Making sure every Arkansan has what they need to succeed.
As someone who would have died without the protections of the Affordable Care Act, COBRA, and Medicare, I'm a firm believer in the ability of legislation to lower costs, expand coverage, and protect patients from life-threatening limitations like lifetime and procedure coverage caps, discrimination against pre-existing condition or disability, and high premiums and costs. But as someone who also has paid up to a third of my income towards insurance premiums, who has had savings wiped out due to co-pays on high-cost drugs, procedures, or hospital stays, and who has had to go as far as Texas to see knowledgeable specialists, I also believe that our current legislative solutions don't go far enough, and that free, comprehensive, and full coverage healthcare for all can be achieved in this country the same way it has been in every other industrialized nation on Earth.
But universal American healthcare will be an uphill battle, and in the meantime, I'm committed to improving legislative protections and solutions that will protect and expand coverage for the 35% of Arkansans overall and 76% of Arkansas children on Medicare and Medicaid, reduce premiums and costs for the remaining Arkansans on marketplace or employer insurance plans, protect disabled Arkansans from proposals like GPS tracking for Medicare and Medicaid recipients, and remedy legislative missteps like the 2017 Arkansas Works reforms by the State Legislature that cost 60,000 Arkansans their healthcare.
Business and workplace protections
Businesses big and small have been the economic engine of Northwest Arkansas, but even in my limited time so far at University of Arkansas' Walton College of Business my professors have taught us time and again that any business is only as strong as its most entry-level employees, and that the best performance comes from low-stress environments. But I am also the descendant of farmers and builders from Kansas and the Ozarks who taught me the value of honesty; more importantly, my experience working in minimum wage jobs alongside people with advanced degrees, hearing the stories of my friends and neighbors who work 2 or 3 jobs and still cannot afford to pay their bills when wages have not kept up with inflation, and meeting people in the disability community who became disabled through workplace negligence, has taught me that all humans deserve honest pay and benefits for honest work. This means a living wage, whether it's paid for hours on your feet risking fryer burns in food service, exposing yourself to chemicals and hard labor in construction or janitorial work, in trades that keep our homes and infrastructure going like electricians or plumbers, or white-collar supply chain, logistics, management, or finance. This means a right to parental leave, so parents are no longer forced to derail their careers or use up sick leave to recover from childbirth. This means affordable childcare, to ensure parents can go back to work without worry or undue financial burden, and to ensure the health and happiness of our next generation.
For these reasons, I'm committed to both maintaining an environment where business, especially small local business, can thrive, but Arkansans are protected from wage theft, workplace discrimination and harassment, and all forms of workplace exploitation.
Education and child poverty
Arkansas has had its moments of excellence in education, playing a crucial roll in school integration with Little Rock Central, and as the home of the high-ranking Walton College of Business, Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, and College of Engineering at University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. But year after year public education has fallen as a priority, with Arkansas now sitting at 48th in the nation as of 2017 rankings.
We must not only protect our public schools and hold charter institutions accountable. We must also free our teachers from the worries of making ends meet, letting them fully focus on the education and care of their students, by ensuring teachers are paid fairly for the incomparable work they do. We must ensure our public schools are funded enough that teachers aren't forced to spend their already paltry wages on supplies or send students to the restroom during flu season for want of something as simple as tissues. We must mitigate Arkansas' record child poverty rates by protecting free and reduced-cost school breakfast and lunch programs, protect funding for arts programs that keep kids engaged and give them unique scholarship and college opportunities. Finally, we must protect and encourage comprehensive sexual education to reduce Arkansas's unenviable 2nd-highest national teen pregnancy rate and highest national teen birth rate and thus help break the cycle of systemic childhood poverty before it even starts.
Opioid epidemic and medical cannabis
In 2016, Arkansas had 114.6 painkiller prescriptions per 100 people - that's more opioid prescriptions than Arkansans. Even worse, in the same year, the CDC reported 401 drug poisoning deaths per 100,000 people. Some believe the solution to the opioid crisis is policing and a "just say no" attitude, but as a chronic pain patient myself I know first hand that dog won't hunt. I'm firmly dedicated to the funding and accessibility of research-proven strategies like medication-assisted addiction treatment, harm reduction strategies like overdose reversal kits, and mental health education and treatment.
In the same vein, I'm equally dedicated to making sure physician-approved patients in Arkansas have unencumbered access to the vital alternative of medical cannabis we voted into law last November, the implementation of which has been delayed repeatedly by our current state legislature despite overwhelming constituent support.
My father was a farmer’s son and NRA member and my mother grew up in the rural Ozarks - while they didn’t raise me with as much of a familiarity with hunting and guns as some of my extended family, my parents still instilled in me a deep respect for the 2nd amendment and I even inherited a small collection of firearms when my father died.
At the same time, though, like most Millennials and the generation after us, I came of age in the era of school shootings. One of my earliest memories was watching news coverage of the 1998 school shooting at Jonesboro’s Westside Middle School, where a cousin was a student at the time, seeing my mom pace nervously in between attempts to try to get a hold of my aunt (who taught at the nearby elementary school) to see if my family had been shot. Columbine happened the next year; some of my next-earliest memories were beginning “lockdown” (active shooter) drills. We learned how to lock doors, hide ourselves from windows, lock ourselves into closets, what to do if our teacher was “incapacitated”, and how to distract or run in a zig-zag away from a school shooter. I learned to fear going to school almost as soon as I started going to school at all, and ever since the Arkansas legislature passed campus conceal carry over the concerns and objections of almost every college and university in Arkansas, my fear has been renewed.
This fear, the fear that I've heard from parents, other students, and so many friends and neighbors has convinced me that we must have common-sense measures in place to reduce the proliferation of weapons or high-capacity ammunition that no civilian or self-respecting hunter needs. It's convinced me we must strengthen background checks to make sure that such weapons cannot fall into the hands of those most likely to use them against other people. It's convinced me we must make sure that all firearm owners stay up-to-date with training, licensing, and mental health checks. All this, to not only make sure our future generations don’t have to live with the same deep every-day fear of mass school shootings that my generation and the current one live with, but to reduce the heartbreaking increase in the shootings at home and on our streets that don't make the news.
Experience through adversity.
An Ozark native who has made Arkansas home for my entire adult life, an only child who adapted to life after the death of my chronically ill mother from cancer at 10 years old and the sudden death of my father at 23, and a non-traditional student who has repeatedly returned to higher education after surviving accidents, chronic illness, and family loss, I have experienced more adversity than some people twice my age. But like President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Senators Max Cleland and Tammy Duckworth, Representative Jim Langevin, and others, I have been imbued through my experiences with a unique determination, ability to problem-solve and adapt, and dedication to advocacy, policy, and public service that now drives me to give the residents of Bethel Heights, Lowell, Springdale, and Rogers a better option to represent them in Little Rock.
Public speaking and advocacy
Not afraid to challenge Washington or Little Rock
From the extended dialogue about the Affordable Care Act with Senator Cotton at his February 2017 town hall that propelled me into national healthcare advocacy, to conversations with Representative Womack and his legislative aides in Arkansas, to meetings with Senator Boozman’s legislative aides in Washington, DC, to attending Senate hearings and confronting lawmakers on both sides of the aisle with my feeding tube, chemo port, and the stories that come with them, to literally putting my life on the line in acts of non-violent civil disobedience in our nation’s Capital and Capitol, I’ve never been afraid to speak truth to power over the issues that matter.