Quote of the week
"Continuing the trend of adding massive amounts onto our national debt and doing nothing to change programs that are in dire need of reforms hurts hardworking Americans both today and tomorrow who will have to pay for this unfunded package." — Arkansas 2nd District U.S. Rep. French Hill in a statement explaining his vote against a bill that provided $36.5 billion in disaster aid for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, the flood insurance program and wildfire response. The vote was 353 in favor, 69, with all the nays coming from Republicans. Hill said earlier he was "proud" to vote for the aid package for Hurricane Harvey relief in Texas and Florida because "America is strongest when neighbor supports neighbor."
Law stopped that would halt Planned Parenthood from providing abortions
In a surprise ruling, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed a federal district judge's injunction against a new Arkansas anti-abortion law to remain in effect while Planned Parenthood seeks a U.S. Supreme Court review of whether Arkansas Act 577 of 2015 is constitutional.
The law requires abortion providers to have a physician with hospital admitting privileges if they prescribe the pills used to induce miscarriage in the first 8 to 9 weeks of pregnancy. Doctors, fearing reprisals from anti-abortion advocates, have been unwilling to sign on. The pharmaceutical abortion is safer than natural childbirth, but the legislature passed it under the pretense it was aimed at protecting women. Its real aim was to put Planned Parenthood out of the abortion business and end the availability of medical abortion in Arkansas. That's the only type of abortion provided by Planned Parenthood at clinics in Fayetteville and Little Rock. It is also included among services of the state's only other abortion provider, Little Rock Family Planning, which also provides clinical abortions. Those abortions are not covered by the law.
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker earlier ruled the law unconstitutional as an undue burden on women. But the 8th Circuit sent the case back to her for more specific testimony on the burden that the closure of Planned Parenthood clinics would mean to women. The 8th Circuit also initially refused to back off its order lifting Baker's injunction.
Planned Parenthood made another plea for a stay while it seeks U.S. Supreme Court review. Similar laws have been struck down in other states. Last week, the 8th Circuit said the preliminary injunction could remain in effect, something of a surprise given the strong anti-abortion and conservative bent of a court dominated by Republican appointees.
First Amendment, yo
A rap concert at the Metroplex scheduled for Oct. 13 in Little Rock was canceled after city officials expressed concerns about public safety. Two people had been shot at past concerts of Moneybagg Yo, the Memphis rapper slated to perform at the Metroplex. Police Chief Kenton Buckner had expressed concern to concert promoters last week about the sufficiency of security for the show. The promoter increased the number of Little Rock police to be hired to 15, in addition to its own security, plus planned metal screening. The City Board and Mayor Mark Stodola learned Oct. 12 of the chief's concern and blew a gasket. Why hadn't they been told before? Why was only City Manager Bruce Moore in Buckner's loop? An unhappy Stodola was overheard by an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter after a City Board budget meeting pressing City Attorney Tom Carpenter by phone to go to court to enjoin the concert. Carpenter apparently relayed some First Amendment prior restraint concerns. Win or lose, Stodola wanted to forge ahead. The show and emergency meeting were scrapped. But the bad feelings will linger and affect City Hall politics at a minimum. In a Facebook post, Rep. Charles Blake (D-Little Rock) suggested race was a factor in the city leaders' statements. Mayoral candidate Frank Scott also criticized Stodola for pushing to cancel the show.
Cotton to CIA
Speculation that another Donald Trump Cabinet shakeup could send Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton to head the CIA continues. The latest comes in an article on the website Axios.
Apart from the obvious peril to the well being of the United States in such a move, Arkansans might take local comfort in believing that Governor Hutchinson would have a hard time finding someone colder or less compassionate as an interim U.S. senator until the seat could be filled by election.
Cotton's good relationship with Trump is cited as one reason for his emergence as a top candidate. Another double-edged sword.