Quote of the week
"Marijuana is still illegal under federal law and just because a state passes something doesn't make it legal under federal law. It only makes it legal under state law. But as we know, federal law trumps state law, so there are a lot of unanswered questions."
— Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin on Arkansas's new constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana. Governor Hutchinson has promised a good-faith effort to comply with voters' wishes and work is underway by his administration to establish the regulatory scheme necessary. A gold rush of would-be entrepreneurs and high-dollar lobbyists is also underway to carve off a piece of anticipated profits.
Arkies in Trumpland
A number of current and former Arkansans were among those who visited Trump Tower last week as the president-elect considered who to hire for top administration posts. On Friday, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton and former Gov. Mike Huckabee were spotted. Cotton has been rumored to be a candidate for defense secretary. Huckabee was thought to be a leading contender for ambassador to Israel, but he dismissed those reports over the weekend. Later, on Fox News, he said he was under consideration for both a Cabinet and advisory role, but declined to elaborate. On Thursday, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge was spotted at Trump Tower. "My interest is in helping the Trump administration," she told reporters. "Whether that's continuing on as the attorney general of Arkansas or [working] in the administration, then my ears are open." She's been rumored to be in consideration for an EPA position.
A subcommittee of the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission moved a proposed Ten Commandments monument at the Capitol to the public comment phase before a full committee vote and approval by the secretary of state.
A not-so-bold prediction: The monument will be approved. Secretary of State Mark Martin will move to install it as the legislature wishes. Various parts of the machinery will gum up sufficiently to block other monuments that have been proposed to recognize different faith and belief systems. Then the ACLU will sue. It will win, unless the Trump/Republican Senate makeover of the judicial system is sufficiently in place by then.
Senate wises up to Dem strategy
Two weeks ago, Democratic members of the Arkansas House of Representatives used House rules, which allow members to pick committee membership based on seniority, to potentially wield outsize influence. Despite having only 26 of 100 members, Democrats managed to secure an 11 to 9 majority on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. Last week, when the Senate drew committee assignments, the Republican majority took steps to make sure Democrats couldn't stack committees in that chamber. The Senate, which is made up of nine Democrats and 26 Republicans, adopted a rule limiting minority party membership on standing committees to three. The standing committees — the important ones — have eight members. Democrats had an eye on the Education Committee. Democratic Sen. Joyce Elliott, an education stalwart, commented on Twitter after the rule change: "AR folks, you had better wake up to what's in store for education in AR. The rules weren't changed to pass progressive legislation."
School board member in blackface
A picture taken at Halloween of a white man dressed in blackface and holding a sign that read "Blak Lives Matter" [sic] was identified last week as Ted Bonner, a Blevins School Board member, by Blevins Superintendent Billy Lee. The state NAACP chapter and the Arkansas Education Association both called for Bonner to resign. Bonner is up for re-election in 2018; Lee said he had apologized. Blevins is a small community in Hempstead County. The school district has about 480 students, about 80 of them African American.