I hope your summer is off to a great start! Mine began with 4 days of committee meetings and a trip to Richmond, Va., for the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) conference, which I will discuss more in a later article.

I’ve previously mentioned that the Arkansas Legislative Council (ALC) carries on the business of the legislature when we are not in session. The ALC gets information from its many subcommittees, and I sit on several that met last week.

In one, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) brought several actions for review, including rules and regulations the AGFC adopted in February concerning Captive Wildlife Regulations, Regulations for Hard Card and Proof of License, Permit, Stamp or Certificate, and AGFC Conservation License Plate (CLP) Fund Policy and Procedure.

Did you know Arkansas has Aquatic Turtle Harvest Regulations? Or that the CLP Program funds scholarships, land purchases, and conservation education programming? Do you need to apply for an Arkansas Alligator Hunt?

Check out www.AGFC.com for this and so much more information.

The Higher Education Subcommittee also met last week, where we heard a general overview of the Department of Higher Education and an overview of the 22 Arkansas Community Colleges. We heard about funding, regional workforce grants, and the many financial aid programs in our state. One topic that came up was just how complicated it is to apply for college funding, and we agreed to look further into the actual application process.

The issue of concealed carry handgun permits was discussed at length in another meeting, as was the topic of the purchase of the C&H Hog Farm by the state for $6.2 million, with $1 million being funded by private donors.

While many spoke to the lack of evidence that the farm has adversely impacted the Buffalo River, others are concerned at the precedent this might set, and most of us wanted to ensure the state has a first lien in any debt the farm owners have incurred.

The gun permit discussions centered on the necessity of a permit, as well as allegations that law enforcement do not apply the rules consistently across the state. Both topics will be further addressed in later meetings.

Remember that all our meetings are live-streamed and archived and can be found at www.arkansashouse.org.

I also want to congratulate my friend Doris Hill, who retired last week from the Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Division after more than 20 years of service helping protect Arkansas children and families.

I first met Doris when I started working for the Department of Human Services in 2002, and she taught me something on nearly every case we worked. As she now makes plans for that long-delayed beach vacation, there are many lives that she has touched and many agents and social workers that she helped train with her expertise, attention to detail and her giant heart.

Speaking of beach vacations, have you considered making an Arkansas State Park part of your summer fun? From guided hikes to kayak outings, there are over 50,000 family friendly programs available right here in our own backyard. With thanks to our House media staff, I share some of the great information about these programs.

In 1996, Arkansas voters passed a constitutionally dedicated conservation sales tax benefitting Arkansas State Parks and three sister conservation agencies. We now have 52 state parks on 54,400 acres with 1,800 campsites, 208 cabins, and five lodges serving 8 million visitors annually.

Arkansas has more than 9,700 miles of rivers and streams, and a good deal of it is perfect for floating—be it by canoe, raft or kayak. Experience a lake tour at DeGray Lake Resort, or view the sunset from your kayak on the Bull Shoals-White River. Park interpreters will guide you through the waters as they inform you about your surroundings.

Our state parks also offer lessons in how to cook in historic southern traditions. Learn about the flavors of various herbs at the Ozark Folk Center or how to prepare pizza in an earthen oven at Davidsonville.

Or get away from the harsh city lights and attend a star party. Arkansas’s state parks welcome visitors to look for constellations and learn about astronomy this spring and summer. Guided tours are offered at several parks including Village Creek and Pinnacle Mountain.

And speaking of stars, don’t forget about the opportunities at our national parks. The International Dark-Sky Association just recently designated the Buffalo National River Park as a Dark Sky Park. It is the first such designation for Arkansas and now becomes one of only 19 national parks to be officially recognized as a Dark Sky Park.

There will be a variety of ranger-led night sky programs offered at Buffalo Point this summer.

The Arkansas River flooding is impacting only a few park services. Please call the park ahead of time to ensure your planned activities are still on schedule.

Check out all Arkansas parks has to offer at www.arkansasstateparks.com. You can find information on our national parks at www.nps.gov.

Thank you for the honor of serving as state representative and representing your interests in Little Rock. Please let me know how I can be of assistance to you. I can be reached at (870) 460-0773 (leave a message), be email at leanne.burch@arkansashouse.org, or by message on Facebook @BurchforAR. I look forward to hearing from you.

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