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WASHINGTON NEWS IN BRIEF: Senator notes Arkansas kids are in school | Cotton introduces China-limits bills | Hill backs study on entrepreneurship

by Frank E. Lockwood | February 28, 2021 at 3:52 a.m.

Senator: Arkansas kids are in school

WASHINGTON -- Arkansas students have successfully returned to the classroom, U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said Wednesday during a speech on the Senate floor.

The rest of the nation, he said, should follow the Natural State's example.

"Arkansas schools reopened their doors in August 2020. Currently, the Arkansas Department of Education reports that 67% of K-12 [students] are attending school in person. Almost 13% have a hybrid schedule and 20% are entirely remote," the former school board member from Rogers said.

Other states have been slower to reopen schools, Boozman said.

Virtual classrooms are problematic, in part because many students in high-poverty schools lack access to high speed internet, he said.

Closed classrooms are a burden for parents, particularly mothers who are playing an "outsized role" in "balancing their families' financial, education and care-giving needs," Boozman said.

Schools can safely be reopened if proper precautions are taken, he said, citing recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research.

"The Natural State can be proud of the teachers, the administrators and elected leaders who continue to find ways to keep schools open and provide critical services children deserve," Boozman said, adding, "It's time that students in other states have the same opportunities."

Cotton introduces China-limits bills

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced several new pieces of legislation last week.

One, known as the Visa Security Act, would prevent Chinese nationals from receiving 10-year multiple-entry visas for travel to the U.S. B-1 visas are for business; B-2 visas are for tourism, according to the Department of State website.

Rather than decade-long multiple entry passports, Chinese visitors could receive one-year passports under Cotton's bill. That's the standard that was in place before 2014, he said.

The lawmaker from Little Rock last week also unveiled the Countering Chinese Propaganda Act, which would allow sanctions against China's United Front Work Department, which Cotton described as "an overseas influence arm of the Chinese Communist Party."

The United Front "has led aggressive campaigns of subversion and espionage on U.S. college campuses through the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) and Chinese-language centers called Confucius Institutes. The United Front has also funded a number of think tanks in Washington D.C.," Cotton's office said in a news release.

Last week, Cotton also introduced a resolution opposing the lifting of sanctions on Iran. U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., was one of the co-signers.

In addition, Cotton and U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney unveiled legislation that would lift the federal minimum wage to $10 per hour, as early as Jan. 1, 2025. Arkansas' minimum wage is already $11 an hour, but the higher rate would mean pay raises for workers in states with lower minimum wages.

Hill backs study on entrepreneurship

U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., who serves as co-chairman of the Bipartisan House Entrepreneurship Caucus, has reintroduced the Enhancing Entrepreneurship for the 21st Century Act.

An earlier version of the bill, introduced by Hill in 2019, had bipartisan support, with six Democratic and four Republican co-sponsors. A companion bill was also filed in the Senate.

If approved, the secretary of commerce would be directed "to conduct a comprehensive study into the underlying economic factors driving the decline in rates in entrepreneurship," Hill told colleagues when the original bill was filed.

The lawmaker from Little Rock was tapped as one of the caucus's co-chairs when it was launched in 2019, a position he again holds now that the caucus has been reorganized.

Before serving in Congress, Hill was the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Delta Trust & Banking Corp. in Little Rock.

The bank merged with Simmons First National Corp. in 2014.

Planning to visit the nation's capital? Know something happening in Washington, D.C.? Please contact Frank Lockwood at (501) 908-5204 or flockwood@adgnewsroom.com. Want to get the latest from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Washington bureau? It's available on Twitter, @LockwoodFrank.

CORRECTION: U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has introduced legislation to prevent Chinese nationals from receiving 10-year multiple-entry visas for travel to the U.S. An earlier version of this article misidentified the type of travel papers that the legislation addressed.

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