Quote of the Week:
"What I ask people who think that insurance is the answer: Is there any evidence that shows that improves health care?"
— State Sen. Jim Hendren (R-Gravette), a co-chair of the Health Reform Legislative Task Force, in an interview televised last weekend in which he signaled his continued disdain for the private option, the Medicaid expansion program now providing health insurance to well over 200,000 Arkansans. Hendren said the federal cash infusion provided to Arkansas by the Medicaid expansion is distortionary: "Anytime you begin to manipulate the market, you're asking for trouble."
Welfare for Lockheed Martin
While Sen. Hendren argued against government interference in the purity of the marketplace, his uncle, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, made plans to use public money to attract an expansion of defense contractor Lockheed Martin in South Arkansas. Hutchinson announced this week that he was calling a special session of the legislature to consider issuing economic development incentives under Amendment 82 to help Lockheed secure a massive contract with the U.S. Department of Defense. The contract is to build the next generation of all-purpose light vehicles for the Army and Marines — they're to be the successor to the military's Humvee — and if awarded to Lockheed, the company says it plans to expand its current facility in Camden by almost 600 positions. So: A state taxpayer giveaway to land a project funded through billions in federal defense spending. Might Hendren support a little market manipulation in this context?
Let's not make a deal
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton continued his trademark grandstanding on foreign policy, casting the only vote against a bipartisan bill to give more congressional oversight over nuclear diplomacy with Iran. The bill passed 98-1 after Cotton's attempts to force amendments to the bill failed, thus driving Democrats away from negotiations that may have given Senate Republicans a tougher bill in the end. Many of his fellow Republicans were not pleased with the tactics.
Eureka turns out
As the Arkansas Times headed to press this week, Eureka Springs was voting on an ordinance that would forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The early voting numbers were encouraging: By the eve of the election, 425 early votes had been cast. In comparison, about 320 people in Eureka voted early in the 2014 general election last November. High turnout should bode well for pro-equality forces.
Supreme Court dawdles again
While municipal anti-discrimination measures make halting progress around the state — Hot Springs passed an employee protection ordinance last week that's similar to Little Rock's, although neither goes nearly as far as Eureka's — the Arkansas Supreme Court continues to delay ruling on the question of same-sex marriage. Last week, the court reached a decision in a secondary case related to the original marriage case that will have the practical effect of drawing out the decision even longer. The legal ins and outs are convoluted, but the court's intent is crassly transparent: Delay answering the marriage question in the hopes that a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court will take the controversial decision out of the state's hands.
Adventures in veterinary medicine
In Mountain Home, veterinarian Sara Sexton removed 16 live, gnawed-upon rifle rounds from the stomach of Benno, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois. The dog found the .308 caliber ammunition in a bag by his owner's bed and devoured a double handful of the cartridges; he's expected to make a full recovery after the operation. In reporting on the story, the Baxter Bulletin helpfully printed a list of other items that Benno has eaten over the years, including a TV remote, a bra and a piece of wall.
$15,000 and a glass door
The Maumelle City Council voted last week to settle a sexual harassment complaint by two employees against City Clerk Joshua Clausen, who they alleged touched them and made inappropriate remarks. Clausen, an elected official, was asked by Mayor Mike Watson to resign. He declined. Instead, the city is settling the complaint by paying $15,000 and replacing Clausen's office door "with a door that has a large glass panel."