The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Delta Caucus Praises President Trump's Choice of Peter Kinder of Missouri for DRA Alternate Federal Co-Chairman

Posted on August 11, 2017 at 03:16 PM

The Delta Grassroots Caucus praises President Trump’s choice of Peter Dickson Kinder as Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority as a well-qualified, dedicated leader for the Delta region. Mr. Kinder is a former Lt. Governor of Missouri, distinguished attorney from Cape Giradeau and an eighth generation southeast Missouri native.

Delta Caucus partners in southeast Missouri have known Peter Kinder for many years and speak very highly of him.

Mike Marshall, economic development director for the City of Sikeston, Missouri and the former Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the DRA, praised his successor in the post: “I have known Peter Kinder for many years. He is a statesman who loves southeast Missouri and is going to love the entire Delta region as well. I am confident he will do a great job for the Delta Regional Authority.”

Caucus Director Lee Powell said “We are glad to see that President Trump has filled this vacancy with a well-qualified, dedicated native of the southeast Missouri Delta who has experience as Lt. Governor of Missouri, state senator, a real estate attorney for Drury Industries, in newpspaper publishing with the Southeast Missourian/Rust Communications, and a member of the Southeast Missouri Regional Port Authority.”

“As a distinguished Republican leader, Mr. Kinder will be able to work effectively with Republicans in the Trump administration and the Republican majority in Congress. He also has a reputation of having worked well with diverse populations and did constructive work after the Ferguson, Missouri racial strife in working with people of both races,” Powell said.

“The DRA has a relatively small budget at $28 million spread over extensive areas in eight states with a population of approximately 10 million, but nonetheless can be a helpful supplement to the other larger-scale federal, state, local and private sector economic development activities in the region,” said Harvey Joe Sanner of Des Arc, president of the American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas and senior member of the Delta Caucus.

Powell said “We congratulate President Trump on a very fine choice of one of the two Presidentially appointed posts at the DRA, and look forward to working with Mr. Kinder. We hope the other federal post of Federal Co-Chairman will also be filled soon.”

The Alternate Federal Co-Chairman post can be filled more rapidly than the Federal Co-Chairman post, because the Federal Co-Chairman post requires Senate confirmation, while the Alternate Federal Co-Chair post does not. So this was well and expeditiously done. But the Delta Caucus hopes the Federal Co-Chairman post will also be filled soon.

Arkansas Achieves Universal High-Speed Broadband in Public Schools; & School Bus Seat Belt Bill Becomes Law

Posted on July 26, 2017 at 10:39 AM

Arkansas is now one of only a few states having universal high-speed broadband connectivity for its public schools thanks to the leadership of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the state government, and private sector officials. The Delta Caucus praises this action because it will especially benefit many rural and previously isolated public schools in the Delta.

“This is a major step forward for education in Arkansas and will be particularly beneficial for many schools in the rural Delta that previously did not have the same access to technology as more urban districts. We commend Gov. Hutchinson, the legislature, local and private sector officials for this success for education in Arkansas,” said Lee Powell, Delta Caucus Director.

Rodney Fisher, Delta Caucus partner, education and health expert, former aide to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex) said “Arkansas’ new high-speed broadband network could not be better news for students in the South Delta. Long lacking reliable broadband access, Southeast Delta students have lacked the full benefits that computers provide in order for students to succeed in a competitive workforce.

Fisher added that “Significant challenges remain. A majority of Delta students, especially the poor still do not have personal computers at home. But this is a promising first step.”

School bus seat bill law: On another note related to improvements for students in public schools, Rep. Mark McElroy’s (D-Tillar, AR) bill regarding seat belt usage in school buses was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. David Wallace (R-Leachville, AR) and signed into law by Gov. Hutchinson.

The Delta Caucus had endorsed this bill earlier in the year and congratulates Rep. McElroy, the governor and the legislature on its passage. More information on that bill is below in this message.

Arkansas’ Broadband Connectivity Now Universal

As of July 30, 2017, all public schools in Arkansas went online with a new high-speed broadband network, providing all 1,064 public schools and 477,000 students in the state with broadband access.

The work began in July 2015 using private providers with the goal of completing it in 2017, and that became a reality right on schedule.

Many schools in the Delta would have been left behind if services had not been provided, and high-speed broadband connections are now necessary for standardized testing, online courses and online field trips.

Arkansas’ program is drawing not only regional but national attention. Evan Marwell, the founder of a national nonprofit based in California called Education Super Highway that monitors school connectivity, said Arkansas connected its schools at a “remarkable” pace, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He said, “The reason you were able to get there so quickly is you had really strong state leadership, strong state funding and a really strong service community that got mobilized. There are not a lot of states that have all three of those things.”

Millie Atkins, community leader in Monroe, Louisiana and former CenturyLink Public Policy Manager who has worked on broadband access issues in the Delta for many years, said “This is awesome and demonstrates what can be accomplished when our elected officials and local communities work together on behalf of the residents. What a great win for Arkansas students!”

As of 2016, only five states in the country had universal broadband access under a federal standard of 100 kilobits per second per student: Hawaii, Kentucky, North Dakota, South Carolina and Wyoming. Arkansas now has connections of 200 kilobits per second per sudent, which is double the national standard, and all are on all fiber-optic cables that can handle much faster speeds than older copper wiring.

We still have a long way to go for broadband access for the entire population of Arkansas, and we encourage greater action in that regard. Arkansas ranks 49th in Internet access for its people as a whole, according to US News & World Report.

In total, the state will pay about $14 million per year for the new network, with the majority of the cost reimbursed by the federal E-Rate program. It paid about $13 million a year for the old, much slower network provided by the state.

Bandwidth on the new Arkansas network costs $3.70 per megabit. Marwell of the EducationSuperHighway said the national average is $7 per megabit.

The old Arkansas network cost $286 per megabit, according to a 2014 EducationSuper-Highway study. However, schools purchased roughly 95 percent of their bandwidth from the private market. That cost about another $11.30 per megabit.

The process of upgrading the public schools’ connectivity began in 2014 under former Gov. Mike Beebe. After navigating a series of technical issues, in early 2015 the Department of Education asked broadband companies to bid to provide access to schools. After several rounds of bidding, connections were eventually secured for school districts across the state. Gov. Hutchinson stayed in close communication with the Federal Communications Commission to secure federal E-rate funding.

Arkansas will pay about $14 million per year for the new network, with the majority of the cost reimbursed by the federal E-Rate program. The older, slower network provided by the state cost about $13 million annually. According Marwell of the Education Super Highway nonprofit, bandwidth in Arkansas now costs $3.70 per megabit, whereas the national average is $7 per megabit. “School Bus Seat Belts Bill”

Congratulations to Rep. Mark McElroy, who represents a district in the heart of the southeast Arkansas Delta (Chicot, Desha and part of Ashley County), for passage of his bill allowing local areas to increase seat belt usage on school buses in Arkansas.

Sen. David Wallace (R-Leachville), who represents a northeast Arkansas Delta district, sponsored the bill in the Senate and Gov. Hutchinson signed it into law.

The law enables residents to petition their local school board to decide how much of a millage increase would be reruied to add passenger seat belts to newly-purchased school buses, and to place such an increase to a vote in the next scheduled election.

In describing the bill, Rep. McElroy said “Local control was really the only way to fund this. This lets the people decide - the people who put their kids on the bus every day can decide if that’s something they want to pay for.”

McElroy said the addition of seat belts to a school bus can increase the cost of the bus by about $7,000 to $10,000. Although federal law requires smaller school buses that weigh less than 10,000 pounds, to feature lap belts, any requirements for belts on larger buses is left up to state and local legislation, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Similar legislation should be pushed in the other seven Delta states, and ultimately it’s the federal government that has the financial and national clout to mandate school bus seat belts across America.

In December, 2016, the Delta Caucus quoted Rep. McElroy (D-Tillar), in rightly saying that it’s past time to change decades-old assumptions about school bus safety and protect children in the event of a crash. Back in 1977 federal safety regulations only required school buses to employ “compartmentalization”-meaning the box-like space made by higher seats with protective padding.

At the federal level, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the first time changed its stance in 2015, when Administrator Mark Rosekind stated that seat belts should be standard on every school bus in America.

The Delta Caucus urges the Congress and the Trump administration to make the feds put their money where their mouth is and mandate seat belt usage in every bus, which they have not done.

Back in 2011 the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration concluded that requiring seat belts nationally would reduce the number of school children killed each year from five to three.

Why have the feds stated that seat belts are a vital safety precaution that should be in every school bus, but not mandated it? It would require about $10,000 to include seat belts in every seat.

As McElroy rightly says, “Now (federal government officials) say that seat belts do save lives. They stopped short of mandating because of the money. When they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.”

Hey, feds, state officials and bus manufacturers-how much is the life of a child worth? Don’t quibble about $10,000 per bus when children’s safety is at stake.

Why are seat belts in their families’ cars but not when they ride a school bus?

Rep. McElroy filed his bill before the tragic accident in which six school children were killed in Chattanooga, Tennessee. So McElroy was not just chasing publicity but has advocated for seat belts in buses for a long time.

These accidents have occurred in the past and will continue to do so unless safety standards are heightened. In 2004, a bus in the Siloam Springs, Arkansas area crashed killing one student and injuring seven. In 1983, four students and five teachers were killed when a Jonesboro School District bus crashed.

Local control issue at the state level: The Congress and the President have the financial resources to mandate seat belt usage and provide funding, if they have the will and foresight to do so. However, at the state level, there are local control issues that Rep. McElroy has taken into account.

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Delta Caucus Set for Oct. 19-20 in Little Rock; Women's Issues, Jobs/Infrastructure, Health Care

Posted on July 12, 2017 at 10:24 AM

The annual Delta Caucus conference is set for Oct. 19-20, 2017. The opening session is Thursday evening, Oct. 19 from 4:15 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Arkansas State Capitol Rotunda, and the main session is on Friday, Oct. 20 at the Clinton Presidential Library’s Great Hall.

Key issues will include economic opportunity and equality, women’s issues, infrastructure investments for job creation and to improve our deteriorating transportation, housing and broadband infrastructure, and health care.

Registration and group hotel information are below in this message.

Women’s issues in the Delta: Issues regarding women and girls in the Delta will be among the key subjects for several reasons: because women still only receive 80 cents compared to a dollar for the same work, many households in the Delta are headed by women, violence against women continues to be a disturbing problem, and we want to recognize the many outstanding women leaders in the region. Furthermore, the main session is at the Clinton Library, and the Clinton Foundation is a world leader regarding women’s issues thanks to President Bill Clinton, Secretary Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton.

Conference is being shortened to finish early at 6:30 p.m. on the Oct. 19 opening session and in the early afternoon at 2:15 p.m. for the Oct. 20 main session-so please do not leave the two sessions right before the last few speakers are scheduled.

We know that people’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, and therefore we are shortening both sessions of the conference and ending them earlier than we did previously. When we are concluding so early in the afternoon on Oct. 20, we would ask that you NOT leave at 1:30 p.m. or just before the last few speakers-all the speakers have excellent qualifications and if you leave a half hour earlier you will not save yourself any appreciable amount of time, but you will place the last few speakers in the very difficult situation of speaking to a very small group of people. Please think about this and stay until the meeting is over-it ends early in the afternoon.

As always we will be inviting Members of Congress and Gov. Asa Hutchinson, although they do not confirm this far ahead of an event. President Bill Clinton has done brilliant presentations either by live call-in or in person over the years, and we will be inviting him to do a live call-in regarding key Delta issues. We have already begun confirming some of the key speakers, including:

–Dean Todd Shields of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, University of Arkansas, and Angie Maxwell, Director of the Diane Blair Center for Southern Politics and Culture at the Fulbright College-they will be discussing their research regarding contemporary attitudes toward women and minorities and the impact on the 2016 election;

–Bo Ryall, CEO of the Arkansas Hospitals Association, one of the most knowledgeable experts on Arkansas’ innovative Medicaid expansion program called Arkansas Works;

–Annette Dove, Executive Director of the great TOPPS nonprofit in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, which works on hunger and nutrition, education, mentoring, job creation and related issues;

–Crystal Barnes, who will be president of the Pine Bluff High School student body in the coming academic year, and is taking part in the TOPPS Dreams Require Educating and Motivating Students (DREAMS) program for mentoring and motivating young people in Pine Bluff; This year there are 24 graduates of the TOPPS program and 23 will be going to college and one will serve in the US Army;

–Millie Atkins, Co-Chair of the Delta Caucus’ national affiliate, the Economic Equality Caucus, and community leader in Monroe, Louisiana;

–Mireya Reith, Founding Executive Director of the Arkansas United Community Coalition–an organization working on a broad range of issues for the growing Hispanic population in Arkansas, and Board Member of the Arkansas State Board of Education;

–State Rep. Warwick Sabin, a distinguished member of the Arkansas legislator who is Senior Director for the nonprofit institution Winrock International, which engages in exemplary activities across the country and the globe;

–Liz Young, Director of the Arkansas Women’s Business Center, a part of Winrock International;

–Mike Marshall, Executive Director of the Sikeston, Missouri Regional Chamber of Commerce and a veteran regional advocate for the Greater Delta region;

–Mayor John Mike Henry and Economic Development Director Steven Mitchell of Carbondale, Illinois indicated that the city of Carbondale will send representatives to discuss economic development from the standpoint of the southern Illinois Delta area;

–Heifer International will have a speaker to discuss their innovative hunger and poverty work in Arkansas;

–We will include other speakers on job creation, infrastructure, health care, women’s issues and economic equality from all eight states of the Greater Delta Region from southern Illinois and Missouri to New Orleans.

As always we are glad to have Randy Henderson of Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas in Blytheville, and Priscilla Johnson, Executive Director of the Mississippi County Arkansas Economic Opportunity Commission.

We will be inviting Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Sen. John Boozman, Sen. Tom Cotton, Rep. Rick Crawford, Rep. Bruce Westerman, and Rep. French Hill, although they do not confirm this far ahead of time.

President Bill Clinton has given many brilliant presentations to our events over the years either in person or by live call-in, and we will be inviting him to do a live call-in again this year for the Clinton Library session.

The state Capitol and the Clinton Library were chosen as the site for the regional conference because Arkansas is located approximately in the center of the region, and the Clinton Foundation and President Clinton have an outstanding legacy and continue to do great work for the Delta. Secretary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton are among the world’s leaders in issues related to women and girls, among their other many accomplishments.

SCHEDULE

Thursday evening, Oct. 19, 2017, from 4:15 to 6:30 p.m. at the Rotunda of the Arkansas State Capitol

Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. at the Great Hall of the Clinton Presidential Library

REGISTRATION

You register by sending in the early registration fees of $100 by Sept. 19.

Those who have paid their annual registration fees (minimum of $25) will have their registration fees reduced to $75 each.

After Sept. 19, registration fees go up to $125 each.

You can pay the registration fees either by going to the website at mdgc.us and using the PayPal process at the top of the website,

OR

If you prefer to pay by check, make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to our office in the Washington, DC area:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, Maryland 20601

GROUP DISCOUNT ON REGISTRATION FEES:

If you can recruit a group of three additional people from your local area or network, we will reduce the fees to $60 each. This is to provide an incentive for people to recruit additional people to attend the conference to be there for the networking, to take part in question and answer as you wish, and to show support for the regional grassroots advocacy effort.

For the evening of Oct. 19, traditionally everybody goes to one of the many fine restaurants in the Little Rock River District, which is close to the Holiday Inn Preidential; the hotel’s Camp David restaurant is a very good restaurant and many people have dinner there and engage in additional socializing and networking after the opening session ends.

GROUP HOTEL

To get the reduced rate of $94 for the night of Oct. 19, please call the Holiday Inn Presidential at 501-375-2100 and say you are with the Delta Caucus group.

Most people will only need to stay one night, in order to reduce the costs. You can come to the opening session on Oct. 19, then check out on the morning of Oct. 20 for the main session, which ends at the early time of 2:15 p.m.

Again, we would ask people to be considerate to the last few speakers. There have been meetings where the meeting hall was full at 1:30 p.m. and then the great majority of people suddenly left, leaving the last few speakers with a very small number of people to address.

When we are finishing so early in the afternoon and we only hold this event once a year, please stay that extra few minutes. For a high-quality hotel like the Holiday Inn Presidential in the heart of the Little Rock River District and close to the Clinton Library, $94 is a good discount rate.

Policy Recommendations for May 17-18 DC Conference, & YouTube Presentation to President Trump

Posted on July 12, 2017 at 10:08 AM

Originally posted on May 31, 2017

We have over 100 people to thank and touch base with after the May 17-18 Economic Equality Conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, so it takes a few weeks to express appreciation and inform other partners who were not able to be there about some of the highlights. This is one of a series of reports on the conference.

The Delta Grassroots Caucus will convene our annual Delta conference on Oct. 19-20, 2017 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

There will be a brief opening session on Thursday evening, Oct. 19 from 4:15 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Arkansas State Capitol Rotunda.

The main session will be Friday, Oct. 20 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. at the Great Hall of the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas,

YouTube video on the Economic Equality Caucus recommendations, filmed on location in West Palm Beach, Florida by an attendee (“Delta Diamond”) at the recent EEC conference who is a neighbor of President Trump’s near Mar-a-Lago.

Go to Youtube.com and type in “Delta Grassroots Caucus” and you should be able to pull up the video, which only lasts two minutes.

This is not a link-you will need to go to YouTube.com, then go to “Search,” and then type in “Delta Caucus.”

It is intended to be positive and briefly summarizes several of our key recommendations. We are encouraging people to look at the video for three reasons:

I. A concise message: It is only two minutes long, as opposed to the conference, which was two full days. “Delta Diamond” is the speaker being interviewed in a tongue-in-cheek fashion by a reporter on location in West Palm Beach, but she is positive and presents cookies she baked for President Trump as a gesture of good will, as well as the policy recommendations.

II. Key issues: She notes the widespread support for Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina’s 10/20/30 anti-poverty plan, job creation at living wages, opening up trade in food to Cuba, infrastructure improvements, expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and support for full funding for major safety net programs like SNAP, school meals and other nutrition programs.

III. The need to promote civility in our national discourse and disagree in a nice, cordial way: We wanted to be completely cordial and positive, and the gesture of baking cookies for President Trump and having a neighbor of his (Delta Diamond really does live near Mar-a-Lago on West Palm Beach, Florida) expresses our conviction that we should be able to disagree with our nation’s leaders while being cordial. We have many people in our network who oppose the Trump budget cuts, but we also oppose groups who boo, shout speakers down and are rude.

Our national discourse is sadly in need of more civility. We are setting an example by disagreeing with President Trump in a perfectly cordial, nice way.

(Delta Diamond has no personal political ambitions and is NOT planning to run for President!!)

President Trump will of course probably never hear about this. On the outside chance that he does, his neighbor Delta Diamond really would like to bring over some cookies and have a nice, pleasant conversation with him and US economic policy the next time he is in Mar-a-Lago.

Delta Diamond said she hopes the baked cookies will open up talks with President Trump about economic opportunity and equality in America.

(Editor’s note: When Lee Powell originally suggested that Delta Diamond deliver baked cookies and the policy memo to her neighbor President Trump in Florida, he thought of it only as a joke. Then he learned that Delta actually wanted to bake the cookies and take them over to the President along with the policy memo, and he thought it was a statesmanlike gesture.)

We attach a memorandum on policy recommendations regarding “Economic Opportunity and Equality in America,” drafted by our Legislative Action Committee after gathering feedback from a wide variety of sources. We do not expect all our colleagues to agree with all of the recommendations, but most will agree with many of them.

A few highlights of the conference were:

Support for the bipartisan 10/20/30 economic opportunity plan championed by Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY). This does not increase federal spending at all, but just makes sure that it goes where it is most needed.

Rep. Clyburn’s plan requires that 10% of federal discretionary counties go to the most economically distressed areas across the country where 10% of the people have been in poverty for 30 years.

Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) and Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) gave thoughtful presentations on the need for transportation, broadband and other infrastructure improvements, their support for the legislation to allow the historic steamboat Delta Queen to once again travel the Mississippi River and its tributaries, and efforts to open up trade to Cuba. We have supported their positions on these issues for many years and praise their leadership for these beneficial legislative initiatives.

Opening trade to Cuba: On the latter point, Congressman Rick Crawford pointed to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue’s positive comments about the benefits of opening up trade to Cuba for American farmers. Farmers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and elsewhere in the Greater Delta region used to export much of their products to Cuba before the embargo, which has now been in place for 50 years and has done nothing to undermine the Cuban dictatorship. The best way to undermine that regime and bring about change in Cuba is to trade with them and show the Cuban people the benefits of the free enterprise system.

We should acknowledge that President Trump later gave a speech in Miami in which he continued to support the embargo, but it is Congress that has the authority to end the embargo. There is increasing bipartisan support for opening up trade to Cuba.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) gave a thoughtful presentation on infrastructure, agriculture and the economy in the great state of Mississippi. He indicated that he has always been on the other side of the debate regarding trade to Cuba, but acknowledged that farmers in Mississippi would benefit from it, that supporters made valid arguments for our position. He graciously acknowledged that his side is losing the debate and proponents of trade with Cuba are winning it, and cordially shook hands with Lee Powell, Delta Caucus director and EEC Co-Chair. Sen. Wicker is truly a Southern gentleman in the best sense of that word.

Opposition to President Trump’s excessive budget cut proposals to SNAP and other nutrition programs, Medicaid, medical research, public education, and policies harmful to women and minorities:

Congressman Don Beyer of Virginia, Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, state Senator Barbara Favola (D-VA), CEO Joel Berg of Hunger Free America, Walter Tejada, President of the Virginia Latino Leaders Council, Kevin Hickerson of the NEA/Virginia Education Association, Giev Kashkooli of United Farm Workers, and others expressed concerns about the harm these draconian budget cuts would inflict on millions of working families across America.

The full agenda is below and includes distinguished organizations from across the country. People came from as far as California, Texas, New Orleans, northern Louisiana, Arkansas, Memphis, the Midwest, Florida, New York as well as the Mid-Atlantic region.

This was a bipartisan conference. Many leaders from both parties urged President Trump and his administration to follow through on promises for a major program of infrastructure investments to create jobs and repair our deteriorating transportation, housing, levee systems, broadband access and other infrastructure.

Economic Opportunity and Equality in America

Recommendations from the Legislative Action Committee

May 28, 2017

Major populations of our country lag far behind the rest of America economically, such as the Greater Delta Region, Appalachia, the Southwest Border, parts of the Midwest, Native Americans, and inner cities. Poverty rates for women and children across the country are far higher than for the rest of the population, and neglect of our veterans is a national shame. There are deep concerns about Trump administration proposed budget cuts to hunger and nutrition, health care, education, job creation, infrastructure programs among many leaders in both parties. We would strongly advise against major cuts to vital programs that have gained bipartisan support for many years.

While the Virginia/Washington, DC/Maryland region is for the most part relatively prosperous, our coalition expresses grave concerns about the disproportionately harmful impact the Trump budget cuts would have on this region. Not only does this area face the same cuts to vital safety net programs as the rest of the country, but the huge federal government job layoffs are especially harmful to this region, the threat to eliminate federal funding for the Chesapeake Bay restoration program is detrimental environmentally and economically, and Trump administration civil rights policies pose special risks for this region with its highly diverse population having many African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and other minorities.

A bipartisan initiative that will not increase federal spending but channel funding where it is most needed: The “10-20-30” plan championed by Rep. James Clyburn (D-South Carolina) and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Kentucky) for all federal programs related to economic development. This requires 10 percent of federal funding to persistent poverty local areas where 20% of the population has lived in poverty for over 30 years. This would not add any federal spending but just assure that those who need it most get their fair share of federal investments.

1) Job creation/retention at living wage levels:

Supporting and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, which has taken millions out of poverty; Expanding the Community Reinvestment Act and Community Development Financial Institutions; Invigorating small business job growth, the most dynamic engine for economic growth-especially at SBA and similar programs such as the Economic Development Administration;

Investing in transportation and other critical infrastructure including housing and broadband to create jobs and improve our deteriorating highways, bridges and access to the Internet; Increasing the federal minimum wage. America’s largest employer, Wal-Mart, raised its wages in 2015, and many other states and local areas did so in 2016. Data overwhelmingly shows that when many states set their minimum wages above the federal level, there is little or no impact as far as their losing jobs to lower wage states, while paying workers better reduces turnover and generates higher productivity. Higher wages are not only just, but are sound economically.

2) Health care, nutrition and education:

Women and children have uniquely high poverty rates, which must be reduced by requiring equal pay for equal work, health and nutrition programs for women and children, greater stress on reducing domestic violence, teen pregnancy and pre-natal programs, and on policies promoting expanded professional opportunities in business, elected office, nonprofits and the professions for women;

Supporting increased funding for Education/workforce development, including relief for the exorbitant costs of student loans for college;

Full funding for SNAP, school meals, WIC and other major nutrition programs that are the vital safety net against hunger and prevent health care problems,

Fully funding USDA Rural Development programs in housing, water and other infrastructure, broadband access, renewable energy, small business for rural areas;

Preserving the basic gains of the Affordable Care Act, with leeway for the modified versions such as Arkansas’ innovative program and other innovative state initiatives;

Fully funding AmeriCorps to further fight poverty and boost opportunity, aid education, help seniors, work in disaster relief, and enhance public lands. AmeriCorps participants perform this service while earning payments for job training, college, home ownership, or starting a business.

3) Economic equality for economically distressed regions: Expanding key initiatives based on the Clinton administration’s New Markets Initiative. Creating an improved version of the New Markets Tax Credit to give tax incentives for investing in economically distressed areas. Simplifying the complex application process is essential.

Eliminating or greatly reducing the local matching grant requirements for the poorest counties, which often don’t have funds for the small local funding requirement and thus miss out on larger amounts of funding. Regional commissions that aid economically distressed areas like the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority should be supported and their funding increased-the DRA in particular has always been severely under-funded. A starting point is that the poorest 100 counties in America pay no local matching grant, the next 100 a greatly reduced amount; the next poorest 100 counties pay a lesser reduced amount for local matching requirements;

Providing Veterans with strong safety net programs for job training, physical and mental health care, substance abuse treatment, and housing for the huge number of veterans who served our country bravely in two major recent wars and many other areas across the globe.

Trade: Job training and other programs for workers losing their jobs due to changing trade patterns, as well as labor and environmental safeguards for free trade agreements.

Opening up trade in food and other exports to Cuba. The failed embargo has been in place for a half century. This is sound national policy in weakening the Cuban dictatorship by exposing their people to the benefits of the free enterprise system, while opening up new markets for American products;

We supported the dislocated worker program to help those thrown out of work due to changing patterns of international trade. Any trade agreements must include strong labor, environmental, and intellectual property safeguards,

4) Implementing tax reform for lower to middle income working families,

Creating new fees on financial transactions for wealthy Wall Street speculators.

Reducing income taxes for those in the income brackets from $18,000 to $75,000, graduated for the number in each family. Removing huge tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans in the top 1 percent.

Reversing tax inequity: the wealthiest 8 Americans increased their wealth by $87 billion in 2014, which is more money than America spent on SNAP (food stamps) that year.

Returning the tax code to its structure of the 1970s, or at a minimum to where it stood at the end of the Clinton administration. If the tax code of the 1970s had continued, as of 2016 the wealthiest 1% would have had $1 trillion less and working families would have $1 trillion more.

Doubling the child care tax credit.

Voting rights: Economic equality is advanced if everybody has equal rights to participate in the democratic process. We support the right to vote for all Americans regardless of income, racial or ethnic group, gender, or other status. This includes voting rights for Hispanics and a legal path to citizenship.

While employment and economic growth are on the rebound, this expanded tax revenue will afford investments in more economic equality for hard-working families in lower to middle ranges. Sound job growth investments are self-sustaining financially due to the increases in tax revenue they generate.

Economic Equality Caucus Conference

“Jobs, Health Care, Infrastructure, Diversity”

May 17-18, 2017, Washington, DC

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Delta Caucus Set for Oct. 19-20 in Little Rock: Women's Issues, Infrastructure/Jobs, Health Care

Posted on July 11, 2017 at 10:19 AM

The annual Delta Caucus conference is set for Oct. 19-20, 2017. The opening session is Thursday evening, Oct. 19 from 4:15 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Arkansas State Capitol Rotunda, and the main session is on Friday, Oct. 20 at the Clinton Presidential Library’s Great Hall.

Key issues will include economic opportunity and equality, women’s issues, infrastructure investments for job creation and to improve our deteriorating transportation, housing and broadband infrastructure, and health care.

Registration and group hotel information are below in this message.

Women’s issues in the Delta: Issues regarding women and girls in the Delta will be among the key subjects for several reasons: because women still only receive 80 cents compared to a dollar for the same work, many households in the Delta are headed by women, violence against women continues to be a disturbing problem, and we want to recognize the many outstanding women leaders in the region. Furthermore, the main session is at the Clinton Library, and the Clinton Foundation is a world leader regarding women’s issues thanks to President Bill Clinton, Secretary Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton.

Conference is being shortened to finish early at 6:30 p.m. on the Oct. 19 opening session and in the early afternoon at 2:15 p.m. for the Oct. 20 main session-so please do not leave the two sessions right before the last few speakers are scheduled.

We know that people’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, and therefore we are shortening both sessions of the conference and ending them earlier than we did previously. When we are concluding so early in the afternoon on Oct. 20, we would ask that you NOT leave at 1:30 p.m. or just before the last few speakers-all the speakers have excellent qualifications and if you leave a half hour earlier you will not save yourself any appreciable amount of time, but you will place the last few speakers in the very difficult situation of speaking to a very small group of people. Please think about this and stay until the meeting is over-it ends early in the afternoon.

As always we will be inviting Members of Congress and Gov. Asa Hutchinson, although they do not confirm this far ahead of an event. President Bill Clinton has done brilliant presentations either by live call-in or in person over the years, and we will be inviting him to do a live call-in regarding key Delta issues. We have already begun confirming some of the key speakers, including:

–Dean Todd Shields of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, University of Arkansas, and Angie Maxwell, Director of the Diane Blair Center for Southern Politics and Culture at the Fulbright College-they will be discussing their research regarding contemporary attitudes toward women and minorities and the impact on the 2016 election;

–Bo Ryall, CEO of the Arkansas Hospitals Association, one of the most knowledgeable experts on Arkansas’ innovative Medicaid expansion program called Arkansas Works;

–Annette Dove, Executive Director of the great TOPPS nonprofit in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, which works on hunger and nutrition, education, mentoring, job creation and related issues;

–Crystal Barnes, who will be president of the Pine Bluff High School student body in the coming academic year, and is taking part in the TOPPS Dreams Require Educating and Motivating Students (DREAMS) program for mentoring and motivating young people in Pine Bluff; This year there are 24 graduates of the TOPPS program and 23 will be going to college and one will serve in the US Army;

–Millie Atkins, Co-Chair of the Delta Caucus’ national affiliate, the Economic Equality Caucus, and community leader in Monroe, Louisiana;

–Mireya Reith, Founding Executive Director of the Arkansas United Community Coalition–an organization working on a broad range of issues for the growing Hispanic population in Arkansas, and Board Member of the Arkansas State Board of Education;

–State Rep. Warwick Sabin, a distinguished member of the Arkansas legislator who is Senior Director for the nonprofit institution Winrock International, which engages in exemplary activities across the country and the globe;

–Liz Young, Director of the Arkansas Women’s Business Center, a part of Winrock International;

–Mike Marshall, Executive Director of the Sikeston, Missouri Regional Chamber of Commerce and a veteran regional advocate for the Greater Delta region;

–Mayor John Mike Henry and Economic Development Director Steven Mitchell of Carbondale, Illinois indicated that the city of Carbondale will send representatives to discuss economic development from the standpoint of the southern Illinois Delta area;

–Heifer International will have a speaker to discuss their innovative hunger and poverty work in Arkansas;

–We will include other speakers on job creation, infrastructure, health care, women’s issues and economic equality from all eight states of the Greater Delta Region from southern Illinois and Missouri to New Orleans.

As always we are glad to have Randy Henderson of Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas in Blytheville, and Priscilla Johnson, Executive Director of the Mississippi County Arkansas Economic Opportunity Commission.

We will be inviting Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Sen. John Boozman, Sen. Tom Cotton, Rep. Rick Crawford, Rep. Bruce Westerman, and Rep. French Hill, although they do not confirm this far ahead of time.

President Bill Clinton has given many brilliant presentations to our events over the years either in person or by live call-in, and we will be inviting him to do a live call-in again this year for the Clinton Library session.

The state Capitol and the Clinton Library were chosen as the site for the regional conference because Arkansas is located approximately in the center of the region, and the Clinton Foundation and President Clinton have an outstanding legacy and continue to do great work for the Delta. Secretary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton are among the world’s leaders in issues related to women and girls, among their other many accomplishments.

SCHEDULE

Thursday evening, Oct. 19, 2017, from 4:15 to 6:30 p.m. at the Rotunda of the Arkansas State Capitol

Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. at the Great Hall of the Clinton Presidential Library

REGISTRATION

You register by sending in the early registration fees of $100 by Sept. 19.

Those who have paid their annual registration fees (minimum of $25) will have their registration fees reduced to $75 each.

After Sept. 19, registration fees go up to $125 each.

You can pay the registration fees either by going to the website at mdgc.us and using the PayPal process at the top of the website,

OR

If you prefer to pay by check, make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to our office in the Washington, DC area:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, Maryland 20601

GROUP DISCOUNT ON REGISTRATION FEES:

If you can recruit a group of three additional people from your local area or network, we will reduce the fees to $60 each. This is to provide an incentive for people to recruit additional people to attend the conference to be there for the networking, to take part in question and answer as you wish, and to show support for the regional grassroots advocacy effort.

For the evening of Oct. 19, traditionally everybody goes to one of the many fine restaurants in the Little Rock River District, which is close to the Holiday Inn Preidential; the hotel’s Camp David restaurant is a very good restaurant and many people have dinner there and engage in additional socializing and networking after the opening session ends.

GROUP HOTEL

To get the reduced rate of $94 for the night of Oct. 19, please call the Holiday Inn Presidential at 501-375-2100 and say you are with the Delta Caucus group.

Most people will only need to stay one night, in order to reduce the costs. You can come to the opening session on Oct. 19, then check out on the morning of Oct. 20 for the main session, which ends at the early time of 2:15 p.m.

Again, we would ask people to be considerate to the last few speakers. There have been meetings where the meeting hall was full at 1:30 p.m. and then the great majority of people suddenly left, leaving the last few speakers with a very small number of people to address.

When we are finishing so early in the afternoon and we only hold this event once a year, please stay that extra few minutes. For a high-quality hotel like the Holiday Inn Presidential in the heart of the Little Rock River District and close to the Clinton Library, $94 is a good discount rate.