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A boat, a camera, a couple

A boat, a camera, a couple

April 7, 2016

Vol 42 • No 31

Read the print version

'The House of Light'

The Preller Collection comes to the Historic Arkansas Museum.

A musical 'Bridges' at The Rep

Swan song for artistic director Bob Hupp.

The Passion of Greg

Complaints over 'Passion of the Christ' showing at public high school lead to teacher's classroom rant on 'liberals,' termination.

Dumb and Dumberest

Boozman and Cotton.

The little things

The Observer has, for one reason or another, been thinking of late about the little things, the choices and changes and pauses and coincidences of time and space that can change everything about our lives.

Money well spent

Some cynical people who are not loyal to our valued athletic traditions question our current culture's curious emphasis on athletics — particularly in colleges.

Open galleries, open studios

And a painting left on the wall.

Rainy legislating

An Arkansas legislator walks between the State Capitol and the Big MAC legislative building during judicial campaign finance hearings.

What a finish

We are deviating from Razorback-related matters for this week out of selfish imperative.

Clean Line politics

Republicans and business groups in our neighborly states of Oklahoma and Tennessee seem wildly excited about the benefits coming their way from the Clean Line transmission network that will send clean, renewable power from the windy Panhandle to hundreds of thousands of homes in Arkansas and across the Mississippi.

Forward Arkansas

Gov. Hutchinson wants to create a state full of people with computer coding skills so we can harvest fruits of the information economy.

Travs opening day

Also, the Ozark Foothills Film Festival continues.

'Meet the Blacks' spoofs 'The Purge' with unfortunate results

It's a comedy in aspiration only.

Now, there's Rebel Kettle

LR's craft beer scene gets another tap.

Playing to win

When people think the lottery is their only way out of poverty, it says more about the desperate lack of financial security-building options in the United States than it does about the players' lack of judgment.

Faubus or bust!

Lawyers. The state Board of Education clearly thinks that Little Rock's children need more lawyers.

President Clinton is inevitable

Voters who can't bear the thought of the former first lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State taking the oath of office in January 2017 are going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: Defeat her at the polls.

Sheep goes baaa: The Little Rock Zoo's new Heritage Farm

It opened last week.

Ruthie Foster comes to South on Main

Also, Mumford and Sons at Verizon, 29th Annual Ozark UFO Conference in Eureka Springs, Fantastic Cinema and Craft Beer Festival at Riverdale and Melanne Verveer at the Clinton School.

Armed and dangerous in Pine Bluff

Also, the future of the LRSD, voters in the dark, a captive market and like taking candy from a baby.

Anti-LGBT states get some tourism advertising

Funny or Die does a send-up tourism add for Mississippi after its adoption of a new law aimed at affording legal cover for those who want to discriminated against LGBT people.Reminder: Arkansas got there first,

ABC director orders no alcohol at Ernie Biggs for two weeks

KARK reports on disciplinary action by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division against Ernie Biggs, a River Market club.

Truth and consequences at the Capitol

If the legislature approves Gov. Asa Hutchinson's amended extension of the Obamacare-enabled Medicaid expansion by less than 75 percent vote in either or both houses of the legislature, it will be time to talk in earnest about the consequences.

Arkansas Gives day: My charitable suggestion, Lucie's Place

Today is Arkansas Gives day. The Arkansas Community Foundation is producing a pool of money to match some of the contributions given to qualifying charities today.My pick: Lucie's Place, the young Little Rock organization seeking to provide shelter for homeless LGBT youth.

Berned out? NRA support, sexist comment and bank interview hurt Sanders with NY looming

Wisconsin victory aside, it hasn't been a good week for Bernie Sanders, in part because his camp isn't too happy about getting counter-punched by the Clinton campaign.

Medicaid expansion legislation passes in House and Senate

As expected, the House and Senate each passed legislation this morning for "Arkansas Works," the governor's plan to continue the state's private option Medicaid expansion, which provides health insurance for more than a quarter million low-income Arkansans.

Arkansas legislature continues to overrule doctors on medical practice

A split state Medical Board voted today to fold to the legislature on the practice of medicine by referring in abortion regulations to the legislatively preferred "unborn child" and "unborn human individual" rather than fetus.

Ooh La Madeleine: Opening April 21

La Madeleine Country French Cafe, a bakery and dining establishment, will hold its grand opening Thursday, April 21, in the Rock Creek Square Plaza Shopping Center at 12210 W. Markham St.

Report: Inmate killed attempting to escape from Varner Unit

KARK's Matthew Sewell reports on Twitter that an inmate has been killed attempting to escape from the Varner Unit.

Federal complaint challenges charter schools on civil rights ground

A complaint to the federal Office of Civil Rights filed by the ACLU in Delaware alleges that publicly funded and privately managed charter schools in that state are resegregating the education system in violation of civil rights law. Sound familiar?

Thursday and the line is open

Here's Thursday's video roundup and an open line.

Medicaid expansion legislation continues toward finish line, but Tea Party senators threaten to shut down government to block it

Kabuki theater at the Capitol: Medicaid expansion moves ahead but the real fight is next week, when a rump group of Tea Party legislators are threatening to block all Medicaid funding — including for the elderly, the disabled, and ARKids — if the majority doesn't cave to their demands.

The pope, climate change, charity, Krugman: Things to like this morning

A roundup of good and interesting things from the web this morning: A kinder, gentler pope; enlightenment on climate change; Paul Krugman's chiding of Bernie Sanders, and good news from a push for charitable giving in Arkansas.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorializes against death penalty

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I read this editorial in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the state's largest newspaper, as a call to end the death penalty.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson signs continuation of Medicaid expansion into law, but funding fight looms next week (UPDATES)

Gov. Asa Hutchinson today signed the "Arkansas Works" legislation into law. Here's the latest on what's next for Medicaid expansion.

Video: Inside Varner Supermax

It's important to appreciate the little things ... like the fact that, on this lovely April morning, you're not locked up for life inside the near-colorless concrete tomb that is the Arkansas Department of Correction's Varner Supermax Prison near Grady in Lincoln County. A rather haunting video posted to the ADC's Youtube page features a series of rarely-seen views inside Varner.

Sammy Peters: UA Fort Smith; talk tonight

Abstract artist Sammy Peters will give a talk tonight (April 8) at the Windgate Art & Design Gallery of the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, where his exhibition "Sammy Peters: Then & Now" is opening. The talk is at 7 p.m. and open to the public. The show runs through May.

In Massachusetts, charters clash with traditional schools over siphoning of funds

Those following the charter school debate in Arkansas should read up on a parallel fight in Massachusetts.

The Atlantic highlights Arkansas's reliance on faith-based programming for social services

The Atlantic today takes a deep look at just how large a role faith-based organizations play in the administration of state services in Arkansas.

The Fight to Come Edition

The just concluded special session on health care, the coming fight over funding Medicaid expansion and managed care and a development in clean energy in Arkansas — all covered on this week's podcast.

The Friday line and news headlines

Don't forget about the opening of the exhibit on the Preller Collection at the Historic Arkansas Museum that Leslie Peacock wrote about in this week's Arkansas Times. I'm headed there now.

Sen. Hester threatens game of "hard chicken" to "crash" funding for ARKids, the elderly in nursing homes, and the disabled

Still hoping to block the Medicaid expansion that was approved today by overwhelming majorities, Sen. Bart Hester says he's playing "pretty hard chicken" and he thinks "the only thing that's going to bring resolution to this is a crash." Let's take a look at just who would suffer if Hester makes good on his threat to shut down the entire Medicaid program.

House inches toward supermajority for Medicaid expansion, but Tea Party Ten threaten shutdown in Senate

All eyes are on the Arkansas Senate.

Told you so: Here comes the legislature after 'independent' agencies

Here comes the legislature to grab power over supposedly independent agencies like the Highway Commission. Permit me an "I told you so."

Here's an open line

Your thoughts welcome here.

Sunday in San Francisco and young people today

A wedding in San Francisco gives rise to thoughts about young people and where their futures lie.

The Sunday open line

The comment line is open.

An old newspaper friend in need: Stephen Steed

Word arrives that my old friend Stephen Steed is coping with severe complications from an aneurysm in his leg and friends have set up an account to help with medical expenses

Money: It might buy you better health

Some statistical reporting today from the New York Times says the rich live longer than the poor. And geography also can be destiny, with the poor doing better in some places than others. In Arkansas, life expectancy figures vary across the state.

Discuss: Out-of-state enrollment at state universities

Here's a pertinent discussion in the New York Times: Have big state universities gone too far in recruiting students from out of state?

If the aginners want to end the private option, they should win a majority in the legislature

The private option was re-authorized by overwhelming majorities. The rump group of Tea Party opponents don't have the votes to pass an appropriation without the PO. The only tool they have is a threat to shut down the government and unleash a humanitarian catastrophe. If they want to end the state's Medicaid expansion, they should do so by winning a majority of the legislature, rather than playing "hard chicken" with the lives of the state's most vulnerable citizens.

Rep. Josh Miller: There he goes again

Rep. Josh Miller, a recipient of hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal assistance through Medicaid, is one of the leading opponents of Medicaid expansion for others in the House.

Celebrate Equal Pay Day with reduced prices for women only

Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, meant to highlight the disparity in pay to men and women. Some local businesses will take part by offering commensurate reductions in prices to women only.

Arkansas rice growers push for Cuban trade

Engage Cuba, a business coalition, began an Arkansas affiliate today with a call for Today, Engage Cuba, a coalition of private businesses and organizations working to end the travel and trade embargo on Cuba, launched its Arkansas State Council at a press conference co-sponsored by USA Rice.

Sen. Terry Rice stands by statement that Medicaid expansion "enslaves" our children

Sen. Terry Rice doubles down.

A challenger for Joan Adcock?

Blue Hog Report says nonprofit consultant Molly Miller is considering a race for Little Rock City Board against long-time (since 1992) incumbent Joan Adcock. Matt Campbell, who writes Blue Hog, says this would be a good thing:

Jason Rapert says 10 Commandments monument ready for installation

Get a load of Sen. Jason Rapert with Little Rock preacher Happy Caldwell on his local TV show. Subject: The 10 Commandments monument Rapert is working to install on the Capitol grounds — if Arkansas can succeed whether others have not in federal court.

Arkansas Advocates offers 'common sense' tax ideas

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, a progressive lobby for families, issued a report today on "common sense" changes to Arkansas budget and tax policy. The group also has some ideas on spending the additonal money the changes would produce.

House Speaker Jeremy Gillam releases budget detailing cuts if Medicaid expansion ends (UPDATES)

House Speaker Jeremy Gillam and Joint Budget House Chairman Lane Jean have sent out documents to all House members detailing budget cuts if the legislature refuses to re-authorize Medicaid expansion. Read them and weep.

Another week begins

Here's the Monday open line and a video roundup, done in advance of some later news on things like the 10 commandments and such.

If private option ends, state budget would face major cuts for foster care

If the state budget is slashed in order to pay for ending the private option, the state's foster children could suffer.

'ELF The Musical': 2016-17 season at Robinson

The Robinson Center will open just in time for Christmas, and Celebrity Attractions' presentation of "ELF The Musical."

Rutledge turns back amendment for stronger ethics

To no one's surprise, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge won't approve the form of a constitutional amendment to toughen Arkansas ethics laws. The controlling Republicans like the loose ethics laws just the way they passed them.

Historic district apartment project deferred

Action by the Little Rock Historic District Commission on an apartment project at Ninth and Scott was deferred today because of continuing legal question.

Rapert's little foundation: A church-state combination footnote

Speaking of a combination of church and state: Sen. Jason Rapert uses the same PO Box for contributions to his campaign, his Holy Ghost ministries and a foundation established to put a 10 Commandments monument on the Capitol lawn.

Molly Miller announces challenge of City Director Joan Adcock

As indicated yesterday, Molly Miller has announced to challenge the re-election of City Director Joan Adcock, whose elected by voters city wide.

Governor to rally the highway lobby today for Medicaid

Gov, Asa Hutchinson will highlight highways today as he and others build a case for the damage that would be done if a legislative minority succeeds in killing the Obamacare Medicaid expansion appropriation.

Rubio backers in Arkansas team with Cruz against Trump

The Washington Examiner reports that Marco Rubio backers in Arkansas (most of the Republican political establishment) are working with Ted Cruz to pack the Arkansas Republican National Convention delegation with people who'll vote for Cruz if Donald Trump isn't chosen the presidential nominee by delegates pledged on the first ballot to winners of state primaries and caucuses.

Bathroom bill sponsor is the real danger

Rich. A Republican sponsor of one of those bathroom bills in Tennessee is being investigated as a serial sexual harasser.

Difference of opinion on how Historic District Commission should judge apartment project

Here's more on a proposed 50-unit apartment project on Scott Street that has run into opposition from the Little Rock Historic District Commission.

Susan Harriman to head ForwARd Arkansas education initiative

ForwARd brings an executive director on board.

BREAKING: Koch organization has a point

The Koch heads over at the billionaires' political organization, the Arkansas branch of Americans for Prosperity, deserve an acknowledgment when they make a fair point.

Lecture on Frank Lloyd Wright house tonight at Arts Center

Niki Ciccotelli Steward, the chief engagement officer at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, will give a talk tonight at the Arkansas Arts Center about the Bachman-Wilson house now on the grounds of Crystal Bridges.

North Carolina governor responds to backlash on discrimination law

Rocked by negative business and other fallout from North Carolina's new gay discrimination law, Gov. Pat McCrory issued an executive order today aimed at mitigating some of the damage. It doesn't do much. And Ernest Dumas thanks God for Mississippi, with a discrimination law even worse than Arkansas's, both reminiscent of the days when religion was used to justify racial discrimination.

Hutchinson: No Medicaid expansion, no highway program

Gov. Asa Hutchinson: Can't have a highway building program without the Medicaid exapnsion money. Unless taxes are raised, and that's a no-go. He wants to use surplus, plus general revenue transfers for highways.

Attorney general settles lawsuit over fraud in home health care

The office of Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced today that it had settled a lawsuit against Step by Step Senior Care. a home health care company, in a deal that included a civil penalty of $239,788.

Cutting edge Arkansas: We can code, but can we compete?

A case is made that non-compete laws in employment helped create Silicon Valley, because California doesn't enforce such agreements. In case you wondered, Arkansas not only has a non-compete law, it stiffened it in 2015.

20-year sentence in Maumelle child porn case

The U.S. attorney's office said today that Seth Christian Ganahl, 42, of Maumelle has received a 20-year federal prison sentence and lifetime supervised release in a negotiated plea to a charge of producing child pornography.

Tuesday's open line

Here's the open line and today's video roundup.

Independent consultant to City Board: Highway department has got it wrong

The City Board heard a presentation today from an independent planner that the state highway department's methodology for predicting future traffic on Interstate 30 is flawed. Norman Marshall of Smart Mobility, said the 30 Crossing widening of I-30 from six to 10 lanes would increase traffic, not solve traffic problems.

Crowd gathers at Capitol for Franklin Graham

Franklin Graham, the evangelist, brought his national tour of state capitals to Little Rock today and the crowd was estimated a from  5,000 to 9,000, many trucked in by church buses. The usual stuff.

Franklin Graham: And then there were tweets

The state's Higher Education Department director comments on social media about yesterday's Franklin Graham rally. A reader objects. The official notes that his Twitter feed is a personal account, not a state account.

New questions about Georgia-Pacific pollution in Crossett

Newsweek has new reporting on a topic that's been covered before — fear about health and environmental damage from discharge of chemicals from a Georgia-Pacific operation in Crossett.

Recused commissioner defends opposition to Scott Street apartments

A long-time Quapaw Quarter Association leader has joined Historic District Commissioner Jennifer Carman in defending her outspoken opposition to a 50-unit apartment project for a half-block at Ninth and Scott unoccupied for a half-century.

A legislative budget session begins today

Today begins a so-called "fiscal" or budget session of the Arkansas legislature. It was invented by legislators intent on making their a full-time job with full-time compensation. It increases the opportunity for devilment by several orders of magnitude even though the length and subject matter of the budget session is limited without extraordinary votes to change the agenda.

Ray Thornton dies at 87

Arkansas Business reports the death this morning of Ray Thornton, 87, a former congressman, Arkansas Supreme Court justice and president of the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge opposes rule to help workers

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced today another federal lawsuit intervention that advances the Republican political agenda.

AHTD sets April 26 hearing on 30 Crossing

The state Highway and Transportation Department has announced that it will hold a "public involvement" meeting from 5 p.m. t0 8 p.m.

Opponents propose to end Medicaid expansion

Sen. Bart Hester early today filed legislation to end the Medicaid expansion program in Arkanas by the end of the year. Here's the bill. His ally Rep. Bob Ballinger has a similar proposal in the House.

Federal judge dismisses suit over haze rule

The Sierra Club reports that federal Judge Leon Holmes has dismissed a lawsuit by Nucor Steel challenging an EPA plan to reduce haze in Arkansas through new pollution controls.

Baptist preacher sentenced for swindling church members

Thomas Edward James, 34, of Phoenix, formerly an associate pastor at a Missionary Baptist church in Fort Smith, has been sentenced to nine years in federal prison and ordered to pay $524,203 in restitution on mail fraud and tax charges.

House Democrats request no appropriations until Medicaid budget approved

In a letter to House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, the Democratic Caucus today requested that no appropriations be taken up until the legislature moves forward with the Medical Services appropriation.

Joint Budget Committee passes Medicaid budget, including private option; on to Senate

The Joint Budget Committee today passed the Medical Services appropriation, which funds the state's Medicaid program, on a voice vote. That includes both "Arkansas Works," the governor's plan to continue the private option Medicaid expansion, as well as the traditional Medicaid program (everything else, such as ARKids and the aged, blind, and disabled).

On Obamacare eve, here's Wednesday's open line

The open line and video roundup on a day that set up a big vote in Senate tomorrow on the Medicaid expansion. Will they or won't they?

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he has votes in House to pass Medicaid budget; fight in Senate looms

Gov. Asa Hutchinson today told reporters that there is now supermajority support for the Medicaid budget in the House.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson spars with Tea Party Ten; sharp words for Sen. Linda Collins-Smith and Sen. Bryan King

With ten senators threatening to shut down the government unless the Medicaid expansion is killed, Gov. Asa Hutchinson is going on the attack. 

What happens to education spending if GOP hardliners kill Medicaid expansion

Speaker Jeremy Gillam's hypothetical life-without-Medicaid-expansion budget detailed around $30 million in cuts to public schools, and more to higher education. Here's what that means.