Quote of the week
"The establishment of a football team would help boost student life and in turn, enrollment for UA Little Rock, as well as provide a home for Arkansas student-athletes. It would also be a tremendous alumni attraction and would provide great rivalries immediately with ASU, UCA and UAPB. As mayor, I certainly see this as a way to utilize War Memorial Stadium as a phenomenal state-owned asset in the city, particularly with the uncertainty surrounding the future of the contract with the Razorbacks. There are also definite economic advantages of being home to a college football team."
— Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, writing in his weekly newsletter, about a student petition drive to bring football to UA Little Rock. The introduction of football might be a win for the city, but it likely wouldn't be for the university. USA Today compiles statistics on athletic spending by colleges. In 2015, Arkansas State University spent $29.2 million on athletics. The budget ran deeply in the red. It required $4.5 million in student fees and $9.5 million in university money to balance its budget. At the University of Central Arkansas, $9.4 million of the $12.4 million it spends on sports comes from student fees and university money. Little Rock knows the story, but, without the major expense of football, doesn't run so deeply in the red. It spent $9.5 million in 2015 with $6.4 million coming from student fees and university money.
And then there were seven
The Arkansas Parole Board recommended clemency last week for death row inmate Jason McGehee on a 6-1 vote. It will be up to Governor Hutchinson whether McGehee is spared, but even if Hutchinson decides against clemency, McGehee will not be among those executed beginning Monday and continuing over the next 10 days. Federal Judge Price Marshall stayed McGehee's execution because the hurried timeframe would not allow for a 30-day comment period, which the law requires. Marshall said the expedited consideration of the other five inmates who sought clemency was flawed, but not enough to stop their executions.
A broader federal challenge in Judge Kristine Baker's court was taking place this week. Lawyers for the group of inmates on death row argue, among other things, that the rushed schedule of the executions poses the risk of error and that midazolam, one of the three drugs in the state's lethal injection drug cocktail, will not sufficiently anesthetize the inmates. It has no official bearing on Baker's decision, but worth noting: The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati rejected the three-drug lethal injection protocol in Ohio because, in part, it said the use of midazolam was unconstitutional.
Womack faces critics
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, a Republican who represents the state's 3rd District, got an earful from constituents at a town hall in Russellville on Monday night, though, as is his custom, he didn't sound too sympathetic to critics. Big college loan debt? Join the military, Womack said. Problems with health care? Some have problems because they don't work, Womack seemed to suggest. He was pressed on defense spending and Donald Trump, too. "I'm with Trump," Womack said.
Governor Hutchinson admirably vetoed Senate Bill 550, a so-called "mass picketing" bill from Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado). The bill would have broadened the latitude for police to make arrests of demonstrators who might slow traffic or be perceived to be intimidating someone in a private residence. It was one of a wave of anti-demonstration bills nationwide by Republican legislators.
Hutchinson said existing law provides multiple means to cope with people whose demonstrations block traffic or access to homes and businesses. He said the bill was "overbroad, vague and will have the effect of restricting free speech and the right to assemble." He quoted Benjamin Franklin in his note to the Senate: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
The governor also vetoed SB 496 from Sen. Scott Flippo (R-Bull Shoals), which would prohibit Alcoholic Beverage Control Division agents from enforcing laws related to gambling machines. Some businesses, including private clubs in Flippo's area and elsewhere, have developed lucrative sidelines in running gambling machines, nominally prohibited by the state Constitution. Hutchinson said the bill would infringe on the executive branch's power to enforce laws.
A simple majority is enough to override a veto, though Hutchinson's wishes could keep the bills from becoming law.