Police misdeeds chronicled
The Washington Post published on Oct. 14 a lengthy investigation of Little Rock Police Department practices, focusing especially on the arrest of Roderick Talley, who was injured when the LRPD blasted open the door to his apartment during a "no-knock" search warrant. He was then arrested, even though police found only a tiny amount of marijuana in the apartment — not cocaine, as the search and seizure warrant said was believed to be in Talley's residence. Prosecutors later dropped a charge of drug trafficking against him for lack of evidence. After the arrest, Talley checked the personal security system he'd installed in his apartment — due to a history of break-ins and packages being stolen at the complex — and viewed the video footage of the raid. "It was at that moment that I realized I would be able to do something that a lot of black men in America aren't able to do, and that's prove that the police lied on me."
Talley filed a pro se federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Little Rock and LRPD officers in December. Civil rights attorneys Mike Laux and Ben Crump announced Oct. 15 they were representing Talley in his lawsuit.
The Washington Post also found questionable use of no-knock search warrants, an unreliable informant, suspect testimony by officers, constitutional violations in search warrant issuance, dangerous tactics, unjustified arrests and a pattern of emphasis on black suspects.
More work requirement cuts
The state Department of Human Services has terminated the health insurance of another 4,109 Medicaid recipients due to Governor Hutchinson's work requirement for certain beneficiaries of Arkansas Works, the state's Medicaid expansion program for low-income adults. Those people are now barred from Arkansas Works until Jan. 1. That's in addition to the 4,353 beneficiaries trimmed from (and subsequently locked out of) the Arkansas Works program in September, meaning the work requirement has cut insurance for about 8,500 Arkansans thus far. Back in June, when the requirement was put into place for the first subset of beneficiaries, DHS estimated that about 69,000 people eventually would be required to report their work activity hours. The mandate has now eliminated over 12 percent of that initial number.
Because the new requirement is being phased in on a rolling basis, it is likely that coverage losses for November and December will be comparable to those in September and October. Beneficiaries are kicked off if they fail to report sufficient work hours for three months (consecutive or not) in a given calendar year. The 4,100 who just lost coverage were in their third month of noncompliance. (The DHS report said another 4,841 were in their second month of noncompliance and 7,748 were in their first month.)
Independent of the losses directly attributable to the work requirement, the latest Medicaid enrollment numbers from DHS show Arkansas Works is shrinking for other reasons as well. On Jan. 1, there were about 286,000 people enrolled in the program. On Oct. 1, there were about 253,000.
The decline may be due in part to a strong economy that has lifted some beneficiaries' income above the eligibility threshold for Medicaid expansion — 138 percent of the federal poverty line — but it may also be due in part to DHS policies that cancel people's insurance because of returned mail or failure to respond to minor paperwork. Arkansas has seen a larger percentage decrease in its Medicaid population over the past 18 months than any other state that expanded Medicaid.
The Arkansas Supreme Court has turned down two challenges to the proposed constitutional amendment to expand casino gambling in the state. It also has reversed a circuit court ruling that the current voter ID law was unconstitutional, meaning it will remain in force in November.
In the voter ID case, the court voted 5-2 to reverse Judge Mackie Pierce's ruling that the current voter ID law added an unconstitutional additional barrier to voting. The court majority opinion, written by Justice Robin Wynne, accepted the state's argument that the rule was a permissible change to the part of the Constitution pertaining to voter registration, though the Constitution says only that someone must be a citizen, aged 18 and registered to vote.