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J.D. BAILEY

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U.S. Senator John Boozman and U.S. Congressman Bruce Westerman visited Magnolia Wednesday afternoon to discuss small entrepreneurship and tour a local business. The federal legislators both represent Arkansas in Congress.

The small business discussion, or roundtable, was held in the newest expansion wing at Peoples Bank’s N. Jackson Street location. The room was filled not only with local business owners, workers, and Chamber of Commerce reps, but other area politicians including Magnolia Mayor Parnell Vann and state lawmakers Bruce Maloch, David Fielding, and Lane Jean.

Topics ranged from online tax codes, and how they affect small shops, to infrastructure to hiring a capable, responsible workforce. The issue many brought up was the inability to keep and find drug-free laborers and getting them to commit to a job for more than a few days or weeks.

When asked directly, both federal officeholders said they supported President Trump’s southern border wall initiative to stem the massive flow of illegal drugs the cartels are pouring into the country.

Boozman noted that, since marijuana laws are becoming either completely irrelevant or extremely laxed in the United States, Mexican drug cartels are investing more and more into harder drugs such as heroin and meth since the street price of marijuana has plummeted.

“Meth used to be mostly produced here in rural labs,” said the Senator. “But now, the cartels have almost taken full control and it all comes across the border.”

Audience members also stated that welfare programs have become too plentiful and have taken the incentive out of finding a job. Many questioned how, if a person can make nearly as much not working than working, then what is the point of keeping regular employment.

The federal officeholders agreed and acknowledged that the programs should be in place for qualified populations — children, elderly, disabled, and veterans — but both pointed to recently passed Arkansas Works amendments that mandate all healthy, working-aged individuals on Medicaid must be productive, either through community service or employment.

“The greatest welfare program ever invented was a job,” said Westerman as he quoted former President Ronald Reagan.

After the roundtable discussion, the Congressman and Senator toured Liberty Supply Co. on Vine Street, then drove on to Texarkana for a similar event. The two were in Union County earlier in the day Wednesday.

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