by Max Brantley
Over to you. Closing out (and, related to the photo above, here's information about the state's posting of air quality monitoring in Mayflower):
* ROUND ONE IN THE MEDICAID FIGHT: The Senate meets at 8 a.m. Friday in a committee of the whole to ask questions and talk about the proposal to expand health care coverage in Arkansas with Medicaid dollars. The proposal is thought to be set for approval in the Senate, ultimately including the necessary appropriation, which will require a 75 percent vote. But the battle rages to meet that level of approval in the House. The ultimate vote on that could come late next week. House Speaker Davy Carter is committed to the health care expansion plan. Republicans who adopted the Tea Party battle cry against broader health coverage (actually a GOP-wide campaign strategy at every level in 2012) will be the final holdouts. The expansion does send enough money to Arkansas, plus savings in the traditional Medicaid program, to pay for tax cuts. The House tax cut legislation (Carter's own now includes significant cuts in capital gains taxes plus an increase in the standard tax deduction for all income tax payers) should be in the Senate by then. One can't be delivered without the other, is the strategic thinking.
* WEEKEND WORK: Long day at legislature today and a long day tomorrow, with the Senate planning to eat both lunch AND dinner in. And then, meetings Saturday through noon are planned, House Speaker Davy Carter told the House today.
* SCHOOL CONSOLIDATION OVERRIDE FAILS AGAIN: Rep. Randy Alexander won a second House vote today on his bill to declare a two-year moratorium (effectively kill) on the rule requiring consolidation of school districts that fall below enrollment of 350. The bill got 49 votes, two short of the number necessary for passage. Districts this small are terribly inefficent and generally deficient in course offerings, though some of those that have been consolidated produced decent scores on math and reading tests. Rep. Charlotte Douglas, in arguing for the moratorium, made a good point, though. The state sets a 350-student requirement for regular school districts, but will allow creation charter schools of any size, some much smaller than 350 students. Every charter school is, effectively, an independent school district.
* REPUBLICAN SQUABBLING: I mentioned the other day a dispute within collegiate Republican circles. Grant Hodges, chair of the UA College Republicans, has sent far and wide a complaint about election and financial activities by Skot Covert, the former chairman of the Arkansas Federation of College Republicans and, until recently, an employee of Lt. Gov. Mark Darr. I'm inclined to let the young Republicans hash out their own internal disputes. But Hodges has taken the dispute at least partly into the public arena by filing a complaint with the state Ethics Commission over the Federation's failure to register as a political action committee despite evidence that it received financial contributions sufficient to meet the registration requirement in 2012. The Commission is investigating the complaint, according to a copy of a commission letter Hodges has distributed. Hodges is opposing Covert's candidacy to be co-chair of the College Republican National Committee.