by Max Brantley
The line is open. Finishing up, I start above with a fine bit of Facebooking by the Greers Ferry Lake Natural Gas Watch, which is concerned about the potential that fracking could affect Greers Ferry Lake. It shows Sen. Jason Rapert looking all concerned at the oil pipeline spill in Mayflower yesterday (classified as "major" by the EPA, Fox 16 reports). We gotta drill for oil and we gotta move the product, but there ARE potential downsides, certainly more than Sen. Rapert and U.S. Rep. Tim "XL Pipeline" Griffin like to let on. And be sure to check this photo that shows how the ruptured pipeline runs down from Mayflower through the Lake Maumelle watershed, as I mentioned yesterday.
Rapert and Rep. Nate Bell (do you really need to know any more) are sponsors of HB 1042, which is couched in a way to make you think it is protecting you from eminent domain. Its primary purpose is to help pipeline companies expropriate private property. It's among the lengthy list of scary stuff — from trivia, to special interest service, to pure wackjobbery that the Republicans hope to force out in the final harried days of the session like .... well, you choose the disgusting metaphor.
UPDATE: Bell and Rapert have objected that their eminent domain bill is simply to make expropriation harder. I do note an amendment within the last week may deal with the objectionable provision originally noted by a fracking opponent. It pointed out that, as written, any "public use" was excepted from the eminent domain provision. Pipelines already enjoyed legal interpretation as a public use, but only if the pipeline served many customers and wasn't limited to use of a single producer. As written, this could have allowed eminent domain for a single-user gas pipeline, a real fear in the shale zone where single companies have amassed vast acreage, sometimes around some small holdouts. If that problem is fixed, it may well leave corporate interests more likely opponents to their legislation. The amendment also took care of apparent railroad and highway department concerns.
* BRIGHT MEDICAID IDEAS: Speaking of Medicaid.... I really am with David Ramsey. However we get to more health coverage of more people, I'm ready to sign on, be it through conventional Medicaid expansion or expanding Medicaid spending in Arkansas through the so-called private option use of new health insurance exchanges. If we go private option, which is the only possible method the Republican majority legislature is likely to approve, the Republicans will get the credit for pushing Arkansas in that direction. (And, if it is approved, it will be interesting to see who constitutes the majority of votes cast, Democrats or Republicans. I'd bet D.)
But ... just for the record, again. Republicans didn't invent the private option. The hated Barack Obama did. For your edification, here's a link that explains that the Center for Medicare and Medicare issued regulations on Jan. 22 explaining how states could opt into the government assistance private insurance for their Medicaid eligibles. It was promulgated by the Obama administration long before Gov. Mike Beebe went to Washington to "sell" Kathleen Sibelius on the idea. Thank you, Mr. President, for Obamacare Arkansas.
* IN THE 'HOOD: Arkansas Community Organizations took a tour today of the huge backlog of curb, gutter, street and other neglected needs in the poorer wards of Little Rock, such as Grace Road in Ward 7, shown above.
According to a study released by the organization in August 2012, the city's funding distribution plan would mean that a majority of the documented street and drainage needs in Wards 4 and 5 would be addressed while a much smaller percentage of street and drainage problems in older wards would be resolved. The city's funding formula would mean that Ward 5 would see more than 70% of its documented needs addressed while Ward 7 would see only 12.5% of its needs addressed.
... Next week city officials will roll out their proposed plan for street and drainage work over the next three years at a series of public hearings.
* AND A PLUG FOR CHURCH: If the weather's not too bad, I'm going to join the throng for the Easter Sunrise Service at the Riverfront Amphitheater at 7 a.m. tomorrow morning. You could do worse, what with choirs from the sponsoring Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church, Philander Smith College and North Little Rock High School on the program. I'm not proselytizing or trying to give you any false ideas about my backsliding witness. I simply want to add a friendly face to those who'll be honoring Swann Kohler tomorrow. She led creation of the sunrise service 25 years ago. Swann's in her 10th decade now, but as persistent as when I met her 40 years ago while she worked as the supremely accessible and eternally friendly public spokesperson for St. Vincent Infirmary. She's earned a hug or three.