House Aging, Children and Youth

January 11, 2023

Rep Bentley: …the House and the Senate have passed a concurrent resolution to honor Religious Freedom Day here in the Arkansas Legislature. So this is another following that tradition, following what we’ve done in the past to honor really one of the most sacred of our freedoms is our religious freedom. Since the pilgrims have founded our nation to our founding documents with the Declaration of Independence and our nation’s Constitution, we have honored that our religious freedom is really the bedrock of our society. Thomas Jefferson wrote– excuse me. It’s page two. I like to read his quote there that “the freedom of religion is the most inalienable and sacred of all our human rights.” So today, I’m bringing to you the resolution to again honor Religious Freedom Day as Thomas Jefferson did in 1786 with his statute in the state of Virginia, the honoring of January 16th as Religious Freedom Day. So with that, that’s the end of my presentation. I would hope for a good vote.

Rep Barker: Members, are there any questions? Representative Fite, you’re recognized.

Rep C Fite: Thank you, madam chair. Thank you Representative Bentley for bringing us this. How many years has Arkansas observed this?

Rep Bentley: It’s 2017 was the first year we passed it.

Rep C Fite: Thank you.

Rep Barker: Any other questions from committee? Is there anyone in the audience that would like to speak for or against this resolution? You are recognized to close for your resolution.

Rep Bentley: I’m closed. Colleagues, thank you.

Rep Barker: What’s the will of the committee?

audience: Move it be passed.

Rep Barker: Thank you. Would you like to explain your motion?Good. We have a motion do pass. All in favor say aye. Opposed no?  Congratulations. You have passed your resolution.


Rep Bentley: Colleagues, thank you. We’re off to a great start already. Have a great day.

Rep Barker: Thank you, members. Okay. Now, for all our lovely housekeeping. I first would have liked to have introduced you– well, let me first tell you that I’m very grateful to be filling the big shoes that I am attempting to fill– so be patient with me– that Representative Fite vacated. I’m honored to be your chair. I’m thankful to work with Representative Mayberry, but she, unfortunately, could not be with us today. Her mother recently passed away, and she is on her way to Florida. Yes, so if you will keep them in your thoughts and prayers, I know she will appreciate that.

Rep Barker: So I will just tell you a little bit about myself and then we will all introduce ourselves. We’ll start with Representative Fite and work our way around the table. My name is Sonia Eubanks Barker. I am from Smackover, Arkansas, south central. I represent parts of six counties. I have a very large district now after redistricting, but that’s the way it is in our lovely rural areas. I represent parts of Bradley, Calhoun, Cleveland, Dallas, Ouachita, and Union counties. I have three grown children. Well, I have a husband, too. I guess I could start there. Been married 32 years. We have three grown children, two married. We have five grandchildren, four of which live here in Little Rock and I get to see them while I am here. So that’s a little dose of normalcy and reality once session gets going. And again, I am honored to be your chair and would ask for your patience. But this is a great committee. It does very important, very heart-wrenching at times, work, but I’m glad you all– whether you chose to be here or whether seniority placed you here, we’re glad to have you, and we’re going to do some very important work. So if you would just briefly introduce yourself as we go down the row.

Rep C Fite: Thank you, madam chair. I’m Charlene Fite. I represent parts of Washington and Crawford county. I consider this one of the greatest committees that we have. I say often that this committee will break your heart. And if it doesn’t, you don’t have a heart. But what we do is crucial for the children and for the aging, the military, and everyone that we represent in this committee. I am a retired school psychology specialist and special ed teacher, and was formerly, lived in Taiwan, the Republic of China for 9 years as a missionary there. And my husband and I live in beautiful Figure Five. If you don’t know where that is, it’s near Cedarville. If you don’t know where that is, it’s near Van Buren. Thank you.

Rep Pilkington: Hey, everyone. I’m Representative Aaron Pilkington. This is my first time on Aging, Children, and Youth. But very excited to be on. I live in Knoxville, Arkansas, which is in between Clarksville and Russellville. So I get to represent the jewel of the River Valley, which I’m very happy about. I have two young children, two under two. So you could say I definitely have a new appreciation for youth and children. But I have a background in healthcare administration. I have my MHA from UAMS and I’ve served on Public Health for the last few terms. So I’m excited to lend my expertise in that realm to this area as well. And I’m excited to work with so many great people here on this committee. So thank you.

Rep Springer: Good morning. My name is Joy Springer, and I am originally from south Arkansas, down close by our chair. I grew up in Stephens, Arkansas, and I matriculated to Arkadelphia, met my husband and that’s how I wound up in Little Rock now. So I now represent Little Rock from downtown. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the area of Little Rock, Chester Street all the way west to around the Baptist Hospital, so I guess the street would be Kanis Road. So I’m a Representative here in Little Rock. I too have served on this committee previously, and it is a great committee. My heart is in education. However, everybody can’t serve on education. So I like being here. So that’s fine. My background is I have a background in business. I grew up in a small town in Ouachita County. My father was a businessman. So I thought I wanted to be in business. So initially, I did start out in business. However, I met an attorney who convinced me that I needed to switch over to education. So I have a degree in elementary education, as well as a master’s degree in education administration. So I’m here now because of him, Attorney John Walker, I don’t know if you’ve heard of that name before, but that’s the reason why I’m here. And he told me that you’ll take over my seat if anything ever happens to me and little did I know that I would be here. He suddenly passed away in 2019. So now I’m here because of John Walker. So I’m so happy to be here. And I look forward to working with each and every one of you. Thank you.

Rep McClure: Well, I’m Rick McClure. And I will echo what Representative Fite said that this is a committee that deals with some issues that will tug at your heartstrings. This is my second time around. As all of us, we have other lives outside of here. My corporate background is in operational management and economic development. And then I have been a pastor for 30 years now. So this hits home with a lot of things that I deal with in the pastoral role. And so welcome aboard. It’s going to be a great session.

Rep Brooks: Thank you, madam chair. My name is Keith Brooks. I represent west Little Rock, northwestern Pulaski, and a little bit of northern Saline County. This is my second time on this committee as well. I think there’s four of us that have served on this committee before, besides Representative Fite and Representative Barker. So echo the same thing everybody else said. It’s an honor to have the chance to deal with matters that are difficult for a lot of people, but we can make a real and meaningful difference. I also serve on the legislative autism task force. And so as a dad with a kid with special needs and having seen a lot of the challenges that are out there for our system, this committee is a great place to make a huge difference for people, the people of Arkansas, kids especially. So glad that everyone is here and look forward to doing great work.

Rep Furman: I’m Tony Furman. I represent another part of Saline county. I don’t have– well, you had six counties in your district? Woo. I have part of one county. So a little bit smaller. But yeah, I live in Benton. My wife and I are foster parents, which is why I got on this committee last session. And yes, the work we do here will definitely tug at your heart. But it’s very important work that we do here for the kids, for the aging, for the military, everything we do here is super important. So thank you for being on here. I’m looking forward to working with you guys.

Rep Brown: My name is Matt Brown. I’m from Conway. My district is entirely within the city of Conway. So I’ve got one of the best districts ever in terms of walkability and I love it. Conway is a great town. Go Bears. I don’t know where Jeremy went. I’m an attorney, my day job, and I’m just proud to be here.

Rep Duke: Okay. Well, if I can get that to– there we go. I’m Hope Duke. And I am from Gravette. I represent the very northwest corner of our state. So you go much further, and you’re going to be a Missouri, you’re going to be in Oklahoma. And I’m married, and I have three adult children. One’s a teacher. Well, one’s a teacher and a coach, and then one is a freshman at the U of A. I also have a teaching degree. I haven’t taught since the early ’90s, but I have been working with kids since I was 16. And I’ve been going to nursing home services before I can remember doing anything different. And thankfully, we were able to get back into our local nursing home this last Sunday, which was a real blessing to be able to minister to them there. So I have a real heart for kids, for our elderly, and I am super excited about having the honor to serve on this committee.

Rep Carr: Joey Carr, District 34, eastern portion of Mississippi County. I’m opposite of Representative Duke. I’m five miles from Missouri and two miles from Tennessee right on the river, but I like Representative Springer, I have a education background. I was looking to get on the education committee, but the Lord opens doors up and I think I’m right where I really need to be. I have 30 years in public education, 18 years as a coach and civics teacher, and then the last 12, I’ve been an elementary principal. So I see this as a great chance of ministry because I want to protect our youth, I want to respect our aging, and I want to honor our veterans. I have four children. Right now, my mother-in-law lives with us and my dad served in Vietnam. He turned 21 while he was there. And so I can relate to all three capacities. So I’m excited to be on this committee. Thank you.

Rep Pearce: Thank you, madam chair. My name is Shad Pearce, and also thank you, colleagues, and I will be like you. Please be patient with me. I will tell you this, I’m very, very passionate about all things listed on this committee. And I have a wonderful wife, two children, four grandchildren. My background is in wildlife law enforcement with the Game and Fish. And I’m ready to get started. And thank you.

Rep Steimel: I’m Trey Steimel. I’m District 2, and that’s part of Randolph, Sharp, and Fulton counties called Pocahontas Arkansas Home, where I have a background in real estate and insurance. I have a wife with five kids ranging from the ages of 22 to 6. So I just never wanted to retire, I guess. And I need some state benefits. That’s why I got– just kidding. Just kidding. But I do look forward to working with each one of y’all in this important capacity. So thank you.

Rep Wooldridge: Thank you, madam chair. My name’s Jeremy Wooldridge, District 1, northeast Arkansas. Greene, Clay, and Randolph counties. My background, I’m a licensed behavioral health therapist and have been for many years and currently run a development council in Jonesboro, so northeast Arkansas. I have a wife and two sons and probably the only interesting fact about me, my wife and I share a birthday, and then eight years ago, our son was born on our birthday. So I think the odds of that are pretty slim, but that’s my claim to fame. And happy to be here.

Rep McKenzie: Thank you, madam chair. My name is Brit McKenzie. I represent the Seventh District, parts of Rogers, Garfield, Gateway and Avoca and Benton County. I’m excited to be here. My most important facts are I’m a husband to Sydney and a father to two sets of twins. The older set’s turning three on Saturday. So I’m excited to do this work. It’s important work. And thank you for your leadership.

Rep T Shephard: Thank you, madam chair. I am Representative Shephard. I represent south of 630 back to Saline County, so that’s parts of Mabelvale, Alexander, and of course, southwest Little Rock. I am a former board member with the Little Rock School District, excited about that. I’ve served before on the board with Representative Springer. I’m also a correctional auditor. I tell people the most phenomenal experience of my life is I had the opportunity to travel to The Pentagon and audit the United States Army Correctional Command. So I traveled the nation and I did jails, prisons, and parole authorities. But in my day-to-day practice, I’m the compliance manager at Arkansas Juvenile Assessment & Treatment Center. So I have more of a correctional background in juvenile adults. I’ve done it for a little over 20 years. So I’m excited to be here today. And I’m very excited that the majority of the people in this board are my classmates. So thank you, madam chair.

Rep Unger: Thank you, madam chair. I’m Representative Steve Unger from Springdale. I am fourth generation, Washington County. I joined the Navy pretty much out of high school. I was an enlisted hospital corpsman medic with the Marines back in the 1970s. Finished a college degree, became a surface warfare officer, did that for 5 years, then felt the call to go in the ministry. Went to seminary, and then went back in as a chaplain, and I did that for the last 25 years. A lot of what military chaplaincy is is in fact what we call reparenting because a lot of young men and women who join the service basically practically raised themselves, came out of rough situations, broken homes of abuse and neglect. And so I just have a real passion for youth, have a passion for foster care even though I wouldn’t pretend to have a great depth of knowledge. I am married to Lynette. We have a 25-year-old daughter who lives in Fayetteville, and my wife and I lost our 19-year-old son to cancer in the year 2020. And so he was a member of the Arkansas Air National Guard and the 188th wing. And so when the C-130 flew over yesterday, I will tell you I got a lump in my throat. Thank you, Madam Chairman.

Rep Duffield: Thank you, Madam Chair. I’m Matt Duffield, representative District 53. Look forward to working with each and every one of you. I’d like to thank everyone in attendance here today. Ready to get to work. I’m available 24/7, If you have any concerns in this committee, don’t hesitate to reach out, look forward to working for the great people of State Arkansas and learning from you, Madam Chair. Thank you.

Rep Painter: Thank you, Madam Chair. My name is Stetson Painter. I’m from the beautiful part of the state of Mountain Home, Arkansas, where we have two lakes and three rivers. I also cover Fulton county. I’ve been married for almost eight years to my beautiful wife, Kaleigh. We have a four-year-old Audra Marie Painter, and a little bit of background on me is I’ve been a soldier since I was 17 years old. I still currently serve. I go to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I teach in the CBRN command up there. And then we have a small business. And then I’ve been a congressional staffer for almost 11 years. And so I worked 5 years in the Senate and 6 years in the US House. So I’m looking forward to working with everybody on this committee, especially you, Madam Chair, and each one of these are passionate to me. My district, it’s a retirement community. So we have a lot of seniors there, children, all this stuff. So military, being a veteran myself. So I look forward to working with everybody. I appreciate it, Madame Chair. Thanks.

Rep Gramlich: Hello, my name is Zack Gramlich. I am a representative from Fort Smith. I have a very small district. I just measured it about six miles long and two miles deep, so. But I have a background in education. I’ve been a teacher for seven years at a extremely diverse, extremely poor school. I teach STEM classes and coding. I have a wife, Tiffany, and I have a two and a half week daughter named Bonnie Lynn Gramlich. And my wife is a rockstar for letting me be here right now. So thank you. I look forward to working with all of you.

Rep Barker: Thank you all very much. And before I make a comment or two on the committee, I failed to tell you a little bit of my background. I also am an educator. This past fall semester of 2022 is the first semester in 19 years that I have not taught. Even while serving as a representative, I would teach and coach first semester. I’m an English, French teacher, and I coached the tennis team there in Smackover for years. So also, three of our five grandchildren were adopted from the Arkansas foster care system. So all of that is near and dear to my heart also. But we have an awesome committee now that you hear, not just sit down and see the faces, but you hear the background, you hear the reasoning, you hear the depth of the importance to each one of us, not just as we represent our citizens, but to each one of us personally. So thank you for sharing all of that. Now I want to introduce our staff, our amazing staff. Blake Gilliam is our committee analyst. Destiny Davis is a committee analyst. Laura Reynolds will normally be here with us right as the attorney and she’s not here with us today. And then Teresa Maxwell was filling in. Is she–?

Gilliam BLR Staff: I believe she left.

Rep Barker: She left the building. Okay. And would you like to tell us a few about the handout and what you were going to–

Gilliam BLR Staff: Members, my name is Blake Gilliam. I’m the committee analyst for Aging, Children Youth Legislative Military Affairs. I’ve been on this committee staffing it coming up to four years this summer. During our meetings, I will be fielding parliamentarian questions. I will also be working with some paperwork for the bills. But I also am here to help you with any questions. I serve at a nonpartisan capacity. And I’m just thankful to be here. Thank you very much. Also, before I forget, I did leave a handout of agency official contacts at your seat at the beginning of the meeting. That is very volatile, especially since there will be positions moving around with the new administration, but it is just to let you know there are agencies that do work closely with the work that you will be doing here. And it’s just to let you know that there will be contacts if you have any questions.

Rep Barker: Thank you very much. We’re very appreciative of our staff here. And speaking of agencies, do we have any directors or representatives from agencies that would like to stand and introduce themselves? If you’re willing, you can come to the mic. You can’t take over or take too long, but if you’re willing to come to the mic, we can actually record you.

Putnam DHS: Good morning and happy Wednesday. I’m Kristi Putnam. I am not yet official. I’ll take the oath of office this afternoon, but I’m the secretary for Department of Human Services. I come to you from Kentucky. And I’m very excited to be in Arkansas. I’ve spent some time here working with the team at DHS on Medicaid and some other projects. A little bit of very quick background. I’m an educator by trade, originally. That led me to human services very quickly, and I’ve spent about 20-plus years in state policy and government. So I’m very happy to be here.

Martin DHS: Thank you. Good morning, committee. Almost seven years ago, I gave my title for the first time. So it’s interesting that today is my first day in my new role and you will be the first committee that I actually say out loud my title to anyone. I am Mischa Martin. I am the DHS deputy director of youth and families. Previously for the last seven years, have been the director of the Division of Children and Family Services. So I spend a lot of time in front of this committee. And whoever the new director is, while I will continue to serve in that role, you will hear from a lot around reports on child welfare. In my new role, I will be working with Division of Youth Services. So Madam Chair, if you don’t mind, can I just introduce some people from the back because I’ll–

Rep Barker: Please do.

Martin DHS: Okay. Division of Youth Services director is Michael Crump. And then from Division of Children and Family Services and who you will be seeing a lot through legislative session and hopefully working closely with is Christin Harper, who’s an assistant director, and her support team will be Sarah Ross, who is deputy counsel at Office of Chief Counsel who is under DHS. But I’m going to try and hit most of the DHS team if that is okay. Jay Hill, who is the division director of the Division of Aging, Adult, and Behavioral Health Services. Mark White is here, chief of staff at DHS. Jeff Williams will be supporting governmental affairs and former legislator. We have Lorie McDonald, who is deputy of governmental affairs. Interim deputy, I believe, is the correct title. Did I get everybody? Okay. I think I got everybody from DHS, but we will be working closely as DHS has aging, children, and families, as well as juvenile justice. All that comes before this committee.

Rep Barker: Thank you very much. You did a great job introducing everyone.

Martin DHS: Thank you. Yes.

Putnam DHS: And I don’t know everyone yet. So she had to come and do that. And we thank you very much for the time.

Martin DHS: Thank you.

Putnam DHS: Thank you.

Rep Barker: Anyone else?

Penn ANG: Good morning, Madam Chair. My name is Major General Kendall Penn. I’m currently the Adjutant General for the Arkansas National Guard all the way up until about 1 o’clock this afternoon. At which time I’ll swear in as the secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Next to me is my deputy and chief of staff, Mr. Scott Stanger. And we’re honored to be here and to meet everybody. And we look forward to working with everybody in the future.

Rep Barker: Thank you very much.

Penn ANG: Thank you.

Drew ASP: If you want to have a seat, I’ll stand. Just to introduce myself, I’m major Jeff Drew, Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Division. I’ve been the division commander there for about five years. Really became interested in children– I always say that it used to upset people that I didn’t care too much for kids, but I found out I did. I kind of broke my teeth in with this on our cart team, which Representative Pearce was a part of what we’d done while I was stationed there in Newport and it definitely opened my eyes to some things. Who I have here is Kalika Rogers, who’s my investigations administrator, and Dan Mack, who’s over the hotline. He’s the hotline administrator. And I’ll let them, well, tell you a little bit about themselves.

Rep Barker: Thank you.

Rogers ASP: Good morning. My name is Kalika Rogers. Like he said, I am the CACD investigations administrator. I’ve been with CACD approximately 12 years. I am approximately a month in replacing Mr. Gary Glisson. And so I look forward to working with you guys.

Drew ASP: So if anything is wrong, it’s her fault, okay?

Rep Barker: Would you like me to have that stricken from the record? No’ I’m just kidding.

Mack ASP: Good morning. I’m Dan Mack. I’m the hotline administrator. I’ve been with the State Police at the hotline for the past 23 years. Starting my 24th year, and I’ve been the administrator for the past three and a half years.

Rep Barker: Thank you.

Mack ASP: Thank you.

Rep Barker: Thank you for what you do and thank you for introducing yourself.

Rep Barker: Are there any other representatives or directors from agencies? Thank you. I mean, this will likely be the easiest time you have at the end of this table, so you might as well take advantage.

Digby Juv Ombdsmn: Hi, I’m Brooke Digby. I’m the juvenile ombudsman for this day. I’ve been in my position for about four and a half years. I monitor all of the juvenile prisons in Arkansas. I keep a close eye on mister Michael Crump. I’m excited for the work that you guys do here. Thank you.

Robertson: Hi, I’m Laura Robertson. I’m the executive director of the Commission on Child Abuse, Rape, and Domestic Violence. I’m fairly new to the position. I’ve been there in interim position since May of ’21. I started at the commission as the child welfare ombudsman, the first one for state in September of this year. I was finally able to stop doing both jobs and hired Stasia McDonald to be our new child welfare ombudsman. And so I’m excited to start actually working with y’all. I’ll let her introduce herself.

McDonald: It’s not stretching.  Good morning. I’m Stasia McDonald. As Laura said, I am the child welfare ombudsman for the state of Arkansas. And I am an attorney and have been in various roles in the child welfare field since 1998. And I’m very excited to work with you all. Thank you.

Rep Barker: Thank you. Any other agencies, representative directors? Okay, thank you all. This committee looks forward to working with all of you for all of our aging, children, youth, and military. Okay, so now for the more boring things. I have a few housekeeping items we need to go through and that I need to give you. First of all, this is the room, 130, that we will meet in on Wednesdays and Fridays if we are here on Fridays. That’s not my call. So it’s also not what we have normally done. So likely, we will be meeting in here every Wednesday, but if it is a Wednesday, Friday, it will still be in this room. 10 AM, or at the call of the chair. Quorum, of course, must be seen to begin the committee. So it’s important that you get here on time. And 11, takes 11 to be a quorum, of course, and of course, to get anything passed, we need 11 voting in the same way. Agendas are prepared in accordance with House rules, two days in advance. So if you’re sponsoring a bill or a resolution, those notifications will be sent to you as a member two days before the committee meeting, and they’re sent by email. Also on the subject of email, if you have an email address that you prefer using other than the House email, I don’t know if yours is like mine, but I get a lot of very interesting emails to sift through to see what’s actually valid. So if you have another email you would prefer that Blake use to send out information, we’ll have a sheet up here after committee after we gavel out, if you would like to leave that email with him. If not, it will be sent to your House email. After a bill or resolution has appeared on the committee agenda and has been called up for consideration and the sponsor is not present, that item will be placed at the bottom of the active agenda. If you have a bill or resolution to run and you fail to show up for three times, it will be put on the deferred list. And requests to move bills from the deferred list to the active list must be made by 2:30 PM two days prior to that scheduled committee meeting. And let’s see. Amendments. If you have an amendment to bring to your bill, then you need to have that in writing. And please let the staff know ahead of time that you have an amendment. No surprise amendments, please. And special order of business, we can have meetings called, obviously, that are not at 10 AM on Wednesdays or Fridays. That happens sometimes when there’s a controversial bill, and we know we’re going to need more time, or we have a lot of people that we’ve already seen and know that will sign up to speak for or against a bill. So sometimes that will happen, or when a sponsor has people coming from out of town, we can have a special order of business. But you’ll be notified of that as well. Have I left anything off?

Gilliam BLR Staff: Special order of the business can be a subject on the agenda as well.

Rep Barker: Okay. Right. Special order of business can be a subject on the agenda as well. Do we have any questions?

Rep Pilkington: Chair Barker, so with the deferred list and the normal list, I mean, that’s just a holdover from the COVID rules from last session. Is that my understanding or is there–?

Rep Barker: Sure, please.

Gilliam BLR Staff: Generally, it’s just if a bill is passed over three times, it goes to the deferred list. And that’s just a procedure that’s kept in place, not to have so many bills if a sponsor is choosing eventually not to run a bill. It’s not punitive. It’s just if someone wants to take it off, they just email me or the chair and say, “Can we have that put back on the list?”

Rep Pilkington: Gotcha. Okay, perfect. That’s all I need to know.

Rep Barker: So more for efficiency.

Gilliam BLR Staff: It’s more for efficiency.

Rep Barker: Any other questions that I can have Blake answer for you? This is my fourth term on this committee. I chose this committee as a freshman, and I have chosen this committee every time and will continue to choose this committee, chair, not chair, just because like many of you have said, there were so many parts of it that though they’re not necessarily easy to deal with, they’re very, very important. So thank you all for your time, unless we have other business. Oh, I’m sorry. Yes.

Rep Springer: Thank you, madam, chair. I would just like to say that Mr. Gilliam is a very great resource. So if you have any concerns, the questions contact him. Thank you.

Rep Barker: I’ll second that. Okay. We are adjourned.