Quote of the Week:
"I'm proud to be standing with this poor woman here at this dark hour. ... She really is gullible. She really is naive."
— Chuck Banks, attorney for Martha Shoffner, at last week's sentencing of the former state treasurer for accepting bribes while in office. Banks said Shoffner, a Democrat, "made a terrible, terrible error in judgment," but asked U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes to depart from federal sentencing guidelines that recommended 151 to 180 months in prison. The judge did so, sentencing the 71-year-old Shoffner to 30 months.
Plenty of hope, not much action
Gov. Asa Hutchinson held his much-touted "Restore Hope Summit" last week, a two-day convention of some 600 Arkansas religious leaders intended to address two slow-boil crises facing the state: an overloaded foster care system and an overcrowded prison system.
Hutchinson said he'd ask the legislature to devote $1 million in rainy day money to the Department of Human Services to hire 40 new child welfare caseworkers — a small step but a good one. Other than that, unfortunately, the "summit" was more pep rally than policy forum. The assembled pastors, ministers, priests and others were urged to recruit more foster parents from their congregations and asked to write a letter to themselves setting goals for the future. That's all fine, but as of July the state had almost 2,000 more kids in DHS custody than it had foster beds. This is a solution?'
Former Little Rock School District Superintendent Dexter Suggs has lost his doctoral degree from Indiana Wesleyan University, the chief academic officer at the university confirmed this week. The change is presumably because of allegations that Suggs plagiarized his dissertation, though the official said he couldn't comment further due to privacy laws.
Suggs left the LRSD in April after the likely plagiarism was discovered, and his severance agreement allowed for the district to stop payments in the event Suggs' doctorate was indeed revoked. The district said in a statement Monday, "Pursuant to the terms of the Settlement Agreement and Release, LRSD is not obligated to make any further payments to Mr. Suggs." Yes, that's right: "Mr."
Hog farms Buffaloed
The Buffalo National River scored a victory last week when the state Pollution Control and Ecology Commission approved regulations that prohibit new medium-to-large-scale hog farms in the river's watershed for the next five years. The rules won't affect the permit held by C&H, the hog facility near Mt. Judea that first sparked the controversy.
No dice on Lockheed
Despite a commitment from the state of Arkansas of about $100 million to subsidize the project, Lockheed Martin's bid to net a Pentagon contract to build the next generation of tactical vehicles for the Army and Marine Corps failed. The vehicles — intended to be the successor to the Humvee — were to be built at Lockheed's existing facility in Camden. The $6.75 billion contract instead went to Oshkosh Defense of Wisconsin.
Give it another generation
At an Arkansas Federation of Young Republicans convention last weekend, some members pushed for a resolution meant to encourage the state GOP to remove opposition to same-sex marriage from its party platform. Will Hansen, chairman of the Washington County Young Republicans, noted that 58 percent of Republican millennials support marriage equality and said that "by taking this off of the table ... we can kind of quit talking about [it]."
Hard-right Republican legislators sent a clear message to the younger generation: Get with the anti-gay program or get out. After the AFYR ended up tabling the resolution without a vote, the ever-vigilant Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) tweeted triumphantly, "Those who don't support the @ARGOP platform should resign GOP positions for failing to support our principles."
Open that window
Under pressure from the federal government, the state of Arkansas finally relented last week on the unreasonably short window of time it's been giving Medicaid beneficiaries to respond to a letter requesting income eligibility verification.
The state had been giving people only 10 days to respond; the feds said Arkansas has to allow a window of at least 30 days to comply with federal law. OK, OK, said DHS, we'll do 30 days from here on out. But tens of thousands of eligible Arkansans who've already lost coverage this summer (in part because of that 10-day window) remain uninsured.