Tweet of the Week
"The individual with a weapon has been surrounded by police. No shots have been fired, no reported injuries."
— Arkansas State University on Thursday afternoon, soon after a tweet reporting an "active shooter" on the Jonesboro campus. Brad Kenneth Bartelt, 47, a former ASU student, drove his truck onto campus near the student union and brandished a shotgun, which he never fired; he seems to have been more suicidal than homicidal. Given the attacks of the past few weeks — Paris, Colorado Springs, San Bernardino — the state breathed a collective sigh of relief when Bartelt surrendered himself to police peacefully after a brief standoff.
A heavyweight for Tyson
Poultry giant Tyson Foods announced last week it had named former Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe to its board of directors, less than a year after Beebe left office. Directors at Tyson typically earn over $200,000 annually; that's in addition to state retirement benefits earned by the former governor through his decades in elected office, a pension that likely adds up to well over $100,000 per year.
There's nothing illegal about Beebe taking a plush position in the corporate world. And yet, it doesn't exactly feel right when the former regulator-in-chief for the state slides over smoothly to a governing role at one of the largest companies in Arkansas, especially in an industry with its share of questionable labor and environmental practices. Couldn't he at least have waited a full year?
Rebranding works? Maybe.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson and his legislative allies are trying hard to convince anyone that his supposedly new health care program, "Arkansas Works," is substantially different than the private option. "On Dec. 31, 2016, the private option ends," the governor said last week as he unveiled what amounts to a new branding campaign.
Please. Call it Arkansas Works or any other name — it's still Obamacare. Hutchinson's plan makes some changes to the private option, most of which are less-than-sensible sops to conservative suspicions about the undeserving poor, but it keeps the expansion of Medicaid authorized by the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid expansion is the private option. Some conservatives are calling him out: Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers-funded advocacy group, sharply criticized the governor. But the fact is that the private option, or Arkansas Works if you prefer, looks to be sticking around.
Alice Stewart leaves Team Huck
With dismal poll numbers and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz gobbling up his evangelical base, Mike Huckabee's presidential bid is in sorry shape headed into January. More bad news came out this week: Huckabee's communications director, Alice Stewart, confirmed to reporters on Monday that she was no longer working for the campaign. Stewart, a conservative Little Rock talk show host, has previously worked for two other flavor-of-the-month GOP presidential hopefuls with strong evangelical support: former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Tooth turf fight returns
On Friday, the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals breathed new life into a case that pits a Fayetteville orthodontist against the state's regulatory board for dental specialists. At issue is who's allowed to clean teeth in Arkansas.
Orthodontist Ben Burris provided low-cost cleanings at multiple locations, until the dental board threatened to take away his license as an orthodontist. Only dentists may clean teeth, it declared, not other dental specialists, no matter how extensive their training. Burris sued over the restriction, but a federal district judge dismissed the suit. Now, the appellate court says, the case must be reconsidered.
Blue Bell back in business
Speaking of tooth decay, Blue Bell Creameries announced it would return to Central Arkansas freezers Jan. 11. The Texas-based ice cream manufacturer recalled all of its products and shut down its operations earlier this year after a low-level listeria outbreak — ongoing for years — resulted in three consumer fatalities linked to facilities with subpar sanitation standards. After a review, Blue Bell says its problems have been addressed — so eat up, folks.