by Max Brantley
It's Monday night and the line is open. Closing out:
* WHY SHOULD ARKANSAS EXPAND MEDICAID? Maybe because tens of thousands of working poor people don't have health insurance. From the latest Arkansas Hospital Association newsletter:
The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) pushed the decision on Medicaid expansion back to the states. Now, expanding Medicaid to adults with incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level is a state option rather than a legal requirement. Currently, the Arkansas Medicaid eligibility limit for this population is 17% of the federal poverty level, roughly $3,200 for a family of three. It is the lowest limit of all states, making it extremely difficult for the poorest of adults to qualify.
Hospitals are encouraging members to meet with legislators about this and the rising cost of uncompensated care — almost $400 million in Arkansas in 2010. They'll need a hammer and chisel to get into the skulls of the Koch-led Republican army that cares little about expanding medical coverage for working poor people. Or, apparently, about what happens to hospitals if they don't.
* HYPOCRISY ALERT: Today's comes courtesy of Think Progress:
Though they campaigned on a platform of reducing the deficit and ridding wasteful spending, more than a half-dozen Tea Party congressmen have collectively spent over $100,000 in taxpayer money on personal vehicles.
ThinkProgress examined spending records for the 112th Congress and found seven GOP freshmen — Reps. Chip Cravaack (R-MN), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Bill Flores (R-TX), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), and Steve Womack (R-AR) — who had spent an average of $15,000 on cars for themselves. All together, their taxpayer bill totaled $106,643.
Womack's office was on the low end of spending on personal vehicles for office use at $10,700 over 18 months.
* SHAME ON GOV. BEEBE: I should have noted this myself. But Blue Arkansas notes in detail the background of Joe St. Columbia of Helena-West Helena, reappointed to the Mississippi Parkway Commission by the guv. A joke.
* IF YOU'RE SCORING — A 10-PLUS FOR ST. PATRICK'S DAY PARADE: The 10th Annual World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade in Hot Springs will double up on grand marshals this year. Returning are both Bo "10" Derek and John "Northern Exposure" Corbett. March 17. Erin go Spa.
* THE TAX MAN COMETH: Bad timing for city government. Mail from the Pulaski County assessor's office has been hitting mailboxes. The value of my house jumped something like 20 percent from the last appraisal. Thanks to the circuit breaker in state law, my taxes will only go up 5 percent and they'll still run below what the same house newly sold would be charged because of 21 years in the same place, with the circuit breaker applying at every reappraisal. I'm not complaining personally. But .... While I don't have the figures in hand yet, I think what they'll show is big increases in higher income neighborhoods — Hillcrest, Heights, some parts of western Little Rock — with more static prices, and even some declines, in other parts of town. Bad timing? A handful of precincts, primarily in the Heights and Hillcrest, provided the entire margin of victory in the last city tax election. If those same precincts react badly to new property assessments, they could take it out on the city's proposal in September to to extend a 3-mill property tax for street and drainage programs. Three mills on a $200,000 house costs you about $120 a year. But, under the Arkansas system, taxes don't have to be paid until next year on appraisals down this year.
* FRACKED: It's just one insurance company, but nonetheless newsworthy that a national insurance company has decided not to cover risks from fracking for gas.
* ETHICS COMMITTEE REPORTS SPENDING: The Better Ethics Now Committee, formed to support the drive for signatures to put an ethics improvement law on the ballot, has filed a June report. It showed more than $40,000 in additional contributions, to $109,000 for the campaign. Brent Bumpers added another $10,000 to an earlier contribution of $20,000. Lisenne Rockefeller contributed $10,000. Securities executive Rush Harding contributed $3,000. And former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter contributed $2,500, among a long list of other familiar names. The group reported just under $10,000 in expenses, much of them in direct payments of small amounts to canvassers and several thousand in consulting fees, but no payments to Terra Strategies, the professional canvassing firm hired in hopes of amassing signifcant signatures to qualify for the ballot. The committee has said Terra had been optimistic up until the final hours before deadline, when it became clear the drive would fall short. Terra was paid $54,000 upfront. It's unclear whether it believes the committee has further obligations and what the committee believes its obligations, if any, might be. The committee carried a balance of almost $45,000 on the current report. UPDATE: David Couch, a lawyer for the committee, said the payment to Terra in the previous report constitutes all the company is owed because of their "poor performance."