Pryor Steps Up Emergency Response Efforts
This year's H1N1 virus highlights the importance of being prepared for a serious infectious disease outbreak across the country. This week I introduced two pieces of legislation aimed at improving the government's ability to respond to health emergencies, such as flu pandemics, as well as biological attacks and other man-made disasters. The bills will make it easier for health emergencies to qualify for federal agency support, and will also ensure that the federal government consistently updates their pandemic response plan with input from state and local agencies. These actions will help make sure that if and when the next flu pandemic occurs, we will have a well-oiled machine ready to spring into action.
President Obama recently announced that he has decided to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in the coming year. I am pleased the President's plan reflects the advice of our commanders in the field by increasing troop strength and adjusting strategy to meet the military and political needs in Afghanistan. American troops and their families continue to pay a high price to stabilize Afghanistan and improve our security at home. They have persevered and proudly answered the call of duty again and again. I will continue to fight to ensure our troops have the equipment, resources and training to conduct their missions safely and return home to their loved ones.
Holding Health Insurance Companies Accountable
This week I introduced an amendment to the Senate health care bill that would both simplify a consumer's search for the right health care company and make health insurance companies more responsive to patient needs. Under my amendment, the Department of Health and Human Services would establish, gather and post online consumer feedback about the health care plans offered through the proposed health care exchange. These surveys will allow consumers and employers who participate in the exchange to make informed decisions when selecting an insurance company, hold insurance companies accountable for their decisions, and provide Congress with an oversight tool to monitor the progress of the exchange. The amendment passed 98-0 with unanimous support.
FEDERAL FUNDING FOR ARKANSAS
$343,000 for Bradley County Water Infrastructure
$350,000 for the City of Stuttgart
$1.7 million for Distance Learning and Telemedicine
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
In an 11/25 article titled FCC chief touts broadband in state, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette said:
"Expanding broadband access to underserved areas of the country is to today's generation what construction of railroads, highways and the electricity grid were in the past century, says Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
"Broadband is the great infrastructure challenge of our time,' Genachowski said during an event Tuesday at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock.
He and U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., also made an appearance earlier in the day at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff to discuss broadband issues. [. . .]
Pryor said that projects to help schools and libraries obtain more broadband access and to provide incentives for companies to extend broadband coverage to underserved areas will be priorities. He said there will be significant partnerships between government and private industry.
Arkansas already has received $2 million in stimulus funds from the U.S. Department of Commerce to construct a detailed map of broadband service access in the state. Pryor said the map will be used to determine statewide priorities, and to develop state and national broadband plans. [. . .]
Speaking after the event, Pryor said affordability is a particular challenge in many areas of Arkansas and should be taken into account in any national plan.
"Even if we have state-of the-art access to broadband, a lot of people in our state can't afford it. We need to try to make it as affordable as possible,' he said.
Pryor said the Universal Service Fund could be a model for keeping broadband prices low. Phone customers pay into the fund via a percentage charge on their phones bills, to subsidize the cost of rural phone coverage.
The FCC chairman's visit will help put Arkansas on the agency's agenda as it prepares the national broadband plan in the coming months, Pryor said.
"The fact that they're here, and they're looking at Arkansas and they get a very clear picture of what the challenges are here - hopefully that will help them develop a national strategy that's good for our state, too.'"