Late news roundup:
* REFERENDUM FORM APPROVED: Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has approved the form of a petition to refer the so-called Arkansas Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act to voters in 2016. She’d rejected an initial proposal and she modified the first paragraph of this version submitted by attorney David Couch to delete an immediate description of what the act does. It prevents cities or counties from passing laws that protect classes of people not already protected in state law.
Petitioners have 90 days to gather signatures. If they gather 51,000, it will be on the ballot in 2016. If they make the ballot, the law cannot take effect until after a vote to affirm it is certified.
The bill, by Sen. Bart Hester, is meant to preserve legal discrimination against gay people and was proposed to prevent future ordinances like the civil rights ordinance passed by the Fayetteville City Council, but repealed by voters. Eureka Springs has passed a similar ordinance to go to a vote May 12 and Little Rock has passed an ordinance that extends non-discrimination to people seeking to do business with the city. City Attorney Tom Carpenter has essentially said that the state law is unconstitutional because of its intent to protect discrimination against gay people.
An ad hoc group has been formed to get the measure on the ballot.
* CHARTER SCHOOL GUN FIND: At the request of school officials, Little Rock police used a drug dog to search lockers and vehicles at the LISA Academy charter school on Corporate Hill in West Little Rock this morning. The dog smelled drugs in one car, in which an officer saw a handgun wedged between the console and flooring carpet. The student was called. The officer found a .40-caliber weapon with one round chambered and three in the magazine. It was found to be a gun reported stolen by Benton police. The student was arrested and charged as a juvenile with theft by receiving.
* GRIFFIN UNPAID, SPOKESMAN SAID: News reports about Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin’s plans to work for the Mike Huckabee presidential campaign as a senior political adviser prompted several questions by me to his office about his paid job as lieutenant governor and work for a presidential campaign. I repeated a question this afternoon after he’d conducted a hearing on the Common Core curriculum standards, a task he was given by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to string out the decision-making on what has become a hotly controversial topic. I asked about the conflict of Griffin working for Huckabee — now a hotly declared foe of Common Core — while working as lieutenant governor in a nominal fact-finding mission on the same subject. I got this response from Griffin spokeswoman Annamarie Atwood:
You have inaccurate information. Lt. Gov. Griffin is advising Gov. Huckabee as a volunteer. No pay.
Huckabee’s campaign won’t begin until May 5 so, in theory, there’s no work yet. I asked if it’s Griffin’s intention to NEVER receive pay. No response so far.
* OSTEOPATHIC MED SCHOOL FOR ASU ADVANCES: The New York Institute of Technology announced that the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation had approved an additional medical school location at the Jonesboro campus of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. ASU hopes to open the school initially to 115 students. The school (which would join another osteopathic school already
approved under construction in Fort Smith and the UAMS medical school) is pitched as a way to address a need for more primary care physicians. Of course, no graduate is required to work in Arkansas. CORRECTION: I’m advised there may be a change in opening date from the 2016 I originally used based on earlier announcements. And, though ground has been broken in Fort Smith, I erred in saying the Fort Smith school had accreditation “approval.” It’s on the accrediting body’s agenda.
Also noted: NYIT doesn’t like the headline. It says it is inaccurate. It was not ASU okayed for an osteopathic med school, it was NYIT. As this item made clear from the start. I stand by the headline, a shortened version of ASU (campus) okayed for (NYIT) osteopathic med school.