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Advocacy | Policy & Political Action

NASW Arkansas is guided by the policy statements that appear in Social Work Speaks 11th Ed. in its advocacy efforts and will support and promote the following for its 2019 Priority Issues.


 

HEALTH DISPARITIES AS A SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUE

  • Addressing Social Determinants of Health
  • Intersection of Drug Policy with Public Health and Criminal Justice
  • Transforming Medicaid In Arkansas
  • Arkansas Act 775 – creating a managed care model for beneficiaries receiving behavioral health and intellectual/development disability services known as the Provider-Led Shared Savings Entities (PASSE) model. Arkansas is currently in phase one of the rollout. Many hope the PASSE model will help address the challenges of providing high-quality care to people with the most intensive Medicaid needs, while reducing the high cost of care in Medicaid. However, there are significant concerns with the beneficiary assessment process, communication problems and short implementation timeline.
  • Keep AR Coverage
  • Since 2014, we’ve seen great success with Arkansas Works, the state’s Medicaid expansion program.
  • It’s not just about coverage for adults. As Congress continues to debate the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a replacement plan, much hangs in the balance for children, too. According to the Urban Institute, repealing the ACA will double the number of uninsured kids. In Arkansas, this means that at least 34,000 kids would lose their coverage and as many as 127,000 Arkansas children could lose coverage if we get rid of the federal law that keeps ARKids First eligibility requirements at current levels.

ECONOMIC JUSTICE

  • Minimum Wage
    • Bob Ballinger and Rep. Frances Cavenaugh introduced Senate Bill 115, To Provide Exceptions to the Minimum Wage Law for Individuals Under Eighteen, Educational Institutions, Employers with Fewer than Fifty Employees, and Nonprofit Organizations and to Amend the Law Impacting Initiated Act 5 of 2018. In November 2018, more than two-thirds of Arkansas voters passed a state minimum wage increase, bringing the minimum to $9.25 per hour on January 1, and increasing incrementally to $11 in 2021. In 2014, voters approved a state minimum wage of $8.50. If SB115 passed, anyone under the exemption would only be required to be paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, rolling back all minimum wage increases for thousands of working Arkansans.
  • Education
    • House Bill 1145, To Create the Teacher Salary Enhancement Act, was introduced by Chairman Bruce Cozart. This bill would raise the minimum public school teacher salary from $31,400 to $36,000 over the next four years.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE – JUVENILE JUSTICE

  • Governor Hutchinson’s Plan to Reform Juvenile Justice System
    • Mandate the “validated risk assessment” in all juvenile courts;
    • Close two residential facilities; and
    • Increase funding for community-based treatment programs
  • Prison overcrowding/release of prisoners
    • 26,000 people from Arkansas are behind bars today. About 2100 state prisoners are being held in county jails. State prisons are over capacity by as many as 3500 prisoners. Many solutions have been proposed but none decided on yet.
    • More than third of the people held in jails in Arkansas are held for federal or state agencies, primarily the state prison system.
    • People of color are overrepresented in prisons and jails.
    • Today, Arkansas’s incarceration rates stand out internationally (https://www.prisonpolicy.org/profiles/AR.html).
  • Advocate for providing quality mental health service to reduce rates of recidivism, re-entry, and incarceration.

STATE BOARDS & AGENCIES

  • The governor has proposed reducing the number of state agencies from 42 to 15. Bills to implement the reorganization will be referred to the Senate State Agencies Committee.
  • NASW Arkansas strongly supports the primary role of licensing boards – protection of the public through licensure. NASW Arkansas strongly supports maintaining independent, autonomous licensing boards for these professions to meet the mission of public protection.

VOTERS RIGHTS

  • Voter Suppression
  • Voter Participation

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

  • Linkages between environment quality and social justice
  • Equality in widespread protections from pollution and toxic chemicals
  • Racial, ethnic, and geographical disparities in exposure to pollution and toxic chemicals

IMMIGRATION

  • Immigration Reform
  • DACA
  • Family Separations
  • Zero Tolerance Policies
  • Immigration Detention Reform

Advocate for policies and procedures aimed at the reduction of bullying in Arkansas school systems.

Closely monitor and review (and support when deemed appropriate) initiatives to eliminate or reduce poverty in Arkansas.

Advocate reducing the transition age out of foster care from 17 to 14 to provide more time for adequate planning.

Human Trafficking

Arkansas needs to establish more laws and resources for trafficked persons. A Human Trafficking Task Force met in 2014 and proposed 19 recommendations to address the issue.

Immigration

Arkansas has joined the group of states involved in the federal lawsuit against President Obama’s executive action on immigration. This order delayed the deportation of millions of undocumented residents.

Juvenile Justice

Arkansas’s traditional reliance on secure correctional confinement for minor and non-violent juvenile offenders was expensive, ineffective, and not supported by the research on the proven-effective alternative methods already recognized and implemented in other states.

Advocate for improved educational services and additional resources for youth held in secure confinement; increase professional development training for youth service staff; developing more tools for youth who are re-entering the community to increase youths’ chances of success.

Medicaid Expansion/Private Option

After the recent elections, the private option is in jeopardy. As a result of the private option, Arkansas had one of the country’s steepest reductions in uninsured individuals from 2013 – 2014 (22.5% to 12.4%).

Support and monitor the expansion Arkansas’ implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the role social workers can play in it.

Mental Health

Arkansas reduced its mental health funding in 2013 and 2014. In Arkansas, 12.5% of the population experiences frequent mental distress, whereas the national rate is 10.7%. Additionally, more than 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnoseable mental disorder, according to the National Institute on Mental Health.

Support the development of sufficient resources to support our state budget that will help support the delivery of vital human services to Arkansas citizens in need, including efforts to ensure prompt payment to providers.

Advocate for fair and equitable insurance reimbursement rates for licensed clinical social workers.

Work to promote the hiring of social workers and advocate for the role of the social work profession in the human service sector in Arkansas.

Advocate for adequate levels and types of school social work services on the basis of comprehensive needs assessment data and ensure manageable school social worker to student ratios per the NASW Standards for School Social Work Services.

Advocate for stricter laws aimed at the reduction of mental, sexual, and physical abuse of children, women, and elderly including expanded reporting requirements.

Prison Overcrowding

Arkansas is facing serious prison overcrowding issues. About 2100 state prisoners are being held in county jails. State prisons are over capacity by as many as 3500 prisoners. Many solutions have been proposed but none decided on yet.

Advocate for providing quality mental health service to reduce rates of recidivism, re-entry, and incarceration.

Reproductive Justice

State legislators have indicated they will propose further restrictions on abortions in Arkansas during this session. Proposed legislation includes cutting public funding to Planned Parenthood and banning the use of telemedicine to offer the abortion pill.

Advocate for increasing access to affordable contraception, securing age-appropriate sex education in our schools, fighting pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, and protecting a woman’s right to make personal, private decisions about pregnancy and abortion.

Lobby Day 2021

The Arkansas General Assembly The General Assembly convenes on the second Monday in January in odd years. A session lasts for 60 days unless the legislature votes to extend it. The Governor of Arkansas can issue a “call” for a special session during the interims between regular sessions. The General Assembly meets at the Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock.

The NASW Arkansas Advocacy Committee, with approval by the board of directors, is charged with setting the chapter’s legislative agenda and selecting the date for Lobby Day. Attendance at NASW Arkansas Lobby Day is limited due to the venue’s capacity, and registration is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Online registration is made available in January of odd years and is publicized to the NASW Arkansas membership and accredited schools of social work in Arkansas. 

The NASW Arkansas Chapters follows the inclement weather policy of the Little Rock School District (LRSD). If LRSD closes for inclement weather, Lobby Day will be rescheduled to a more suitable time, if possible.  

 


 

What is Social Work Lobby Day?

Lobby Day is a chance for social workers, students and professors to advocate for the social work profession at the Arkansas General Assembly. You will learn the skills you need to lobby state leaders about policy issues that are important to your profession and to your specific clients in our Advocacy 101 training. You will then put these skills to use by meeting with your local legislators in individual meetings at the Capitol. Lobby Day gives you the opportunity to tour the General Assembly, attend legislative meetings, and interact with social workers from across the state.

NASW Arkansas Lobby Days are held in ‘odd number years’ (2013, 2015…) due to the General Assembly’s schedule. During even years, legislators do not have full session.

We are always happy to speak with students about advocacy throughout the year. If you are interested or have more questions, please contact Holly Barron at hbarron@naswar.org.

Tips on advocating:

How Endorsements Are Made

The goal of our endorsement is to help elect candidates who support NASW policy positions and increase visibility for NASW in the process. We believe that when campaigns run with courage and conviction on issues that align with social work values, the community and social workers win. Our goal is to improve connections with elected officials, advance NASW’s policy agenda, and builds respect for NASW as a committed activist organization.

NASW’s policy positions are based on issues found in NASW’s policy statements as outlined in Social Work Speaks. NASW members vote every three years vote on those policy statements at Delegate Assembly.

Authority

Chapter PACE committees have the authority to endorse or make financial contributions to candidates for only state and local office. National PACE oversees federal races because of the national strategy that takes into consideration goals of the entire association.

Process

  • NASW Arkansas PACE committee makes available a candidate questionnaire for incumbents and challengers.
  • If the candidate has been elected before, committee researches the candidate’s voting record.
  • NASW Arkansas PACE committee endorses candidates for state/local office after reviewing research and recommendations.
  • Once the endorsement decision is complete, NASW Arkansas PACE committee communicates to members through email and communicates to candidates in writing, and in person when possible.
  • For the 2020 November General Election, endorsements will not be made prior to September 30, 2020.
  • To be considered for endorsement for the 2020 November General Election by the NASW Arkansas PACE committee, candidates must complete the Candidate Questionnaire by September 15, 2020.

Endorsement Criteria

Endorsements of political candidates are done on the basis of several criteria, not by political party affiliation. Agreement with every NASW position is not required. Criteria may include:

  • issues that the candidate supports or opposes
  • whether the current officeholder is seeking re-election
  • specific assistance in achieving NASW’s legislative goals
  • building an electoral presence for future campaigns
  • leadership position of the incumbent, such as committee assignments
  • affirmative action considerations for candidates from underrepresented groups

Levels of Endorsement

NASW Arkansas PACE offers the following levels of *support:

  • letter of endorsement
  • financial contribution (if funding is available)
  • encouragement to members to volunteer for the candidate’s campaign
 * An endorsement by NASW Arkansas PACE does not guarantee specific types of promotion on social media, traditional media, online, or through other channels.

National Endorsements

PACE endorses and contributes to candidates from any party who meet the endorsement criteria . The national PACE Board of Trustees endorses and contributes to federal candidates running for U.S. House and Senate seats. PACE also contributes financially to the two major political parties through “donor councils” run by each party. In addition, NASW Policy staff attend fundraisers for Republican, Democratic, and Independent members of Congress, and tickets to those events are considered contributions. If there are candidates you would like to suggest for endorsement, please e-mail dkastner.nasw@socialworkers.org. See current endorsements by state on the PACE Endorsement List.

 

NASW-AR PACE is a registered political action committee with the Arkansas Secretary of State. The Chapter President makes appointments to the PACE Committee.


Preamble

Social Workers traditionally have been committed to improving American life through voluntary association of a sociopolitical nature. The involvement of Social Workers in social movements and political processes has taken many forms and concentrated on various elements needing improvement in American society and government, depending on many factors within the profession’s development.

Social Workers from the National Association of Social Workers have sought to renew and strengthen their organizational and professional focus in the political process by forming a national voluntary association for collective action which is the Political Action for Candidate Election (PACE). To secure the benefits of similar participation in chapter political processes, NASW-AR PACE was established to define a political action group for professional Social Workers in the Chapter of Arkansas.


Who Is NASW-AR PACE?

You are! Through NASW-AR PACE, social workers like you can make contributions to support progressive candidates and volunteer to work on campaigns of NASW-AR PACE endorsed candidates.


What Are NASW-AR PACE’s Goals?

NASW-AR PACE recognizes the importance of social workers’ roles in the formulation of sound public policy and seeks to build constructive working relationships with elected officials by:

  • Advancing social workers as candidates for public office.
  • Organizing social workers to help elect endorsed candidates to public office who support legislation and public policy consistent with the aims of NASW-AR.
  • Providing political education about endorsed candidates and issues to members of NASW-AR.
  • Promoting the adoption of public policy through political action that is in the interest of the social work profession and consumers of social work services.

How Do We Accomplish These Goals?

Political action is the key. The involvement of thousands of social workers working together can dramatically increase our influence and power in the political process. With your commitment and support, we can strengthen the voice of social work in the Arkansas General Assembly. You can be a part of the NASW-AR PACE team by:

  • Contributing to the NASW-AR PACE fund. These funds are used to provide financial support to candidates and to organize social workers to work on campaigns.
  • Volunteering to work for an NASW-AR PACE endorsed candidate.
  • Serving as a local organizer for social work participation in grassroots political activity.
  • Helping candidates for public office build ties to the social work community by sponsoring candidate forums.

Contributions

If you would like to contribute to the NASW-AR PACE fund to support progressive candidates or volunteer to work on campaigns of NASW-AR PACE endorsed candidates, please e-mail Holly at hbarron@naswar.org.  For information on the income and expenditures of NASW-AR PACE or any other Arkansas political action committee, visit the Arkansas Secretary of State financial disclosure search website.


Coalitions

NASW Arkansas Chapter is currently represented in the following coalitions:

Arkansas Advocates’ for Children & Families Kids Count Coalition to promote, protect and unify the interests of the children and families of Arkansas.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to assist victims of violence gain and maintain their freedom from abuse; to support parents fighting to protect their children from an abusive partner or ex-partner within the court system; and to support NCADV’s public policy efforts aimed at educating national leaders on the issue of domestic violence and influencing national legislation, policy and funding decisions that keep victims of violence safe.