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It was a good week for separation of church and state

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It was a good week for...

SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. Belatedly, the Arkansas Board of Education approved without dissent a proposed rule that would prevent use of state money to pay for religion in the Arkansas Better Chance program that provides tax money to pre-schools. Two Republican legislators, state Rep. Justin Harris and state Sen. Johnny Key, operate for-profit programs with tax money that have included Bible instruction and other religious trappings. Key has said his program has ended use of Bible verses. Harris has tried to say his religious indoctrination occurs outside the school day, though his operation is almost wholly funded — building and staff — by tax money. A Facebook post from Harris indicates hope that the legislature will override agency administrative rules, something that exceeds its authority technically, but which can happen in the review process.

MAIN STREET IN LITTLE ROCK. The city of Little Rock announced at a news conference its receipt of a $900,000 federal grant — to be matched by more than $600,000 in city money — for a project in the 100-500 blocks of Main Street to test managing water runoff with "porous pavers, tree wells, rain gardens and other water filtration practices."

DR. JAY BARTH. Gov. Beebe tapped the distinguished professor of politics and chair of the politics and international relations department at Hendrix to fill a seat on the state Board of Education. Barth also contributes a weekly column to the Times and arktimes.com.

It was a bad week for...

KEN ADEN. The longshot Democratic candidate for 3rd District Congress — buffeted recently by reporting on his exaggeration of his Army record — dropped out of the race against incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Womack, saying he didn't want to harm the Democratic effort and that he wanted to spend more time with family. Election rules prevent Democrats for fielding another candidate. The Green Party has nominated Rebekah Kennedy to oppose Womack. David Pangrac is the Libertarian candidate.

ETHICS REFORM. The effort to get the Campaign Finance and Lobbying Act on the 2012 ballot fell short. Organizers' efforts to gather signatures began late. Those working to gather signatures could be mobilized again and be better informed. We know from Lt. Gov. Mark Darr's alarm and the grumbling corporate community that corporate Arkansas fears the people and loves how cheap it is to buy the Arkansas legislature. Or might there be elected representatives who'll put their names on the line in the legislature for ethics reform?

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