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The End of Summer is Near

August 01, 2013

LT. GOVERNOR’S COLUMN
 

The End of Summer is Near
By Lieutenant Governor Mark A. Darr
 

Arkansans throughout the state are preparing for the beginning of the new school year. Store aisles are lined with colorful notebooks and pencils; parents scan local newspapers for the back to school supply list; and would-be graduates feel the excitement of what’s to come.

Before you rush to complete the back to school list, remember Arkansas’s sales tax holiday. Beginning on Saturday August 3, 2013, and ending on Sunday August 4, 2013, shoppers will have the opportunity to purchase certain school supplies and clothing free of state and local sales tax.

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Last month my wife, Kim, and I traveled to Taiwan (the Republic of China). The trip, funded by the Taiwanese Government, was organized through the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Houston, Texas (TECO-Houston). Their objective is to provide support in trade and investment, and promote education and tourism between Taiwan and the southern United States.

Our arrival marked the 30th anniversary of the “sister-hood” relationship formed between Taiwan and Arkansas. Taiwan is Arkansas’s 17th largest export market in the world. Last year, Arkansas’s exports to Taiwan reached $94.6 million.

More than 40% of Arkansas is farmland, so it goes without saying that agribusiness is one of our leading industries. Taiwan is the 6th largest importer of American agricultural products, and America is Taiwan’s largest supplier.  

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I recently had the pleasure of traveling to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for the National Lieutenant Governors Association 2013 Annual Meeting. I always enjoy meeting with lieutenant governors throughout the country. These meetings allow us to discuss and address issues that directly affect our nation.

During the meeting I was reappointed to the NLGA Executive Committee. It is such an honor and privilege to be elected by a bi-partisan group of my peers to serve as the Southern Regional Chair of the National Lieutenant Governors Association.

While in Oklahoma City I had the opportunity to visit the Oklahoma City Memorial Museum and the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial. To say these experiences were heart wrenching would be a vast understatement. 

Going through the Memorial Museum Exhibit Walk-Through was a sobering experience. The exhibit offers insight of what the survivors and others experienced after the bombing. To see the Gallery of Tributes to the 168 people killed alongside their photo is something I will never forget. 

The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial was equally emotional. There were many touching memorials, but to me the most moving was the Field of Empty Chairs. Positioned in nine rows, one row for each floor of the building, each chair is inscribed with the name of someone killed on that floor. Seeing 168 of these monuments, of which nineteen were smaller chairs representing children, was truly unforgettable.

Oklahoma City was never the same after April 19th, 1995. This tragic event was one of the largest terrorist attacks on American soil. It is important to remember the brave and heroic rescue efforts of law enforcement, first responders, and volunteers. In the days following the attack, over 12,000 people participated in relief and rescue operations. 

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