With a nickname like “Bubba” and a love for politics, State Representative David “Bubba” Powers, D-Hope, is not the type of political figure to exit the stage without taking a look or two back; and, Powers has some political bona fides to look back upon as he leaves office under term limits.
First in a series. With a nickname like “Bubba” and a love for politics, State Representative David “Bubba” Powers, D-Hope, is not the type of political figure to exit the stage without taking a look or two back; and, Powers has some political bona fides to look back upon as he leaves office under term limits. Powers is unequivocal about his six years of service in the Arkansas House of Representatives as a good run. “I think the advantage that I had when I went into my three terms, there were no ifs, ands or buts about who the Speaker would be, or what the agenda of the Speaker was; certainly, coming in with Governor Beebe, with what his goals and endeavors were going to be,” he said in an extensive interview. Powers said that kind of political certainty made it easier for him to learn the system, to develop relationships and to establish his legislative niche. That won't be the case in the upcoming session beginning Monday for freshman Representative Brent Talley, D-McCaskill. “I think there is still a little bit of indecision because of the politics that have played out in the Speaker's race,” Powers said. “We had a Speaker-elect for a few months; and, when the majority changed, there was an assumption that Mr. Rice would be Speaker, and it turned out that Mr. Carter was going to be Speaker. And, now, there is scuttlebutt that there may even be some parliamentary moves on the first day.” That kind of turmoil wasn't present when Powers was first elected; but, he has seen its seeds take root, and is concerned about the fruits it may bear. “It's going to be interesting to see how fractured or non-fractured the entire chamber is going to be,” he said. “But, in my case, in my first term serving under Speaker Petrus was a good opportunity for me to learn. We had the good fortune to have a budget surplus, so that we could take a good chunk out of the grocery tax; we had the wherewithal that we could take care of the Lakeview case with school facilities money.” Despite the difficulty in finding solutions in that first session in 2007 because of the legal complexity of the Lakeview school funding lawsuit, and the standoff between the General Assembly and the Arkansas Supreme Court, Powers said a solution was found that continues to operate today. “My second term in 2009, under Speaker Wills was pretty smooth,” he added. “We instituted the trauma sysetm of care with the tobacco tax, but we were able to make some cuts in the grocery tax and some other encumbrances. Last time, under Speaker Moore, personally was a good session for me because of everything to do with the Turk Plant; but, by and large, with the $30 million in tax cuts we provided in 2011. “The budget has survived over $700 million in tax cuts for the state,” Powers said. “But, the question is: What do we do going forward? And, that involves what we do about the Medicaid budget shortfall and Medicaid expansion.” Consequently, Powers sees the need for a strong Speaker of the House to build consensus that will allow the General Assembly to work with Beebe. “We'll see if the first day, and I personally don't believe there will be anything go on to oust the Speaker-elect, Rep. Carter; but, if that happens, I think it adds a great deal of turmoil going forward,” he said. “This may leave some question marks going forward.” Powers is particularly proud of his ability to help effect two major changes in Arkansas, and one locally, involving the state courts system, public utility regulation, and the stability of the hospital in Hope. “Apart from the Turk legislation, the district court legislation, which consolidated district courts, I firmly believe has proven that it is going to save money for the counties in the state of Arkansas,” he said. “I think it's going to be much more efficient. I think it's going to provide citizens a better experience in district court; and, I think, we're about halfway done, for the future that is going to be something to be very proud of.” Working with community leaders to return stability to the local hospital is a source of personal pride for Powers. “I was able to do it, along with so many other community leaders, to transition it into the positive outcome that it has been,” he said. “I think what we need to understand is, that we knew there were problems out there since the time I took office. But, technically, it was a private business. What we were having trouble with is getting leverage to effect some positive outcome. “Ultimately, the tax issues are the thing that put the microscope on this thing,” Powers said. “The inability of the federal and state government to directly step in, the hospital is just like any other business; like my fitness center business years ago, I don't want people from the outside running my business. Now, where my business was concerned, if it went up or down, that wouldn't have affected the entire area. So, the ability to move and adapt more quickly, from the federal government side and the state on the taxes, whether there is some regulatory agency that keeps an eye on those kinds of things, is something I'd like to see developed.” Powers has discussed the prospect of such an agency review with State Senator Larry Teague, D-Nashville, whom he believes may work to develop the concept over the next couple of legislative sessions. “I'd be surprised if he didn't come forward with some legislation that will save some rural area the pain and suffering our employees went through out there; and, the quality of healthcare which is effected, as a result,” he said. “We were fortunate to have a good end result; but, literally, four and a half to five of my six years, we were dealing with the hospital to try to get something done. And, we did get something done that will be a boon to this community.”