Quote of the Week:
"For some reason, conservative religious people are terribly hung up on bathrooms."
— Eureka Springs City Council member Joyce Zeller to Jordan Klepper, a "Daily Show" correspondent investigating purported "anti-Christian discrimination in Arkansas" — meaning, the city's civil rights ordinance protecting LGBT people. The satire was wasted on Rev. Randall Christy, an ordinance opponent who lamented to Klepper that gay folks are "hanging out their flag everywhere you go" — a quote the producers strategically juxtaposed with a shot of the Christ of the Ozarks looming overhead.
Asa defuses Common Core
After 40 hours of hearings over the past few months in nine Arkansas cities, the "governor's council" that was formed to conduct a review of the contentious Common Core State Standards recommended that Gov. Asa Hutchinson should ... order further review of the Common Core State Standards. The group says the standards should stay for the coming school year.
Mostly, the non-decision is a relief. Arkansas won't be tossing out the Common Core arbitrarily — as some other conservative states have done, in a craven attempt to appease a groundswell of mostly conservative opposition. That means Common Core will probably stick around, though it may be renamed, as Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin (who led the review effort) admitted in a recent moment of candor.
Still, the theater of the whole thing is annoying: Folks in the know have assumed all along that the decision to stick with Common Core had already been made long in advance, and that the purpose of the review council was to provide the mere appearance of study and public engagement. It also seems to have been effective: The group of parents who once railed against Common Core as the devil incarnate now seem to have accepted the decision. Sometimes a little theater goes a long way.
Former Saline County Sheriff Bruce Pennington pleaded guilty this week to a federal wire fraud charge concerning his use of campaign money to pay personal bills. The Justice Department said he spent more than $20,000 on the likes of home mortgage payments, utilities, groceries, casino visits and skin care products.
Farewell to the chief
Word emerged over the weekend that Chief Justice Jim Hannah of the Arkansas Supreme Court plans to retire at the end of this month due to health problems. He joined the court in 2001 and has been chief justice since 2005; he's also been one of the most moderate and reasonable voices in an institution that's drifting ever rightward. Hannah will be missed — oh, and we're bracing to see who Asa chooses to serve out the remainder of his term, which expires next year.
Onward Christian soldiers
When Mike Huckabee wants attention, he'll do what it takes to get it.
At a campaign stop last week in Iowa, the former Arkansas governor said he'd "invoke the Fifth and 14th amendments for the protection of every human being" if he became president, referring to abortion. "I will not pretend there is nothing we can do to stop this," Huckabee said, ominously. When a reporter later asked him how, exactly, he'd stop abortion, and whether that could entail use of the FBI or federal troops, Huckabee only replied, "We'll see if I get to be president." Can't wait.
Huckabee's finances, by the numbers
In other Huck news, the candidate released his personal financial report over the weekend, which showed income of over $4 million within the past 12 months, plus millions in the value of accumulated investments and real estate. The feds require candidates to report only a range of values for most categories (rather than exact numbers), but here's a sampling:
$2.96 million - Business income from Blue Diamond Horizons Inc., Huckabee's company that (among other things) publishes his books. This sum may also include income from his program on Fox News or his syndicated radio show, both of which are now off the air.
$950,000 - Payment for 44 speeches delivered since May 2014.
$50,000-$10,000 - Retirement income from a state of Arkansas public employee pension.
$200,000-$2 million - Rental income on two properties held by a company called Blue Diamond Rentals.
$3 million - The value of Huckabee's home in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. He also still owns a home in North Little Rock, currently on the market for about $675,000.