Ann Clemmer held a reception at the Bryant Chamber of Commerce this morning to announce her bid for re-election for the State House of Representatives, District 29. Clemmer, a longtime faculty member of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, is a Republican who raised three daughters in the Salem area. She is married to Jamie Clemmer.
Here is the bulk of her statement:[more]
“I want to thank you all for coming out. To think that somebody gives up their time to come sit around and visit with you — granted I had to bring the donuts.
“But it’s really a humbling experience to win and hold elective office. There’s a burden to it, that you have a District now that you are obligated to serve. I try my best to do the things the District needs and to be accessible. I encouraged everyone to contact me. I kind of billed this today partly because I did want to sit down and listen to the folks of District 29. Some of you already know me. I hope before we’re done today I have a few other people stop by and talk to me about their concerns.
“I really want to say, when I ran the first time, I felt like I could work across party lines. I mean, I’m a Republican, most of you know that, and we’re in a very small minority in the Legislature but I have made many great friendships with people on the other side of the aisle, and we have good working relationships with each other.
“You know, it was just 13 months ago I was sworn in, not quite 13 months ago, so it’s crazy to think that here we are running again, essentially every other year.
“. . . Before I went to the Legislature, I probably had some idea that, if you didn’t pass a bill then you didn’t have anything to show for your time there. I did pass a few bills and I co-sponsored a lot more probably more than I can remember. But I did learn that a lot of what happens in the Legislature happens in committee and sometimes just being in the room and asking the right question, drawing someone’s attention — because I don’t think that, by and large, government is — there is corruption but, by and large, government’s not corrupt but sometimes we have a lot before us. We had over 2,500 bills introduced during the session. A few of those did not get brought to the floor. It’s pretty hard to be on top of 2,000 bills. Sometimes they’re good bills and sometime they’re not. So a lot happens in those committee rooms. I think it was one of the first week there and I asked a couple of questions and all of a sudden the whole tone of the room changed. We’re trying to look critically at maybe an issue we haven’t studied much. So, I’d say the committee work has been very rewarding and it’s been productive.
“I had a couple of bills I was particularly proud to sponsor and, to be honest, one of the ones I’m most proud of didn’t pass. But you can change the debate even by bringing up issues, introducing bills.
“I hope that one bill in particular will come back up next time. That was the bill that makes us travel in the cheapest mode to the State (capitol). Currently, the State Legislature does not have to travel by the least expensive mode of travel. I’m not pointing fingers at the people that are traveling under the law but I do think we need to change the law so we don’t have the option to make money on a travel expense.
“That’s just one thing I hope to bring back up. When I campaigned, when we talked about accountability and transparency. Sometimes I think we use those words so much we forget what they really mean.
“One of the bills that we’re going to be bringing up again is a bill that gives us 48 hours to study a bill after it comes out of a committee because, very often, with that huge number of bills that come before us, it’s really hard overnight to read 100 bills especially if there’s one that pops in that’s 200 pages long. If you’re not on that committee, to be honest, you’ve probably not seen that bill until it lands on your desk.
“A lot of times, it’d be 11 o’clock at night and I’d be looking to see what we would be voting on the next day and that was not available. Then you get up in the morning and you go to your committee meetings and then you eat lunch and then boom, there’s a stack of legislation that you’ve got to, basically, figure out how to vote on pretty fast. Some of us believe we can get better legislation and be more accountable to you and you can have access also. If we have 48 hours, voters will have access to bills and contact us with their opinions . . .
“I don’t know why we have opposition to this bill. Not to be cynical, but I was told it would delay the work of the session. We need to look at the language of a bill carefully and I just don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking for that. That might be the only legacy we can leave is to give people more access to legislation before it gets passed.
“We are about to make history Monday. We are going to convene our very first Fiscal session. It’s a little bit of an experiment because no one knows exactly how it’s going to work. Essentially, what we’ve done, we budget for two years but we’ve held back a portion of the budget to see if the economic indicators look like we can go ahead and spend the rest of it. That may prove to be a good thing but I think the verdict is still out whether or not it helps our processes.
“As far as what I’m hoping to do, if I’m re-elected — we don’t get to do much as far as legislation until a year from now. It’s seems crazy. We’re announcing today for something that won’t actually begin until next year. But, like all of you, I’m really concerned about getting folks back to work. We need to bring good jobs to come here to Saline County. We want to keep the jobs we’ve got.
“I was talking to Rae Ann (Fields, Chamber director) and she said the biggest number of employers we have are those that hire from one to 10 people. So we have to do things to help small business stay in business. We need to make some of the policies of government not be so onerous on small business. It’s hard to say this in two or three sentences for the newspaper or the television camera but we make business jump through hoops sometimes and we penalize them if they’re not there . . .
“I don’t understand why we want to burden small business . . . I think a lot of people hear that and they don’t know what we’re talking about unless you have a business. I just think the government ought to want work more to help you instead of hurt you . . . ”
“I do think we need to continue to raise the bar on public education in Arkansas. We’re pretty blessed here in Saline County with good schools, not that we can’t be better. But we have a fairly low bar with some of our public schools around the state. They’re actually beginning to see some change. I was not a big supporter of the lottery, didn’t vote for it, but it’s the law now and, what you may not know, the lottery money, if you come from a school with grade inflation, if you’re an academically distressed school, you as a student won’t be able to get that lottery money unless you score a 19 on the ACT. Well, what that means is that now parents may start going back to the schools and saying now my kid isn’t getting money because you’re not doing your job. I think that may be one good outcome for the pressure to be brought on these schools to a little bit better in the classroom. The pressure has to start with us . . . but not all the problems are for the legislature to fix. A lot . . . requires parents to be vigilant and get involved in their school district. I’m not saying that we need to legislate that but we need to encourage these sorts of things, as much as possible, to raise the bar on education.
“We’ve got to get our tax burden more competitive with other states. When they’re ranking states from one to 50, we’re near the bottom in the compensation that we pay our employees, our average wage is in the mid-40’s. We’re 18th in taxes as far as how we compare to other states. So, I think we need to not be looking at more taxes. We need to be better stewards. I do believe there’s a place for taxes but we’ve got to think about what stress we’re putting on middle America and all America with our tax structure.
“As I’ve said, I’ve made a lot of good friends in the legislature. One of them just walked in. This is my colleague John Burris from Harrison. He drove down from Little Rock today. (I was) asked the other day, what was unexpected about being in the Legislature and I thought, ‘I pretty much knew what I was in for.’ I don’t know if I realized quite the level of — the degree it would consume your life. It really does sort of take over. But the very unexpected surprise was the great friendships. And Democrats and Republicans, I mean, you hear a lot of gridlock and complaining in D.C., to where you don’t feel like anybody’s talking to anybody else on the other side of the aisle. We really do that. There are a lot of good friends you make and that has been the personal benefit to all that extra time. I mean, when you throw people in a room and you keep them there all the time, hopefully, you make friends because, otherwise, you really wouldn’t be getting compensated enough. So, the personal relationships have been good and have been a real surprise.
“Talking about the commitment, I would be remiss if I didn’t — most of my family’s not here — but if I didn’t thank my family and my husband who puts up with the fact that there’s always a phone call to be made and there’s too many phone calls to get done. He’s pretty patient waiting for me to be finished with all those phone calls, and dinners and evening meetings and things like that. Thank him and thank you all for coming.
“Most of you here know me but, if you have concerns or if you have a neighbor that has a concern, that’s maybe something we can do something about. I mean, we can’t fix it if we don’t know what the problem is and I think sometimes, talking about business, the poor businessman is just walking with his shoulders been over. But we can maybe start to fix some of those things. Just let us know, especially if it’s something specific and tangible. You can gripe about something generally but give me something we can do and I think we can begin to make some progress.
“Thank you all for coming.”