Just a band-aid
Gov. Mike Beebe has called a special session of the Arkansas legislature to shore up the public school employee insurance fund. The fix a majority of lawmakers have already agreed upon in principle will be temporary. The school employee plan will still be more expensive than the state employee insurance plan — one enjoyed by legislators, by the way — and be less inclusive. The only long-term solution is to merge school employees and state employees into one insurance pool.
Rapert, off the rails
As expected, the Arkansas Legislative Council easily approved Sen. Jason Rapert's resolution endorsing Arkansas's constitutional discrimination against gay couples in marriage. It includes encouragement of legislative action to prevent judges from negating the "will of the people."
Rapert's speech was mind-boggling as always. He asserted most gay couples didn't want to marry, they just wanted "affirmation." He said there was no evidence anyone was born gay. He said same-sex marriage would lead to laws that limited free speech by preachers. Nonsense. What isn't nonsense was Rep. John Walker's statement that this is a blow to judicial independence, a terrible thing.
Research by Holly Dickson, legal director for the ACLU of Arkansas, found that more than 1,000 ballots cast in the lightly voted primary election were not counted because voters failed to comply with the new voter ID law. Most of those — more than 900 — were absentee ballots that didn't include newly required proof of identity. The rest were people who voted in person, but didn't have a photo ID when they voted or were otherwise challenged. They cast provisional ballots and if they didn't return to a clerk's office to verify their ID, their votes weren't counted.
Plaintiffs in a challenge of the 2013 voter ID law have asked Circuit Judge Tim Fox to lift the stay of his ruling that struck down the law as unconstitutional. The case is on appeal and plaintiffs — represented by the ACLU and the Arkansas Public Law Center — want it not to be used in the general election because of the potential for disenfranchising voters.
If the law is not stayed, thousands of Arkansas voters could be disenfranchised in the November general election.