It appears there is finite attention focused on the work that needs to be done, and while we cannot always agree on a solution, at least we have identified areas of concern.  I assure you, I will work to see that those concerns are addressed this session.

As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.

Legislature Listens to Governor’s Budget Proposal

In recent years the governor has used his State of the State address to outline proposed spending plans that were simply unrealistic, if not impossible. Time and time again he has asked for spending that far exceeds our revenues, and each time the legislature has done the fiscally responsible thing by scaling back his proposals to craft a realistic, balanced budget.

The members of the House and Senate expected more of the same this year as the governor delivered his speech Wednesday night. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised as the governor outlined what many are calling a “modest” budget. I say modest because it contains only a handful of spending increases to the state budget that already exceeds $26 billion. It is a proposal that will give the legislature something to work with as we prepare the Fiscal Year 2016 spending plan in the months to come.

Some of the funding increases proposed by the governor include:

•             An additional $50 million in funding for our public K-12 schools throughout the state;

•             Another $5 million for the state’s Early Childhood Special Education program;

•             A $2 million increase for Project Lead the Way, which will be used to promote science, technology, engineering and math learning in an additional 350 elementary schools:

•             An increase of $12 million in performance-based funding for Missouri’s public colleges and universities;

•             A bump of $2 million for the Access Missouri Scholarship program and the A+ Scholarship program;

•             An increase of $2.4 million for blind pension payments

As you can see, he has prioritized education and aid to some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens. These are priorities that are shared by those of us in the legislature, which signals what I hope will be a more cooperative budget process going forward. I will do my best to keep you updated as the budget moves through the legislative process in the months ahead.

Governor Violates the Spirit of the Missouri Constitution

While my colleagues and I were mostly pleased with what we heard from the governor this week, we were not as happy to see him resort to some of his old tricks as he called for additional state spending outside his proposed budget. This may seem like an odd move to many, but it makes more sense when you realize it’s his attempt to operate around our constitution, and specifically the new provisions added by the recently-approved Amendment 10.

It was just a few months ago that voters came together to approve this change to our constitution that does two extremely important things. First, it allows the legislature to vote to force the governor to release funds he has withheld. This is an extremely important change that was necessary because the governor has a track record of restricting funds to vital programs like education even when the state has the money necessary to pay for them. Second, the change to the constitution prohibits the governor from basing his budget on legislation that has yet to pass the legislature.

It’s the second provision that the governor tried to work around this week as he proposed an additional $178 million in spending based on three different pieces of legislation passing. He did this not in his budget, but instead by a separate proclamation – which he believes is not a violation of Amendment 10. My colleagues and I in the legislature would argue differently as it is clear that he means for this additional spending to be part of his budget even if it isn’t contained in the budget itself.

The three pieces of legislation the governor has asked us to pass include Medicaid expansion, tax amnesty and reforms that will increase the collection of already-owed taxes.  The bulk of the additional funding would be generated by Medicaid expansion, which this legislative body has repeatedly said will be a non-starter unless any package discussed includes much-needed reforms to this broken system. Tax amnesty has also been considered by this legislature in the past, and actually passed and then vetoed by the governor. Bottom line, the governor’s additional spending requests outside of the budget are based on legislation that has very little chance of making it through the process.

House Speaker Diehl Outlines Legislative Priorities for 2015

Following the governor’s address, House Speaker John J. Diehl, Jr. provided his own vision for the direction our state should take in the months ahead. In his speech, the Speaker talked about the legislature working to keep government out of the way and out of the lives of Missourians so that they can achieve success and prosperity through their own hard work. As the Speaker said, “Each decision we make will emphasize the fact we believe government is at its best when it levels the playing field and then stays out of the way so individuals and businesses can grow and prosper through hard work and initiative.”

In regard to specific policy items, the Speaker laid out a few issue areas he wants us to focus on this year. These include:

•             Passing legislation to provide immediate options to the 62,000 Missouri children trapped in failing school districts. The Speaker said, “We must further expand their educational opportunities by providing more choice in the form of additional charter schools and we must take advantage of the technologies of the 21st century by providing virtual schools that will give our young people another vital option to obtain a quality education.”

•             Approving reforms to our system of welfare so that it works as intended to keep people out of permanent poverty by putting them on the path toward stable employment in a job with family-supporting wages and benefits. Missouri currently ranks dead last among states when it comes to the number of welfare recipients who are on the path to stable employment. The Speaker wants us to work this year to change that disappointing number.

•             Focusing our efforts on the things we can do as a legislature to support and encourage entrepreneurship and investment in our small businesses so that they can grow and prosper. As Diehl said, “I’m a firm believer that government’s role isn’t to produce economic development but it is our duty to create the kind of level playing field that will allow employers and workers to succeed if they work hard enough”

•             Taking steps as a state to strike that balance that protect the rights of the individual without creating an environment that forces job creators and professionals to flee the state for a friendlier environment. Diehl noted that, “Missouri has labor policies, which more closely resemble the failed and antiquated economic models of the rustbelt. We must reform our systems to allow more freedom for workers and provide a more favorable environment for new, high-tech manufacturing.” He also pointed out that, “many of our neighboring states have fewer and more streamlined regulations. Moving forward, we must go down a path that keeps government out of the way of innovators and entrepreneurs and stresses the importance of allowing businesses to do what they do best, create jobs and produce economic prosperity.”

These are just a few of the issues the Speaker has asked us to consider and discuss this session. I look forward to working with him and my colleagues to find ways to make government smaller and more efficient while also developing policy solutions that will position Missourians for success through hard work and determination. As the Speaker said in his speech, “That means investing in families and young people rather than an ever-growing bureaucracy. It means empowering businesses and workers rather than government. And it means empowering people, not politicians.”

As always, it is an honor to serve the good folks of the 153rd District. If you would like to discuss any issue, please call 573-751-1066 or you can e-mail me at steve.cookson@house.mo.gov .