Quote of the week
"Listen, we're writing a Hillary Clinton book now. We've got a research team that is in Little Rock, so, I mean, we're not going to be shy about what we're doing."
— Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus speaking to a Bloomberg reporter about efforts to dig up dirt in advance of a possible 2016 Hillary campaign. Priebus said the RNC has "two or three" people in Little Rock and added, "We're going to get whatever we have to in order to share with the American people the truth about Hillary and Bill Clinton."
Magnum cum laude
In 2013, the legislature passed a bill by Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) that permitted staff members of colleges and universities to carry concealed handguns on campus but allowed individual institutions to opt out of the law. Every single public college in the state did so. Now Collins is back with another bill that would remove that option — that is, college administrators will be unable to set their own gun policy and must allow licensed staff to bring their weapons on campus. Private schools could still opt out.
Drone fence me in
Rep. Justin Harris (R-West Fork) has introduced a bill that would prohibit photographing private property using an unmanned aircraft — a drone — without the property owner's permission. As drones have proliferated, states have been passing laws to regulate their activity, but the restrictions contained in Harris' bill go further than most. There is a legitimate need to protect privacy; there is also a public interest in preserving the right to take photographs from a public right of way.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson's first priority in office is to pass an income tax cut that would benefit the 50 percent of Arkansas taxpayers who make between $21,000 and $80,000 per year. It's a mixed bag. The good news is that by resisting the urge to cut taxes for the wealthy, it makes the system somewhat fairer. The bad news is that it leaves out 40 percent of the state's working population, taxpayers who make under $21,000. The worse news, though, is that it whittles away at the state budget at a time when many public services — pre-K, for example — sorely need more money.
The pauper judge
Shawn Womack, a circuit judge and former Republican state senator, told the new independent citizens commission on elected official pay that the Arkansas judiciary needs bigger raises. Arkansas judges' compensation ranks ninth in the nation when cost of living is factored in, while the state's per capita income ranks 41st by the same measure. Womack himself makes over $140,000 annually, yet he complained that judicial salaries increased "only" 15 percent from 2004 to 2013, compared to larger jumps in some neighboring states. The nerve.
Last fall, a Hot Springs gun range owner declared she would turn away any Muslim patrons because of "public safety" concerns. The Times heard last week from a college student who said he and his father were refused service by the owner of the Gun Cave, Jan Morgan. They're not Muslim, but they do happen to be South Asian.
"My dad asked, 'Why is it Muslim free?' and they started having a conversation," said the student, who asked to remain anonymous. "Then, all of a sudden, I don't know what went wrong, but she stopped us from filling out the paperwork and said 'I don't think you guys should be here.' She told us to leave or she'd call the cops on us." On her Facebook page, Morgan denied that she threw out the pair because of their race or color (she claims they were behaving suspiciously) and posted pictures of other South Asian patrons whom she's courteously refrained from kicking out in the past.