Let’s piece together a roundup of a run of headlines from the Arkansas legislature:
* RUN UP THE BILL: The Joint Performance Review Committee — the new super state government that has usurped even more of the executive’s power under an ill-advised constitutional amendment — is meeting so much that it is busting its budget with members and hanger-on legislators running up their per diem charges to attend. They are busy grinding axes, such Sen. Alan Clark’s jihad against child protective services for removing children from potentially abusive homes.
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* REEFER MADNESS: A law aimed at finding unhealthy moms — Garrett’s Law requires reports when newborns test positive for presence of drugs (but not damaging alcohol) — is seining in ever-higher numbers of suspected abusers. The majority — 65 percent — seem to have been smoking marijuana. Still, the referrals are producing big numbers of children removed from parental care.
* PARENTLESS CHILDREN: The rise in foster children — accompanied by insufficient staff to care for them — continues unabated thanks to all the various reasons, including forced removal from homes. But not to worry. The governor and some others staged a photo opp yesterday of the good governor and others delivering Christmas presents for children in foster homes. A better gift would be more caseworkers. But they cost more than a Barbie. Not to worry. Lt. Tim Griffin (what does he do in real life anyway to make money?) has been given charge of another ATF (Asa Task Force) to produce efficiency in the Department of Human Services. He’ll recommend more spending in critical areas, surely.
The state of Arkansas cares enough about children to give them some toys at Christmas, but not to pay for looking after them year-round with adequate case workers. It WILL pay legislators lots of per diem to talk about it.
Smoking marijuana is a bigger concern for some legislators than parents who abuse their children with corporal punishment, isolation, cult-like behavior and some of the other awful stuff that has prompted neutral fact-finders to remove children from homes.
Still waiting: For the first Republican — legislator, governor, dog catcher — to criticize Rep. Justin Harris, who used to be a key player on legislative committees in the child protection business (and still reaps big dollars for his state-financed day care), until Benji Hardy uncovered he’d given away adopted children to the home of a man who turned out to be a sexual predator.