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Feeling the Ban

Feeling the Ban

February 16, 2017

Vol 43 • No 24

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Their home, too

Rasha Alzahabi is one of thousands of Arkansans whose families have been impacted by President Trump's travel ban.

Up in the air

Canopy NWA, a small Fayetteville nonprofit focused on refugee resettlement, sees its plans in jeopardy after Trump's executive order.

A Q&A with LRPD Chief Kenton Buckner on policing and immigration in the age of Trump

Hail to the chief.

Home again

The plan, formulated months ago, was this: Ellen and I were going to go to Washington for inauguration festivities, then fly out the morning after the balls for Panama City and a long planned cruise to begin with a Panama Canal passage.

Redefining ethics

Just talk

There is a lot of talk about "stop the violence" and, unfortunately, talk is all it really is. Few people are willing to admit this, but violence is money.

Believing is seeing

A look at Rebecca Gayle Howell's new novel-in-poems, 'American Purgatory.'

Head down Milford Track

Homemade pasta for the discriminating customer.

Who needs courts?

Not since the John Birch Society's "Impeach Earl Warren" billboards littered Southern roadsides after the Supreme Court's school-integration decision in 1954 has the American judicial system been under such siege, but who would have thought the trifling Arkansas legislature would lead the charge?

Scarface, Mystikal, Trick Daddy, Juvenile, Pastor Troy, 8Ball and MJG join forces

Also, free admission at the Clinton Center.


If the late, great Donald Westlake had written spy thrillers instead of crime capers, they'd read a lot like the opening weeks of the Trump administration.

Love is a verb

It is Valentine's Day as The Observer writes this, the day of chocolates and lacy underthings past for you, but still the present for Yours Truly.

Kill, thrill, repeat

'John Wick 2' a crowd-pleaser.

Not worthy

There's something to be said for an Arkansas basketball team that spends two-and-a-half games looking like quitters before rising off the mat.

Future is female

The question that is asked all over the state these days whenever Arkansas politics is discussed is, "Who will run in 2018?" Who will take on Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) and Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville)? Who will take on Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin? Who will take on U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton in 2020? Who will be the future of the Democratic Party in Arkansas?

Save our schools ... or sell our schools?

Also, the gov on an anti-immigrant bill, a bid to force Amazon to pay sales tax hits a snag and more.

Charlie Wilson at Verizon Arena

Also, Stand Up for Access Comedy Show, Max & Iggor Cavalera, Billy Joe Shaver, Daddy Issues, Pat Donohue, Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, Beer, Brats & Bots, Third Friday Argenta Artwalk, 'Key Connections to Humanity,'

Can the legislature override university control in the campus carry bill?

A former legislator asks: Can the Arkansas Constitution's Amendment 33 block the legislature's effort to force guns on college campuses? It's at least a fair question.

The wonderful world of transportation, Dutch-style

There are places in the world where the controlling transportation concern is not giving priority to automobiles for maximum speed through urban areas.

Coming soon to a women's bathroom in Arkansas

If the Arkansas legislature passes a proposal to require that people use restrooms that match their birth gender (in the supposed name of keeping men out of the ladies' rooms), some shocks might be in store, as I've mentioned before.

Money talks — shouts — against the fight for justice for injured people

Randy Zook, leader of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, gave a less-than-subtle nudge to legislators this week before a vote on SJR 8, the proposed constitutional amendment to cap the value of a human life at $250,000 and otherwise limit damages and attorney fees in damage lawsuits, often over negligence and abuse for corporations and medical facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes.

Food Hall of Fame finalists named

Twelve restaurants, four proprietors and six food events have been chosen from nearly 300 nominations as finalists for the first Arkansas Food Hall of Fame Awards. Four awards will be presented, for the winner of the categories mentioned above and for a People’s Choice Award, to be announced at the induction ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at The Ron Robinson Theater.

Spokes in first gear for coffee shop renovation

The wheels were to begin turning today, Feb. 16, on the renovation of the upper end of Spokes bicycle shop at Kavanaugh Boulevard and Markham Street for a kitchen, coffee shop and bakery.

Nestle Toll House Cafe open in McCain Mall

If you believe that warm Toll House cookies might be the world’s best invention, you might want to drop by the new Nestlé Toll House Cafe in the McCain Mall.

Supreme Court upholds class action for Conway police and firefighters

The Arkansas Supreme Court today upheld a lower court ruling certifying a class action for a lawsuit by Conway police and firefighters against the city over whether a sales tax increase had been used for their pay increases as promised.

Jerry Jones reported with concerns about a Texas bathroom bill

The Texas Tribune reports that Arkansas native Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, is among those who've contacted Texas officials in apparent opposition to a "bathroom bill" banning transgender restroom use other than facilities that match birth gender, even though it contains a stadium exemption meant to deter North Carolina-style blowback by outfits like the NBA and NCAA.

Senate approves amendment to limit damage lawsuits, strip court power

The Arkansas Senate today approved  SJR 8, the constitutional amendment to cripple damage lawsuits and transfer court rulemaking power from the Arkansas Supreme Court to the Arkansas legislature.

UPDATE: Campus carry bill amended by Senate to require training

The Senate this morning added an amendment to Rep. Charlie Collins campus carry bill that incorporates the effort denied in committee yesterday to require a 16-hour additional training period before university staff members with concealed carry permits may take the weapons on campus.

Director to resign from state court administrative office

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Dan Kemp announced today the resignation of J.D. Gingerich, long-time director of the administrative office of the courts.

Death reported in Pulaski County jail

The Pulaski sheriff's office said a 21-year-old female county jail inmate, Trillus Smith of Little Rock, was found dead alone in her cell Wednesday. A release said there was no signs of suicide or trauma but an autopsy will be conducted.

The Apprentice President: Wildest reality TV yet

President Donald Trump had a news conference today and it was a corker.

The Thursday open line

The open line and today's video roundup.

Bid to expand voucher program clears House committee

A bill that would expand the number of private schools eligible to participate in a special-needs education voucher program passed on a voice vote with no dissent in the House Education Committee Thursday.

Trumpian politics at the Capitol; gun bill revenge from Charlie Collins

Rep. Greg Leding reports on Twitter that Rep. Charlie Collins just had the House vote down a higher education appropriation in retaliation for Senate amendment added to his campus carry bill.

Obamacare rewrite plan: Good for the rich, not so much for the poor — or Arkansas

Republican congressional leaders and staff have prepared on outline for repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and a New York Times analysis suggests its approval would be bad news for poor people and Arkansas. Rich people? Better news for them.

Trump reported to mull use of National Guard for immigrant crackdown in 11 states, including Arkansas. Or did he?

Talk by the Trump administration of using the National Guard in a crackdown on unauthorized immigrants, if real or fake, will contribute to an already high level of anxiety in Little Rock's immigrant community.

In South Carolina, federal judge orders same-sex parent names on birth certificate

From Slate, news of a federal court ruling in South Carolina that runs contrary to the "wisdom" of the Arkansas Supreme Court on birth certificates for children of same-sex couples.

War Memorial Stadium takeover approved by House

By a vote of 87-1 with two voting present, the state House today approved the bill ending an independent War Memorial Stadium Commission and putting the stadium under control of the state Parks and Tourism Department.

Gov. Hutchinson: 'Concerns' on using National Guard for immigration enforcement

Gov. Asa Hutchinson continues to chart an independent and moderate course from the extremism of the Trump administration and its advocates, this time on the report that there's been at least some discussion of using the National Guard in Arkansas and 10 other states to round up undocumented immigrants.

Proposal for additional marijuana "privilege" tax

Rep. Doug House, who's handling medical marijuana legislation, introduced a bill for an additional tax on marijuana sales today.

Senate affirms foe of EPA to head EPA

The U.S. Senate today approved the nomination of Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and dedicated foe of the Environmental Protection Agency, to head the EPA.

Attorneys urge appeals court to rescind punishment in class action case

Arkansas Business has the details on arguments in an appeal of disciplinary action taken against a group of Arkansas plaintiffs' lawyers over settlement of a class action case against an insurance company.

Hotel planned for Hall-Davidson buildings

A new real estate firm is in talks with national hotel groups to bring a boutique hotel to the Hall-Davidson buildings at 209-215 W. Capitol.

Friday's open line and the video roundup

Here's an open line and headlines and opinion on the day's news.

Protests targeted by new legislation

A new legislative proposal would enhance penalties for protesters who block roadways and otherwise cause offense, including by obscene gestures or defacing objects of "respect."

UPDATE: Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase Round 4: Sextets, Septets and Martyrs

A recap of the 25th annual Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, Round 4. (UPDATE)

UA's Walton School eyes downtown location for executive ed program

The Walton College of Business is working to expand its executive education by opening an office in downtown Little Rock that would offer non-degree programs to the health, banking and finance and retail industries in Central Arkansas, the school confirmed today.

Build smart cars, not wider highways

Here's a thought: Putting more "smart cars" on the road would mean decreasing the demand to build wider freeways.

Red states join the Trump resistance; a taste for Tom Cotton next week

The Atlantic reports — and we know this in Arkansas already — that Trump resistance exists and seems to be gaining momentum in red states. It's not only those dreaded "coastal elites" with concerns about the direction of the country.

Trump administration budget cut document targets public broadcasting, arts and more

The New York Times reports that the White House budget office is at work on cuts in domestic spending and a draft targets nine relatively small but popular programs with many beneficiaries and fans in Arkansas. They include public broadcasting, the arts, and legal services for poor people.

New Crystal Bridges exhibit explores Mexican-American border

Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.

The open line and questions about the Tom Cotton town hall

An open line and questions about a disappearing venue for the Tom Cotton town hall.

More objections to the bathroom bill from Buffalo River businessman

A tourism operator in the district of a senator who's sponsored a "bathroom bill" to discourage transgender use of public facilities has joined those objecting to the legislation as damaging to business.

Trump ventures into fake news as he decries it

President Donald Trump continued his attack on the media at a rally in Florida Saturday, but his own reporting of facts continued to be fractured, with reference to a non-existent incident in Sweden.

Gunfire reported at downtown hotel UPDATE

Guests at the Marriott Hotel downtown reported hearing multiple gunshots about 9:30 p.m. Saturday night, but, at last report on KTHV, police had found no evidence that anyone was hurt.

Open line, plus violence around the state and the search for the Tom Cotton town hall

Sunday's open line includes an update on Tom Cotton's mystery location town hall; discovery of two bodies near Siloam Springs and an officer shooting of a criminal suspect in Marion County.

Award planned for five former Little Rock School Board members

The Christian Ministerial Alliance has announced it will give the Rev. Williams Robinson Justice Award today to five members of the Little Rock Schoo Board removed by the state Board of Education Jan. 28, 2015.

Trump and Russia: The plot thickens

Questions about President Donald Trump's friendly connections with Russia aren't going away.

Following the GIF scandal in Northwest Arkansas

State pork barreling continues to inspire reporting on questionable spending and corruption in the use of state surplus money for local projects.

Another city, another fight over a city-blighting freeway project

Now the story of a city fighting the damaging impact of an urban freeway expansion project comes from Denver.

Even a courthouse is no sanctuary for immigrant

Can inmigration agents station themselves at courthouses to snare undocumented immigrants? With probable cause, yes, says a local judge. He notes this might have negative impact on law enforcement.

Campus carry deal: Anyone over 25 can carry, with training

Sen. Trent Garner, the Tom Cotton employee and clone who joined the Arkansas Senate this year, has proposed an amendment to the campus carry bill that would open campuses to anyone 25 or older with a concealed carry permit if they received an additional 16 hours of  training.

Cotton town hall: Off again. On again UPDATE

Sen. Tom Cotton's town hall is off again. And now back on again, this time in Springdale.

A presidential open line

Here's the Monday open line, with a tribute to presidents on our daily video with news and comment.

Senate defeats resolutions on amendments to prohibit same-sex marriage and ban abortion

The Arkansas Senate fell a vote short today  of approving resolutions calling for U.S. constitutional amendments to prohibit same-sex marriage and ban abortion.

Hutchinson touts government 'transformation.' But is less more?

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced today a Trnasformation Advisory Board to continue his goal of making government more efficient.

Religious right group calls for compromise on damage lawsuit amendment

The Family Council, the religious right political lobby, has issued a statement urging its followers to oppose the so-called tort reform amendment to limit attorney fees and awards in damage lawsuits.

Groups urge end to life sentences for juveniles

A rally at the Capitol today will include groups backing proposed legislation to end life-without-parole sentences for juveniles. The bill, SB 294, will be before a Senate committee Wednesday.

UPDATE: The free legislative eats report; plus more watering down of ethics law

Plenty of free eats and drinks for the legislature this week. Also Monday, the Senate made some improvements and added some more loopholes to a proposal to further water down the already porous ethics law.

Tom Cotton's influence on Trump's new security chief

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton is getting credit for pushing President Donald Trump to select Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser, Politico reports.

Homeland Security details sweeping immigration enforcement plans

A massive increase in removal of undocumented immigrants is likely from Homeland Security guidelines released today.

Steve Womack hearing from constituents, sounds a little grouchy

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, who has a reputation for getting out of sorts when challenged at public meetings, is getting some sharp questioning at a session he scheduled this morning at the West Fork City Hall, according to notes I've received.

U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Arkansas death penalty case

The United States Supreme Court has declined to review the Arkansas Supreme Court decision clearing the lethal injection procedure continue for condemned prisoners in Arkansas.

Fort Smith police arrest two in mosque vandalism

Fox 24 reports the arrest of two men — Craig Wigginton, 19, and Abraham Davis, 20 — for vandalizing a mosque in October.

Architecture lecture: Sheila Kennedy on "soft" design

Sheila Kennedy, a professor of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founder of Kennedy & Violich Architecture Ltd., will give the June Freeman lecture tonight at the Arkansas Arts Center, part of the Architecture + Design Network series at the Arkansas Arts Center.

Alarm raised on Little Rock sewer bills by Andy Davis

An alarm is being raised about pending legislation that would require the city of Little Rock to extend sewer service outside city limits.

Dumas: Reaction to Trump branding of press is overwrought

Ernest Dumas writes this week that reactions to President Donald Trump's branding of the press as enemies of the people are overwrought.

Tuesday's open line

Here's the open line and daily video.

A little ol' gun bill: Who could possibly object?

Today's bill filing includes this one by Rep. Clarke Tucker of Little Rock to prohibit someone convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery or stalking from possessing a firearm.

Health agency socked with big verdict, Sen. Hutchinson faulted for legal work

A former mental health agency director has won a default judgment worth $358,000 over a claim for unpaid retirement pay and Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson is apparently to blame for failure to respond to pleadings in the case.

Democrat-Gazette cuts more jobs

Arkansas Business'' Kyle Massey reports another round of layoffs at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. 12 to 15 people will be terminated, others will move to part-time status.

DiPippa to be interim dean at UALR Law School

UALR Chancellor Andrew Rogerson told staff today that law professor John DiPippa would serve as interim dean of the Bowen School of Law while a search is made for a permanent dean. The appointment takes effect in July. The search should begin in the fall.

"Locally Labeled" passport expands to accommodate booming brew scene

As if great beer weren't reward enough, you can earn prizes for sampling local craft beverages

Campus gun bill clears committee

The so-called compromise amendment that will allow anyone 25 or older with a training certificate carry a concealed weapon on public college campuses was approved in a Senate committee this afternoon.

Cotton seeks friendlies for town hall

Is Tom Cotton working to pack his town hall Wednesday in Springdale with fans. So says one source.

Medical marijuana commission approves draft rules; public hearing set for March 31

Typically, new agency rules undergo a public hearing only if such a meeting is requested by at least 25 members of the public, but the interest in medical marijuana is sufficiently high that staff at the Department of Finance and Administration decided to arrange one preemptively.

Criminal justice reform bill makes it out of Senate committee

Senate Bill 136, an omnibus crime bill that sponsors hope will reduce the state's exploding prison population and increase public safety, advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday on a voice vote.

A town hall for the rest of us

Groups have arranged a Central Arkansas town hall meeting Sunday to attempt to get Arkansas's U.S. senators and Congressman French Hill to talk in public with constituents abut pressing issues.

A new date proposed for Little Rock school election; problems remain

Little Rock School Superintendent Mike Poore told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette yesterday that he will propose to Education Commissioner Johnny Key a May 9 special election on a property tax vote. The political climate is not good.

Family Council decries 'mental abuse' opt-out for covenant marriages

The Senate Judiciary Committee meets this morning on the House-passed bill by Rep. Nelda Speaks of Mountain Home to add mental abuse as a ground for divorce under the covenant marriage act of 2001. A conservative religious group isn't happy about it.

Campus carry question: What about K-12 schools on college campuses?

How will conflicts between the campus carry bill and the ban on guns at K-12 schools be resolved?

Broadway Bridge to reopen next week, a month earlier than expected

The Arkansas Highway Department has announced that the Broadway Bridge will reopen to traffic next week, about a month earlier than expected.

Government efficiency on display at War Memorial Stadium

Legislation touted as government efficiency measures were signed ceremonially today at War Memorial Stadium by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Use of state cars for the event didn't illustrate efficiency at work.

Prosecutor Cody Hiland says analysis indicates Damascus is a speed trap

Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland has announced completion of a State Police analysis of Damascus police speed limit enforcement and concluded that statistics indicate tickets are written in excess of limits in law that define speed traps.

City board squelches Little Rock school talk

A letter from Little Rock school activist Dr. Anika Whitfield happens to underscore a point I made earlier today — and in a column to be published this week. It lays some of the school district's problems on benign neglect, and sometimes malice, of the Little Rock City Board.

Internet sales tax bill advances

A Senate committee today approved the House-passed bill to require Internet merchants to compile and provide customers with records of their purchases in Arkansas and the sales taxes due even if they don't have physical presences here.

House committee approves vote suppression amendment

A House committee today talked about stripping colleges and the Highway Department of power and tightening procedures on constitutional amendments but in the end voted as Chairman Bob Ballinger orchestrated and expected — to put a Voter ID amendment on the 2018 ballot.

NRA opposes campus carry bill as amended

The NRA, which calls most shots on gun bills in Arkansas, now opposes the campus carry bill primarily because it adds an additional training requirement before anyone 25 and older can take a concealed weapon on a public college campus.

Wednesday: An open line and news roundup

An open line and the roundup of news and comment.

Photographer pleads in Internet stalking case

The U.S. attorney's office announced today that Christian Trey Ashcraft, 41, of White Hall had entered a negotiated plea to Internet stalking and a charge of lying to a federal agent had been dropped. He'll be sentenced later. The maximum sentence is five years.

Huge turnout for Tom Cotton town hall

David Koon and Brian Chilson are covering the Tom Cotton town hall in Springdale, which is just about to get underway.

Bill to provide parole hearings for offenders convicted as juveniles and serving life without parole sentences advances

Legislation that disallows life in prison without parole sentences for minors and retroactively calls for parole hearings for those sentenced in this manner in murder cases cleared a Senate committee on Wednesday.

Legislation that would give charters first right to public school buildings clears committee

A bill that would grant Arkansas charter schools the right to use public school facilities that are unused or underutilized advanced out of the Senate Education committee Wednesday on a voice vote with some dissent.

Grocery store wine bill passes House Rules committee

Will grocery stores be able to sell more wine? The legislative answer might depend on whether legislation is passed to allow liquor stores to sell more food.

Fight in progress on election oversight

Bubbling at the Capitol this week is a legislative effort — a chief instigator is Sen. Bryan King — to end the autonomy of the state Election Commission and put it in the office of Secretary of State Mark Martin. The legislation would create an investigative staff in the secretary of state's office.

Constituents go Cotton pickin' at Springdale town hall

Sen. Tom Cotton, cordial to a fault, appeared before a capacity crowd at the 2,200 seat Pat Walker Performing Arts Center at Springdale High tonight to a mixed chorus of clapping and boos. Other than polite applause when he introduced his mom and dad and a still moment as he led the crowd in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance — his night didn't get much better from there.

Arkansas Supreme Court reverses decision on Fayetteville non-discrimination ordinance

The Arkansas Supreme Court has reversed the circuit court decision upholding the Fayetteville civil rights ordinance, which was aimed at extending protection to LGBT people, along with other protected classes.

A morals clause at the emergency room: Your legislature at work

The chamber of horrors known as the Arkansas legislature rolls on. Latest installment: A "freedom of conscience" bill for health care providers from Sens. Jason Rapert and Linda Collins-Smith and Rep. Brandt Smith.

More gun sense from Rep. Clarke Tucker

Gun sense legislation from Rep. Clarke Tucker. Just because it makes sense doesn't mean the gun lobby will allow it.

Bohm's District Fare: Charcuterie, a glass of wine and more

Tomas Bohm, the owner of Czech and German eatery The Pantry in West Little Rock and The Pantry Crest in Hillcrest, has settled on a name for his new venture in the old Hillcrest Artisan Meats spot: District Fare. The name “suits the Hillcrest location," Bohm said. And besides, he added, "everything else is called Hillcrest” in the neighborhood.

Butts out at The Sports Page

Stop the presses! Or toss out the ashtrays at least. No longer does The Sports Page serve its great cheeseburgers and ginormous chilidogs with a hint of Marlboro.

A Fat Tuesday beer dinner at @ the Corner

At the Corner restaurant at Scott and Markham streets will celebrate Mardi Gras with its first "Fat Tuesday Beer Dinner,” featuring brews from Lost Forty, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Abuse in nursing homes: Another reason to oppose 'tort reform'

CNN couldn't have been more timely for Arkansas with a monumental investigation of nursing home abuse cases around the country. Advocates for nursing home patients say it illustrates what's wrong with the legislative push to make it unprofitable to sue over nursing home abuse.

Campaign finance transparency bill advances out of Senate committee

The House previously passed Della Rosa's bill by a large margin, and its passage by the committee this morning bodes well for its chances in the full Senate. Similar legislation sponsored by the Rogers lawmaker died in 2015.

Committee gives nod to bill exempting state Capitol police from FOIA

Tom Larimer of the Arkansas Press Association testified against SB 131, saying that it "would in effect create a secret police." He said there's "no evidence that anyone has FOIed something to create mayhem."

Little River County gears up for Sesquicentennial

Historical entertainment planned for joint celebration of three Southwest Arkansas milestone anniversaries