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The Purple People

The Purple People

April 1, 2019

Vol 45 • No 20

Read the print version

Crystal C. Mercer's activism bleeds into promoting Arkansas businesses

A Q&A with the new executive director of Local First Arkansas.

2019 Arkansas Times Academic All-Stars Nominees

Listed by their hometowns.

Refugees from an Ozarks cult detail abuse

They escaped from the Nahziryah Monastic Community in Marion County.

2019 Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team

Meet the best and brightest high school seniors in the state.

2019 Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Finalists

They made the final round.

White Hall principal accused of anti-Muslim Facebook post

KARK/Fox 16 has identified Mark Jelks, principal of White Hall High School, as having shared on his Facebook account a post from another Facebook page with an anti-Muslim message — "Kick Islam out of America: You can't walk with God holding hands with the devil."

Medicaid leader Seema Verma spending millions on her 'brand'

Your tax dollars at work burnishing the brand of the woman who oversees health coverage for poor people.

Lundstrum mounts another late-night attack on minimum wage increase

At a late-night committee session Thursday, Rep. Robin Lundstrum pulled another sneak attack, pushing out an amended version of one of her bills to roll back the minimum wage increase approved by voters in November.

Statewide voucher bill clears Senate

A similar plan targeted at Pulaski County stalled in committee.

Libertarians sue over tougher ballot qualification law

The Libertarian Party of Arkansas filed a federal lawsuit about a new state law that more than doubled the signature requirement for a political party to qualify for the ballot.

Governor pushes to keep Medicaid expansion despite halt to work requirement

Hutchinson asked Trump administration officials to appeal a federal judge's order blocking the work rule

House committee endorses term limits amendment

A House committee today endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment to shorten existing term limits, except for those currently serving, and to allow a return to office after four years out of the legislature.

Hutchinson names Jake Bleed budget director

Gov. Asa Hutchinson today named Jake Bleed to succeed Duncan Baird as state budget director.

House defeats Medicaid budget on first vote

A judge's invalidation of the work rule for the Arkansas Medicaid expansion program figured strongly in a House defeat Friday of the first attempt to pass the Department of Human Services Medicaid budget.

Yes, the legislature is that bad

Ernest Dumas, who's been covering the Arkansas legislature for half a century assesses this year's group in the new monthly print issue of Arkansas Times.  Verdict: Awful.

Lack of accountability for charter schools isn't limited to Arkansas

We already know the laxity of charter school accountability in Arkansas. We are not alone. Check the Washington Post.

Barr promises release of redacted Mueller report in mid-April

Attorney General William Barr says he intends to release a redacted version of Robert Mueller's report around mid-April and that Donald Trump has waived his ability to review and claim privilege over what Barr decides to release.

Bill for in-state tuition for 'dreamers' endorsed by Senate committee

With little debate, the Senate Education Committee today endorsed HB 1684 by Rep. Dan Douglas (R-Bentonville) to allow in-state college tuition for several types of students who are not U.S. citizens.

We're done. Week-ending headlines and the open line

Most of the news is bad from the legislature in today's video roundup. Here's the open line.

The Work Requirement Struck Down Edition

Max and Lindsey talk about a federal judge striking down Arkansas’s first-in-the-nation Medicaid work reporting requirement, the latest from the legislature, the hiring of a new Little Rock police chief, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott’s state of the city address, the firing of Mike Anderson and more.

House blocks Medicaid budget after judge strikes work requirement

Two days after a federal judge halted Arkansas's first-in-the-nation work requirement for certain Medicaid beneficiaries, the state House of Representatives rejected the entire Medicaid budget by a large margin on Friday.

Arkansas firm pops up in Khashoggi probe

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius continues to plumb mysteries in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul and his new extensive report includes a mention of an Arkansas firm.

Bill filed to drug-test legislators

Rep. Fredrick Love (D-Little Rock) has introduced legislation to drug test legislators. If a legislator tested positive and refused treatment or failed a repeat test, he or she would lose pay for six months.

Tilting at another legislative windmill in the name of train safety

A late-arriving piece of legislation proposes to do something about train blockage of rail crossings.

Another good idea: Encouraging better early education teachers

Here's another bright legislative idea, featured in a good video from the Arkansas Citizens First Congress: The bill, SB 618, by Sen. James Sturch (R-Batesville) provides a tax credit for early childhood educators who obtain higher credentials.

The line is open

The readers take over.

Young women sue to wear pants to school

This is interesting in the Washington Post. A successful ACLU lawsuit against a North Carolina charter school that required female students to wear skirts to preserve "chivalry." Pants won.

Arkansas is a trend setter, but you might want to hold your applause

Headlines this morning show Arkansas leading the way, not necessarily in exemplary fashion. The Medicaid work rule is one; a new law to speed up state capture of unclaimed retirement accounts is another.

A sunny open line

Got anything?

Rhett Brinkley's 'I Want to Stare at My Phone with You' is a love letter to Little Rock

An interview with the author in advance of his Arkansas Literary Festival appearance.

Inconsequential News Quiz: Hide your jewelry, the legislature is in town edition

Play at home, while guarding your stuff from sticky-fingered DHS employees!

Sweet Willie Wine took a stand in the Arkansas Delta

With his Walk Against Fear 50 years ago.

Up all night at Hurts Donuts

Surveying the line at downtown Little Rock's popular new donut shop.

Liana Finck and her shadow

An artist, her shadow, create a memoir.

Arkansas Literary Festival: Highlights

See or a full schedule of author talks, workshops, special events and children's activities.

BOLD Team will harvest first medical marijuana in Arkansas

A tour of its facility in Woodruff County.

Orval, Rapert and 'the righteously indignant'


I believe there is no better smell in all the world than old books, a lifelong addiction that keeps The Observer rifling through pages at pretty much every moment when we're not rifling through old bookstores and haunting book sales, even though our shelves back home in the parlor and study and specially constructed Reading Toilet of The Observatory are already groaning with enough tomes that I'll never get 'em all read unless I live to a well-seasoned 306.

Ben Dickey returns to Little Rock

And more!

An interview with Esmé Weijun Wang

She navigates mental illness in 'The Collected Schizophrenias.'

Plan to check out the 2019 Arkansas Literary Festival

Interviews and a guide to festival highlights.

The worst legislature ever

Anti-women. Anti-poor. Anti-black. Anti-people. Anti-old-style Republicans.

Best beards

Mustaches, too.

Leniency offered in Little Rock criminal and environmental courts

Two Little Rock district courts — the criminal and environmental divisions, but not the traffic court — are offering leniency opportunities in the month of April.

Some light reading for the first day of April

Some light reading for this, the first day of April

Cajun's Wharf to close after 44 years

Cajun's Wharf will close June 1, its owner Mary Beth Ringgold has announced in a press release.

The 'Babe Bracket': RIP

The Buzz has retired its "Babe Bracket," a competition pitting women broadcasters that inspired some pushback last year.

Police shooting after Osceola traffic stop

The State Police have been called to investigate an Osceola police shooting that left a man critically wounded after a traffic stop.

Pulaski judicial candidate list grows UPDATE

Two more judicial candidates have announced for one of six judgeships on the ballot for the Sixth Judicial District next year.

Prescott student shot at school

Price McKeon of KARK/Fox 16 reports, quoting the local sheriff, that a Prescott 8th grader was shot in school this morning.

State files tax claim against Jeremy Hutchinson

The state  Finance and Administration Department filed a tax lien March 21 against former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, facing a federal indictment over tax charges related to his use of campaign money for personal expenses.

Democrats move to reinstate lost Medicaid coverage

Democratic legislators filed a bill today to reinstate all those who lost Medicaid coverage because of failure to comply with the work rule and to require the Department of Human Services to notify those people of restored coverage.

Farewell, Mr. Anderson

Any epitaph on someone’s coaching tenure is customary rife with negativity. This coach disgraced the program by falling off a motorcycle, lying about the circumstances, and hiring a young blond with no conceivable credentials as his “aide.”

No fooling: The open line

An April Fools Day open line, plus a strictly factual daily news roundup.

House defeats rollback of minimum wage increase for teens

The House of Representatives today defeated Rep. Robin Lundstrum's bill to roll back the voter-approved minimum wage increase as it pertains to people aged 16 through 18. The vote was 34-42, with 10 voting present. It needed 67 votes to pass as a change to a voter-approved initiated act.

House beats another minimum wage rollback bill by Robin Lundstrum

The House of Representatives defeated a second bill by Rep. Robin Lundstrum to rollback the voter-approved minimum wage increase as it pertains to businesses with fewer than 25 employees, nonprofits with less than $1 million operating budgets, and nonprofits that serve the disabled. The vote was 29-45, with nine voting present.
Rock the Culture

New episode of Rock the Culture podcast: 'Comfortable Being Uncomfortable'

In this week’s episode, Antwan and Charles provide perspective and conversation on the cancellation of Riverfest 2019 and the Arkansas Legislature’s new attempt to pass legislation to implement a voucher program.

Bill aims to decriminalize possession of a small amount of marijuana

This late in the session, the chances of passage of new bills are problematic, but here's one worth a note all the same: Rep. Charles Blake proposes to further sharply reduce penalties for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

House approves 'public drinking' bill

By the slimmest of margins, the House today approved a bill that the religious conservative Family Council decried as a "public drinking bill." The vote was 51-19, with a hefty 30 voting present or not voting at all.

House approves expansive term limits amendment for 2020 ballot UPDATE

By the bare minimum, the House voted today to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2020 that would change limits in a way that would actually open the door to many more years of service by current legislators. The vote was 51-26 with nine voting present on SJR 15, already approved in the Senate.

Another hit on the Little Rock School District

It's never too late in a legislative session to rough up the Little Rock School District.

Poll: Sure Trump's a liar, but voters are more interested in health care and his tax cut than Russia probe

Health care and a disastrous tax cut are more important to voters than the Mueller Report, but the outcome of that probe hasn't helped Donald Trump either, according to new polling.

State gets big corporate tax increase in March

The monthly report on state tax revenue shows a big jump in corporate tax collections in March that pushed revenue totals for the year farther ahead of expected income.

House rejects bills to limit minimum wage increase

Two bills sponsored by Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Elm Springs) to undo substantial portions of the minimum wage hikes approved by voters in November were voted down easily Monday in the Arkansas House of Representatives.

Trump will keep health plan secret until after 2020 election

Trump's amazing health care plan will remain a secret until after the 2020 election.

Internet sales tax increase, corporate tax cuts clear House committee over car wash tax objections

After a debate mostly concerned with a portion of the bill attempting to equalize tax burdens on car washes, the House Revenue and Taxation Committee today endorsed SB 576, a major tax bill aimed at raising sales tax revenue on Internet commerce and providing millions in corporate tax cuts.

Another judicial candidate in Pulaski County

LaTonya Laird Austin announced today for one of the six Pulaski County circuit judgeships to be on the ballot next March.

Equal pay for women rejected in House committee, with GOP women leading opposition

With women legislators in opposition, the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee today defeated HB 1806 by Rep. Tippi McCullough (D-Little Rock) to require state agencies to pay men and women equally.

House passes Medicaid spending bill on second try

The Arkansas Houde Tuesday afternoon on its second try approved SB 99 the $8 billion Medicaid budget bill that includes the continuation of the Medicaid expansion known as Arkansas Works, but with a court order preventing enforcement of a work rule for qualification adopted two years ago.

Tuesday: Headlines and the open line

The news roundup is nearly all about the legislature. Here's the open line.

New 'Arkansas Stop' law allows cyclists to treat red lights like stop signs

Arkansas is now the second state in the country that allows people on bicycles to treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights like stop signs.

The legislature moves to raise freeway speed limits. The Constitution, however .....

The legislature is intent on raising the speed limit on rural freeways from 70 to 75 (70 for trucks). But can they?

Democracy under attack: Petition killer headed to ballot

As predicted here yesterday, the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce express train to deter future minimum wage and other populist petition campaigns left the station in the Senate this afternoon.

Attorney general dodges a list of gun questions

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who likes to describe herself as a gun-toting Christian, declined to toss some gun-toting red meat to a senator in an official opinion request disclosed today.

House approves Medicaid budget on second try

The Arkansas House of Representatives narrowly approved a bill to fund the state's Medicaid program on Tuesday, completing legislative action on the appropriation and handing a victory to Governor Hutchinson.

Little Rock city board approves resolution to negotiate construction on I-30 crossing

At Tuesday evening’s board of directors meeting, city directors voted to approve a resolution authorizing the mayor to negotiate an agreement with the Arkansas Department of Transportation on the construction of the 30 Crossing Project.

Two more deaths under investigation in state prisons

The state Correction Department last night announced investigations in two more deaths in state prison units.

A busy day ahead for legislature

Lots to watch at the legislature today. And maybe elsewhere.

Hillary Clinton set to speak to ASMSA commencement

Hillary Rodham Clinton will speak to the 2019 graduating class of the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts at 2 p.m May 25 at the Hot Springs Convention Center.

Kisses from Biden

If you didn’t know Joe Biden was of Irish descent, you might think he was French, or Italian. The man exudes personal warmth. He touches people, leans in close, pats their shoulders, whispers in their ears, and plants unsolicited kisses. Upon women, that is.

House committee kills sex education bill

A House committee late yesterday defeated SB 304 to permit school districts to offer comprehensive health courses including suicide prevention, substance abuse, tobacco and, the sticking point, pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease prevention.

Senate committee defeats bill to allow four more years of state control of Little Rock School District

After a sharp debate, the Senate Education Committee this morning failed on a split vote to approve SB 668 that would allow the state Board of Education to retain control of the Little Rock School District for up to four more years on top of five years of receivership that ends in January.

Over the hump headlines and open line

The legislature slouches toward the finish line in today's video news roundup. Here's the open line.

On second try Senate passes bill to protect statues

On a second try, the Senate today approved SB 515 to prohibit removal or relocating of a historic monument from public property.

Senate completes action on in-state tuition for 'dreamers'

The Senate today approved HB 1684 to allow in-state tuition for a variety of foreign students, including those brought to this country as children by parents without legal status.

The Impossible Burger is an eerie feat of food science

The plant-based burger utilizes a controversial ingredient called heme to trick helpless, hapless meat-eater synapses into firing off an announcement to the body that beef is in the building.

Marijuana Rx commission approves dispensary moves

At Wednesday afternoon’s meeting of the state Medical Marijuana Commission, commissioners approved changes in location for three dispensaries and a change in ownership for Osage Creek Cultivation LLC.

Arkansas Senate passes bill to let DACA students access in-state tuition rates

"They want to be good citizens, because this is their home as much as it’s my grandchildren’s home, because this is where they’ve grown up," Douglas said of DACA recipients. "But our system doesn’t provide a pathway for them to be able to obtain citizenship."

A hail mary on school accountability: Open records law on spending of public money

Sen. Joyce Elliott Wednesday filed SB 681, too late for passage this session, to require full public access to records of private entities that receive public money to operate schools.

Another round in the fight to restore democracy in Little Rock School District

Rep. Andrew Collins (D-Little Rock) will present his HB 1862 in the House Education Committee at 10 a.m. today, a bill to provide a pathway to return of democratic control of the Little Rock School District.

Muslim students deliver love to White Hall in response to anti-Muslim message by principal

Muslim students fight Islamaphobia in White Hall with forgiveness and understanding.

More clandestine lawmaking about, what else, guns UPDATE

Funny business related to SB 660, by Sen. Trent Garner (R-NRA) to expand the public places in which concealed weapons may be carried.

What if Pulaski wasn't a he?

What if Revolutionary War hero Casimir Pulaski was a woman? Or maybe even intersex? The possibility has been raised in new research. Calling Sens. Jason Rapert and Mark Johnson.

Tjuana Byrd announces for juvenile judgeship

Tjuana Byrd of Little Rock has announced as a candidate for one of the Sixth Judicial District juvenile judgeships.

School vouchers: They don't achieve much but do it anyway, Waltonites say

The House Education Committee is taking up a statewide school voucher bill today that would send $3 million a year to pay to send students to private schools. If facts mattered, this bill would be dead. Don't believe me. Read the work of some advocates.

Arkansas congressmen vote against Violence Against Women Act

All four members of the House from Arkansas — Republicans Steve Womack, Rick Crawford, French Hill and Bruce Westerman, voted against the reauthorization of the violence against women act of 1994.

House committee defeats school voucher bill

The House Education Committee this morning defeated SB 539 to create a statewide school voucher program to spend $3 million a year to send perhaps 500 students a year to private schools.

Video news roundup and open line

Hey, some good news on today's video headline roundup. Here's the open line.

Son files for mother's judicial seat

Jonathan Q. Warren announced his candidacy for Circuit Judge, Division 10, in the 6th Judicial District, which encompasses Pulaski and Perry counties.

Petition-killer amendment headed to the 2020 ballot

The House today easily approved a third constitutional amendment for the 2020 ballot, this one aimed at making it more difficult for petition drives to qualify initiatives and amendments.

House passes Internet sales tax and corporate tax cut

By a vote of 68-20, the House today passed the last major financial bill of the session. It provides tens of millions in corporate income tax cuts over time but raises some $40 million a year in new revenue by requiring Internet merchants to collect the state sales tax.

LR School Board packing bill passes Senate

The Senate today approved HB 1018 to allow the Little Rock School District to have a nine-member school board, if it ever has a school board again. The district's primary senators opposed the bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Sorvillo, a Republican from western Little Rock.

Another candidate for retiring Judge Piazza's seat

Another candidate has announced to succeed retiring Circuit Judge Chris Piazza in elections next March.

Senate cuts no slack on rent for domestic violence victims

Arkansas political priorities — guns, landlords and battered women, in that oder.

Last-minute assault on democracy presents an opportunity for Mayor Frank Scott

I'm hearing that they will make another run this morning at getting SB 668 out of the Senate Education Committee this morning. This is the bill to keep the Little Rock School Distrrict in perpetual state control.

Petition-damaging amendment approved in committee

A Senate committee this morning endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment, HJR 1008, that's aimed at making it harder to put initiated acts and amendments on the ballot.

Committee rejects better reporting of independent campaign expenditures.

A Senate committee this morning killed HB 1893 by Rep. Jana Della Rosa to require more timely reporting by independent expenditure committees that advocate for or against election of candidates.

Senate committee votes to allow up to four more years of state control of Little Rock School District

Despite an outpouring of opposition from Little Rock people, a Senate committee today endorsed SB 553 that would allow the state to extend state control over the Little Rock School District for four more years.

Video: Rodney Block and Matt Joyce talk Elvis

Rodney Block and Matt Joyce weigh in on Elvis and his legacy ahead of a tribute at the Rev Room April 20.

Shocker: Injured workers win one over insurance companies

The House today easily defeated HB 1955 to put insurance companies ahead of injured workers in payments for injuries involving third parties.

Timely high school graduation rate continues to increase

Arkansas’ four-year graduation rates for all students and multiple student subgroups increased in 2018, continuing a three-year trend of positive improvement.

Regnat Missy. 'Citizen' initiatives don't impress the senator much

Sen. Missy Irvin outdid Rep. Robin Lundstrum yesterday in disdain for the people of Arkansas when it comes to the minimum wage.

Senate passes another Little Rock bill backed by non-resident

Sen. Mark Johnson (R-Ferndale) has won Senate passage of yet another bill affecting the city of Little Rock over the objections of the city's senators.

Senate approves sanctuary city bill

The Senate voted 24-5 today to pass Sen. Gary Stubblefield SB 411 to prohibit "municipal sanctuary policies." It's a can of worms.

GOP's health care quandary

Republican officeholders, in Arkansas and everywhere, have found themselves in an impossible catch-22 — caught between mutually conflicting political demands by their voters. I’m talking about the political dilemma of choosing between the widely hated Obamacare and the highly popular provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Legislators take page out of Trump's playbook to victimize vulnerable women and girls

This year, state legislators in Little Rock have been staging an all-out, unrelenting attack on abortion access in Arkansas.

Reward offered in bald eagle killing

The Game and Fish Commission says a $6,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in  the killing of a bald eagle in Drew County.

UA Little Rock imposes hiring, purchasing freeze

Financial times continue to be tough for UA Little Rock. Yesterday, Chancellor Andrew Rogerson announced a freeze on hiring and purchasing for the balance of the fiscal year ending June 30.

Thank goodness: News and the open line

Today's news video roundup: The legislature can't quit soon enough. Here's the open line.

After concerns raised, Scott says city has not cut funding to summer youth programs

A day after City Director Kathy Webb and other Children, Youth and Families Commission members raised concerns about the city cutting funding for 15 summer youth enrichment and recreation programs, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said his administration has made no cuts to the 2019 budget.

Judge Griffen moves to dismiss disciplinary action, cites Supreme Court involvement

Attorneys for Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen have filed a motion seeking to dismiss judicial ethics charges he faces and, in the process, has provided information they've gathered about Supreme Court justices actions in his case.

Helena-West Helena mayor fires court staff, plans reorganization UPDATE

Helena-West Helena Mayor Kevin Smith apparently has fired the staff of the local district court preparatory to "reorganizing" the office. Blowback from the City Council has begun.

The Good and (Mostly) Bad at the Ledge Edition

Max and Lindsey talk about the latest from the legislature, including good news. But also bad news.

The cookie cutter legislative agenda: Fresh baked from interest groups to the states

For Saturday reading: USA Today and the Center for Public Integrity on the rise in cookie-cutter legislation — "model bills" developed by special interest groups dropped around the country to push agendas in the states.

Stand your ground, Moms: The gun bill isn't dead and a 'compromise' is cooking

Speaking of copycat legislation: The worst NRA desire of this legislative session — adding Arkansas to the list of states with dangerous "stand your ground" laws — isn't dead yet. Another run to pass it, potentially with acquiescence of a former foe, is on the agenda for the legislature's final week.

Saturday To-Do: Monster Jam at Verizon Arena

If the 1500 horsepower tomfoolery taking place on the track isn’t your cup of Natural Light, then come for the people watching, where there will be no shortage of babies in comically large over-the-ear headphones.

The open line

The readers take over

Recapping a judicial scandal

Recapping a scandal: Good work in D-G.

Another plug for Little Rock

Crime in broad daylight. At the Zoo.

Open line: Plus Eric Musselman hired to coach Arkansas basketball

The open line includes the announcement that Eric Musselman, who had been coach at Nevada (Reno), is the next head basketball coach at the University of Arkansas.

Contest develops for juvenile judgeship

Another contested race has developed among the six open circuit judgeships to be on the ballot in 2020.

City Director Lance Hines joins fight for anti-sanctuary legislation, among the bad bills pending in final session hours

Among the gruesome dying gasps of this legislative session will be the fight by Sen. Gary Stubblefield to pass an anti-sanctuary city bill that even Gov. Asa Hutchinson has expressed reluctance about. But not City Director Lance HInes, who you can see with failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Jan Morgan discussing his support of the legislation.

Tom Cotton holds 'town' hall: Your particular town might not be included

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton has scheduled a town hall April 25 in Rogers and you can tell from the official announcement that there will be a low tolerance for dissent. Comments at the Facebook page about efforts of others to get tickets suggest additional pre-screening is going on.

UA Little Rock chancellor: Spending freeze linked to drop in full-time students

Andrew Rogerson, chancellor of UA Little Rock, said the hiring and purchasing freezes imposed last week were "prudent" steps to assure the school finishes the year in the black, with a key underlying cause a decline in full-time students.

Lance Hines wants to make Little Rock a better place for new business

As City Director of Ward 5, Lance Hines wants to represent the business community’s interests on the city board. Now in his third term as a city director, Hines said he wants to make both residential and retail development easier in Little Rock and increase the city’s revenue by recruiting “one of a kind” retailers to make it a source for “destination shopping.”

Blytheville police officer kills man in disturbance

Another fatal shooting by police, this one in Blytheville.

Senior centers denied additional funding after governor opposes

The Joint Budget Committee today defeated a proposal by Sen. Will Bond (D-Little Rock) to earmark $2.5 million in the rainy day fund for senior centers.

Higdon Square Cafe in Hot Springs skews classic

Higdon Square Cafe does meat and three right.

New episode of Rock The Culture: "You Want That Testimony"

In this week’s episode, Antwan Phillips and Rep. Charles Blake provide perspective and conversation on the Central Arkansas Water’s efforts to secure additional fresh water sources, the Legislature’s attempt to extend the time that the State Board of Education can control the LRSD, and the location of LRPD’s license plate readers and security cameras.

Little Rock government targeted in late-afternoon committee action on outsider's bill

Final day legislative fireworks could include legislation with serious impact on Little Rock, though neither of two bills is sponsored by a resident of the city.

Monday: The final days open line

Monday's news roundup mostly awaits further action from the legislature. Here's the open line.

Action completed on amendment to cripple popular petition campaigns

The Senate today completed action on a constitutional amendment aimed at severely limiting the ability to put popular initiatives on the election ballot.

Speaking of petition killers: Senate beats one

The Senate today a bill to place draconian requirements on companies paid to gather signatures on ballot initiatives.

Welcome, Coach Muss

As is common when a “coaching search” gets underway at the University of Arkansas—at this rate, it’s been about an average of every two or three years during my lifetime that either the basketball or football head coaching position has changed—the rumor mill churns at a feverish pace and almost always ends up being discredited for one reason or another.

Pain, pain, go away

Take a minute to think about the major categories of pharmaceuticals in the marketplace today and you quickly come to a simple conclusion: Pain management is big business.

Senate defeats bill to extend state control of Little Rock School District

In something of a surprise, the Senate narrowly defeated SB 668 by Sen. Kim Hammer to allow the state to control school districts in academic distress for up to nine years.

Sen. Ballinger retreats — gives up on 'stand your ground' bill for this legislative session

With gun safety advocates out in force, Sen. Bob Ballinger sent his "stand your ground" bill to interim committee for study and vowed it would be back in two years.

8th Circuit refuses stay of judge order on school district transfers UPDATE

The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today denied Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's request for a stay of a lower court order that said the state couldn't force four South Arkansas school districts to allow interdistrict transfers.

Anti-'sanctuary' bill fails in House committee

A House committee failed to endorse SB 411 to prohibit local governments from having "sanctuary" policies toward undocumented immigrants.

Committee approves amended version of Little Rock mayor-council proposal UPDATE

After hearing, but not seeing, an amendment to legislation allowing Little Rock voters to consider a change in government to mayor-council, the bill received the endorsement late today by the House City, County and Local Affairs Committee.

Suffer the poor: a food stamp bill symbolizes a session's priorities

The Senate yesterday passed Rep. Mary Bentley's HB 1775 to add additional work requirements on recipients of food stamps, but not before a heated exchange between Sen. Scott Flippo, carrying the bill, and Sen. Joyce Elliott, unable to get answers from Flippo to her questions.

A 1935 labor strike play gets a retelling at The Public Theatre Saturday — with shadow puppets

UCA Schedler Honors College professor Adam Frank talks shadow puppets and artistic rebellion ahead of Ozark Living Newspaper Theatre's late-night production of Clifford Odets' "Waiting for Lefty."

Lawsuit challenges limit on campaign contributions. Hmmmm

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this morning on a lawsuit challenging the state law that prohibits fund-raising for a political campaign more than two years before an election. So, how about some more details on who's behind it?

Governor names Meredith Switzer to Court of Appeals; candidate announces for 2020

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has appointed Meredith Switzer of Hot Springs to replace the late Judge David M. "Mac" Glover on the Arkansas Court of Appeals.

The 'sanctuary' bill fight isn't over

The poorly written bill to punish Arkansas cities that are kind to immigrants was defeated in committee last night, but it apparently isn't dead yet. Call your representative.

Another surprise: Confederate statue preservation bill fails

A House committee this morning failed to approve the bill aimed at preventing any government from altering, moving or removing Confederate monuments.

Judge enjoins approval of subdivision plan in western Little Rock

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen today reversed the Little Rock Planning Commission's approval of a proposed residential development known as Mergeron Court.

House committee kills bill to curb public spending on education lobbyists

After extended debate, the House Education Committee today defeated Sen. Breanne Davis' SB 452 to prevent using public money on education lobbying associations.

A day to remember

It's Victory over the Confederacy Day.

Little Rock school bill officially dead

The bill to extend state control of the Little Rock School District as many as four more years is officially dead.

Senate again defeats bill to cripple paid petition drives

The Senate failed again today to pass Sen. Mark Johnson's SB 463 to cripple paid petition canvassing for ballot initiatives.

Another day of the legislature

The House adjourned today with plans to return at 10 a.m Wednesday and some items pending.

Tuesday: Headlines and the open line

Sorry, though there are many legislative headlines on the video today, they're not done yet. The open line is here.

On second try, 'sanctuary' city bill passes House committee

After a defeat yesterday, the House City, County and Local Affairs Committee approved SB 411 to prohibit local governments from adopting "sanctuary" policies toward immigrants.

The UVa story: More than basketball

As we went to bed last Monday, I told my wife that maybe it was time I retired as a sports fan. It was never going to get any better than this. The Virginia Cavaliers had just won the national championship in a nerve-wracking overtime game against a tenacious Texas Tech team, and I was feeling jittery and euphoric. I can’t think when a ballgame has made me happier.

Where there's smoke: There's the tobacco lobby with one last legislative handout

A fitting coda for this special interest-dominated legislative session is — another — piece of legislation to help the tobacco lobby.

Garner v. Chesterfield on problems in Venezuela and closer to home

The penultimate day of legislating included a moment of virtually no legal significance, but it was nonetheless richly symbolic. It was the perpetually angry Sen. Trent Garner's rant of a resolution, SR 30, condemning affairs in Venezuela and Sen. Linda Chesterfield's observation in response.

Government 'transformed' Hutchinson says

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is lauding legislative passage of his government reorgnization legislation. Time will tell if it makes government leander and more efficient.

Lift a glass: The legislature is done

The House and Senate completed action today and recessed until a return April 24 for a ceremonial close.

Stick-a-fork-in-them open line

There's good news on the daily video roundup today: The legislature's done. Here's the open line.

The U.S. Chamber backs Equality Act

I never thought I'd say this, but the often poisonous U.S. Chamber of Commerce is to be applauded — for its endorsement of the Equality Act to extend workplace civil rights protection to LGBT people.

Justice Department to appeal Medicaid work rule decision

The U.S. Justice Department filed notice today that it would appeal the decision preventing Arkansas (and potentially many other states) from imposing a work rule to qualify for expanded Medicaid coverage.

Men of Steel, Women of Wonder at Crystal Bridges

Men of Steel, Women of Wonder is a new exhibition developed by Crystal Bridges Assistant Curator Alejo Benedetti that examines art-world responses to Superman and Wonder Woman ranging from their Depression-era origins to today’s contemporary artist interpretations.

With boost from Speaker Shepherd, House passes anti-'sanctuary' law. Governor will sign

With critical help from House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, the House today passed a bill to punish cities that adopt policies that the attorney general deems "sanctuary" for undocumented immigrant

Friday To-Do: Downtown Little Rock's 2nd Friday Art Night

The Mid-Southern Watercolorists' annual juried show, musician Charlotte Taylor and beer by Stone's Throw are all on tap Friday at the Historic Arkansas Museum (2nd and Cumberland streets) for the 2nd Friday Night downtown art fling (5-8 p.m. April 12).

Saturday to-do: See 'State of the Art' again, as told by the Renaud brothers

"State of the Art," a film by award-winning filmmakers Craig and Brent Renaud about the 2014-15 Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art exhibition of the same name, will get a free preview screening at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 13, at the Ron Robinson Theater in the River Market district. The film will then be aired on AETN at 8 p.m. Friday, April 26.

Rust Never Rests: buZ blurr's art is an exercise in "time stoppage"

buZ blurr's forthcoming exhibition “Wait of World” runs from April 12-May 2 at CALS Bookstore at Library Square, with an opening reception Friday, April 12, 5-8 p.m.

Who will fill the gaps for poor people in Arkansas when DHS fails?

A coincidence of events on the matter of state services for the poor, who don't enjoy much official favor in Arkansas these days:

Legislature looks out for scooter riders. Seniors? Not so much.

A reader hails the passage of legislation to regulate electric scooter rental companies, including a requirement that they carry liability insurance. But ....

Former legislator pleads guilty to theft

Former state Representative Fonda Hawthorne, 62, who served one term as a Democrat from Ashdown in 2013-14, has pleaded guilty to stealing money from the Little River Chamber of Commerce, the Texarkana Gazette reports.
Arkansas Supreme Court

Supreme Court reverses ruling against nursing home claiming charitable immunity

The Arkansas Supreme Court, in a 4-3 split, reversed a Jefferson County decision that a nursing home was not entitled to immunity from lawsuit as a charity.

Police shooting reported in Helena-West Helena

A man reportedly holding a gun was shot by Helena-West Helena police early this morning and the State Police is investigating.

Robbers hit University Avenue jewelry store

Three armed, masked men robbed the Jared jewelry store at 310 South University Avenue about 8 p.m. last night, Fox 16 reports.

Jeremy Hutchinson faces new indictment in bribery scheme with health provider

Former Republican state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, has been indicted in federal court in Missouri for taking pay from a health provider in return for legislative influence. His indictment was part of a broader action that reaches to the top of the multistate nonprofit at the center of a long-running public corruption probe.

Stand by for news. And the open line

Pretty newsy day it turns out. Check the video roundup here. And this is the open line.

Transformation time for Arkansas government. Not a moment too soon.

Transform government? It could stand it.

Concerns over testing disruptions in the LRSD raised at State Board meeting

In February — more than four years after the state took over the district — the Education Department announced exit criteria for the LRSD to return to local control. After all this time, the state says it largely comes down to the results of one test, the ACT Aspire, which Little Rock students began taking on Monday. During a public comment period at a meeting of the State Board of Education today, several LRSD parents voiced their concerns about testing delays and interruptions, echoing reports from social media of problems districtwide.

Pinches Tacos: sunny lunch spot, saucy namesake

Street tacos were meant to be eaten this way — truckside, perched on a folding chair at a sun-drenched card table.

Buying judges: A win in Wisconsin, a loss in Arkansas. PS: The Arkansas judge is now in a contentious divorce where money again is an issue

An opaque money group apparently succeeded in Wisconsin where it failed in Arkansas — influencing election of a Supreme Court Judge. The article inspired a check on the Arkansas judge's ongoing divorce case and it turns out to have heated up considerably.

Trump's sanctuary city plan recalls the 'Reverse Freedom Rides'

The Washington Post has dug up another piece of diabolical meanness by the Trump administration — a plan to dump detained immigrants in "sanctuary cities" such as San Francisco to punish political enemies such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Saturday To-Do: 'Celebrating the Life of Burger'

Amy Garland, John Good, Nick Devlin, Barbara Raney, Rachel Fields, Mandy McBryde, Stephanie Smittle and a host of other musicians hits the stage at 7:30 pm., playing music from Burger's weird, illustrious catalogue.

The Goodson divorce case, Part II. Now politics

Update on the earlier item mentioning developments in the high profile divorce case between Supreme Court Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson and Texarkana lawyer John Goodson, a member of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees. John Goodson's lawyer posed questions today about the justice's involvement in recent legislation.

Negative review for Bart Hester's limit of local control of housing design

The negative reviews have begun for recent work by the Arkansas legislature, here on Strong Towns for Sen. Bart Hester's new law that limits cities' ability to impose design standards.

To-Do Soon: 'The Daily Carry," metalworks by Arthur Hash

Arthur Hash, an assistant professor in the jewelry and metalsmith department at the Rhode Island School of Design, fabricates jewelry that he describes as giving a nod to his "daily carry": Good luck charms, river stones, folding knives — he says all shape his identity.

Haas Hall: high scores on tests, low score on diversity

Good report from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on another appearance by the Haas Hall charter school before the state Board of Education on its distinct lack of diversity among students. Even Education Commissioner Johnny Key has been seemingly forced to acknowledge it is not so hard to achieve high results with higher income white kids from families pointed toward academic achievement.

Another week done: Headlines and open line

Here's the Friday open line. And the video news roundup is longer on comment than news.

Becoming a ‘master of story’: A Q&A with Steve H. Broadnax III

Little Rock native Steve H. Broadnax III grew up going to shows at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre with his grandmother, and he graduated from Parkview High School. Now the head of MFA Acting in the School of Theatre at Penn State University, Broadnax, 42, will direct The Rep’s upcoming production of “Native Gardens."

The General Assembly Goes Home Edition

Max and Lindsey talk about the big new public corruption indictment and the legislature going home.

Saturday To-Do: Derby Day at Oaklawn

Derby Day is the time to put on your church clothes, foray out to the race track, and test your betting mettle.

Mayor plans Little Rock budget talk

Mayor Frank Scott Jr. has set a meeting with the Little Rock City Board at 4 p.m Tuesday, in advance of the weekly board meeting, "to provide an update on the City’s financial status – past, present, and future." Should be interesting.

More on the Missouri angle in public corruption probe

We mentioned here Thursday that Missouri public officials were players in the public corruption indictment naming former Arkansas Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson and two top former officials of Preferred Family Healthcare, the Springfield, Mo.-based nonprofit at the center of the investigation. Here's an Associated Press report from Missouri looking more closely at the Show Me State angle.

Saturday open line

The readers take over.

Sunday To-Do: Jewish Food & Cultural Festival

Between challah and matzah, Purim and Yom Kippur, it’s easy to get lost in the terminology of Jewish culture. The remedy: the Jewish Food and Cultural Festival, this weekend at War Memorial Stadium.

Enough with tests, including drug tests for public officials

Drug-testing public officials? Let's not.

New Arkansas food labeling law termed 'veg-on-veg crime'

Cauliflower rice, Almond milk. Vegetable burgers. The Arkansas legislature has a stomach ache from such terms.

Jefferson County judge considers removal of Confederate statue at courthouse

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this morning on Jefferson County Judge Gerald Robinson's idea to remove a Confederate statue that stands at the entrance to the Jefferson County courthouse in Pine Bluff. A hubbub is likely to follow, but he's right.

The hope-for-the-future open line: Meet Arkansas's Truman scholars

The open line includes an introduction to two bright young scholars from Arkansas studying for public service.