Quote of the Week:
"Today, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region."
— President Barack Obama, in a televised address Tuesday, announcing a groundbreaking nuclear deal with Iran that would restrict the country's ability to rapidly construct a bomb for the next 15 years in return for lifting sanctions. Criticism quickly followed from Israeli leadership and many Republicans in Congress, including U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, who called the deal "a terrible, dangerous mistake."
Gov. Asa Hutchinson seems to get what he wants. Last week, the state Board of Education voted 4-2 to accept a proposed contract for a new standardized test for Arkansas schools called the ACT Aspire, which the governor has aggressively pushed. The Aspire will replace the PARCC test used this last school year, which itself replaced the old Benchmark exam given in previous years. That means Arkansas students will have had three different tests in three consecutive years.
The state board's decision to accede to the governor's wishes reverses a 7-1 vote in June to reject the ACT contract. Board members said at the time that they felt the state should seek bids from multiple vendors before it switches to yet another test — but with Republican legislators standing behind Hutchinson and threatening to block any alternative to ACT Aspire, they had little choice. Two members, Vicki Saviers and Jay Barth, withheld their votes in protest of the autocratic process. (Also helping the governor's cause: He was able to fill three vacancies on the board at the beginning of the month. Guess which way those appointees voted.)
Ever since Obergefell v. Hodges made same-sex marriage legal, a number of Arkansas county officials have flirted with defiance of the law. Last week Van Buren County Clerk Pam Bradford went the furthest: She issued a memo announcing that her office would not be issuing same-sex marriage licenses. "Other than this being against my Religious beliefs and 1st Amendment Rights, the US Supreme Court has overstepped their boundaries," she wrote, adding that she'd gotten legal advice from a group called the Liberty Council.
Bradford backed off, though, and agreed to issue licenses after she spoke with Mike Rainwater, an attorney who advises local officials through the Association of Arkansas Counties. Rainwater evidently said the same thing as Gov. Hutchinson and Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge: Arkansas's county clerks have to do their jobs.
Who's your mama?
Here's a new same-sex marriage wrinkle: Are both parties in such a marriage presumed to be parents of kids born into the union? On Monday, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of three couples — all married women — who have been unable to get both mothers' names on their children's birth certificate forms, given that the state Health Department currently only provides a space on the form for a man and a woman. A change to the form would require action from the state Board of Health — and therefore legislative review. Uh oh.
The Devil and Jason Rapert
Lucien Greaves, a co-founder of the Satanic Temple, again urged Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) to accept his challenge to a public debate. The group is planning to place a goat-headed "Baphomet" statue on the Capitol grounds as a counterpart to a proposed Ten Commandments monument; last session, Rapert sponsored a bill that would allow for the Ten Commandments to be installed at the Capitol.
"The Devil is a liar — why would I want to debate anyone who worships a liar?" Rapert wrote on his Facebook page. Greaves responded in a letter: "Is this not, in fact, the [best] reason to debate somebody — to shine the light of truth upon lies and/or misinformation? ... You may argue that the majority of Arkansas doesn't want a Satanic monument on Capitol grounds. That being the case, should you not be made to explain why you clearly opened the door to our inclusion, or how exactly you intend to keep us out?"
An original take on self-defense
The mother of a 4-year-old boy filed a lawsuit against Anderson's Taekwondo Center in Little Rock that alleges the boy was physically abused. An employee of the center was arrested for second-degree battery, the state Department of Human Services has reprimanded the center, and the American Taekwondo Association has ended its licensure of Anderson's. The suit claims the child was paddled until his buttocks were raw for sticking out his tongue at another student.
In our July 2 Arkansas Reporter "The banned old flag," we mistakenly described Dale Charles as president of the Little Rock chapter of the NAACP. He is president of the Arkansas State Conference of the NAACP.