Quote of the Week
"If for whatever reason you honestly believe in your heart that the vetted Syrian men, women and children fleeing a war-zone are unworthy of basic dignity, then please reply explaining how and why their race, creed, or simple misfortune make these people less than human. Yet if you truly do believe that we must 'live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, leave the rest to God,' as you tweeted on Nov. 13, then you must not shun our most innocent."
— Little Rock native Joslyn Hebda to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, in a letter published by the Arkansas Catholic. As a college student in 2013, Hebda spent a summer aiding refugees in Jordan with a Catholic nongovernmental organization, Caritas Jordan. Hutchinson, like a majority of the nation's governors, has said he opposes Syrian refugees being relocated to Arkansas (although states have no actual authority in dictating federal immigration policy).
Louisiana, like Arkansas, is a state where Republicans increasingly control the political structure from top to bottom — until this weekend, when Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards became the new governor in a run-off election. Edwards defeated U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Republican who's been tarnished since his phone number turned up in 2007 on a list of clients kept by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called "D.C. Madam." Patronage of prostitutes aside, Vitter's chances were hampered by the dismal approval ratings of outgoing governor Bobby Jindal, a fellow Republican and failed presidential candidate (only one-fifth of Louisiana voters approve of Jindal, according to a November poll). Vitter announced he'd be retiring from the Senate next year as well.
It's difficult to say whether Edwards' success can be replicated elsewhere in the South. A former Army Ranger, he was able to blend social conservatism with a solidly progressive stance on Medicaid expansion, public education and the state's budget (which Jindal has run into the ground). Still, Edwards' 12-point margin of victory gives hope to other Democrats in deep-red states.
Two children killed in handgun accidents
As if the news lately hasn't been bloody enough, Central Arkansas saw two separate tragedies this past week involving young children who got their hands on loaded guns. In Benton last Tuesday, a 2-year-old died from a .45 gunshot wound. And on Thursday, 6-year-old Eron Burks fatally shot himself, evidently while sitting unattended in an SUV in Little Rock.
Rude Music Inc., a company owned by guitarist Frankie Sullivan of the classic rock band Survivor, is suing Mike Huckabee over the unauthorized use of "Eye of the Tiger." The song was played at a September rally to support Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Huckabee was the keynote speaker at the rally, which the lawsuit characterizes as a campaign appearance for his (now-faltering) presidential bid.
Huck said he's being unfairly targeted by the suit, which he called "a very vindictive and almost unbelievable kind of thing to do." Appropriate enough, given that "vindictive" and "unbelievable" nicely characterize Huckabee's attitudes toward LGBT people.
A better highway funding plan, by the numbers
Coming soon to Arkansas: A major decision about how to fund much-needed repairs to the state's highway infrastructure. The governor wants a "revenue neutral" plan, meaning it will avoid tax increases.
In a report released last week, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families hammered home the fact that that approach will by definition suck money from other parts of state government — public education, for example — and laid out a better way forward, which inevitably involves raising taxes. Some figures to keep in mind:
$400 million - The amount by which the annual road budget needs to be increased, according to the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.
15 cents - The amount by which Arkansas's fuel tax would need to be increased to meet that funding need.
$80 - The estimated annual cost to an average low-to-moderate-income household if the fuel tax were raised by 15 cents.
14 - The number of years since the fuel tax was last increased, despite fuel efficiency gains (and inflation) since 2001.