Tuesday, August 25, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Bears’ offense shines Monday

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills High School held its benefit jamboree with three other teams Monday night at Bill Blackwood Field in Sherwood, and in the Bears’ game, the hosts eked out a 21-20 win over Class 4A Pulaski Robinson.

The other two teams were Class 7A Little Rock Catholic and Class 5A Greenbrier. Catholic and Greenbrier played each other for a half before Sylvan Hills and Robinson closed the night with a half of play.

For the Bears, Monday was their second exhibition game played in four days, as they held their annual Blue-White scrimmage game on Friday.

“We played better with that group than we did on Friday night in our Blue-White game,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. “We just got to get more consistent. We’ve got to get better fundamentally.”

Defensive play is one area Withrow wasn’t entirely pleased with Monday night. The Bears’ D allowed the Senators’ offense to convert two fourth and long plays that left the coaching staff shaking their heads.

“We gave up some big plays on fourth down,” Withrow said. “Fourth and long we gave up some big plays. We just can’t do that. We kind of showed our youth on those plays. You just can’t do that stuff. You’ve got to do better than that.”

Neither team entered Monday’s exhibition at full strength. Robinson held out two of their top playmakers while Sylvan Hills kept some players out that have been recovering from injuries, including three of their starting offensive linemen, as well as players on defense.

That didn’t take away from the competitiveness of the scrimmage, though, nor did it take away from the offense’s production.

“It was a good scrimmage,” Withrow said, “a lot of athletes, a lot of good plays. We played real well, offensively. We had one series where we didn’t score. We had fourth and 1 and we didn’t make it. We should’ve checked out of it, but we’ll learn from it and hopefully move on.”

The only time the Bears didn’t score was on their last possession. Their first score came on a 3-yard TD run by junior quarterback Jordan Washington.

The next Bears offensive series, Washington connected with Brandon Bracely for a 45-yard touchdown, and Jamar Porter had the final TD of the night for Sylvan Hills on a 1-yard plunge.

The Bears were without three starting offensive linemen, so Withrow said he was pleased with that production.

“Coach (Denny) Tipton does a great job with those linemen, having them ready. I thought the backs ran hard. Jordan threw it well. So it was a pretty good job by everybody.”

That didn’t include the two fourth and long conversions given up by the defense, which is very young up front and in the secondary.

“That was the one thing I was really disappointed at,” Withrow said. “We need to do a better job running routes in our passing game. There are other things we could do better, but you know, I thought the kids competed.

“I thought we played really good in spurts on defense. I thought the kids made some plays here or there. At the end of the night, Hunter Phillips just smoked a guy on the sideline. I mean, took his helmet off. I thought everybody played hard.

“They all realize we’re still competing for positions. It’s good to get something on tape now. We’ll take a look at it, clean some stuff up. We know what game speed’s like. (Robinson) is a potent offensive group. They’re going to score some points. It was a good test for our guys, so I was pleased with it.”

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits host Bison, Hornets in scrimmage

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Jackrabbits played host to Carlisle and Maumelle in a benefit scrimmage Monday night at James B. Abraham Stadium, and even though it was an exhibition, the atmosphere resembled a Friday night regular season game.

The format for the scrimmage was the three teams played each other for a half, with normal time-keeping rules. Carlisle and Maumelle took the field first, and the 5A Hornets dominated from start to finish en route to a 41-0 win over the 2A Bison.

Lonoke played Maumelle in game two, and that matchup was much more competitive. The Jackrabbits jumped out to a 13-0 lead over the Hornets, but Maumelle came roaring back in the second half and held off a late Lonoke surge to narrowly beat the hosts 22-21.

The Jackrabbits then played old rival Carlisle in the third and final game of the evening. Lonoke played its second-string players for the bulk of the game, but still managed to outpoint Carlisle 15-7.

Offensively, Carlisle managed to move the ball against Maumelle early, but turnovers thwarted promising drives. The Bison defense had no answer for the Hornets’ offense, as the 2A school was simply outmatched by the 5A school’s size and playmakers. Lonoke, though, outplayed the Hornets early, on both sides of the ball.

Maumelle’s first series ended with Lonoke’s Justin Meadows scoring the first six points of that game on a 40-yard interception return. Casey Martin kicked the PAT to give Lonoke a 7-0 cushion.

Meadows struck again on the Rabbits’ first offensive possession in the new Flexbone offense. Lonoke was facing third and 16 at its own 31, but Meadows, who has 4.3 speed, took a right toss from quarterback Savonte Rountree and dashed 69 yards down the visitors’ sideline for his second touchdown of the game.

The PAT was no good, giving Lonoke a 13-0 lead. Maumelle’s next possession ended with a stellar interception by Jackrabbit senior corner Deondray Joyner, but Lonoke turned it over as well on its next possession.

The Hornets then answered with a Dai-Kwon Armond touchdown pass to senior standout receiver Demarian Johnson that was good for 30 yards and was perfectly thrown over Johnson’s shoulder. The PAT made it 13-7 Lonoke, and that was the score at the break.

Maumelle’s first possession of the second half was a lengthy one, but ended with a 20-yard TD pass. The PAT gave the Hornets their first lead at 14-13 with 5:16 to play.

Lonoke senior tailback Josh Coleman got the Rabbits’ next drive off to a promising start with a run the netted close to 20 yards. Lonoke’s next two offensive plays weren’t as promising, though, as the Rabbits were suddenly faced with third and 15.

On the next snap, Rountree threw into tight coverage and connected with Martin, who then broke away from the Hornet secondary for a 67-yard TD strike with 4:09 remaining.

Lonoke went for two, and Rountree plowed in the two-point try, which gave the hosts a 21-14 lead. Maumelle answered, though, with a great drive that ended with running back Jacob Acklin scoring from 16 yards out. He then added the two-point try to give the Hornets the 22-21 lead with 2:51 remaining.

The Rabbits put together another good drive on their final possession and managed to get fairly deep into Maumelle territory. But, Rountree was sacked on third down at the Maumelle 21 with 39 seconds remaining.

Facing fourth and 16, Lonoke coach Doug Bost sent out the field goal unit. The 38-yard field goal kicked by Martin went wide left, and Maumelle took a knee to end the highly competitive scrimmage between the two teams.

“That was some good competition,” said Bost, “a good 5A team for us to get ready to go into Star City. We had a couple of balls thrown that went for big plays. We were running in between the tackles with Coleman, and Savonte looked good. We were able to get outside a couple of times. Overall, I’m pleased.”

Bost did point to fumbles and penalties as something the team needs to correct before the actual season starts next Friday.

“We put five balls on the ground,” Bost said. “We didn’t lose any, but we did put five on the ground, and penalties puts us behind the chains. That’s not what you need on this offense.”

In the Lonoke/Carlisle game, the Jackrabbits opened with their second-string offense after Carlisle failed to score on the game’s first possession. That Jackrabbit offense had little trouble moving the ball downfield via the run game and Lonoke soon scored on a 1-yard TD run by quarterback Will Miller. The two-point try was good, giving Lonoke an 8-0 lead.

The Bison offense, also switching to the Flexbone this year, moved the ball on its next drive, but fumbled it over to the Lonoke defense with 2:14 left in the period. At the end of the quarter, Lonoke maintained its 8-0 lead.

Lonoke’s first-teamers came into the game at the start of the final 12 minutes. That offense moved the ball down field with little trouble, and even had two plays that resulted in touchdowns of over 40 yards. However, penalties negated those scores.

The Jackrabbits still scored, though, on that possession, which came on an 11-yard TD pass from Rountree to Martin with 6:18 remaining. The PAT made it 15-0 Lonoke.

Starting at its own 25, Carlisle had one more opportunity to find the end zone. Quarterback Ty Golleher had several grind-it-out runs that led to first downs on the drive, and with 8.7 tics remaining, Golleher took a quarterback keeper outside his left tackle and into the end zone for the Bison’s first score of the night.

The PAT was good, and that set the final score.

“We’ve got to do a lot of work on tackling,” said Carlisle coach Jack Keith. “Offensively, we were able to move the ball, but we put the ball on the ground too many times. If we take care of that and keep moving the ball we’ll be alright. We’ve just got to do a better job of tackling and controlling the ball.”

Even though the scrimmage didn’t go as well for his team as Keith would’ve liked, he did like the way his offense ended the night with the touchdown at the very end of the exhibition, and said his inexperienced group should really benefit in the long term from that level of competition.

“That was a big confidence boost right there,” Keith said. “Lonoke’s a heck of a ball club. They’ve got a lot of athletes. To be able to drive it down and punch it in is big for us.

“I think we got a lot out of it. There won’t be many teams we see that’s as athletic as Maumelle. Seeing somebody that plays at that level and being able to be on the field with them, it gives you a good look and it’s something we can’t re-create in practice.”

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers cruise in benefit

Leader sports editor

The Cabot football coaches took a cautious approach to the Panthers’ complete domination of Lake Hamilton in Monday’s preseason scrimmage at Panther Stadium. In the controlled event where the teams traded 15-play drives regardless of scores or failure to convert first downs, Cabot scored nine touchdowns to zero for the Wolves.

Lake Hamilton’s only score came after a 15-play drive failed to accomplish much, and the coaches agreed to let the Wolves’ special teams unit attempt a field goal, which it made to end its first drive.

After that, Cabot scored its nine touchdowns on five drives. The first team had three possessions and scored six times. The second team had one possession and also scored twice, though the final two touchdowns were a mixture of first and second team offensive players against Lake Hamilton’s first-team defense. The other touchdown was an interception return for a touchdown by defensive lineman Lino Garcia.

Cabot coach Mike Malham was pleased with the outcome, but hesitated to say it’s a sign of things to come.

“Their coach had said he didn’t think they were going to be as strong this year as some of the teams they’ve had,” Malham said. “And I think he was right. Of course our second group was so much better than theirs, I think that’s where we really poured it on them.”

Malham also wasn’t pleased with his team’s two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, both on the first team.

“I was pleased with the effort, but we’ve got to cut out all the stupid things we do,” Malham said.

Garcia’s interception re-turn of a tipped pass was the first touchdown of the game.

Cabot’s offense then scored two touchdowns on its first 15-play possession after holding Lake Hamilton. The first was a 15-yard run by junior fullback Alex Roberts on the drive’s eighth play. After the touchdown, the team reset at its own 25 and got back to the Lake Hamilton 15-yard line with one play left. That’s when junior quarterback Jarrod Barnes hit Dylan Smith in the corner for Cabot’s second score.

Caleb Schulte hit the third of his nine successful extra points to give Cabot the imaginary 21-0 lead.

Cabot’s second unit took the ball next for 15 plays.

Sophomore Cody Skinner ran the second-team offense while last year’s backup quarterback, senior Jess Reed, played halfback. That group picked up 30 yards in six plays before Skinner went 45 yards on the option keep for the fourth touchdown of the scrimmage.

After resetting at the 25, Reed picked up 7 yards on the next play. Halfback Austin Morse then broke loose on the dive play for a 68-yard touchdown run.

Still with six plays left, Cabot’s second team experimented with the passing game for the remainder of the possession, picking up about 30 yards on 3 of 5 attempts with one short run. Sawyer Stalnaker caught all three passes.

The second team defense not only kept Lake Hamilton’s second unit from scoring, it held the Wolves to just two first downs in 15 plays. It also forced two fumbles and covered one.

Lake Hamilton’s first offense tried to go to the air more often on its second possession, but the Cabot defensive line was in the backfield frequently. Defensive end Kolton Eads picked up two sacks. The Wolves countered Cabot’s strong end rush with the draw play, which was its most successful play of the game. While the draw picked up some good yardage, it failed to produce any momentum, and Cabot stuffed Lake Hamilton again.

On Cabot’s second series for the first team, the Panthers took nine plays to go 75 yards with Roberts plunging in from 2-yards out. On the very next play, Morse went 75 yards on one play on a counter handoff for the Panthers’ seventh touchdown of the game.

The next drive of the same possession is when Cabot lost its composure. Offensive lineman Luke Ferguson drew the first unsportsmanlike penalty when he instigated a scuffle after a 12-yard run by Roberts. It resulted in two Lake Hamilton players kicking Ferguson in the helmet while he was down. Other players jumped into the fray, but only Ferguson and one Lake Hamilton player was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Cabot coaches still benched Ferguson for the remainder of the game.

A few plays later, Barnes picked up the same penalty for shoving a defender after a play ended on a whistle when Barnes was stood up, but not brought down, near the Cabot sideline. He also sat for the rest of the scrimmage, but Skinner looked good running the first team as well.

On the first team’s third series, Skinner led the team on scoring drives of seven and eight plays. Halfback Braxton Burton broke a dive play for 35 yards and junior halfback Williams Niles carried three times for 20 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run on the seventh play.

Cabot went back to practicing the pass with its final eight plays. After an incompletion, Skinner hit Stalnaker for 28 yards, and then kept for 28 more. Two more option keepers picked up 15 yards with one play remaining. Morse scored this third touchdown on a counter from 4 yards out.

Cabot will play its regular-season opener next Friday at home against archrival Conway.

EDITORIAL >> How Asa can fix it

We must give Gov. Hutchinson credit for searching high and low for a way to bring recalcitrant legislators in his party along for the ride to provide everyone, including the poorest Arkansans, good medical care when they get sick.

But as the governor’s own self-imposed deadline for finding a solution approaches, everything he does to salvage medical insurance for some 260,000 Arkansans at the bottom of the economic ladder seems to make matters worse or else more complicated and self-defeating.

That includes his bungled directive to cancel coverage for tens of thousands of the very poor who do not quickly give the government new up-to-date evidence of their financial straits and a string of half-baked ideas for reducing Medicaid costs and forcing people with very low incomes or their employers to bear more of the insurance costs.

But we must go back to Hutchinson’s first ringing statement about Arkansas’ health-care reform after a year of electioneering during which he gave no clue about what he would do about it. As he took office, he called the benefits from the state’s innovative way of implementing the central feature of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) “facts that we cannot deny, should not deny, and should rejoice in.” Clearly, he wanted to continue the program that his party called “the private option” and felt the state needed badly to do it for budget as well as humanitarian reasons.

Knowing that the big Republican majority in both houses of the legislature now carried enough foes of the so-called “private option” that they could kill it, he asked them to continue it for just one year. Meantime, he, health-care experts and the legislators would come up with ways to improve or replace it. What he meant, obviously, was make enough changes in the program that it could be called a Republican program, not really Obamacare, which remains immensely unpopular for its namesake if nothing else.

The biggest feature of Obamacare for Arkansas was the expansion of Medicaid to cover adults whose family incomes were so low that they could pay no part of insurance premiums—a number estimated at near 300,000.

A few Republican leaders in the 2013 legislature suggested that Arkansas exercise the option to do that, but rather than place all those people in the traditional Medicaid program, where the government pays hospitals and clinics directly for treating poor or disabled people, they proposed that the poor buy private insurance policies like most other people and government pay their premiums. Only the very sick would be covered by traditional Medicaid. Gov. Mike Beebe and the Obama administration bought the private option, and the legislature enacted it.

By January 2015, when Hutchinson took office, the program’s success was manifest: 260,00 Arkansans were covered for the first time, desperate community hospitals and the big medical institutions found themselves no longer in trouble, health-care jobs increased, disability rolls declined, the state uninsured rate fell from 22 percent (one of the nation’ highest) to 9 percent (one of the nation’s lowest), and the state treasury found itself in such clover from hundreds of millions of new federal dollars and insurance taxes that the legislature cut nearly everyone’s taxes. But the program’s future was suddenly bleaker because a number of Republicans who ran against Obama and the private option were elected to the legislature.

Playing to that crowd (who, really, could fault the strategy?), Hutchinson instructed the Department of Human Services to send form letters to everyone on the Medicaid rolls who didn’t have up-to-date income data in the files or whose income on current government data seemed to have changed a little. If they didn’t reply with solid evidence in 10 days their insurance was canceled. Hutchinson said he expected 50,000 people to be cut off, which seemed likely to mollify the foes of Medicaid at least a little.

But the agency was in such turmoil that it couldn’t process those who did get the mail and respond quickly and thousands who plainly qualified for Medicaid lost their insurance. What the governor and the agency did went far beyond what the Affordable Care Act and older Medicaid rules anticipated or allowed to assure the integrity of the program.

It was an unfortunate blunder and there doubtless will be a lawsuit that will require the state to correct it. The greater danger lies in what Hutchinson proposes to do to make the big Medicaid program palatable to enough of his party’s extremists to continue it at a special session this fall or winter or the fiscal session in January.

The high-powered corporate consultants that they hired for a million dollars to tell the state what’s wrong with the private option produced a report last week that did the opposite. Rather than placing an intolerable burden on the state’s taxpayers in 2017 and beyond when the state must start sharing Medicaid costs, the program actually will make the treasury even more flush than it has been because the federal aid and tax receipts from the Medicaid expansion will far outweigh the state’s costs. But the foes of the private option aren’t likely to be mollified.

So Hutchinson tossed out a few ideas for changing the PO that he was thinking about. Among them: Deny medical benefits to people who are out of work, force very low-income workers to get on their employer’s insurance plan if there is one and have the government pay some of the premium for them, make people who earn slightly more than poverty wages to pay premiums, make people apply for jobs or work training to qualify for medical assistance, eliminate payments to transport poor people to the hospital or doctor, force people into unpopular managed-care plans, lower Medicaid reimbursement rates (already the lowest) to doctors and hospitals, or just shift people off the private option to straight Medicaid as Obamacare originally expected.

Some of those ideas aren’t workable because they violate the law, like denying medical access to people who are out of work. The rest do little to make the program more efficient or else just add to Medicaid’s bureaucratic complexity. The governor has fresh reasons not to do that. We hope he’s inspired by better ideas. Too much depends upon it. — Ernie Dumas

TOP STORY >> Shelter’s needs voiced

Leader staff writer

Nicole Begley, executive director of the Lonoke County Safe Haven shelter for domestic violence victims, introduced herself to the Austin City Council on Monday and spoke about the nonprofit’s needs. The shelter’s location is undisclosed to protect its residents.

Begley, hired in January to manage the shelter, said the nonprofit “has been doing a lot of work on getting out in the community” and increasing awareness.

She also announced that she would host the next training for shelter volunteers at 6 p.m. Sunday at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Cabot. The director said she would also be willing to host training at a church in Austin if asked.

Begley explained that she is running the shelter with a staff of four. That is why recruiting volunteers is its focus. The nonprofit is also seeking additional funding to hire more staff.

Safe Haven has launched a 1001 Good Samaritan Campaign. Its goal is to convince at least 1,001 people to donate $10 a month.

The shelter needs people to work one-on-one with the women, to teach them life skills, the director continued. Volunteers are also needed to transport them because many come without vehicles.

The women are required to attend appointments to receive benefits like SNAP (food stamps), Begley explained.

She gave an overview of the shelter, too. Begley said it can house 16 women or 18 if some of the residents are their kids. Two beds are empty, and the shelter has been that full since the middle of July, she noted.

Alderman Matt Sheets asked how the shelter is funded. Begley said the nonprofit receives federal grants, donations from area churches and financial support from the city of Austin and other towns.

Sheets also asked if the shelter offered volunteer work that was not one-on-one with the residents. He sponsors the Key Club and said youth involved in it are always looking for opportunities to be of service.

Begley said the youth could sort donated items and help re-open Safe Haven’s Cabot thrift store by staffing it. The store has been closed since last fall.

Begley added that there are some issues with the building, like black mold in the bathroom, that county officials might be able to help her with. She told the council to use, if they have any, their connections with the county to help.

Begley also said the nonprofit would like to open another shelter in the southeastern part of the county but that building another facility was a five-year goal.

On a related note, Police Chief Jim Kulesa told the council during his report that domestic violence victim Laura Webb of Cabot, who helped push for the new law called Laura’s Card, had already spoken to him about having a speaker come to the schools for domestic violence awareness month.

Kulesa said his officers were in training Monday night for Laura’s Card, a new law requiring police to notify victims of their rights, which had to be requested by victims before.

Law enforcement will also be required to conduct lethality assessments showing victims of domestic violence how at risk they are of being murdered by their abusers.

In other business:

Mayor Bernie Chamber-lain reported that the city’s $200 check to cover a processing fee for conducting a special census had been lost. A new check has been received, and she will have a cost estimate for performing the census to present to the council next month.

The city’s annual budget could see a $50,000 boost in turnback revenue — $250,000 over the next five years — after a special census is held, the mayor said previously.

General Improvement Funds provided by Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) are expected to cover the cost of conducting the census, which is estimated at $40,000.

Chamberlain said Monday that Austin could choose to be a first-class city, which would require it to provide more services, if the population reaches 2,500. But it doesn’t have to be a first-class city until there are 3,500 residents.

TOP STORY >> Comcast told to pay more

Leader staff writer

Who’s trying to skin the city? That’s what Sherwood Mayor Virginia Young wants to know.

Is it Comcast or the auditors Sherwood hired to look into the amount Comcast owes the city?

The city paid the auditing firm $8,000 to review franchise fees that Comcast might owe the city. Auditors said the firm owed the city $71,000.

But Mike Wilson, president of Comcast in Arkansas, showed Alderman Charlie Harmon where the company had a “favored nation” clause in its contract and couldn’t be charged a higher fee than anyone else. According to Wilson, the company is willing to pay the city $34,200 under the condition that the city signs a new 10-year agreement with the firm and audits all other companies in the same manner that it audited Comcast.

The mayor was perturbed with Comcast’s proposal, presented at the council meeting Monday night.

“We don’t negotiate with other firms that owe us money. Did we get taken by the auditors? Does Comcast owe us $71,000 or not?” she asked.

Harmon said chances were that the auditors didn’t know about the clause in the contract. She felt they should have and did not want to accept the firm’s proposal. “First, it’s none of their business whether we audit another company or not,” Harmon said.

The council agreed and voted, with Alderman Kevin Lilly abstaining, to send the company a counter proposal accepting the $34,200 and agreeing to work out a new contract, but with no further compromises or concessions. City Attorney Stephen Cobb will take the offer to Comcast and report back to the council.

In other council business:

The city attorney, seeing that the council chambers was packed with residents announced that the ordinance restricting recreational vehicles had been pulled for the time being and that a rezoning issue for a portion of Kiehl Avenue was also not on the agenda.

After that announcement, about 25 percent of the audience left.

Aldermen approved the sale of city property on Trammel Road to the Brushy Island Hunting Club, which wants the property for better access to the 40 acres they own behind it. No hunting will be done on the purchase property, as most of it is inside city limits.

The club originally offered $18,500, the price the city paid for the property about a year ago when it was planning to use it for a police gun range before an outcry that caused them to halt those plans. The mayor asked the club to pick up closing costs from this sale and from when the city bought the property, about $600 total, so there would be no money lost.

But Alderman Ken Keplinger reminded the council that the city had done about $3,000 worth of improvements, including fill dirt, before stopping the range project. The club offered to raise its purchase price another $3,000 to cover the improvements.

The council approved a rezone request that would allow indoor boarding of pets in C-3 and C-4 commercial zones. It would also allow outdoor kennels in those areas on a case-by-case basis. The change came about when Groomingtails wanted to move its business to a larger location.

“We discovered that our ordinance only allow veterinarians to board pets,” explained City Engineer Ellen Norvell. “I’m sure it was not intentional to disallow grooming services, so that’s why the zoning change was requested.”

The council unanimously approved the zoning request.

Aldermen approved a resolution to purchase a camera and related equipment to record Sherwood meetings for replay or streaming on the city’s website. No date was set to start filming meetings.

TOP STORY >> Ex-Cabot official in key post

Ryan Benefield, a former Cabot city engineer, will be the next deputy director of the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. He is replacing former deputy director Jonathan Sweeney, who served the agency for 39 years.

Executive director Randy Young made the announcement. The commission has a staff of about 90 employees who are responsible for efficient water resource development, conservation and management.

Benefield has worked at the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality for 11 years and has been an ADEQ deputy director for the past six and a half years.

Before joining ADEQ, Benefield was a project manager for Terracon, a consulting engineering firm. The professional registered engineer will join ANRC on Aug. 31.

TOP STORY >> Area representatives seeking re-election

Four area legislators have announced they’ll seek another term in the state House of Representatives.

Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville) is running for a second term in Dist. 42.

Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) is seeking re-election in House Dist. 44, which includes parts of Lonoke, Faulkner and White counties.

Rep. Tim Lemons (R-Cabot) is seeking re-election in House Dist. 43, which includes most of Cabot and the central part of Lonoke County.

Rep. Camille Bennett (D-Lonoke) is seeking a second term in Dist. 14.

Johnson, a certified public accountant, says he wants to continue the work he started in the legislature last year. Topping his list of priorities are state income-tax exemptions for military retirees and the right to carry concealed weapons without a permit for all active military.

He said anyone in the military is qualified to carry a weapon and should not have to apply for a state concealed permit. He said all military members have earned the right to carry a concealed weapon after the shootings at military installations in Little Rock and Chattanooga.

Johnson, who served five terms as justice of the peace on the Pulaski County Quorum Court, said he’s also organizing a caucus of central Arkansas legislators to promote jobs, roads and schools in the area.

The caucus includes nine representatives and three senators. They want to promote economic development and improve Hwy. 67/167, which could become a northern corridor of I-130, Johnson said.

“We need to bring jobs here,” Johnson continued. “We can have more impact as a group.”

Johnson serves on several committees, including Legislative and Military Affairs, Joint Committee on Public Retirement and Social Security Programs, Public Transportation and Aging and Children and Youth.

In the 2015 legislative session, Johnson supported an increase in public school teacher pay.

“We started some good things in 2015 and want to continue the work in 2017,” he said.

Farrer said he focused his efforts in the 2014 legislative session on lowering taxes, bringing jobs to Arkansas and being an advocate for first responders, specifically fire and police.

He said the legislature passed the largest income tax cut in Arkansas history, but there is still more work that can be done.

Farrer, interim chief executive officer of North Metro Medical Center, serves on a committee that is evaluating Medicaid expansion under the so-called private option. The legislature will consider abolishing the program, which provides health insurance to about 200,000 working-poor Arkansans.

“I will continue to work tirelessly as an advocate for common sense policy in Little Rock. The new Republican majority has made it possible to pass legislation that reduces the size and scope of government, decreases the tax burden on hard-working Arkansans, and advocates for our public servants.

“Moving forward, I will continue to represent the values and needs of District 44 in Little Rock,” he said. “As I travel the three counties in my district, I constantly hear the same messages of ‘we need more jobs’ or ‘taxes are just too high.’ As my record shows, these issues matter to me, and I will continue the fight for more jobs and lower taxes.”

Lemons is the owner of Lemons Engineering Consultants in Cabot.

Before his election as state representative in 2014, he served for six years on the Lonoke County Quorum Court.

“My service in the House of Representatives has been the most rewarding experience of my life. My platform will continue to be a Republican for common sense government,” Lemons said.

During his first term in the House, Lemons sponsored and passed legislation that created the state’s first suicide prevention council, increased autism awareness, and revised the county’s appropriation process, which freed up approximately $100,000 for each county without increasing taxes. He also sponsored three pieces of legislation to strengthen the right to possess arms.

Lemons was a co-sponsor on several pieces of legislation that became law, such as Gov. Hutchinson’s middle-class tax cut and the 2015 School Safety Act. He was a strong supporter of the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act.

While at the Capitol, Lemons serves on the Revenue and Tax Committee, where he is the vice chair of income tax for personal and corporate; City, County and Local Affairs Committee; Energy Com-mittee; Boys State Advisory Committee and the Arkansas Legislative Council. He was recently appointed to the Alzheimer’s Advisory Council and is one of only two legislators appointed to the newly created Arkansas Special Education Task Force.

“As an engineer, I take a common-sense approach to solving problems. I’ve done my best to do the same when addressing issues as a legislator,” said Lemons. “This style, along with my business background and community involvement, has allowed me to be a strong voice and solid advocate for our area in the state legislature.”

Lemons has served on the board of directors of CASA, is a past board member on the Arkansas Association of Counties Legislative Committee, a member of the Lonoke County Republican Committee and a member of First Baptist Church.

He has also served on the Metroplan TCC Board, board of directors of thes Cabot and Ward chambers of commerce, as a board member on Cabot Parks and Recreation, chair for Cabot- Arkansas Community of Excellence Board, as a volunteer for Special Olympics, a volunteer for Project Lead the Way at Cabot High School and has held leadership positions on church committees.

Lemons and his wife, Janice, have two children, Erica, a realtor in the Cabot area and co-owner of the Trendy Tulip (along with Janice), and Seth, a broadcast journalism major at UALR working as audio director for KARK and KLRT in Little Rock.

Lemons added, “I appreciate the opportunity to serve the citizens of Cabot and Lonoke County in the state legislature and ask for their continued support in my re-election campaign.”

Bennett defeated Repub-lican Buddy Fisher, a minister, by 88 votes in 2014. She succeeded longtime Rep. Walls McCrary (D-Lonoke).

The district includes Carlisle, Coy, Furlow, Hum-noke, Humphrey, Keo, Lonoke, Scott, Tucker and Wabbaseka in Lonoke, Jefferson and Pulaski counties.

Bennett, a former elected Lonoke city attorney, received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and her law degree from the University of Missouri School of Law in Columbia, Mo.

She has been assigned to the Judiciary and State Agencies and Governmental Affairs committees.

Bennett is a member of the United Methodist Church, the American Heart Association and the Central Arkansas Rescue Efforts for Animals.

She is married to Wayne Otis Bennett Jr. of Lonoke.