Quote of the Week:
"I am officially, and unequivocally, uncertain, and in doubt."
— Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Berryville) on whether or not to vote for Donald Trump this fall. Most Arkansas Republicans have fallen in line behind their mercurial nominee, including Governor Hutchinson, but a few conservative state legislators are expressing doubts. Rep. David Meeks (R-Greenbrier) said he was considering Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and was "99.9 percent sure" he would not vote for Trump. Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) said he's leaning toward voting for someone other than Trump.
Real Republicans don't do pre-K
At the GOP state convention in Rogers last weekend, delegates struck all support for pre-kindergarten education from the state party platform. Previously, the platform included a paragraph endorsing the idea of the state providing resources to ensure access for all parents who want pre-K for their kids. No longer. Doug Thompson of Northwest Arkansas News reported that only one of the 275 delegates in attendance spoke in favor of retaining the paragraph: Jacquelin Brownell of Benton County, who asked, "If we remove this, what will our response be to people in poverty?" Governor Hutchinson said the action "does not affect the historical bipartisan support of pre-K funding" and said the paragraph in question was "confusing and unclear on its intent."
Abusing the process
A federal judge reprimanded one of the state's most prominent lawyers and political players last week for his conduct in a class-action case. U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes III found that John Goodson of Texarkana (along with his law partner, Matt Keil, and three other attorneys) had "abused the judicial process, and did so in bad faith" by colluding to transfer a lawsuit out of Holmes' court and into a state court, where it was immediately settled. The result was a settlement with the defendant, an auto insurance company, that produced a hefty fee for the attorneys but a less-than-generous deal for the policyholders who comprised the class the lawsuit concerned. Holmes also said 10 other attorneys involved had "abused the judicial process, but did not do so in bad faith"; they received no sanction. The plaintiffs' attorneys are appealing the finding.
Prison pastor sentenced
Kenneth Dewitt, a former prison chaplain at the McPherson Women's Unit who's admitted to having sex with inmates, was sentenced to five years in prison. Dewitt was originally charged with 50 counts of third-degree sexual assault, but he accepted a deal last month and pleaded guilty to three counts. A U.S. Justice Department investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and harassment at the prison is ongoing.
A little help from the folks
Arkansas State University Chancellor Tim Hudson resigned his position after an audit at the school turned up emails from Hudson that appear to show him haggling for special financial aid deals at other colleges for a family member. In one email to an official at the New York Institute of Technology (since redacted), Hudson wrote, "I would like to talk to you about [family member] — [family member] is very interested in NYIT — but frankly, we'd need some sort of help to make that a reality. Perhaps we can find a way to be mutually helpful." The audit also turned up problems with ASU's study abroad program, which was run by the chancellor's wife, Deidre Hudson.
Rutledge vs. the real bullies
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge published an editorial on The Hill website last week doubling down on her stance against the Obama administration's guidance for public schools regarding bathroom access for transgender students. Arkansas is one of 10 states suing over the guidance, which Rutledge described as "bullying and threatening." Transgender students have no problems in Arkansas schools, she said. "The heartbreaking thing is that it seems as if transgendered [sic] students are being used as pawns by this administration to further a broader political and legal agenda," Rutledge wrote. Perhaps it would mend her heart a bit to try talking to some of those students and see what they think.