Quote of the week
"[State Reps. Charlene Fite (R-Van Buren) and Justin Harris (R-West Fork)demonstrated courage by standing strong in faith when situations were tough at the State Capitol and they did so with grace. They are consistently models of their Christian values in their homes, their communities, and their churches." —
From a press release from The Family Council Action Committee, an anti-gay political group, announcing the recipients of the outfit's first "Power of Courage" award. The awards were to be presented to Fite and Harris at a Republican dinner in Crawford County headlined by presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, but the awards presentation was canceled, perhaps after the Cruz campaign became aware of Harris' rehoming scandal.
State ready to kill again
Arkansas is looking to end a decade-long hiatus on capital punishment. It now has drugs at the ready for use in lethal injections. Among the drugs purchased by the state is midazolam, a sedative that the U.S. Supreme Court effectively cleared for continued use in executions earlier this year. Midazolam was used in a botched execution in Oklahoma in 2014, after which three men on death row in that state sued to prevent Oklahoma's continued use of the sedative. The Court ruled against the inmates in June in a contentious 5-4 decision.
This doesn't necessarily mean Arkansas can immediately move forward with executions. There's still the matter of a pending lawsuit filed by attorney Jeff Rosenzweig, which challenges the state's law on lethal injection procedure. A hearing will likely be held in the next 30 days, "probably sooner," Rosenzweig said.
eStem goes to college
This week, the leadership at eStem Public Charter Schools and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock announced a plan to relocate the eStem High School to the university campus, a move that would allow eStem to accommodate more students and make it possible for them to take classes at the college level.
The eStem system, K-12, has a waiting list of 5,200, John Bacon, CEO of eStem, said. The school is now at its 1,452 student capacity. The board wants to expand enrollment to 5,000 by 2025, which it can't do on the current campus.
The Charter Authorizing Panel of the Arkansas Department of Education and the ADE's board will have to approve the plan, which, given the makeup of the boards, seems a cinch.
Plans call for putting 750 students in grades 11 and 12 in Larson Hall, one of the original buildings on the UALR campus. Renovation of Larson Hall, which eStem will lease, is estimated at around $3.5 million. Another 750 students in grades 9 and 10 would go into a new school to be built at the corner of West 28th and South Fillmore streets on land eStem will purchase from UALR for $50,000. The land is part of a parcel previously offered for the Little Rock Technology Park.
Is Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) growing more unhinged? Hard as it is to imagine, there is no ceiling for crazy after all. Last week, he took to social media to attack Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, an ordained Baptist minister.
Rapert, an enforcer of His own Christian doctrine, which holds that agreement with Rapert Himself is necessary for someone to be a Christian, objected to Griffen's boycott of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's Restore Hope Summit, which aims to bring faith leaders together to help improve recidivism and foster care.
Griffen is skipping the summit because of disagreements with Hutchinson over criminal justice reform.
Rapert says in his statement that Griffen "brings reproach not worthy of the title 'judge' and he is definitely not worthy of the title 'minister.' " Rapert adds that "as a minister he calls that which is unholy 'holy,'" which is probably a critique of Griffen's willingness to perform same-sex marriages. Despite how hot and bothered Rapert was, he said that "the summit will be better that he is not there." He then suggests that people "[p]ray for the man to awaken from the fog that envelopes his mind."
When former Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel encouraged Rapert to reconsider his remarks about Griffen — "wrong to say a man of faith 'not worthy' to minister the gospel," McDaniel tweeted — Rapert responded on Twitter that he still remembered McDaniel's opposition to legislation Rapert sponsored that banned abortion after 12 weeks. When Democratic political consultant Michael Cook pointed out that McDaniel had been right about the law, which was later ruled unconstitional, Rapert called McDaniel and Cook "abortion pimps."