COLUMN: "Stuff The Sleigh This Christmas"

Stuff the Sleigh This Christmas
By Lieutenant Governor Mark A. Darr

This week, my office will again be participating in the Christmas season of giving by partnering with an organization called Stuff the Sleigh. Now in its eleventh year, Stuff the Sleigh collects toys and donations for foster children in Central Arkansas. Founded by a foster care case worker, this is a prime example of how compassionate people in this state are. Many of the children these toys will go to do not have much. For whatever reason, they will not be able to spend Christmastime with their families. We want them to know they are not forgotten. A lot of them wouldn't be getting presents if it weren't for the ones being donated. If you want to help this worthwhile organization help foster kids in Arkansas this Christmas, please visit www.stuffthesleigh.org.
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Also this week, I am attending the Executive Meeting of the National Lieutenant Governors Association meeting in Des Moines, Iowa. My colleagues and I are having discussions and hearing presentations from a number of experts around the country on economic development, education, energy, agriculture, and health care policy.

On economic development, we're going to hear about different state models of workforce development and public-private partnerships. On energy, we will hear about plans for the president's second term and how that may impact energy development in the states. We will also be hearing about developments to improve agriculture productivity and food security. The current state of health care is also on the agenda.

The focus of the education session will be Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs. A 2011 U.S. Department of Commerce report shows growth in STEM jobs was three times greater than non-STEM jobs over the last 10 years. Through the next decade, STEM occupations are projected to grow 17%, compared to 9.8% growth for other occupations. We will be discussing programs that have been successful and ways to expand them.

All of these topics involve vital sectors of our state's economy. I plan to tout our successes here in Arkansas and return with information and ideas from other states' successes as well. State governments are often called the laboratories of democracy. Each state has its own ways of doing things and we can certainly learn from each other about what works and what doesn't.
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Finally, at the Capitol in Little Rock, preliminary meetings have been taking place getting ready for the upcoming legislative session. This year's session will be somewhat different than in previous years because the partisan make-up of both the House and Senate has changed. For the first time since Reconstruction, the Republican Party will hold the majority in both chambers. As Lieutenant Governor, I preside over the Senate and have enjoyed working with legislators of both parties to get things done. I look forward to continuing that spirit of bi-partisan cooperation. I'm sure there will be some points of contention on certain issues, but at the end of the day, what's best for Arkansans is what matters most, and it will take members of both parties working together to get things done.