It's a little early for Governor Beebe to be looking back on his administration nostalgically, having not yet reached the halfway point of what he hopes will be his first term, but in the present circumstances the temptation surely is there. Ah, the Good Old Days of last year.
Overseeing his first legislative session as governor, Beebe won the admiration of moderates and liberals, many of whom were as surprised as gratified by the progressive actions of a man they'd feared would be an agent of special interests, a political insider more concerned with accommodation than accomplishment.
Those warm feelings have cooled as Beebe dawdles over controversial issues, in the process looking rather like that unattractive Beebe some saw before he was elected. For one large thing, he's declined to overrule a state Department of Human Services policy that is not only discriminatory but was adopted specifically to get around an anti-discrimination order of the Arkansas courts. In nullifying a DHS policy that prohibited homosexuals from being foster parents, the courts found no evidence that the policy protected children and much evidence that it promoted the personal bias of state officials. Sullen and sneaky, DHS responded to the court order by banning unmarried couples, gay or straight, from foster parenting.
This should not be a hard call for a governor, especially one trained in the law as Beebe is. Just say that DHS is wrong, and tell it to get right. DHS's job is to protect children, not prejudices.
(Beebe does deserve credit for opposing the license of discrimination in the state statutes. A proposed initiated act will be on the ballot next month to prohibit the fostering or adopting of children by unmarried couples, regardless of sexual preference. Arkansas would be diminished by its approval.)
Beebe was a key legislator for many years, and it may be that he's at his best when the legislature is in session. Even at his best, he can use sound advice from reliable sources, such as Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and us. McDaniel is working toward a substantive animal-cruelty bill that the legislature might approve, and he seems to be making progress. Groups like the Farm Bureau that have defended animal cruelty in previous sessions now sound as though they might accept an anti-cruelty bill. We're renewing our call to outlaw talking on cell phones while driving, or — at the very least — to prohibit texting while driving cars, trucks or trains.
The California railroad engineer who was sending text messages as he hurtled toward a collision that killed 25 people, including himself, demonstrated emphatically the danger of the practice.