Quote of the Week 1:</p>
"Democracy is not convenient always."
— Washington County Election Commissioner Renee Oelschlaeger, explaining her refusal of a request to open an early voting center on the University of Arkansas campus. The other Republican member of the three-person commission, Bill Ackerman, also voted no; the lone Democrat, Max Deitchler, supported the proposal. The request drew support from thousands of students and staff at the university, but the Republican commissioners said ample polling stations exist off-campus.
Quote of the Week 2:</p>
"When it comes to some of these studies out of Chicago — there's very little trust that I place or value I place on some of these studies that come out of one of the Democrat strongholds where the city is imploding."
— State Rep. Brandt Smith (R-Jonesboro), debating his opponent, Democrat Nate Looney, on the issue of pre-K education. Arguing in favor of boosted funding for early childhood education, Looney had cited a study from the University of Chicago that shows increased access to pre-K correlates with a drop in crime rates. (In addition to being one of the nation's premier research institutions, the University of Chicago is known for birthing the school of free-market economic thought underpinning conservative economic theories for decades.)
Judge Wade Naramore of Hot Springs was acquitted on a negligent homicide charge in the 2015 death of his son, Thomas. The 18-month-old died after being left in a hot car last July when Naramore forgot the child was in the back seat. After an initial 10-2 split, the jury in the homicide trial was urged to keep deliberating by the presiding judge, and jurors eventually returned a not guilty verdict on Friday evening. It's unclear if Naramore will try to return to the bench: He remains suspended with pay from his duty as a juvenile judge until the completion of an investigation by the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission.
Three contests for Little Rock leadership
Filing for municipal elections ended last week, with contested races shaping up for three seats on the 10-member Little Rock City Board. In West Little Rock's Ward 4, incumbent Brad Cazort is not seeking re-election; running for his open seat are restaurateur Capi Peck (of Trio's fame), real estate broker Jeff Yates and former Little Rock School District Superintendent Roy Brooks. Incumbent Gene Fortson, who holds one of the board's three at-large positions, has drawn two challengers in Clayton Johnson, a high school teacher, and Jason Ferguson, a pastor; Fortson will likely retain the support of the Little Rock business community. The perennial Joan Adcock, an at-large director who's sat on the board for 24 years, is being challenged by Clinton School of Public Service grad Molly Miller. (The third at-large director, Dean Kumpuris, did not attract an opponent.)
With one proposal to allow medical marijuana definitely to appear on the November ballot and another competing proposal likely to qualify as well, Arkansas stands a good chance of ending its blanket prohibition on cannabis this year. Among those taking a stand against weed, however, is Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe. "If you know a school, church, or any other civic group that would like me to give a talk on the truth about 'medical' marijuana, message me," he tweeted recently. "Compounds in marijuana have possible medicinal value," Bledsoe acknowledged, but "calling a plant 'medicine' is a marketing ploy."
The folly of drug-testing welfare recipients, by the numbers
As per legislation passed in 2015, the state Department of Workforce Services is now drug-screening new applicants for Temporary Aid for Dependent Families assistance, or welfare. There are about 2,000 Arkansans statewide who receive TANF. This month, the department released data showing results from the first four months of the program.
Monthly payout for a single-parent family of four : $204
Number flagged for potential drug use in the initial screening process: 8
Number of families or individuals who have applied for TANF since the tests began: 800
Number required to take a drug test who refused, thus becoming temporarily ineligible for TANF benefits: 4
Number who have actually been tested and failed: 1
Annual estimated cost of the testing program: $100,000