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How to buy a constitutional amendment

How to buy a constitutional amendment

August 11, 2016

Vol 42 • No 49

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Kaleidoscope 2016 schedule

Making 'Major!'

A conversation with director Annalise Ophelian about her new documentary on an influential trans activist.

How to buy a constitutional amendment in Arkansas

Michael Morton is spending big on a proposed constitutional amendment that would help shield his nursing homes from lawsuits, even while fending off allegations that he bribed a circuit judge.

Arkansas delegation rallies around Trump

See the Main Thing

The comedy trio is a polished — but hidden — gem.

Closed doors at the secretary of state

Also, exposed in Pine Bluff, a tragedy in Sebastian County and more.

See the Main Thing

The comedy trio is a polished — but hidden — gem.

Changing rules in the Democratic Party

The opening afternoon session of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia was a rambunctious one. Lost in the clamor was an agreement by the forces of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to significantly revise the party rules related to the presidential nomination process.

'Suicide Squad' sinks under the weight of its cast list

It's a A cluttered confection.

Inconsequential News Quiz: Get Your Goat edition

Play at home!

Thai worth the drive

Sherwood staple should be on your list.

Kay Odyssey comes to Maxine's

Also, Dames, Dems and Drinks at Pavilion in the Park; Bi-Okoto Drum and Dance Theatre at the Faulkner County Library; 2nd Friday Art Night; Dolly Parton at Verizon; Cedell Davis at White Water; and "Do the Right Thing" at Riverdale 10.

Don't boo, work

Some have called Obama's remark the call to action the country needs this election. This is only partially true.


When only Teapublicans are allowed to vote, only Teapublicans will hold elective office!

No tax help for Trump

The big conundrum is supposed to be why Donald Trump does so well among white working-class people, particularly men, who do not have a college education.

Arkansas Razorbacks 2016 football preview, part II

The second chapter in the 2016 Razorback Football Trilogy is an October that starts with a presumed breather in Little Rock.

Real Republicans don't do pre-K

Also, drifting away from trump, Hudson's downfall at ASU and more.


Driftwood lines the shore of Lake Maumelle visible from the state Highway 10 picnic area.

Kevin Kerby comes to White Water Tavern

Also, Foul Play Cabaret and The Frontier Circus.

World in chaos?

Supposedly 2016 is the Year of the Angry Voter. To hear the pundits tell it, Americans are just furious.

Eligible voters removed from rolls

Arkansas Times reporters contacted election officials around the state to see how they had handled flawed felon data from the secretary of state. Responses varied dramatically.

Heat and home

The Observer hates boring you, Dear Reader, by writing about the weather. But there comes a point in every Arkansas summer where the sun has baked our noodle to the extent the synapses and neurons and assorted circuitry upstairs just ain't firing.

Little Rock Port gets $6 million from feds for slackwater harbor improvements

The Little Rock Port Authority has been approved for a $6.185 million federal transportation grant to improve its slackwater harbor.

Where now the preachers who said Bill Clinton was morally unfit to be president?

The Atlantic scores with an essay on the silence, or even support, by evangelical preachers for Donald Trump as compared with the moral indignation they expressed at Bill Clinton's candidacy.

Mike Huckabee joke in Trump introduction falls flat

Funny man Mike Huckabee went reaching for a laugh line at a rally in Florida for Donald Trump yesterday and, as sometimes happens with the Huckster, the effort fell flat. Joking about the Zika virus, which can cause birth defects, is not exactly rib-tickling.

Report planned on survey about school closings in Little Rock

The Little Rock School District community advisory board meets this afternoon and a grassroots group plans concurrent release of a survey of attitudes about school closings.

More Morton money evident in fight to limit lawsuits against nursing homes

The editorially right-wing Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported today on an amended filing by the Arkansas nursing home lobby on its $330,000 in contributions to the constitutional amendment campaign to discourage lawsuits against nursing homes and other medical providers.

Defendant in defamation case leaves courtroom with chest pains

The trial of a lawsuit by a man fired from the state treasurer's office was interrupted this morning when a defendant began experiencing chest pains.

Senator to attend opening of Hillary campaign office in Little Rock

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker will be on hand when the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign opens a campaign office at 8 a.m. Saturday in the Tanglewood shopping center on Cantrell Road.

Secretary of state sends stronger guidance to county clerks on voter data — finally

Secretary of State Mark Martin sent a letter Tuesday to county clerks offering advice on ensuring that voters aren't improperly struck from voter rolls on basis of a list he distributed to the clerks.

Family of suspected deputy killer issues statement

KARK reports that the family of Billy Jones, jailed for the killing of Sebastian County Deputy Bill Cooper, has issued a statement of regret.

School distress fight includes collateral attack on school choice law

The state Board of Education today is considering an appeal of a finding that the majority-black Mineral Springs High School is in academic distress, a designation that could eventually end in the district's takeover.

Thursday's open line and the daily video

Here's your open line and a roundup of news and headlines.

Attorney General Rutledge continues crusade against environmental protection

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge continues to expand her work in national legal arenas, particularly against efforts to protect the environment. She's more interested in protecting corporate interests.

FOUND! Three ASU students lost in cave

After a day of searching, three ASU students missing since going caving in Independence County on Wednesday were reported found late Thursday afternoon.

On the trail with Donald Trump

An excited Donald Trump supporter shoots the finger at assembled reporters in Florida, another illustration of the need for care in rhetoric on the campaign trail.

Cave explorers stayed calm waiting for rescue

KAIT reports on how the three Arkansas State students spent time waiting for rescue after getting lost in the Blowing Cave in Independence County. They talked with Casey Sherwood, who led two Japanese exchange students on the outing.

Greenwood police recover wounded K-9 missing since fatal shooting

The Greenwood police department announced on Facebook this morning the recovery of Kina, a police dog missing after taking fire in the fatal encounter near Hackett in which Sebastian County Deputy Bill Cooper was killed.

Library begins new podcast with Baker Kurrus interview

The Central Arkansas Library System has begun a new podcast series, Primary Sources, to feature interviews with "interesting members of the community." First interview is with Baker Kurrus

Mistrial declared in defamation case against chief deputy treasurer, Jim Harris

Federal Judge Brian Miller today declared a mistrial in the defamation lawsuit against Jim Harris, chief deputy to state Treasurer Dennis Milligan, by David Singer, who was fired from an office job.

Rumors emerge about ASU campus leadership; Welch squelches them

Arkansas State University System President Charles Welch says there's no truth to rumors circulating on campus that speculated former ASU President Les Wyatt might return as interim chancellor.

Hillary Clinton releases tax return

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has released her latest federal income tax return, a challenge to Donald Trump who's released nothing of this or recent years.

Rutledge mute on apparent re-emergence of payday lending in Arkansas

Will Attorney General Leslie Rutledge do anything about reports that payday lending with usurious interest rates cloaked as fees has re-emerged in North Little Rock? She's not saying.

Constitution prevails again for Planned Parenthood

Yet another federal judge, this one in Ohio, has struck down a state's effort to take Medicaid money away from Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions.

Friday's open line

Another week done. Here's the open line and the roundup of news and comment by video.

Cast and crew to attend screening of "Greater," the Brandon Burlsworth story

The Arkansas Motion Picture Institute and the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce will host a screening of "Greater," a film depicting the remarkable rise of Brandon Burlsworth.

Financial report filed by group opposing amendment to limit damage lawsuits

The group formed to fight the nursing home lobby's effort to amend the constitution to discourage most lawsuits over neglect, abuse and malpractice reported today that it has raised $420,430.

The Mark Martin Is Weird Edition

Mark Martin’s dereliction of duty, Michael Morton and a proposed constitutional amendment to limit medical lawsuits, the state Republican Party and pre-K, the state board of education and federal desegregation orders and more — all covered on this week's podcast.

Booker appearance scrapped at Hillary HQ

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker won't appear in person as planned this morning at the opening of an Arkansas campaign office for Hillary Clinton. A weather complication forced cancellation of the appearance, but he'll speak by phone. The office in the Tanglewood Shopping Center at 7509 Cantrell Road opens at 8 a.m.

Complaints continue about Mark Martin handling of voter records

The Arkansas Democratic Party belatedly received information requested from Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin about his handling of information about voter eligibility, but the party isn't satisfied with the response and still may sue.

Reagan adviser rips Donald Trump's tax cut plan

Bruce Bartlett, an architect of Ronald Reagan's 1981 income tax cut, has written today in th e New York Times that Donald Trump is all wrong for embracing Reaganomics in his recently announced plan that would amount to a bonanza for the wealthy.

Will Republicans help college students vote?

The Washington County Election Commission will decide next week whether to create an early voting center on the University of Arkansas campus, providing readier access to the ballot for thousands of students and faculty concentrated in one place.

An open line: Includes the cratering of Pine Bluff and a word from Mike Huckabee

The open line with some new reading: A New York Times report about a failed prison labor project in Pine Bluff and an interview with Mike Huckabee, predicting victory in November for Donald Trump.

Heights zoning request on Tuesday City Board agenda

A rezoning of residential property on the northwest corner of Cantrell and University for restaurant or other commercial use will be topic of a public hearing at Tuesday night's Little Rock City Board of Directors meeting.

Dolly Parton entertains at Verizon Arena

Entertainment in the Little Rock area last night included Dolly Parton at Verizon Arena and the Hall High School Class of 1966 reunion.

Why big money conservatives back GOP candidates for attorney general, like Leslie Rutledge

Arkansas conservative money turns up in a Missouri race for attorney general, just another indication of how rich conservatives like the Koch brothers are using state legal officers to wage their war against environmental regulation.

An open line with news from Milwaukee and Rio

Heres the damp Sunday evening open line. News includes robbery of Olympic swimmers in Rio and violence in Milwaukee following a fatal police shooting.

Satanists detail plans for state Capitol monument

As the Arkansas secretary of state moves closer to a clearance of a Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol grounds (and a likely lawsuit), other groups are making plans to be heard, such as The Satanic Temple.

NAACP calls for ban on privately managed charter schools

The Washington Post reports — and an education authority explains — why the NAACP national convention recently approved a resolution calling for a moratorium on approval of privately managed charter schools financed with public money.

Review: Dolly Parton at Verizon Arena

If you’ll recall a moment (and there are many) when a Disney princess is dancing through the air and just when her foot is about to make contact with ground that isn’t there, a “step” (or lilypad, or cloud, or what have you) appears beneath her feet, then you know what it looks like when Dolly Parton floats around the stage at Verizon Arena — or any large arena, for that matter.

Gene Cauley, convicted former lawyer, dies in Hot Springs

Former Little Rock lawyer Steven Eugene Cauley, who earlier this year completed an 86-month federal prison sentence, was found dead Friday in Hot Springs. .

More signatures turned in for casino amendment

The group hoping to win voter approval for three more casinos in Arkansas turned in additional signatures today for checking by the secretary of state.

Arrest of cop's son in Pocahontas shooting

Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce of Newport announced today that James Dexter Yancy, 24, of Pocahontas had been arrested on an initial charge of manslaughter in the fatal shooting early Saturday of his roommate Nick Wayne Dawson.

Monday's open line

Here's the Monday open line and a roundup of news and opinion.

A Bollywood Review: Gowariker's "Mohenjo Daro"

Arriving just in time to commemorate India's Independence Day, Gowariker's “Mohenjo Daro” constitutes an exquisite use of myth to critique our current place in—and treatment of—this world.

Update: Jury set in Naramore child death case

Trial begins today in Hot Springs of Circuit Judge Wade Naramore on a negligent homicide charge in the hot car death of his 18-month-old son Thomas last summer.

Nursing home lobby pours more into amendment to limit lawsuits

The Arkansas Health Care Association — the lobby group for the nursing home industry — reported Monday that it had put $250,000 more, for a total of $580,000 so far into the constitutional amendment to cap awards in damage lawsuits (negligence, malpractice, etc.) at $250,000 and cap attorney fees at a third of the award.

Fact-free politics from Northwest Arkansas. An 'R' is enough.

Here's a bit of minor league funny business in a race for Arkansas legislature — small potatoes, but illustrative of politics in blood-red Arkansas, where faith and branding "trump" facts just about every time.

Clubbing with the Arkansas legislature

A powerful lobbyist invites others of her station to a fund-raiser for a member of the Arkansas legislature at — where else — a private club started by another member of the Arkansas legislature.

Lively debate at Arkansas State University over chancellor upheaval

Some vigorous discussions are underway at Arkansas State University in the aftermath of the sacking of Timothy Hudson as chancellor of the Jonesboro campus following revelations about mishandling of a foreign study program in which his wife was a paid contract worker.

Arkansas vaulter Lexi Weeks out of competition in Rio

Sad news from KARK. Razorback pole vaulter Lexi Weeks of Cabot is out of the Olympics competition in Rio.

The Rep names new director, John Miller-Stephany

John Miller-Stephany has been named producing artistic director of Arkansas Repertory Theatre to succeed Bob Hupp, who's moved to a job in Syracuse.

The law in the Naramore child death case as opening statements begin

I'm Opening statements have begun in Hot Springs in the trial of Circuit Judge Wade Naramore on a misdemeanor negligent homicide charge in the 2015 death of his 18-month-old son, Thomas, who was left in a carseat for about half a July day when the temperature reached over 100 degrees. We have an outline and insight on the instructions that will eventually guide the jury.

Restaurant Month Week 3: Eat out, save money

We’re in Week 3 of Little Rock Restaurant Month, which means you’ll find discounts at eateries in West Little Rock through Aug. 21.

Arkansas breaks the curve — in wrong direction — on locking up juveniles

The Arkansas Blog mentioned last week  new reporting about Arkansas's failure to join the rest of the country in moving away from confinement of juveniles. There's been fallout as well as new data illustrating how far Arkansas lags behind other states. The reporter who started it all explains for the Arkansas Blog.

Gun found at Jessieville school, two arrested

The Garland County sheriff's office reports two arrests Monday after discovery of  a stolen gun in a student's vehicle at Jessieville High School.

Weapon, ammo stolen from Rogers police officer

A Rogers police officer has reported a theft from his unmarked police car an AR-15 and other ammo and gear.

State plans big boost in spending to confine juveniles

High irony alert in light of the earlier post about how Arkansas sets the curve, a bad one, for confining juveniles. The state is about to further the curve in the wrong direction.

Trump makes Leslie Rutledge an agriculture advisor

Donald Trump named 64 people today to an agricultural advisory panel. They included Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who last year married a farmer.

Gold medal welcome for Sylvan Hills Olympian

Sylvan Hills High School plans a big welcome home tomorrow for alumnus Jeff Henderson, who won the Olympic gold medal in the long jump.

New curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges

Lauren Haynes, an associate curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, has been hired as curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the museum announced today. Haynes is a specialist in African-American modern and contemporary art and has curated a number of exhibitions for the Studio Museum, including the current exhibit on Alma Thomas. She holds a BA from Oberlin College.

Tuesday's open line, plus the video roundup

The Tuesday open line and video news report.

Record rainfall in Little Rock today

The Weather Service reported 1.97 inches of rain in Little Rock by 3 p.m. today, easily a record for the date since recordkeeping began 142 years ago.

Legislators hear of 'no-loan' proposal for college students

Rep. Greg Leding of Fayetteville made a presentation before the Arkansas Legislative Council today on his idea to institute a "no-loan" element to help lower income students get through college without crushing debts.

Legislature considers telemedicine rules

John Lyon of the Arkansas News Bureau reports on a legislative committee review of telemedicine rules enabled by new state law.

The rising number of women in jail

An important new report : A study of the sharp rise in the number of women, many of them mothers, held in jail. It's from the Vera Institute of Justice and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge.

City Board turns down appeal of Cantrell rezoning

The Little Rock City Board denied last night the appeal of a Planning Commission rejection of a proposal to rezone two residential lots at the corner of Cantrell and University for commercial use, perhaps a restaurant.

TheatreSquared launches free and reduced-cost ticket program

TheatreSquared announced Lights Up! For Access, an initiative that provides free or reduced-cost access to all performances in the company's current season for low-income populations.

On Day 3, Naramore jury hears account of events leading up to discovery of dead child

The prosecution is completing its case this morning in the trial of Circuit Judge Wade Naramore of Hot Springs on a misdemeanor negligent homicide charge in the death of his 18-month-old son, Thomas, last summer. He was forgotten in his car seat in his father's car on a hot July day and died from the heat.

"Words and Curds" tonight at Kent Walker Artisan Cheese

Kent Walker continues its "Words and Curds" series tonight, featuring Kara Bibb, Zachary Crow, Claudia Cerna. Rigsby St. Claire and an open mic session.

Former state Rep. Harold Copenhaver to run for Jonesboro mayor

Former state Rep. Harold Copenhaver has announced he's running for mayor of Jonesboro.

Wednesday's open line

The Wednesday open line and a roundup by video of news and comment.

Surprise! Welfare drug testing is a waste of time and money

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families reports the not unsurprising results of a pilot program from the Arkansas legislature to drug-test recipients of certain welfare payments — temporary assistance to needy families.

UPDATE: Possible principal resignation at Parkview, then news of coaching shakeup

Word is circulating of the resignation Tuesday of a Little Rock school principal, a veteran of the school district. Superintendent Michael Poore has provided background on a situation still in flux.

The nation's attorney, Leslie Rutledge, meddling in D.C. politics

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge can't be moved to do anything about unconstitutional payday lending in the state that pays her,  but a day rarely passes that she can't mess in the politics of some other jurisdiction.