by Max Brantley
Over to you comment fans. Final words:
* PRIVATIZED PRISONS: Huffington Post reported today at some length a pitch by Correction Corporations of America to 48 states to buy their prisons and then operate them for 20 years under contracts guaranteeing 90 per cent occupancy. Did the Arkansas Correction Department get one of the letters? I haven't heard back on my inquiry yet, but I wouldn't think the idea would be warmly received. The article details many of the pitfalls of private operation, particularly when the private operator owns the facility and the state has to renegotiate new terms with no place else to put its inmates. Arkansas had a short and unhappy experience with private management, by the Wackenhut Corporation. It ran two units in Newport for about five years, but the state owned the properties and resumed management control in 2001 after deciding private management hadn't delivered on the hoped-for equivalent service for less cost. A promise of upfront money for a buyout is tempting some states in these cash-strapped times, however.
* THE WELFARE QUEEN MYTH: How much welfare spending goes to the non-working poor? About 10 percent, according to a new study. Not much, in other words.
* AMENDMENT WOULD END SALES TAX FOR GAME AND FISH: Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has approved the form of a constitutional amendment proposed by Jimmy White of Manila that would remove the state Game and Fish Commission from the beneficiaries of a natural resources sales tax of an eighth-of-a-cent provided by Amendment 75. He'd lower the rate to 1/14th of a cent and increase the percentages of the tax going to Parks and Tourism, the Department of Arkansas Heritage and Keep Arkansas Beautiful so that they'd be getting about the same amount they receive now. White, who represents a group called Sportsmen 2010, is unhappy with the Game and Fish Commission over a variety of issues.
* SO MUCH FOR THE FREE PRESS: The Arkansas Activities Association has announced it intends to charge media to cover high school playoff events. For example, $75 for "live" digital coverage of a playoff game. (Even if I watch Quiz Bowl on TV?) Seriously, this is serious business and tricky in the day in which everyone with a cell phone can publish instantly to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, 4Square, a blog, a website, or live stream on the web. Will the AAA only seek out "real" media to charge? If the AAA, a public body financed by public tax dollars, can charge to cover its news events, why can't the legislature charge those who cover its sessions?
* POST OF THE DAY/WEEK/MONTH/YEAR: Please refer to the thread about Jon Stewart's birth control commentary and look for the note by G. Several others worthy of note there, too.
* POTOMAC-STYLE PARTISANSHIP COMES TO ARKANSAS: Republicans in the House today said they would deny their votes — and necessary two-thirds approval — to the normally routine procedural introduction of the shell of the state spending bill, the revenue stabilization act. It requires only a simple majority for passage This sounds like Republican-style minority control, a la D.C., to me. If they don't get their way on whatever is the pet project of the moment (anything related to health care comes first to mind), they procedurally block a measure that otherwise would pass easily. Minority Leader John Burris insists this is not the beginning of partisan obstructionism. Given the record (remember when they held up the Blind School budget?) and the example in Washington, from whence Arkie Repubs order their talking points, I'm not so sure. Burris says they just want some input into the mystical budget bill before it's too late. He twittered to me: "I have confidence in the process. Didnt shut down last time. Won't shut down this time. All my love, and happy valentines day."
We shall see.