Tuesday’s done and the line is open. Finishing up:
* COALITION WEIGHS IN ON CRITICAL HABITAT DESIGNATION IN ARKANSAS: I won’t do this subject justice here, but I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more about it. The Association of Arkansas Counties announced today that it had joined with some of the state’s most potent business and agricultural lobbies to file comments objecting to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife designation of about 42 percent of the state (about a third of the private land) as critical habitat for the Neosho mucket and Rabbitsfoot mussels. They believe the designation is overbroad, including some watershed where the endangered species have not been found. Critical habitat designation means a landowner must prove a lack of adverse impact from such activities as unpaved road construction. The coalition proposes — after review by their own scientists and others — to reduce the designation by about 36 percent. Further habitat proposals are pending for several dozen more endangered species, not all aquatic animals. The sort of “takings” questions that were raised speculatively in the great “blueway” controversy have more and specific meaning in this debate thanks to the Endangered Species Act. The new habitat designations arise from a settlement of a lawsuit against the federal government by the Center for Biological Diversity. The fear is that the environmental group is spoiling to mount legal challenges of many economically important projects under the new designations, once in place. At a minimum, many routine projects could require expensive environmental reviews, the county group fears.
* ARKANSAS BAPTIST COLLEGE UPDATE: Federal Education Department officials have been on campus at Arkansas Baptist College this week, but Shane Broadway, director of the state Higher Education Department, says that’s a good thing. Broadway said the school is close to solving a massive computer breakdown that stopped the processing of federal payments under various grant programs for students. That money pays college expenses and some flows back to students for living expenses. Broadway said he hopes the Education Department soon will begin processing payments. He said the computer system is now functioning, but not at optimal speed. He said work was underway for what he hoped would be a speedy solution for short-term cash flow. College trustee Beth Coulson tells me by e-mail that loans have already been obtained to keep payments to workers cominge. Broadway, whose agency is providing technical help in response to student complains but no state financial support, said classes have proceeded this fall and no students have had to leave housing. “It’s all going to be fine,” Coulson said.
* ANOTHER NO ON LEGAL POT: Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has again rejected the form of a ballot proposal to legalize production and sale of marijuana.
* IF ONLY THE LINE WAS OPEN ON A RADIO SHOW: A reader writes with an imagined call to Dave Elswick on Radio K-NUT, should he ever entice Republican 2nd District congressional candidate French Hill, the Little Rock banker, on the air:
…from Traskwood. Jim, you’re on the air with congressional candidate French Hill.
Jim: Thanks, Dave. Long-time listener, first-time caller. Hey, Mr. French, I’ve got two questions. First is, will you allow open-carry in your bank? And second, why didn’t you change your name to Freedom Hill back when the French betrayed us on Iraq. I’ll hang up and listen to your answer. Thanks!