Fort Smith, AR (PRWEB) September 8, 2008
Jessica Austin, member of LeadAR Class 13, practiced legislative skills, debated bills, survived media questions and received a pep talk from Governor Mike Beebe during three days of press and public policy training in the state's capital city this past weekend. Jessica also serves in a public relations capacity for U.S. Citizens for Fair Credit Card Terms, Inc. (also known as CardRatings.com), a consumer advocacy organization based in North Little Rock, Arkansas that provides ratings and reviews of credit cards.
On Thursday, Beebe visited with the LeadAR members in the governor's conference room and spoke with them about the Legislature before posing for a group portrait in front of the west fireplace.
While working with lawmakers can be difficult at times, "the majority of them do the right thing for the right reasons," Beebe told Class 13. "Democracy is not one of the most efficient forms of government. It's just the best form of government invented."
After the governor's departure, the conference room was filled with discussion and debate about bills each member developed. Austin wrote and proposed a legislative bill mandating personal financial education requirements in all public high schools in Arkansas. The bill was unanimously approved by the LeadAR general assembly and Austin fully intends to gain the support of her representatives and state senators to move this bill into actual legislation.
Curtis Arnold, founder and CEO of CardRatings.com, viewed the passage of the bill as being a very significant achievement. "According to a recent survey of Arkansas students by the Jumpstart Coalition for Financial Literacy, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. devoted to financial literacy initiatives, Arkansas' youth lag behind with a failing grade of 47 percent in basic money management skills including credit, budgeting, savings, income, spending and debt."
Austin said, "My reason behind writing this bill was to encourage real change in legislation in order to see college students and the next generation make more responsible choices when it comes to personal finance. In general, our kids aren't being taught these important life skills at home or at school. It is as if the blind are leading the blind."
During the three-day session, group members also heard from Herschel Cleveland, previous Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives who served as the LeadAR General Assembly Speaker of the House. Assistant Attorney General Colin Jorgensen briefed the group about the state's Freedom of Information Act, and Joan Duffy of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock discussed writing media releases. Tom Riley, director of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Public Policy Center oversaw the LeadAR General Assembly, which also included an overview of lobbying by Sylvester Smith, a lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
To learn more about LeadAR visit http://www.uaex.edu or visit http://www.arcommunities.org/leadership/leadar/default.htm#LeadAR
To learn more about U.S. Citizens for Fair Credit Card Terms, Inc. visit
To learn more about the Jumpstart Coalition for Financial Literacy visit
The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
# # #