by Max Brantley
Monday night session begins. Finishing up:
* WHO'LL ASK ABOUT SARAH PALIN?: The Clinton School has announced Sen. John McCain will speak in Little Rock at 6 p.m. Friday. Response is huge and a large venue will be arranged to accommodate the crowd.
* THOSE WHO ARE UNMINDFUL OF HISTORY: David Ramsey said it well on modern-day Arkansas Republicans' dismissal of minority concerns about how voter ID legislation could limit their access to the ballot. It's clear enough from recent events that the history isn't past, but it's also worth remembering that the really bad old days weren't so long ago. The photo above shows Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen with his mother's poll tax receipt. He comments:
I am holding my mother's 1963 poll tax receipt. It was among the papers I found following her death in 2002. I keep it framed and on display in my court chambers because I still remember my parents, maternal grandmother, and other elders picking cotton to earn the money to pay the poll tax. Their struggles, and the indignities they endured, are what inspired people like Rep. John Walker and me to become lawyers.
James Baldwin once remarked, "Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." I respectfully offer the proponents of voter ID legislation as present-day proof of Baldwin's comment. Their cultural incompetence sadly is condemning Arkansas for the foreseeable future. Such willful ignorance isn't pitiable, only damning.
* TAX FAIRNESS: Americans for Tax Fairness has posted some analysis of competing congressional budget plans. The House plan — supported by the Arkansas delegation, led by Ways and Meanser Tim Griffin — would give the rich a whopping tax break and slash spending (specifics not yet fully known). The Democrats take a more balanced approach.
* INTERPOSITION LOSES AGAIN: Another federal judge has held that yet another Republican legislature, this time in Missouri, can't legislate out of existence federal laws, such as the mandate to provide birth control coverage for women in health insurance policies. Don't bother mentioning this to Jason Rapert or Bob Ballinger.
* ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE TODAY: The Senate today expunged an earlier vote and passed legislation to move school elections to the regular general election date, 26-8. It heads to a House committee with a strong Republican majority, good picking for a bill aimed at dramatically increasing the vote in school elections. It is easier to defeat school taxes in general elections and harder for small groups to organize campaigns for individual school board candidates, key motivations for the legislation. The Voter ID bill was delayed a day in the Senate by referral to a committee which will consider anew the question of whether legislation that alters constitutional guides on election law requires a two-thirds vote. The House completed action on a bill mandating a moment of silence to start each day in public school, the best alternative until Jason Rapert can get a Supreme Court that will put prayer back where it belongs.
* ARKANSAS LOTTERY WINS $104,000: The Arkansas Lottery announced today that pro bono legal help had produced a refund of about $104,000 assessed by the IRS for late payments early in the lottery startup. Read on for the news release:
In 2011, hearing news that the Lottery had been assessed federal tax penalties, North Little Rock attorney Carrold E. Ray, Jr., volunteered his time to help. He explained that his two daughters were recipients of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery-funded Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships, and he said he wanted to give back to an agency that was helping so many Arkansas students.
At the Monday meeting of the Arkansas Lottery Commission, Chairman Ben Pickard of Searcy recognized Mr. Ray and announced that his work had borne fruit in the form of an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service that will result in a refund next month of $104,570 in penalties assessed and paid as a result of actions during the Lottery startup. Ray and his law partner Sam Hilburn were introduced by Commissioner Bruce Engstrom of North Little Rock, also a CPA, and were presented with a plaque in appreciation of Ray’s service. Pickard also thanked the IRS for its consideration of Ray’s explanations offered on behalf of the agency.
“We are grateful for Mr. Ray’s generous sacrifice of his time and effort, and for his excellent work, pro bono, in behalf of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery. We could not have accomplished a successful outcome without him,” said Pickard. “Not only did the agency avoid what would have been prohibitive legal fees to deal with this complicated IRS matter, the students of Arkansas will soon realize about $100,000 in their scholarship fund that would not have returned without Mr. Ray’s expertise and his 18-month conversation with the IRS in pursuit of this positive solution.”
Mr. Ray practices law with the firm of Hilburn, Calhoon, Harper, Pruniski & Calhoun of North Little Rock. Born in Fayetteville, he holds degrees from Arkansas State University and the University of Arkansas School of Law as well as a Masters Degree in Taxation (LL.M.) from the University of Denver. He is also a Certified Public Accountant. He has been practicing in the areas of corporate, individual, estate, and state taxation since 1983.