Dog day afternoon
The Fayetteville City Council voted 6-2 to approve a historic civil rights ordinance that includes LGBT people in its umbrella of employment, housing and accommodation protections. But not before 10 hours of discussion, including two turns at the mic from Rep. Randy Alexander (R-Springdale). Alexander explained that gay marriage was "not about equal rights." Exasperated at the council's failure to understand the simple truths that Alexander had tried to impart, Alexander chose to tell what he called a "short story — something in my experience." The story was not short. It was a rambling account of an episode when Alexander was director of housing at a university. It was a sad story that Alexander told for laughs, of a mentally ill student who had an episode in which he thought he was a dog, and was arrested crawling on all fours and barking in the frozen goods aisle at a grocery store. The student was suspended from the university for one year. Alexander joked that it was harsh because "that's seven years in a dog's life."
"The point is this young man may have sincerely perceived himself to be a canine," Alexander said. "I'm not questioning at all that some folks in this community might genuinely perceive themselves to be a different gender."
Get it? Transgender people are just like people who think they're dogs! Some folks in Alexander's community genuinely perceive him to be a horse's ass. He was voted out of office earlier this year.
The law that dare not speak its name
The Pryor campaign got national attention last week for a commercial that actually takes credit for his vote for Obamacare. Appearing with his father, the popular former governor and senator, David Pryor, Mark Pryor looks into the camera and says: "I helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick or deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions." And what might that law be? Pryor doesn't name it, of course, since Obamacare (or the Affordable Care Act) remains very unpopular in Arkansas. But in a state that has seen its percentage of uninsured citizens cut nearly in half, and where 200,000 people have gained coverage through the state's private option version of Medicaid expansion, Pryor is finally willing to talk about what the law does even if he prefers not to say the dreaded name. Meanwhile, Tom Cotton, Pryor's opponent for Senate, still says "Obamacare" every chance he gets, but when asked what would happen to those 200,000 Arkansans if the law went away? Cotton won't say.
He said, she said
The District 35 campaign for state representative (the district includes the Heights and West Little Rock) between Democrat Clarke Tucker and Republican Stacy Hurst took a turn for the bizarre this week. Tucker held a press conference to lash out at Hurst for issuing Freedom of Information requests via the state Republican Party regarding Tucker's 4-year-old son and public preschool enrollment. "My opponent in this campaign for state representative has come after my 4-year-old son and my family in a way that is completely unacceptable in a political campaign," Tucker said. Hurst said she had nothing to apologize for and the FOI requests were prompted by "rumors" she had heard "in social circles and cocktail party conversations."
Mark Darr, who resigned as lieutenant governor earlier this year amid controversy over his abuse of state and campaign expenses accounts, still hasn't repaid more than $10,000 in improper expenses he charged to the state. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel stated in a letter to the Legislative Audit Committee chair that his office "stands ready to enforce this law and we are prepared to move forward in a lawsuit against Mr. Darr to recover these funds."
Darr is currently on the sales staff at Crain Hyundai in Springdale. Hopefully for the state of Arkansas he'll get on a Hyundai hot streak.
Quote of the week
"It's hysteria in my book. It's hysteria that's built up, and it's not based on fact. And I have trouble going along with that kind of thing ... I'm just hoping that this wasn't too big a slap in the face. I just pray that it doesn't get blown out of proportion, and they realize what the concerns were and forgive us for not following through."
Harrison Mayor Jeff Crockett, after a planned Sister Cities visit by people from Ghana was scrubbed because some Harrison leaders feared the Ebola virus. No Ebola virus has been reported in Ghana, though it is on the continent of Africa, where other countries have experienced the disease. It is another embarrassment for a city long held up to unflattering attention for its ill treatment in years past of black people.
The latest news from the two-headed turtle beat: A two-headed snapping turtle was born last week in Amagon (Jackson County), according to a report from the Jonesboro Sun. The NEA Turtle Farm will likely sell the turtle to a collector. The animal is still unnamed.
Health care, by the numbers
10 percent or more: Annual increase in health insurance premiums for consumers buying coverage on their own before Obamacare.
2 percent: Increase in premiums for 2015 approved by the Insurance Department for Blue Cross Blue Shield for their plans on the Obamacare Marketplace.
2.2 percent: Total projected DECLINE in premiums, on net, for 2015 for all insurance companies on the Obamacare Marketplace in Arkansas.