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The Official Publication of the Association of Arkansas Counties

County Lines

Spring 2021

Taking a Recess

Legislative session focused on multiple hot-topic issues


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In This Issue SPRING 2021

Features

AAC Calendar.......................................................................................6 Fallen Officers Honored at Capitol...............................................21 The Price Counties Have Paid........................................................24 Following the Arkansas Quilt Trail.................................................28 Pulaski County Flips the Switch on New Solar Array.................30 AAC Welcomes New Board Member.............................................32 Staff Profile: Whitney Ives...............................................................33 AAC Photo Recap: County Coroners.............................................36 AAC Photo Recap: County Collectors.........................................37 AAC Photo Recap: County Treasurers...........................................38 AAC Photo Recap: Justices of the Peace......................................39 AAC Photo Recap: County Assessors.........................................40

Departments From the Director’s Desk...................................................................7 President’s Perspective......................................................................9 From the Governor............................................................................11 AG Opinions.......................................................................................13 Research Corner................................................................................14 Seems to Me..................................................................................... 16 Governmental Affairs.......................................................................18 Legal Corner......................................................................................20 Litigation Lessons.............................................................................22 Wellness & Safety............................................................................23 News from NACo...............................................................................34

Cover Notes: Legislative Recess

(Cover Photo by Holland Doran)

The 2021 Legislative Session was like no other in history. The COVID-19 pandemic dictated that there be an entirely new set of rules in place — masks were required, plexiglass partitions were in place, those testifying were kept in holding rooms, and the halls of the state Capitol building were largely empty. In addition, rather than adjourning sine die at the end of April, the two chambers took an extended recess. They will return in the fall to address congressional redistricting and COVID-19 relief funding. AAC Governmental Affairs Director Josh Curtis addresses what to expect this fall in his column on Page 18. Law enforcement reform, second amendment rights, COVID-19 matters, and election reform dominated the legislative discussion. Gov. Asa Hutchinson discusses some of those issues in his column on Page 11, while AAC Legal Counsel Lindsey French focuses on election reform in her column on Page 20. AAC Executive Director Chris Villines also discusses the session, as well as other important topics for county government in his column on Page 7. We hope you find this issue of County Lines informative. Pictured at left are the House of Representatives (top) and Gov. Hutchinson (bottom). COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021

— Photos by Secretary of State’s Staff 5


AAC

CALENDAR

2021 June 1-4 County Clerks Crossties Event Center, Texarkana June 4-6 & June 12-13 Coroners Embassy Suites, Jonesboro June 6-9 Sheriffs Embassy Suites, Jonesboro June 8-11 Circuit Clerks Mount Magazine, Paris

Contact AAC Chris Villines, Executive Director cvillines@arcounties.org Anne Baker, Executive Assistant abaker@arcounties.org Whitney Ives, Receptionist wives@arcounties.org Eddie Jones, Consultant e.jonesconsulting@gmail.com Mark Whitmore, Chief Legal Counsel mwhitmore@arcounties.org Josh Curtis, Governmental Affairs Director jcurtis@arcounties.org

AAC Mission Statement

June 14-16 Judges Embassy Suites, Jonesboro June 17-18 Treasurers Mount Magazine, Paris June 24-25 Collectors Mount Magazine, Paris Calendar activities also are posted on our website:

www.arcounties.org

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he Association of Arkansas Counties supports and promotes the idea that all elected officials must have the opportunity to act together in order to solve mutual problems as a unified group. To further this goal, the Association of Arkansas Counties is committed to providing a single source of cooperative support and information for all counties and county and district officials. The overall purpose of the Association of Arkansas Counties is to work for the improvement of county government in the state of Arkansas. The Association accomplishes this purpose by providing legislative representation, on-site assistance, general research, training, various publications and conferences to assist county officials in carrying out the duties and responsibilities of their office.

1415 West Third Street Little Rock, AR 72201 (501) 372-7550 phone / (501) 372-0611 fax www.arcounties.org Mark Harrell, IT Manager Karen Bell, Administrative Assistant kbell@aacrms.com mharrell@arcounties.org

Risk Management/ Workers’ Compensation Debbie Norman, Risk Mgmt. & Insurance Director dnorman@aacrms.com

Debbie Lakey, Workers’ Comp Claims Mgr. dlakey@aacrms.com Cathy Perry, Admin. Asst./Claims Analyst cperry@aacrms.com

Ellen Wood, Admin. Asst./Receptionist ewood@aacrms.com Brandy McAllister, RMS Counsel bmcallister@arcounties.org Colin Jorgensen, RMF Litigation Counsel cjorgensen@arcounties.org JaNan Thomas, RMF Litigation Counsel jdavis@arcounties.org Melissa Dugger, RMF Litigation Counsel mhollowell@arcounties.org

Holland Doran, Communications Coordinator hdoran@arcounties.org

Kim Nash, Workers’ Comp Claims Adjuster knash@aacrms.com Camille Neemann, RMF Litigation Counsel cneemannl@arcounties.org Renee Turner,Workers’ Comp Claims Adjuster rturner@aacrms.com Fonda Fitzgerald, RMF Paralegal ffitzgerald@arcounties.org Riley Groover, Claims Analyst rgroover@aacrms.com Michalene Zionce, RMF Paralegal mzionce@arcounties.org

Karan Skarda, ACE Program Coordinator kskarda@arcounties.org

Greg Hunt, Claims Analyst Samantha Wren, RMF Paralegal ghunt@aacrms.com swren@arcounties.org

Cindy Posey, Accountant cposey@arcounties.org

Kim Mitchell, Administrative Assistant Becky Comet, Member Benefits Manager bcomet@arcounties.org kmitchellt@aacrms.com

Lindsey French, Legal Counsel lfrench@arcounties.org Christy L. Smith, Communications Director csmith@arcounties.org

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COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021


AAC

County Lines County Lines [(ISSN 2576-1137 (print) and ISSN 2576-1145 (online)] is the official publication of the AAC. It is published quarterly. For advertising inquiries, subscriptions or other information, please contact Christy L. Smith at 501.372.7550. Executive Director/Publisher Chris Villines Communications Director/ Managing Editor Christy L. Smith Communications Coordinator/ Editor Holland Doran

AAC Executive Board: Debbie Wise – President Brandon Ellison – Vice President Jimmy Hart – Secretary-Treasurer Tommy Young Terri Harrison Debra Buckner Dana Baker Kevin Cleghorn Terry McNatt Debbie Cross Brenda DeShields Ellen Foote Doug Curtis Gerone Hobbs Marty Boyd John Montgomery Heather Stevens Randy Higgins National Association of Counties (NACo) Board Affiliations Debbie Wise: NACo board member. She is Randolph County Circuit Clerk and president of the AAC Board of Directors. Brandon Ellison: NACo board member. He is Polk County Judge and vice-president of the AAC Board of Directors. Ted Harden: Finance & Intergovernmental Affairs Steering Committee. He is a member of the Jefferson County Quorum Court. David Hudson: Chair of Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee. He is Sebastian Co. Judge and member of Rural Action Caucus Steering Committee and IT Standing Committee. Barry Hyde: Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee. He is the Pulaski County Judge. Rusty McMillon: Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee. He is Greene County Judge Joseph Wood: Community, Economic and Workforce Development Steering Committee. He is Washington County Judge. Kevin Smith: IT Standing Committee. He is the Sebastian County Director of Information Technology Services. Gerone Hobbs: Membership Committee. He is the Pulaski County Coroner. Paul Ellliot: Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee, vice-chair of law enforcement subcommittee. He is a member of the Pulaski County Quorum Court. Ellen Foote: Community, Economic & Workforce Development Steering Committee. She is the Crittenden County Tax Collector. Tawanna Brown:Telecommunications & Technology Steering Committe. She is Crittenden County Chief Computer Operator.

COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021

DIRECTOR’S DESK

A look at the session, ARP, and a looming labor challenge

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recall writing in our last issue that this could be a session with an asterisk. Without a doubt, it was. BUT … that asterisk did not apply to the pass/fail rate of Chris Villines AAC proposed county legislation, nor did it apply to some Executive Director of the metrics by which we normally rate a legislative session. In 2017, there were 2,680 bills filed, with 1,130 becoming Acts. In 2019, 1,864 bills were filed, with 1,091 becoming Acts. The current 2021 session brought us 1,675 bills with 1,112 becoming Acts. While the number of bills filed decreased for the third straight session, the number signed into law has remained steady. Part of the reason for the reduction in bills filed in the 2021 session is the recent transformation of state government. In the past years, appropriation bills in some cases were filed separately for many different departments. This year saw some of these bills consolidated into fewer pieces of legislation. Also, a reason for the higher number in 2017 was the bill filing deadline. We did not have this deadline in 2019 or 2021. It is counterintuitive, but a bill filing deadline results in a high number of shell bills filed as placeholders in the event a legislator wants to amend and pursue legislation later in the session. Some other important metrics for our counties are available. In 2017, we tracked 537 bills that would affect county government. In 2019, we tracked 493 bills and in 2021, we tracked 508 bills. In 2017, 2019 and 2021, we saw 263, 254 and 286 bills that affect county government become Acts, respectively. The most important stat, though, is the track of AAC Legislative Package bills. While data for 2017 is unavailable, I can tell you that for many years we’ve passed these bills at approximately a 90 percent clip. The last two sessions are no different. In 2019, we passed 29 of our 31 filed bills — a 94 percent success rate. Again in 2021, we passed around 94 percent of our package bills, garnering the Governor’s signature on 31 of our 33 package bills. I attribute our success at the Capitol to several things, but three really stand out. The vetting process of our legislative committee, led by Terry McNatt (Craighead County Treasurer) and the AAC Board of Directors, led by President Debbie Wise (Randolph County Circuit Clerk), run the well-oiled machine that is the AAC legislative process. The vetting among our member associations, followed by the AAC Legislative Committee and then the AAC Board of Directors is incredible. By the time a bill makes it into our legislative package it is looked at front-ways, side-ways, upside down and from the top. Any conflicts with other groups are worked out before the bill is put in final form. Thank you all for the hard work you do on these boards to make this process work. Secondly, the respect the legislature has for our county officials means they trust bills you put forward. If I heard the “Association of Arkansas Counties” mentioned in the well of the Senate or House one time this session, I heard it a hundred times. Our stamp of approval is valued because legislators trust you guys and know you have reviewed and approved these bills at some point in the process. >>> 7


AAC

DIRECTOR’S DESK

Finally, our staff here at the AAC is also well respected. They have earned it. Mark Whitmore, Lindsey French, Josh Curtis and Eddie Jones walk alongside each association as they put needed legislation together. They work with legislators and the Bureau of Legislative Research (BLR) to draft and file these bills. Our team drafts the language in most cases and presents the legislator and BLR with what would be a final, drafted copy. I know this level of detail is appreciated by all and makes for a smoother process. In addition to our staff that works directly with the legislators, I am proud to work alongside Christy L. Smith and Holland Doran. Their communication skills are impeccable, and you all stay informed through their efforts. You also stay informed by my assistant Anne Baker, who is responsible for getting weekly legislative updates out to you and reported on our website. By the time the session ends, all these folks are worn to a nub, don’t want to ever see a bill again, but instead immediately begin communicating legislation to our member associations. In the end, this was the longest session I can recall at 107 days. And by the way, it’s not over. It “ended” in a recess so the legislators can return this fall for congressional redistricting. There is much to cover, and we will be attending your associa-

tion meetings through the summer to bring you up to speed on legislative changes. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call any of us. ***

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ith the close of the legislative session, our team has quickly turned our attention to the American Rescue Plan (ARP). In the last few days, we’ve hit two big milestones. First, the money has begun flowing to counties. County Treasurers are in the process of utilizing the U.S. Treasury Department’s website to notify them of the proper bank account to transfer this money to. The total amount of money given to counties for community investments is approximately $580 million — half now and half no less than a year from now. The second big piece of news was the release of our first round of treasury guidance — a 150-page document called the Interim Final Rule for Fund Guidance. Remember, this will evolve, so we expect clearer guidance over time. The AAC has been working to put together a panel of exSee

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AAC

PRESIDENT’S PERSPECTIVE

The show must go on this summer

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f you had asked me a year and a half ago what Zoom was, I couldn’t have told you. Now, it seems, online meeting platforms have become part of our everyday lives. There was a learning curve for everyone involved in orchestrating and participating in online meetings. But we adapted to this technology to help us through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, technology is no substitute for the personal connections that are so important among elected officials. There also is a higher level of learning that comes from interacting in person versus on a computer screen. That’s one of the reasons I am looking forward to this summer’s continuing education meetings and the 53rd Annual AAC Summer Conference. Those events were canceled last year. But now that vaccinations are available — and more people are fully vaccinated — we can return, not necessarily to normal, but to a new normal that includes taking precautions as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control. June will be a busy month for our member associations. Seven groups of elected officials will gather to reconnect with their colleagues and to share their expertise with one another. Two groups will meet in July to do the same. Then we all will gather Aug. 18-20 for the much-loved (and much-missed) AAC Annual Conference. The theme for this year’s conference is “The Show Must Go On.” There are some changes this year. AAC Senior Executive Assistant/ Event Manager Anne Baker has worked tirelessly over the last year to streamline the registration process for attendees, as well as for exhibitors and sponsors. I applaud her for taking on that project, and I am proud of how well it has worked.

COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021

While the conference registration process might be new, there is much you will recognize from years’ past: our Southern Fish Fry, the Dinner Dance, and a slate of breakout sessions that are both informative and fun. In 2019, the AAC Risk ManDEBBIE WISE agement staff led an educational AAC Board President; program specifically for jail personRandolph County Circuit Clerk nel. That Jail Track Training, which was so popular two years ago, will return this summer. In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” I am optimistic that this summer marks a turning point. I am not sure when we will be able to fully embrace our prepandemic lives, but I’m ready to take a step in that direction. Step by step, we will get there. Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. I do know this: the show must — and will — go on.

Debbie Wise Debbie Wise Randolph County Circuit Clerk / AAC Board President

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FROM THE GOVERNOR

Successes in the session

he 93rd General Assembly has concluded its business, and I’d like to talk about a few of the success stories from the legislative session. First, I appreciate the leadership of Senate Pro Tem Jimmy Hickey of Texarkana and Speaker Matthew Shepherd of El Dorado. Their steady hand and leadership helped us to navigate through some of the more contentious debates. One bill that created some last-minute controversy was Senate Bill 298, which was known as the Arkansas Sovereignty Act. This bill was designed to push back against the federal government for what many Arkansans believe will be a new round of gun-control measures. I support that message, and I am a defender of the 2nd Amendment. But the bill would have penalized state and local law enforcement officers for cooperating with federal agencies; it also would have jeopardized hundreds of cases pending in federal court. In other words, public safety would be compromised, and the bill was clearly unconstitutional. For those reasons I vetoed the bill. As a result, everyone worked together to draft a new bill that Rep. Jeff Wardlaw and Sen. Missy Irvin sponsored. The new bill sends the same message to Washington that we will not accept unconstitutional burdens on our 2nd Amendment rights. But the bill protects our public safety needs and will not put law enforcement at risk. This was House Bill 1957, and I have signed the bill into law. Now, let me talk about some additional successes in the session. One of our biggest wins was passage of the Revenue Stabilization Act. The act, known as the RSA, was implemented in

the 1940s and requires the state to maintain a balanced budget. Passage of the RSA is an annual exercise in which legislators prioritize spending for the next fiscal year. As part of the RSA this year, our reserve funds continue to build. Hon. ASA We have consistently increased HuTCHINSON our surplus funds from zero when Governor of Arkansas I took office to the current $210 million. And with the new budget adopted in this session of the General Assembly, I expect those reserve funds to grow to more than $700 million. As Sen. Jonathan Dismang said, the state has never been in better financial condition. Our reserve funds are like a long-term savings account that allows us to weather unexpected economic setbacks. Other bills we passed include a $2,000 increase in the median salary for schoolteachers; a reduction in the number of years of service for state police officers to retire from 30 years to 28 years; a requirement that Arkansas students take at least one computer science course to graduate; and that every high school employ at least one certified computer science teacher. As you can see, we had a very busy and successful legislative session.

Asa Hutchinson The Honorable Asa Hutchinson Governor of Arkansas

We want to hear from YOU Tell us your good news. Be sure to let us know if an aspect of county government “made news” recently in your county. Or if your county officials or staff get an award, appointment or pat on the back. We want the whole state to know about your successes and accomplishments. Contact Communications Director Christy L. Smith at csmith@arcounties.org.

COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021

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AAC

AG OPINIONS

Entities that enjoy tort immunity under ACA 21-9-301 AG OPINION NO. 2020-016 The AG was requested to determine 1) whether the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA) Public Trust is immune from tort liability under Ark Code §21-9-301; and 2) whether the FCRA’s employees and agents are granted immunity for acts of negligence committed in their official capacities. The AG responded “yes” to both questions. The AG described, in determining whether FCRA receives immunity it must first be determined to constitute a “political subdivision of the state” or an extension of a political subdivision, as provided by the statute. While “political subdivision” has not been defined by the legislature in the context of tort immunity, the AG explained the term has been defined elsewhere in many ways, to include references to local units of government, sometimes including school districts or improvement districts, and public corporations in at least two instances. The Arkansas Supreme Court also offered a definition of “political subdivision” in the context of ACA 21-9-301 to be: “Political subdivisions have been defined as that they embrace a certain territory and its inhabitants, organized for the public advantage, and not in the interest of particular individuals or classes; that their chief design is the exercise of governmental functions; and that to the electors residing within each is, to some extent, committed the power of local government, to be wielded either mediately or immediately within their territory for the peculiar benefit of the people there residing.” The AG explained the factors that weigh in favor of the FCRA being considered a political subdivision are that it encompasses specific territory, it exercises governmental functions, it was created in the public interest and to serve a public purpose, and the state of Arkansas has statutorily endorsed the FCRA. If such immunity is found for the FCRA the AG said the employees and agents would likewise be extended immunity. AG OPINION NO. 2004-101 The AG was asked to determine whether Enola-Mt. Vernon Water Authority qualifies for tort immunity as provided in ACA 21-9-301 for “all other political subdivisions of the state” and whether this is affected by the passage of Act 1330 of 2003, “The Water Authority Act,” due to the description changing to a “public body politic and governmental entity.” The AG answered, the Enola-Mt. Vernon Water Authority likely benefits from limited immunity under ACA 21-9-301. Furthermore, the AG explained Act 1330 only standardized the language describing references to water authorities, which the AG believes was not intended to deny the limited liability COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021

to water authorities such as Enola-Mt. Vernon Water Authority. Furthermore, the AG believes it is likely that officers and employees of this water Authority would be granted qualified immunity against actions in federal court alleging violations of federal law.

Dorothy Spector AAC Law Clerk

AG OPINION NO. 2004-092 The AG was asked to determine: “if a property owner has suffered damage to their home due to the negligence of a municipal wastewater utility facility, does such facility possess immunity from a civil action instituted by the property owner in a state or federal court?” If so, is there another forum that has the authority to hear such an action. The AG determined “yes,” unless the city carried liability insurance. The AG explained the statute applies in situations involving negligence claims and has an express exception to tort immunity when a claim is covered by liability insurance. The AG also determined, the answer to the second part of the question is “no,” there is not another forum that has the authority to hear such an action, as the State Claims Commission is authorized to hear only claims against the state and its agencies. AG OPINION NO. 2002-193 The AG was asked to determine whether Woodruff County Nursing Home, a tax exempt, 132-bed skilled nursing facility owned by the county and managed by a board of directors appointed by the county judge and approved by the quorum court, qualifies for sovereign immunity? The AG determined no, given that “sovereign immunity” applies only to the state and not to its political subdivisions and agents. Yet, the nursing home may qualify for statutory immunity granted to counties under ACA 21-9-301 or under the common-law protection of charitable immunity. The AG describes counties are authorized to “acquire, own, construct, reconstruct, extend, equip, improve, maintain, operate, sell, lease, contract concerning, or otherwise deal in or dispose of any land, building, improvements, or facilities of any and every nature whatever that can be used for hospitals, nursing homes, rest homes, or related facilities…” (ACA 14-265-103). The AG said that simply because Woodruff County Nursing Home is formed by county government and serving a public purpose See

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AAC

RESEARCH CORNER

Examining publication requirements

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By Shelby Morrow and Dylan Lofton AAC Law Clerks

any functions of government require notice to be published in a legal newspaper of general circulation. Actions ranging from property foreclosure to new county ordinances require publication of notice. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure public notices are “given wide and general publicity.” Continental Life Ins. Co. v. Mahoney, 49 S.W.2d 371, 373, 185 Ark. 748, 748 (1932). According to the Pew Research Center, over the past 20 years, total annual Sunday newspaper circulation has dropped from around 59.5 million to 30.8 million nationally. Several Arkansas counties may no longer have a newspaper of general circulation. The Arkansas Democrat Gazette has previously reported that their daily print circulation fell 21 percent from 2000 to 2014, with around 139,600 daily print copies circulating in 2014. Now, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette’s focus has shifted to Sunday circulation, with the total Sunday press run falling to about 51,000 copies. The Arkansas Democrat Gazette has noted that most of their actual circulation is digital. Additionally, circulation of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette’s Sunday print edition varies, from urban areas receiving heavier circulation, and rural areas receiving limited copies. Attorneys for banks in foreclosures and other clients before the Circuit Court in Arkansas must determine whether there actually is a legal newspaper providing “wide and general publicity” within the various counties and jurisdictions. Per A.C.A. § 16-13-101, in the absence of a legal newspaper, publication is required to be made by “posting five (5) written or printed notices in five (5) of the most public places in the county.” Likewise, government officials must determine the existence or lack of existence of a legal newspaper throughout Arkansas and within the various counties and jurisdictions. Per A.C.A. § 14-14-104, in the absence of a legal newspaper, publication is to be accomplished by posting notice in three public places designated by ordinance.

What is a Legal Newspaper?

A.C.A. § 16-3-105 defines a legal newspaper eligible to publish legal notices as: “... a publication bearing a fixed title or name, published at a fixed place of business, regularly issued at fixed intervals as frequently as one (1) time each week and having a second-class mailing privilege, and being not less than four (4) pages of five (5) columns each.” Further, the newspaper must have been published at regu14

lar intervals for at least one year and at least 50 percent of its subscribers must pay for the publication for six months. This statute also requires the newspaper’s primary function to be: “... to inform, instruct, enlighten, and entertain, and to be an intangible service to which the general public as a whole resorts for intelligence of passing events of a political, religious, commercial, or social nature, for local and general current happenings, editorial comments, announcements, miscellaneous reading matter, advertisements, and other notices.” A newspaper’s primary function has been considered in Arkansas Attorney General Opinions considering whether particular newspapers or publications are legal newspapers. One opinion is specific on this requirement. It was asked whether a specific newspaper qualified to carry legal notices. The Attorney General interpreted A.C.A. § 16-3-105 as a list of requirements, not a balancing test. AG Opinion No. 90-134 (June 8, 1990) used the test for general circulation adopted in Continental Life Insurance Company v. Mahoney, which focuses “not necessarily [on] the number of subscribers a publication has in a certain geographic region, but rather, whether that publication regularly carries the record of events occurring of general interest to the public as a whole.”

What is a Newspaper of General Circulation?

General circulation does not apply to the number and county-wide distribution of subscribers; rather, “the primary consideration is whether the newspaper contains information of general interest.” A newspaper without subscribers is not one of general circulation. However, a newspaper with limited subscribers can be of general circulation if it is “not of special or limited character but circulated among all classes and . . . not confined to a particular class or calling in the community.”

Solutions Adopted by the General Assembly

Act 592 of 2015, Arkansas Treasure Hunt: The Arkansas Auditor of State is entrusted with the duty to return unclaimed property to the owner or legal heir. The Arkansas Treasure Hunt Service allows one to search the Auditor’s website for unclaimed property. The Unclaimed Property Act governs the disposition and return of unclaimed property. Notice and the publication of lists for abandoned or unclaimed property is addressed under A.C.A § 18-28-209. In 2015, the law was amended. Under Act 592 of 2015, which originated as HB1665, the Auditor of State is required to publish only a brief notice for abandoned property in a newsCOUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021


AAC paper of general circulation in every county by Nov. 30 of the year after receiving the property (rather than the previous voluminous notice). The brief notice must contain a statement that the held property is presumed abandoned and in the Auditor of State’s custody. The notice must explain that information about the particular property can be found by consulting the Auditor of State’s website and phone number, or on notice posted at the county courthouse. These statements are required to include the Auditor of State’s internet address and office telephone number. State Auditor Andrea Lea said her office has determined one of the most efficient ways to communicate with Arkansans and reunite them with their unclaimed property is online and through social media. Act 592 allows the office to use their advertising dollars on both traditional publication and online media. Almost everyone has a phone in their hands. They have found direct communication is the best method rather than attempting to communicate through a third party. “With newspapers, people often have to pay to get the information. For the sake of being efficient and effective in returning unclaimed property, we want to avoid as many barriers as possible,” Lea said. HB1665 received 31 votes in the Senate and 93 in the House before becoming Act 592. Act 514 of 2017, Delinquent minerals: In 2017, Act 514 became law, addressing notice procedures for delinquent property taxes owed on mineral interests. Originating as SB114 and sponsored by Sen. Bart Hester and Rep. (now Senator) Kim Hammer, Act 514 requires a county collector to “prepare a list of the delinquent taxes on mineral interests.” The county collector is required to publish notice at the county courthouse and through the county website in their county. The collector is additionally required to provide the list to the Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC) before the county collector may begin collecting the delinquent taxes. The AAC is required to have a publicly accessible website “dedicated to publishing notice of delinquent taxes on mineral interest …” Upon receiving the delinquent mineral interest tax list sent by a county collector, the AAC must publish the list on their website (www.artransparency.gov) in the format described in A.C.A. § 26-36-213(a)(1)(C), within 7 days. Under Act 514, the county collector must publish notice in a newspaper of general circulation in the county or district for which the list is being published. If the county or district lacks such a newspaper, the notice must be “in the nearest newspaper having general circulation in the county or district for which the list is being published.” The notice must include the website or websites where the delinquent mineral interest tax list may be found. “SB114 was designed to clarify and modernize notice procedures for delinquent taxes on mineral interests,” said Sen. Hester. “In an increasingly digital and online world, COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021

RESEARCH CORNER

procedures for the publication of notice need to be updated. SB114 was a critical step in doing just that, by providing a modernized approach for Arkansas, I look forward to exploring more options for publication in future legislation.” SB114 received 80 votes in the House and 32 votes in the Senate before becoming law. Act 1075 of 2019, Online bidding and publication of notice for public works construction projects: Act 1075 was designed partially to address online advertisements of notices for government units intending to receive bids. Act 1075 began as SB409, sponsored by Sen. Scott Flippo, Sen. Jimmy Hickey, Jr., and Rep. Marcus Richmond. Under Act 1075, public agencies may contract with a “vendor” to provide online advertisements of notices that show a public agency’s intention to receive bids. Selected vendors must maintain on their website a clearly designated and accessible area for public notices. Additionally, vendors are required to provide a free and public view of advertisements of a notice of intention to receive bids. Vendors cannot provide these services until the public agency has complied with additional requirements under Act 1075. There are differing notice requirements for cities, counties, and towns compared to school districts. School districts face fewer, yet very similar, requirements under A.C.A. § 22-9-906. SB409 passed the Senate with 34 votes and was approved by the House with 95 votes. Act 954 of 2021, Transparency on publication costs by newspapers: Despite declining newspaper circulation, newspapers have increased the cost of publication of legal notices. Sponsored by Sen. Scott Flippo and Rep. Austin McCollum, SB610 became law as Act 954. In Arkansas, a publication in a newspaper required to be made by a county or municipality must include a statement identifying the county or municipality and the accompanying office responsible for the payment of the publication. Additionally, the publication must disclose the amount paid for the publication. This statement is to provide transparency, and there are specific font requirements. This information will inform the citizenry of the costs versus the benefits of publication of the particular notice by virtue of a newspaper in Arkansas. SB610 was approved by the Senate with 34 votes and passed by the House with 85 votes.

Conclusion

The law for legal notice in Arkansas is evolving with recent changes by the General Assembly. Many areas of Arkansas face challenges with the current use of newspapers for publication of notice. As the world becomes increasingly digital and internet driven, further action is necessary to ensure sufficient legal notices are “given wide and general publicity” and reach all parts of our state, urban and rural. 15


AAC

SEEMS TO ME... Were you born a Ramblin’ Man?

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he lyrics of the 1973 hit song by the Allman Brothers Band, “Ramblin’ Man” go something like this: Lord, I was born a ramblin’ man. Tryin’ to make a livin’ and doin’ the best I can. And when it’s time for leavin’, I hope you’ll understand That I was born a ramblin’ man.

Were you born a ramblin’ man? Tryin’ to get through your presentations the best you can? Well, when this County Lines article is over, I hope you’ll understand why you don’t want to be a ramblin’ man — or woman. No doubt you have been in a situation where someone’s telling a story, and he goes on for so long you can’t even remember what the story is about. Or you’re in a meeting where someone gets a question, and her response is so longwinded you have no idea what she just said. Everything you say, and the way you say it, becomes evidence of your competence, or lack of it. Have you ever walked away from a meeting thinking things like: What was I thinking? Why did I run on like that? Or, I can’t believe I didn’t know when to stop talking! It’s not uncommon for people to struggle to be clear, succinct, and direct in their communication. The symptoms usually sound something like this: “I started talking, and then I kept talking, and then I lost my point, and then I didn’t know what to do so I kept talking and didn’t know how to stop. And then I felt like an idiot.” We all know that elected officials are called on many times to make presentations on various matters — either during election cycles or in the regular course of an official’s duties. Are you one of those that cannot get to the point? Why can’t you be more concise? The primary reason is a lack of preparation and practice. You might know the subject like the back of your hand but that doesn’t mean you’re ready to express it clearly and concisely out loud. If you are guilty of making that assumption, you are falling into a trap and a rookie mistake. I’ve been making county government presentations for over 40 years, and I feel like I know and understand most aspects of county government. Yet, I don’t dare make a scheduled presentation without proper preparation. If I ever reach that point of thinking I don’t need to prepare, I’ll be heading to the house because I won’t be properly doing my job. In order to be more concise: • Be prepared. Anyone can drone on forever and a day. It takes forethought to be concise and to the point. • Consider your audience. What do they already 16

know? Give them what is necessary for them to do their job effectively. Stick to those points without getting into needless detail. • Think before speaking. Take a breath and consider the main point. State that point, then elaboEddie A. Jones rate if necessary. If you just open County Consultant your mouth and start talking you’re bound to arrive at confusion. • Be deliberate. Control the pace of your delivery. Take your time and speak in short phrases. It gives you time to consider what you’re about to say, and your listeners time to process what you just said. Don’t talk too fast. If you want to get your point across, you need to get to the point. Succinct communication requires structure and thought and starts with thinking about what you are planning to communicate, to whom and what your desired outcome is. Succinct — “clearly expressed.” All of us know that traveling today’s highway and road system can be extremely difficult without some type of GPS. If you take a wrong turn, your navigation system tells you how to get back on track. However, to do that your GPS has to know where you’re going. Whether you’re traveling or preparing a presentation, without knowing your destination and having a plan you will find yourself going in circles. To avoid rambling when speaking and to elevate your credibility, begin with the end in mind. What is the purpose of your presentation? What do you want your audience to learn? It’s easier to align your message and talking points when your objectives are clear. Even if you get distracted or veer off course when speaking, you can steer your presentation back on track when you know your destination. Every presentation should have a “key takeaway.” Your presentation may have multiple points, but what is the talk really about? Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Are you trying to say too much for your audience to understand, remember, and repeat? Your presentation will not have the desired impact if you leave with a confused audience. Your listening crowd must be able to relate to you as the presenter. Dazzle your audience with your smile and make them laugh with your stories. But your talking points and supporting examples must point back and relate to your core message. If the audience doesn’t understand the point of your presentation, nothing will stick. Make your message stick by creating a memorable moCOUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021


AAC ment. Repeat a catchphrase; use a visual or a signature gesture that stays with your audience. When preparing, always ask yourself, “What do I want my audience to remember after my talk?” Most of the time Leonardo da Vinci had it right, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” I fully understand the challenge of concise speaking. Concision is hard because many times I have lots of information to convey in a limited time. Most professionals are busy, meaning you must get your point across quickly and efficiently. Another reason it’s tough to be concise is more psychological: nervousness. The vast majority of people are nervous about public speaking. When you’re nervous, you speak faster and your ideas are more disorganized. A nervous, disorganized speaker will take about four times more words to express what a calm and focused speaker will use. The good news is that concise speaking is a skill that can be learned and improved. Concise speaking makes a huge difference in the quality of your presentations. To keep from rambling and make your presentation concise you will: • Hone in on the important. If you give your audience too much information you make it too hard for them to know what is most important. But when you speak concisely, they will have an easier time separating the wheat from the chaff or the relevant from the fluff. You can manage their attention and focus better. • Be memorable. It is fundamentally easier to remember a simple message than a complicated one — and one that has been bolstered with humor and examples. • Be persuasive. Concise speaking increases what is called process fluency, or how easy it is for the brain to process a message. • Speak slowly. If your presentation can be expressed in fewer words, you have the freedom to speak more slowly in the same amount of time. Speaking slowly has the added benefit of putting more emphasis and emotional expression on your words. • Be professional and competent. A presenter who needs to take 500 words to say what another can say in 200 words demonstrates a lack of expertise, and a lack of familiarity with their subject-matter. Concision in communication indicates that the speaker has so much familiarity with the topic that they have developed mental shortcuts and patterns to fully understand it. Remember the genius physicist Einstein? He said, “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” To avoid rambling when you’re nervous about public speaking — or even if you’re not nervous — follow a presentation outline to keep you on task. Developing the outline is not that difficult but developing the presentation based on that outline COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021

SEEMS TO ME...

is more difficult and requires preparation and practice. Here is a very good presentation outline: • • • • •

Impressive Introduction First Talking Point with Supporting Example(s) Second Talking Point with Supporting Example(s) Third Talking Point with Supporting Example(s) Compelling Conclusion

Start strong. Making a strong first impression on the audience can leave a lasting memory because you get their attention at the very beginning. And if you don’t get it, then you’ll probably never get it. If you are taking the time to prepare and present, surely you want the audience to have a good impression and remember. Notice I listed three talking points in the presentation outline. Audiences often remember only up to three talking points and supporting examples. This is the Rule of Three. Remember all those three-point sermons your church minister presents? Yep, the Rule of Three because we have apparently told ourselves that’s all we can remember. Just like the GPS that requires a destination, we need to know exactly how our presentation will end. Your conclusion should be compelling. It is the climax. And your conclusion should tie back to the beginning — like completing a circle. I teach an adult Sunday School Class and, as you know, I make numerous county government presentations. I always try to make that circle and tie the ending to the beginning, which is the theme or topic being taught or discussed. A perfect example of what I’m talking about is Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous I Have a Dream speech where he begins and ends with his main theme: freedom. In the beginning of his speech he said, “I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” Making the full circle and closing the loop, Dr. King concluded with that famous last sentence: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” That is what I call a compelling conclusion. Your conclusion must remain focused. Remember that your final words in a presentation leave a lasting impression, and you want that last impression to be a good impression. Always end with excellence. The ability to say much with fewer words is valuable. It takes practice and some experience, but it’s a powerful skill. Being concise enables you to speak with clarity, confidence and gives you credibility. People will seek out, anticipate, and value your contribution. The next time you find yourself starting to ramble, remember — “Ramblin’ Man was a hit song, but becoming a rambling speaker can drop you to the bottom of the charts almost instantly. And lest I forget, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart said, “To talk well and eloquently is a very great art, but an equally great one is to know the right moment to stop.” 17


AAC

GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS

Overview of the 93rd General Assembly

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ormally I would start this column by saying the The last item the legislature will 93rd General Assembly has adjourned sine die likely address after the extended reon blank date, but not this year. This year is un- cess is how to spend money coming like any other, and I am sure everyone reading from the federal government. The this has used that phrase a time or two over the last 15 months. most recent COVID-19 relief bill The 93rd General assembly is in recess. Actually, they are call- was signed into law by President Joe ing it an extended recess. I am sick of hearing COVID-19 Biden March 11 after party line votes Josh Curtis excuses, but once again COVID-19 is the reason the legisla- in both chambers. It is called the Governmental Affairs ture cannot adjourn sine die. Under Arkansas law, the General American Rescue Plan (APR) Act of Director Assembly redistricts all four congressional districts after each 2021. This spending bill sends $585 decennial census. The U.S. Census Bureau announced that million directly to counties in Arkandue to “COVID-19 related delays and prioritizing the delivery sas. At this time, it is unclear how this money can be spent. Adof the apportionment results,” the Bureau will not be able to ditionally, the state will receive $1.8 billion for COVID relief. deliver redistricting data until late September. The last time the state received COVID relief dollars (from the House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 1015 states when the CARES Act), the legislature extended recess begins and didn’t have as much say as the purpose for reconvening. they wanted in directing It lists three items that may the money. This is the reahe AAC legislative package included 33 be addressed when the legisson they listed COVID-19 lature comes back to town. funding in HCR1015. bills that the AAC’s nine member assoThe No. 1 reason for the The 93rd General Asrecess is congressional redisciations worked on and drafted in the hopes that sembly was a success for tricting. Arkansas increased Arkansas and the counties its population by 3.3 percent in Arkansas. There has been they would become law. Of those 33 bills, the over the last 10 years. This much focus on controversial means the House and SenAAC legislative team secured the passage of 31. issues such as guns, aborate must divide 3,011,524 tion, and pushing back Arkansans into four separate against the federal governcongressional districts. That’s ment. These are the topics about 750,000 per district. about which legislators debate most passionately. Therefore, One district — the Northwest corner of the state — has increased its population by over 70,000 since the last census. This they get more media coverage than other bills, including those means that district must lose population. In contrast one district related to county government. Let me share some of our suclost over 50,000, so it needs to gain population. The two dis- cesses. The AAC legislative package included 33 bills that the tricts that lost population are the largest geographically, and the AAC’s nine member associations worked on and drafted in two that gained have a total of 13 counties. I have a feeling that the hopes that they would become law. Of those 33 bills, the the maps the legislature ultimately approves will look drastically AAC legislative team secured the passage of 31. Of course, we different than they do today. The other two items listed in HCR1015 deal with the CO- would have liked to have pitched a perfect game but a 15 to VID-19 pandemic. The legislature may reconvene to consider nothing no-hitter is pretty dang good. These new Acts range from cleanup language that had been legislation related to the COVID-19 public health emergency. identified in the interim to cutting red tape to allow our counOne thing you saw this session was codifying executive orders. ties to operate faster and more efficiently, to securing fundThe Governor signed many executive orders during the public health emergency, some the legislative branch agreed with and ing mechanisms for law enforcement equipment. A couple of some they didn’t. One executive order they liked was the ex- cleanup bills we navigated through the legislative process were panded use of telemedicine, which they codified so it doesn’t HB1328 and HB1634. Amendment 95, which voters passed go away when the emergency is lifted. One they didn’t like in 2016, changed county officials terms from two to four was the mask mandate; they passed a law limiting the Gov- years. Several codes still referenced two-year terms. HB1328 ernor’s power during an emergency. Another executive order amended those codes to reflect the changes Amendment 95 protected businesses from the liability of COVID-19, which enacted. HB1634 amended a law that was put on the books the business community lobbied for and got signed into law. back in 1929, mandating county collectors to post notice in

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newspapers before opening their tax books. Now, instead of posting in a newspaper, county collectors can send tax statements directly to the person or entity owing taxes. These are just two examples of many codes that required some attention so the law would be clear, and we could answer questions confidently in the future. The County Judges Association of Arkansas didn’t have as many big issues to tackle this session, but they had a rather large number of bills in their package. SB305, sponsored by Sen. Ronald Caldwell and Rep. Mike Holcomb, is now Act 440. Act 440 increases the procurement bidding threshold for construction from $35,000 to $50,000. SB456 by Sen. Gary Stubblefield and Rep. Lanny Fite is now Act 435. This act increases procurement bidding thresholds for commodities from $20,000 to $35,000 and provides for adjusting thresholds based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) at five-year intervals. HB1699 by Rep. Danny Watson and Sen. Jonathan Dismang is now Act 517. This act removes the duplicative reporting requirement for a county or municipality receiving a distribution of highway revenue of $2 million or more. These bills came from ideas the judges had and issues they have experienced. Most of you know that construction costs have gone through the roof over the last few years, and it’s getting harder and harder to find enough willing contractors to bid jobs in rural Arkansas. These bills will help counties eliminate wasteful cost and allow government to act more quickly. A few of the AAC package bills will help counties plan for the future. Counties plan by projecting revenue, which can sometimes be difficult because you never know when a disaster or another pandemic will come around. SB528, sponsored by Sen. Bill Sample and Rep. Les Warren, is now Act 776. This act allows the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) to send a report of businesses to counties and cities that are receiving or will receive a tax credit. These tax credits are great economic development recruiting tools but sometimes counties are out of the loop and need to plan for the revenue impact. The reports keep confidential information intact to protect these businesses. Another bill that will help our counties in the future is HB1860, sponsored by Rep. Lanny Fite and Sen. Gary Stubblefield. Now Act 752, this new law allows counties to appropriate 100 percent of federal assistance dollars. Counties will be able to appropriate 100 percent of the American Rescue Plan money they are currently receiving. We are still waiting on an official Attorney General’s opinion regarding when these bills become law. Bills that have emergency clauses go into effect as soon as the Governor signs them, and appropriation bills become law at the beginning of the next fiscal year. Our conservative guess for all the other bills to become law will be by the first of August. This was an unconventional session to say the least, but your AAC team navigated the strange circumstances in the marble halls of the state Capitol.


AAC

LEGAL CORNER

Elections reform legislation a hot topic for 93rd General Assembly

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he 93rd General Assembly has entered a long recess until redistricting legislation can be taken up this fall due to delayed census information from the federal government. There were a handful of hot topics this session, including law enforcement reform and second amendment rights, but maybe none more popular than elections reform. Since few if any state legislators have ever worked to conduct an election, it can be difficult trying to balance the transparency and efficiency in elections lawmakers seek with the mechanics of running an election and the constitutional protections afforded all eligible voters. Some notable Acts that passed and will become law are discussed below.

not apply to poll watchers during elections.

Act 128 — Rep. Andrew Collins, Sen. Breanne Davis; County Board of Election Commissioners are now required to publish sample ballots on the Secretary of State’s website 20 days before primary or general elections and 10 days before all other elections. According to testimony by the Secretary of State’s Office, over 50 counties are already doing this.

Act 736 — Rep. Mark Lowery, Sen. Kim Hammer; This Act contains several “technical corrections” as well as some substantive changes. It lowers the number of ballots a person can possess from 10 to four, with possession of more than four creating a rebuttable presumption of intent to defraud. It requires the State Board of Election Commissioners to create and approve and county elections officials to use a uniform voter statement and prohibits county clerks or other elections officials from distributing unsolicited absentee ballots or applications. County clerks must provide the county board of election commissioners a daily count of absentee applications and ballots received, either weekly or as requested by the board. The Act sets forth rules for access to documents contained in the absentee inner ballot, including prohibiting access to the county clerk unless granted by the county board of election commissioners. It mandates how absentee ballots returned by bearer should be verified and also prohibits voter statements from being made available to the public prior to the day after the delivery of unofficial election results to the Secretary of State.

Act 249 — Rep. Mark Lowery, Sen. Alan Clark; Currently, Arkansas Voter ID law allows a voter to execute a sworn statement identifying themself rather than providing a copy of their state-issued ID. This law removes that option and requires a copy of state-issued photo ID. Act 349 — Rep. Justin Boyd, Sen. Bob Ballinger; Seeking uniformity in candidate filing periods, this Act sets the start of the November school board election filing period 90 days before the election. It also removes a $3 “ballot fee” that existed for certain community college candidates. Act 610 — Sen. Jason Rapert, Rep. Spencer Hawks; This is a lengthy Act that makes numerous changes, with a few notable ones. First, it sets the annual school election in odd-numbered years for either the second Tuesday in May or the second Tuesday in November. It also sets forth four dates each year on which nearly all special elections can be held: For presidential election years – the second Tuesday of March, May, August or November; and for all other years – the second Tuesday of February, May, August or November. Act 727 — Sen. Kim Hammer, Rep. Mark Lowery; This Act amends the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to add an exemption to “public records.” Ballots, other than sample ballots, unless otherwise ordered by a court of law, are not considered public records under FOIA. This exemption does 20

Act 728 — Sen. Kim Hammer, Rep. Karilyn Brown; This law prohibits a person from entering or reLINDSEY FRENCH General Counsel maining in an area within 100 feet of the primary entrance to a building used as a polling place, except for those entering or leaving for a lawful purpose. The purpose of this Act is to prevent loitering near the entrance to a polling place.

Act 973 — Sen. Kim Hammer, Rep. Jack Ladyman; This law changes the deadline to obtain and return absentee ballots in person at the clerk’s office to no later than close of business Friday before election day, rather than on election day. There is an exception for authorized agents of voters with health emergencies, who may still request absentee ballots by 1:30 p.m. on the day of the election and return them by 7:30 p.m. on election day. Act 974 — Sen. Kim Hammer, Rep. Jack Ladyman; This Act bars a person convicted of certain felony or misdemeanor election violations from serving as an election official in subsequent elections. It also creates a hotline through the Attorney COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021


AAC General’s Office for citizens to report alleged elections violations. The Attorney General’s Office will report its submissions and findings to the Legislative Joint Performance Review Committee, which will have the authority to recommend that the State Board of Election Commissioners investigate and/or take remedial actions as needed. In cases of severe violations, the Board can decertify an election official or step in to conduct an election if the violations are widespread. Act 980 — Rep. Nicole Clowney, Sen. Breanne Davis; It creates a definition of “secured voter” including certain victims of domestic violence who may register with the county clerk to have their address of record exempt from public information.

Opinions does not signify it qualifies for sovereign immunity. This is because sovereign immunity only applies to state government and not local government. The AG cites Parish v. Pitts, 244 Ark. 1239, 1250-51, 429 S.W.2d 45 (1968).

AG OPINION NO. 2006-160 The AG was asked to answer whether the Faulkner County Public Facilities Board enjoys “sovereign immunity from law suits that cities of the second class and county governments have?” The AG responded by correcting “sovereign immunity” to statutory immunity as referred to in ACA 21-9-301, and by answering “yes” to the question.

LEGAL CORNER

The Secretary of State shall promulgate rules for the implementation of this process. Act 1022 — Sen. Alan Clark, Rep. Spencer Hawks; This law requires the county board of election commissioners to prepare a report of both provisional and rejected ballots cast in the county for each election, broken down by early voting, election day voting, the number of provisional ballots rejected or included, and the reason for each rejected ballot. The report is to be submitted to the Secretary of State within 30 days after each election, and within 60 days the State Board of Election Commissioners shall compile the information and make the reports publicly available.

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AG OPINION NO. 2003-266 The AG was asked to answer whether the Carroll and Madison Library System Administrative office enjoys tort immunity as the regional headquarters for six libraries. The AG explains it is his understanding this library system was created by an Interlocal Cooperation Agreement between Carroll County and Madison County. If so, the AG believes the board and its officers and employees are likely entitled to immunity under ACA 21-9-301. However, the AG notes this is only for situations of tort liability and that in cases of federal law and federal causes of action it will be a different “qualified” immunity that will apply.

Fallen officers honored during ceremony at state Capitol As part of National Police Week, observed this year from May 9-15, the Arkansas Sheriffs Association Honor Guard (left) participated in a May 14 ceremony honoring fallen law enforcement officers at the state Capitol. The names of three officers whose watch ended in 2020 were added to the wall of the Arkansas Law Enforcement Memorial — Det. Kevin Dwaine Collins of the Pine Bluff Police Department, Officer Travis Cental Wallace of the Helena-West Helena Police Department, and Sgt. James Lawrence Dancy of the North Little Rock Police Department. In addition, the name of a “Hero from the Past” — Constable Ed Thomas Allen of Rogers, who was killed in 1924 — was added to the wall. Dignitaries such as Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Department of Public Safety Director Jami Cook spoke about the importance of honoring our law enforcement officers and their families. — Photo by Christy L. Smith

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AAC

LITIGATION LESSONS

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Opioid litigation update

s you know, all 75 Arkansas counties are engaged in litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors, seeking compensation to implement solutions to the Arkansas opioid epidemic. Several of the defendants have filed bankruptcy in response to litigation across the country, and we are pursuing the counties’ claims in those bankruptcy proceedings. Several of the defendants are engaged in national settlement discussions. The unity of Arkansas governments has been beneficial in these bankruptcy proceedings and settlement discussions. Although nothing is final at the time of this writing, it is likely that there will be funds flowing to government plaintiffs in the future, and it is time to begin thinking about local solutions to the local problem of the Arkansas opioid epidemic. Courts approving bankruptcy plans and settlements will certainly require that settlement funds be spent to remediate the opioid epidemic — not for any other purpose. Settlement funds may flow directly to governments, or governments may create boards/commissions to receive and disburse funds in accordance with approved purposes. Regardless of the mechanics of how the funds flow, Arkansas counties will have an important voice in advising and deciding how funds are allocated and spent, to do what we can to help our communities and families recover from the opioid epidemic. Although terms are not final, we can predict an outline of the types of expenditures and programs that will be considered “approved purposes” for funds from opioid litigation. Below is a list of such approved purposes for your consideration. This list is taken from the proposed MOU among the state, counties, and cities of Arkansas, which I have written about recently. County leaders will need to make decisions about how to seek/invest funds for resources and programs like these listed below. There is not enough money in the world for everyone to invest as much money as they would like in every possible program — everyone will have to make hard decisions. If you are on the front lines of the Arkansas opioid epidemic, as many of you are, please begin to think about what types of programs and investments make the most sense for your community. Hopefully soon, we will seek that input from you and begin to fund solutions that are desperately needed in Arkansas communities. Potential Approved Purposes for Abating the Arkansas Opioid Epidemic: • Expand the availability of treatment for individuals affected by substance use disorders; • Develop, promote and provide evidence-based substance use prevention strategies; • Provide substance use avoidance and awareness education; • Decrease the oversupply of licit and illicit opioids; 22

• Support recovery from addiction services performed by qualified and appropriately licensed providers; • Support treatment of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) and any co-occurring Substance Colin Jorgensen Use Disorder or Mental Risk Management Health (SUD/MH) issues; Litigation Counsel • Support people in treatment for and recovery from OUD and any co-occurring SUD/MH issues; • Provide connections to care for people who have – or are at risk of developing – OUD and any co-occurring SUD/MH issues; • Address the needs of persons with OUD and any co-occurring SUD/MH issues who are involved – or are at risk of becoming involved – in the criminal justice system; • Address the needs of pregnant or parenting women with OUD and any co-occurring SUD/MH issues, and the needs of their families, including babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome; • Support efforts to prevent over-prescribing and ensure appropriate prescribing and dispensing of opioids; • Support efforts to discourage or prevent the misuse of opioids; • Support efforts to prevent or reduce overdose deaths or other opioid-related harms; • Support law enforcement expenditures relating to the opioid epidemic; • Educate law enforcement or other first responders regarding appropriate practices and precautions when dealing with fentanyl or other drugs; • Support efforts to provide leadership, planning, and coordination to abate the opioid epidemic; • Provide funding for staff training or networking programs and services to improve the capability of government, community, and not-for-profit entities to abate the opioid crisis; • Support infrastructure and staffing for collaborative cross-system coordination to prevent opioid misuse, prevent overdoses, and treat those with OUD and any co-occurring SUD/MH issues, or implement other strategies to abate the opioid epidemic described in this opioid abatement strategy list (e.g., health care, primary care, pharmacies, prescription drug monitoring programs, etc.); and • Support opioid abatement research. COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021


AAC

WELLNESS & SAFETY

What is normal after COVID-19?

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e have vaccines. Restrictions have been and continue to be lifted. We are returning to normal. Or are we? It seems like our thoughts and emotions are all over the page. I got my vaccine, but why do I still feel anxious? Do I need to continue to wear a mask when so many are not? I spent the last year developing all these habits to keep me safe. How do I just quit? I want to live in a post-COVID world, but am I ready? There is no doubt that our mental health has taken a hit over the last year or more. If you ever studied psychology at all, you may have heard of Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. For the last year we have been stuck in the first two levels of that pyramid, which address our basic needs of food, water, warmth, rest, safety, and security. I visited with Maggie Young and Allison Atkinson from Southwest EAP (SWEAP) about mental health concerns as society reopens. One of the first things they said was that when you transition back to that hierarchy of needs, many of us pushed aside a lot of anxiety during the last year as we tried to survive this unknown territory. Now that some amount of “normalcy” is returning, that anxiety that we pushed aside is returning, and it can feel overwhelming. As our county offices move forward in this reopening process, whatever that looks like in your county, there is one thing that our SWEAP friends told me that we must remember. Not one of your coworkers, citizens that come into your offices, nor any friend, family member, or person you meet on the street has had the same experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have lost friends and family to the disease, some have not. Some got the virus and had terrible symptoms that may have put them in the hospital. Some got the virus and had few or no symptoms at all. Some were not able to see family in longterm care facilities for months on end. Some had babies, surgeries, or other hospital stay unrelated to COVID and were not able to have anyone with them. The scenarios are endless. We must acknowledge that the people with whom we come in contact have a very different “pandemic story” than we do. We can not dismiss that fact. Moving forward, we must lead with compassion. NBC’s Lester Holt ends every Nightly News broadcast with these words, “Take care of yourself and each other.” In looking specifically at our county offices, that is important advice to follow. In our conversation, our SWEAP friends said, “Remember anxiety presents differently in each employee and in each workplace. Every employee’s experience was different over the last year, therefore they are bringing different struggles.” In COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021

an effort to be more aware of our own emotional state and our coworkers, SWEAP says these are some general signs of employees who are struggling: • Withdrawal • Avoiding interpersonal situations • Irritability • Inconsistent work output • Absenteeism

Becky Comet AAC Member Benefits Manager

If you are in a supervisory position, SWEAP suggests remembering that any significant change in performance or behavior may be something to keep an eye on. The more we are talking to and supporting our employees, the more likely we are to notice issues that may become more severe over time. After all, we know our employees best, so we are the best people to look out for them. Another topic I discussed with Maggie and Allison was office COVID policies. They had a couple of recommendations. Whether your policies — mask wearing, temperature checks, time off flexibility, etc. — have remained the same since the beginning of the pandemic or have relaxed recently, make sure that everyone knows the policies and follows them. Consistency in establishing and enforcing policies will help everyone. Those responsible for enforcement must do so across the board. If they do not, it puts the burden and anxiety on the employees. SWEAP has some helpful information available on their website at www.southwesteap.com. Under their “COVID Resource Center” icon I found some enlightening articles on various topics to help us through our maze of emotions during this extraordinary time. For example, “How to Cultivate Resilience in Times of Change” and “Finding the Next Normal” were two of my favorites. They have explanations of why we may feel the way we do and recommendations on moving forward. Check out the articles. You may find some that speak to you more than the ones that spoke to me. If you or anyone in your office is struggling with COVID reopening issues or if you have any mental health matters you would like to discuss, our partners at SWEAP are ready, willing, and exceptionally able to help. They can address a host of issues. Call and ask how your county can receive their services as an additional employee benefit. 501.663.1797 or 1.800.777.1797. 23


AAC

FEATURE

— Photo from CanStockPhoto

The price counties have paid Local governments have adapted and gotten creative during the pandemic.

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Story By Christy L. Smith AAC Communications Director

ounties are on the front lines of providing essential services such as road and bridge maintenance, public safety, and health and human services to residents. This unique position places counties at the forefront of responding in emergency situations. The last 18 months have been no exception, as a virus outbreak overseas became a pandemic that extended its reach around the world. COVID-19 thrust counties into uncharted waters. Anticipated increases in demand on local government services, increasing costs, and an uncertain economic outlook, forced counties across the country to institute some sort of austerity measures. Arkansas counties were no exception. The Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC) conducted an informal poll of the state’s 75 counties in May 2020, and about a quarter of them were preparing for what many experts thought would be dire economic circumstances. Craighead County Judge Marvin Day said his county postponed capital improvement projects, such as a courtroom expansion, to save money. And 120 of the county’s 277 employees took a voluntary furlough. Judge Day said this was 24

done for a couple of reasons: it was a way for the county to save money, and it was a way for employees to maintain their employment with the county but receive federal assistance to cover their salaries. “We did it in anticipation that we might have to permanently lay people off,” Day said. Some counties did lay employees off; some implemented hiring freezes; still others opted to stay the course and wait to see what the actual economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic would be. Another aspect of the counties’ response to the pandemic involved safety measures — both for those working in the courthouse buildings and for residents. As of May 17, 2021, the Arkansas Department of Health reported that over the course of the pandemic, the state had logged nearly 339,000 confirmed and probable cases of COVD-19. The state had nearly 5,800 deaths. According to the Health Department’s numbers the five counties with the most positive COVID-19 cases were Pulaski (33,813), Washington (23,450), Benton (21,893), Sebastian (11,790), and Craighead (11,682). The five counties with the fewest positive cases were Calhoun (307), Lafayette (378), Searcy (393), Montgomery (554), and Woodruff (452). COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021


AAC As positive case numbers climbed, many counties restricted public access to their courthouses, urging citizens not to conduct their business in person. “We locked our courthouse down to the public,” said Yell County Judge Mark Thone. “We asked the public to call in to make appointments.” Like Yell County, many Arkansas counties posted office phone numbers on the courthouse doors. In some cases, officials wearing protective gear came outside to meet residents and to accept paperwork or payments. Some had bank teller-type windows that opened to the outside, and they could conduct business that way. And counties with a robust internet presence encouraged residents to conduct their business online. Many counties kept their courthouses open to the public but implemented strict screening protocols, required masks to be worn, placed hand sanitizer stations in the courthouse, and installed barriers between the staff and residents. In some counties, the number of people allowed in a single office was limited. Circuit and district judges stopped having court. Jails restricted the number of intakes, set up areas where inmates testing positive could be quarantined, and acquired as much Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as they could to protect employees. These restrictions and new protocols meant that county government had to get creative about serving the public. Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde issued his first emergency

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FEATURE

order in May 2020, closing the courthouse to the public. As of the publication of this magazine, the Pulaski County Courthouse will remain closed through June 4, 2021, unless the judge extends his order. “The pandemic stifled or halted many businesses and activities in Pulaski County, our in-person services were no exception,” Pulaski County Treasurer/Collector Debra Buckner said in a press release issued by the county. “My executive staff and I worked tirelessly to find a solution that would allow inperson payments.” That solution came in the form of a partnership from Sept. 1, 2020, through Dec. 18, 2020, with a local bank with branches where payments were accepted at the drive-through. “We were guests of Centennial Bank,” Debbye Wolter, chief administrator in the Pulaski County Treasurer’s office, wrote in an email. “They offered us one drive-through lane at three locations in Pulaski County. Our employees went to the branches and worked at the drive-through with taxpayers. We felt like this was a huge success as our building was closed and this was the only ‘in person’ and cash option at the beginning.” Also in September 2020, the Pulaski County Treasurer’s office worked with CheckFreePay to accept cash payments at 52 See

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COVER STORY

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locations within 10 miles of downtown Little Rock — Kroger, Walmart, Edwards Food Giant, some gas stations, and other sites, according to Wolter. “This was a great option, and we continue to use this method for Pulaski County taxpayers,” Wolter wrote. Centennial Bank will work with the county again this fall, offering a fourth branch, she wrote. When vaccines became available, county governments again adjusted and offered creative solutions. Judge Thone said Yell County and the cities of Dardanelle and Danville collaborated with two pharmacies to offer drivethrough vaccination clinics. During one of those clinics, the Yell County Office of Emergency Management director counted how many vaccinations were administered in one hour — 86. “The most successful part of our COVID response was the drive-through vaccination clinics,” Judge Thone said. “The people were very appreciative of that, particularly the elderly.” And, fortunately, the economic disaster that some experts predicted has not come to fruition. Counties were eligible to apply for a portion of $75 million in CARES Act funding

last year. Some counties used that to help food banks, volunteer fire departments, and other such entities that struggled to meet the extra demand on their services during the height of the pandemic. Counties also are receiving money under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) of 2021, the spending guidelines of which are being laid out. Plus, Judge Day in Craighead County said sales tax revenues just did not drop as expected. Craighead County experienced not only the strain of the pandemic, but also a devastating tornado and theft of money by a county official. However, Judge Day said those things “really strengthened our team because we had to adjust, and we were all pulling together to make things better. There are just really a lot of blessings to be told on that front. We came out strong financially” because of the initial cost-saving measures the county took. Still, he said, the county has concerns about employers who are having trouble finding people to work. “We are cautiously optimistic going forward and going forward we are watching our sales tax numbers very closely,” Judge Day said.

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AAC

FEATURE

Following the Arkansas Quilt Trail

Twist on time-honored tradition connecting counties, attracting visitors Story By Holland Doran AAC Communications Coordinator

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ost southerners can recognize a quilt. Many have received them as colorful, cozy gifts from a grandmother or loved one that honors the past or tells a story. The art of making quilts from fabric is centuries old. Today, however, not all quilts can be found resting on a chair or folded in a chest. They are taking the form of paintings on wood canvases, which are then placed on barns, historic buildings, and other significant places, creating a patchwork of local history through Arkansas’ counties. These roadside works of art are part of Arkansas Quilt Trails network, which is part of a growing national trend to share history and create sight-seeing destinations through painted quilts. Stone County resident and Arkansas Trails Volunteer Coordinator Renee Carr began working to get Arkansas counties involved by enlisting volunteers across the state. Thirty-four counties now have a volunteer who oversees their county’s program. “It’s a very grassroots organization that relies on people that take an interest in their county and want to see this as something they can be proud of in their county,” Carr said. Carr and a friend started Arkansas’ painted quilt trend in Stone County before it became an organized, state-wide effort. 28

The “Dogwood Blossom” quilt is displayed at the Dogwood Hills Guest Farm off of Hwy. 14 in Harriet, Searcy County. It’s created by Jack Benefiel. “Me and a friend of mine had seen these trails elsewhere and thought Stone County would be a fun place to do that,” Carr said. “So, she and I worked and created the Stone County trail. And then it kind of grew organically to the counties contiguous to us — Van Buren, Searcy — they were the next two. Then, Perry got on board, then Baxter.” The quilts enhance Arkansas’ natural beauty, and they also create an opportunity to tell visitors about Arkansas’ people, places, and even the quilting tradition. “Arkansas Quilt Trails began as a way of preserving local history while beautifying our communities for residents and visitors COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021


AAC

FEATURE

Arkansas Quilt Trails began as a way of preserving local history while beautifying our communities for residents and visitors alike.

alike,” Carr said. These art attractions also boost Arkansas’ rural economies. “It’s bringing travelers to the counties, and a lot of times they’re staying overnight, they’re eating at the cafes and restaurants, and they’re shopping in the shops,” Carr said. Visiting the quilts has been a very pandemic-friendly activity, Carr said. “You can just get in your car and drive, and you might hit a gas stop and drive thru food stop.” The “Crown of Thorns” quilt is displayed on a barn located The Arkansas Trail of Quilts off Quarry Road in Violet Hill, Izard County. It’s created by is not only for adults; it has at- Claudia Whitman. tracted young people, too. In Mississippi County, which just recently joined the trails, several schools are creating a The “Foshee Family Flock” quilt is displayed quilt to commemorate the Arin Amity, Pike County. It’s created by Jackie kansas Sesquicentennial in 1986. Beck. “It’s nice to see that kind of collaborating among schools,” Carr said. To be considered part of the Arkansas Trail of Quilts, each participating county must create 12 blocks or quilt panels, and the design patterns must be approved by the county coordinator and Carr’s state committee. Each submission must also include a story behind the quilt. The “Dresden Plate” quilt, created by Glenda Osten, hangs Once the pattern is accepted, the quilt’s creators sign an agreement allowon the Meeting Place building at the Wildflower Bed & Breaking promotion of the new location on the website. Visit ArkansasQuiltTrails.com or call 870-615-2195 for more information. fast in Mountain View, Stone County. Right: The “French Star with Eiffel Tower” quilt hangs in Paris, Logan County. Right, middle: Jefferson County’s “Mimi’s Garden” quilt is displayed on the property of Lazy V Farm in Pine Bluff. Far right: Baxter County’s “When Pigs Fly” quilt hangs in Midway, Baxter County.

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AAC

FEATURE

Above, left: Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde speaks at the “Flip the Switch” event. Above, right: TPI’s Vice President of Engineering Justin McCann gives attendees a tour of the new solar array.

Pulaski County flips the switch on new solar array Story and Photos By Holland Doran AAC Communications Coordinator

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Pulaski County with cost-effective energy security, and we appreciate Judge Barry Hyde’s foresight, and the county’s willingness to take on a project like this to promote Pulaski County’s environmental and economic development.” The second phase of the county’s solar project, which will consist of a 4.6 mega-watt fixed-tilt solar array located in the Little Rock Port Authority Industrial Park, is currently pending approval by the Arkansas Public Service Commission. This system is projected to be completed in 2021. “The green projects we have employed and the ones that we’re developing, signify Pulaski County’s commitment to building a sustainable future as well as creating an environment that is welcoming and attractive to employers and citizens,” Hyde said. “As we continue to grow as a county, we must do it in a fiscally responsible manner while being cognizant of our impact on the environment.”

ulaski County Judge Barry Hyde flipped the switch on the county’s new 756-panel solar array March 9, at the Pulaski County Detention Center. Pulaski County officials, Today’s Power Inc. (TPI), and other invitees gathered at the 250-kilowatt solar farm to commemorate the completion of the first phase of the county’s two-pronged green initiative to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, improve the quality of life in the county by protecting public safety, and reduce energy costs. “Pulaski County led the effort to open access for non-profits and counties to use reliable, renewable energy in 2019, and now we are proud to have flipped the switch on a solar array dedicated to Pulaski County’s use,” Hyde said at the event. The solar project will result in significant financial savings to Pulaski County. “Those savings will allow us to divert funds to more impactful services such as youth services, emergency management or public works,” Hyde said. “This is the right thing to do, environmentally and financially.” The array expected to generate between 80 percent and 100 percent of the county’s electric demand with expected savings at approximately $150,000 in the first year. It will power buildings such as the courthouse and jail among other facilities. It’s operated by Today’s Power Inc. and will provide electricity to the county under a 20-year power purchase agreement. During the array’s dedication ceremony, TPI President Michael Henderson thanked Hyde and Pulaski County for their partnership. “Through technology and partnership, this project exempli- Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde, Pulaski County Attorney Adam fies a forward-thinking approach to meeting Pulaski Coun- Fogleman and TPI President Michael Henderson flip the switch ty’s future needs,” Henderson said. “This project will provide on the county’s new solar array. 30

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AAC

BOARD PROFILE

Randy Higgins Faulkner County JP brings law enforcement experience to AAC Board of Directors

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alk to anyone who knows Faulkner County Justice of the Peace Randy Higgins and they’ll say he knows how to tackle problems. In fact, Higgins calls himself a “fixer” — certainly a quality that’s useful in county government. “I think being a fixer and helping resolve issues is really what drives me to be involved in all of these activities I’m involved in,” he said. It’s a skill that he hopes to put to good use on the Association of Arkansas Counties Board of Directors. Higgins recently joined the board in April to fill the position vacated by Boone County Justice of the Peace David Thompson. Higgins and his wife of 39 years, Verna, have lived in Greenbrier, Faulkner County for 30 years. They have two sons, a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. Higgins, who retired as regional manager at Johnson Controls Fire Protection after 35 years, has served on the Faulkner County Quorum Court for six terms. It was his interest in law enforcement that compelled him to run for Justice of the Peace. “I got interested in the Quorum Court because one of my jobs I was working on with my company was the Faulkner County jail that we were installing in 1992,” he said. During the project, he was recruited for the Reserve Deputy Program. He completed the program and became a reserve deputy, a position he held for 16 years; eight of those he served as commander. During this time, Sheriff Karl Byrd encouraged Higgins to run for Justice of the Peace because the court needed someone who understood law enforcement. “I have been a proponent for law enforcement and the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office ever since,” he said. His duties have grown since becoming a Justice of the Peace. He has served as chair of the safety committee for about eight years, a member of the Arkansas Association of Quorum Courts’ 75-Member Governing Body for eight years, and as Vice President of the Arkansas Association of Quorum Courts 12-Member Executive Board. He recently succeeded David Thompson as President of the 12-Member Executive Board. He’s also served as a Greenbrier Police Department Reserve Officer for 10 years, as a member of the budget and finance committee, and represents the Quorum Court on the Faulkner County Criminal Justice Advisory Committee. He also serves on the STOPDV Program’s Board of Directors, which is a nonprofit organization established to support domestic violence victims. Higgins is especially proud of STOPDV’s specialty court 32

program, the first of its kind in the state. “The court will be a model court for the entire state of Arkansas,” he said. Another project close to his heart is the Faulkner County Animal Shelter. He’s helped raise about $1.7 million for the shelter. Leadership experiences have prepared him for his new role on the AAC Board of Directors, Higgins said. He’s eager to bring his knowledge to the board to represent Justices of the Peace across the state. One project he wants to take on is helping counties to broadcast their Quorum Court meetings. “One thing that COVID has exposed is being able to broadcast QC meetings,” Higgins said. “I learned that not all counties do that. We in Faulkner County were doing that pre-COVID. I’d like to help counties understand that it’s a good thing for constituents to be able to see the QC committee meetings and know what is going on in their county government.” Higgins looks forward to working with the AAC Board to find solutions to issues like this. “I enjoy solving problems,” he said. “Some things are hard to fix — they’re challenging. But most problems, if you bring people in together and talk about it, even from differing and opposing sides, it can lead to a resolution.” He has experienced this in Faulkner County. “We say in Faulkner County a lot that there are 13 of us on the court,” he said. “We’re not all going to agree, but we don’t have to be disagreeable.” Outside of his professional roles, Higgins enjoys wildlife photography and riding his Harley Davidson with his wife. He also enjoys kayaking with his sons. COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021


AAC

STAFF PROFILE

RECEPTIONIST — WHITNEY IVES Education: I was born and raised in Paron, Arkansas, in Saline County, and I graduated from Bryant High School in 2007. Family information: I have three wonderful children: Nora, Emma and Jack. My husband, Alex, and I have been married for nine years. We lived in North Carolina for four years while he was in the Marine Corps, and we now live in Saline County. I have one sister, Tori, who lives in Texas and works with children with autism. My favorite meal: Any type of Mexican food.

The accomplishments of which I am most proud: I’m most proud of being a mother to three wild children. At the top of my bucket list is to: I want to go to Europe, and visit Mexico City for the Day of the Dead festival. You might be surpised to learn that: I have chickens and ducks. Whitn ey Ives

When I’m not working: I spend my spare time in my garden and playing with my children. I enjoy organic farming and raising animals, such as chickens and ducks. I have a variety of trees, including pear, peach and apple, and plants such as strawberry, blueberry and raspberry. I grew

COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021

up taking care of plants and animals on eight acres of land in Paron, and I wanted my children to be able to have that same experience.

My pet peeve is: Slow drivers. How long have you been at the AAC, and what did you do before? I began as Receptionist in April 2021. Before starting at AAC, I worked as an addiction counselor in a methadone clinic, which I found very rewarding.

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AAC

NEWS FROM NACO

www.naco.org

About NACo – The Voice of America’s Counties National Association of Counties (NACo) is the only national organization that represents county governments in the U.S. NACo provides essential services to the nation’s 3,068 counties. NACo advances issues with a unified voice before the federal government, improves the public’s understanding of county government, assists counties in finding and sharing innovative solutions through education and research and provides value-added services to save counties and taxpayers money.

Funding Opportunity: U.S. Department of Transportation reissues FY2021 BUILD notice for $1 billion in available funds, renamed to RAISE By Zach George and Jessica Jennings NACo, Legislative Assistants

KEY TAKEAWAYS • U.S. Department of Transportation announced $1 billion in available grant funding through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) discretionary grant program. • RAISE grants support surface transportation infrastructure projects with significant local or regional impacts, including funding for roads, bridges, transit, rail and ports. • As leaders in the nation’s transportation system, RAISE grants help counties construct and improve critical transportation infrastructure to foster safe and thriving communities.

O

n April 13, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced $1 billion in available grant funding through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) discretionary grant program. RAISE grants provide flexible funding directly to local governments to support surface transportation infrastructure projects

with significant local or regional impacts, including funding for roads, bridges, transit, rail and ports. This is the first year of the RAISE program, which replaced the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) discretionary grant program. While RAISE is similar to its predecessor, it has a renewed focus on projects that create high-quality jobs, improve safety, enhance environmental protections and generate equitable economic opportunities. For FY 2021, the maximum grant award is $25 million, with no more than $100 million awarded to a single state. Up to $30 million will be awarded to planning grants, including at least $10 million to Areas of Persistent Poverty (APP). DOT is holding a series of webinars during the FY 2021 RAISE grant application process to provide technical assistance to applicants. To register for the webinars visit http:// www.transportation.gov/RAISEgrants/outreach. The deadline to submit an application is July 12. As leaders in the nation’s transportation system, RAISE grants help counties construct and improve critical transportation infrastructure to foster safe and thriving communities. Representing a vital cog in the nation’s transportation network, counties own and operate 45 percent of all public roads (compared to the 32 percent of public roads owned by cities and townships, 19 percent by states and 3 percent by the federal government) and 38 percent of the nation’s bridge inventory. We also directly support a third of the nation’s public airports and 78 percent of public transit systems that keep Americans connected to every corner of the country.

www.arcounties.org 34

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AAC

PHOTO RECAP

COUNTY CORONERS The Arkansas Coroners Association held a death investigation training May 8-9, in North Little Rock, Pulaski County.

Above, left: Barbara Diamond with the Arkansas State Crime Lab and Bradley County Coroner Sammi Warren talk during a break at Arkansas Medicolegal Death Investigation training May 9. Above, right: Phillips County Deputy Coroner Phillip Taylor and Saline County Deputy Coroner Ben Chapman chat.

Above, left: Pulaski County Deputy Coroner Staci Wilkerson, Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy (ALETA) Training Supervisor Craig Lawson and Pulaski County Deputy Coroner Branden Danner talk. Above, right: ALETA Trainer Scott Rosson delivers a presentation on death investigations. Left: Franklin County Deputy Coroner Casey White listens during the training. Right: Cameron Chapmen talks with ALETA Trainer Scott Rosson.

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AAC

COUNTY COLLECTORS

PHOTO RECAP

The Arkansas County Tax Collectors Association met April 28-30, in Jonesboro, Craighead County.

Ashley County Collector Lori Pennington makes a comment during a conference session. Arkansas County Tax Collectors Association President Ellen Foote holds the microphone.

Tax collectors from across Arkansas listen intently to a conversation on handling COVID-19 in their offices. More than 70 collectors and deputy collectors attended the conference in person and on Zoom. Far left: Sharp County Deputy Collectors April Downing and Cecilia Daggett smile for a photo. Left: Crittenden County Collector and Arkansas County Tax Collectors Association President Ellen Foote and Pope County Collector Jennifer Haley recognize Deputy Collector Anita Gray (right), who is retiring after 32 years.

Above, left: Poinsett County Chief Deputy Collector Pam Harper, Clay County Chief Deputy Collectors Della Jackson and Tracy Edwards, and Lawrence County Collector Stephanie Harris chat during a break. Above, right: Gregg Harrison, Jeff McMillin and Larry Doss with Arkansas Legislative Audit talk before their presentation on auditing. COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021

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AAC

PHOTO RECAP

COUNTY TREASURERS The Arkansas County Treasurers Association gathered April 21-23, in Little Rock, Pulaski County.

Craighead County Treasurer and Arkansas County Treasurers Association President Terry McNatt welcomes treasurers to the conference.

Randy Milligan and Sue Talkington from Landmark Certified Public Accountants speak on what treasurers can expect in a federal audit of the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Far left: Columbia County Treasurer Selena Blair talks with Attorney Mike Rainwater after his presentation on county laws and treasurers’ duties. Left: AAC Consultant Eddie A. Jones provides a recap of bills passed in the Arkansas legislative session.

Craighead County Treasurer and Arkansas County Treasurers Association President Terry McNatt talks with conference attendees via Zoom. Above, left: Benton County Treasurer Deanna Ratcliffe leads attendees in a game of Treasurer Jeopardy. Above, right: Treasurer Association Legislative Director Scott Sanson talks about the results of the Arkansas legislative session. 38

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AAC

PHOTO RECAP

JUSTICES OF THE PEACE The Arkansas Association of Quorum Courts 75-member governing board gathered April 10 at AAC.

David Thompson, Boone County Justice of the Peace (JP) and past president of the Arkansas Association of Quorum Courts 75-Member Governing Body, welcomes meeting attendees.

Craighead County JP Vince Pearcy (left) signs in before joining the meeting. Far left: Van Buren County JP and Association Executive Board Secretary/Treasurer Mary Philips and Logan County JP Jeanne Andrews talk before the meeting. Left: AAC Executive Director Chris Villines welcomes JPs to the annual meeting.

Above, left: Miller County JP Carl Standridge, Jr. talks with Yell County JP Thomas Leroy Randall during a meeting break. Above, right: David Thompson talks with Desha County JP Dollie Wilson after the meeting. COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2021

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AAC

PHOTO RECAP

COUNTY ASSESSORS The Arkansas Assessors Association met March 18 in Little Rock, Pulaski County.

Independence County Deputy Assessor Rebecca Winkle and Independence County Assessor Diane Tucker smile for a photo.

Phillips County Assessor Jerome Turner, Association Secretary/Treasurer and Crittenden County Assessor Kim Hollowell, Ouachita County Assessor Debbie Lambert and Association President and Jefferson County Assessor Yvonne Humphrey talk.

Above, left: Washington County Assessor Russell Hill gives an update on the association’s website. Center: Arkansas Assessment Coordination Division Director Sandra Cawyer gives division updates. Right: Arkansas Public Service Commission Assistant Director Matt Cavenar speaks. Left: Arkansas Commissioner of State Lands Tommy Land shares a few words with assessors. Right: Arkansas Assessment Coordination Division Assistant Director Rob McGee provides updates on education.

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Director

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perts on ARP that our counties can utilize in conjunction with other in-house or local experts, and we recently offered a Zoom call to walk through our offerings of help and to answer questions for County Judges and Treasurers. We are proud to partner with Lindsey Holman of Holman and Associates as one of our experts in federal guidance. Many of you may know her from her experience with the National Association of Counties (NACo) and her attendance at our AAC conferences. She is a Pope County native and has returned to Arkansas from the D.C. area. Our website now has a landing page for the ARP program, which includes links to the U.S. Department of Treasury for guidance and the money receipting portal. Also included is the video of the Zoom call mentioned above. This video is an excellent way to learn about the intricacies and many gray areas of this funding stream. For now, we recommend patience. We, along with our experts and national experts such as NACo are pouring through the 150 pages of guidance and continuing to ask treasury for specific instructions. If you have read the guidance, you will agree much is unclear. We hope to clear things up over time and ask you to be very deliberate in decisions on how this money will be invested in your counties. Beware that money

ill-spent is subject to federal claw-back. Regardless of who misspends your investment money, the federal government will seek claw-back from the county. ***

C

ounties, a dangerous cloud is looming on the horizon. Counties may be particularly hardhit, and law enforcement as a sub-set especially. The labor market has become a major issue for the restarting of our economy post-covid. The reason I want to alert you is that counties historically lag behind local economy wage increases. If we remain stagnant and pay less than the egg-fryer at the local pancake shop we will surely suffer. Law enforcement will be hit especially hard, as they provide jobs that imperil one’s life at a lower hourly wage than wood-stackers make. Bottom line is county jobs will not be competitively attractive. I encourage all of you to keep a close eye on labor market issues in your counties — be prepared to see hiring practices affected for our traditionally lower-paying positions. We will keep you posted if and when we see this problem becoming more local in nature.

Advertiser Resource Index

AAC Workers’ Compensation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 ARBuy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Crews and Associates. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Custom Pavement Maintenance and Safety . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 DataScout. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Inside Front Cover Ergon Asphalt & Paving. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Financial Intelligence. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Good Roads Foundation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Guardian RFID. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Homeland Safety Systems. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Mass Enthusiasm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Nationwide Insurance. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Rainwater Holt & Sexton, PA. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Back Cover Southern Tire Mart. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Tax Pro. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Winthrop Rockefeller Institute. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

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