by Max Brantley
The Monday miscellaneous report:
* OBAMACARE'S BIG DAY: The Arkansas House of Representatives is expected to vote today on authorizing an expansion of the Medicaid program in Arkansas, as provided by the federal legislation dubbed Obamacare, through a "private option" system encouraged by a portion of the Republican caucus. Republicans are the only holdouts against the 75-percent-vote required in both houses for adoption. Will it pass the House today? The only public movement of votes has been a few from the "no" to "yes" column, but many remain undeclared. The message above from Arkansas Democrats cheering Republican Rep. John Burris' leadership on the issues is a measure of the Alice in Wonderland dimension of the debate. The usual Republican Party talk machine has fallen silent on the debate, reflecting the split in party ranks. Democrats have been urged to stay silent on the issue, with virtually none speaking during floor debates. The thinking has been that Democratic support would discourage hard-line Republicans from signing on. I was surprised at the Twitter feed last night for that reason.
* 'IT'S A HUGE DAY FOR OBAMACARE IN ARKANSAS': Speaking of spin, I don't think Republican propoents of the private option will be sending around a link to the Washington Post item that headlines today's events as I've noted here. The whole world is watching.
* ARKANSAS LEGISLATIVE ETHICS: An oxymoron that headline, I know. I wrote at some length yesterday about the evolving proposed constitutional amendment to tighten state ethics rules a bit, while also providing legislators with a path to increased pay and easing of term limits. I've learned negotiations continued among sponsors and interested parties at the Capitol on Sunday. Improvements promised on: 1) the constitutional cover for special interest wining and dining. The exception is going to be rewritten to cover only meetings of actual governmental bodies. Thus, Exxon could throw a dinner for the Arkansas House or Arkansas Senate, but not just the Pipeline Caucus or a similar unofficial "group" of legislators. 2) An effort is going to be made to keep from giving legislators carte blanche for enhancing their pay through abuse of the per diem payment for attending meetings of the legislature. (Why wouldn't increased pay be enough to cover per diem, plus actual expenses?)
* PRESIDENT CLINTON VISITS ARKANSAS: Former President Bill Clinton jetted in from the Middle East, Dubai I think, to speak at Saturday's memorial service for District Judge Rudy Moore Jr. of Fayeteville, who was a key campaigner and chief of staff during Clinton's first term as governor. Clinton recounted the political fallout generated by the youthful Clinton administration and the "bearded troika" of young progressives, including Moore, who shook things up at the Capitol, 1979-80. Clinton looked remarkably fit, a spectator reported. He replied to a compliment from an attendee by saying that he was trying to stay healthy so he could live to see a grandbaby.
* BAR FIGHT: I linked earlier some YouTube of a dustup in a Fayetteville tavern, Billy's Bar and Grill, that apparently involved gun-wielding off-duty cops. Channel 4 reports that the bar owner is pressing for a full investigation of the incident, in which the rowdy alleged cops were allowed to move on without arrest. One is said to be from Little Rock, though the force on which he works hasn't been pinned down.
* PIPELINE REMOVAL: Channel 4 posted this photo of a letter received by residents of the oil-fouled Mayflower neighborhood devastated by the Exxon Mobil pipeline rupture. It says work on removal of the damaged section will begin today. Replacement work? Restarting of the pipeline? A better estimate on how much oil was released into the environment and a full accounting of where? Down the road sometime. The latest roundup from the Exxon-guided PR apparatus about the Mayflower oil spill can be found on the Mayflower Facebook page.