Quote of the Week 1
"This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss."
— Mitt Romney in a call to arms against Donald Trump, in which he also called the GOP frontrunner "a phony, a fraud." Hours later, at a campaign rally in Maine, Trump said the former Massachusetts governor had "begged" for his endorsement in the 2012 presidential race. "I could have said, 'Mitt, drop to your knees,' " Trump told the crowd. "He would have dropped to his knees."
Quote of the Week 2
"As far as I'm concerned, Donald Trump is the pick of the litter."
— Thomas Robb of Boone County, the national director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, when asked to weigh in on the 2016 election.
Improving prognosis for the private option
One bright spot among the results of last week's elections in Arkansas: In a number of key legislative races, incumbent Republicans fended off challengers from the right who had promised to undo the state's Medicaid expansion. The private option (now rebranded as "Arkansas Works" by Gov. Hutchinson) provides insurance coverage for over 250,000 Arkansans and is projected to save the state budget a net $757 million over the next five years, according to a legislative consultant. The governor and his allies within the GOP (along with Democrats, of course) want to keep the program intact, but a bloc of diehard Republicans is determined to kill the private option — it's made possible by Obamacare, after all. Smelling blood, right-wing groups like the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity poured money into three Senate contests and several House races that pitted pragmatic Republicans against anti-PO insurgents. Most of them failed. That's a victory for Asa, but also a victory for the hundreds of thousands of low-income Arkansans enrolled in Medicaid.
Victory for civil rights
Circuit Judge Doug Martin of Fayetteville ruled last week that Arkansas cities are not prevented from passing local nondiscrimination ordinances protecting LGBT people, despite a state law passed last year that intended to do just that. That means Fayetteville's Ordinance 5781, which voters ratified in a popular vote last fall, still stands. It's a setback for plaintiffs Protect Arkansas, a conservative group, as well as the state attorney general's office, which intervened on behalf of the plaintiffs. The decision is destined to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
From the ledge to the pen
Paul Bookout, the former Senate president pro tem, was sentenced last week to 18 months in federal prison on a count of felony mail fraud; U.S. District Judge Brian Miller also ordered the Jonesboro Democrat to pay $150,048 in restitution. He will report to prison May 2.
Bookout entered a negotiated plea last year after an investigation revealed he'd used tens of thousands of dollars in campaign money for his own personal enrichment, including the purchase of a home entertainment system, alcohol, club dues, clothes for his wife and daughter, manicures, and sessions on a tanning bed.
March 1 primary results
Percentage of the vote:
Democratic nominee for president
66% Hillary Clinton
30% Bernie Sanders
Republican nominee for president
33% Donald Trump
31% Ted Cruz
25% Marco Rubio
6% Ben Carson
Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice
57% Circuit Judge Dan Kemp
43% Associate Justice Courtney Goodson
Arkansas Supreme Court Associate Justice
67.5% Circuit Judge Shawn Womack
32.5% Clark Mason
Pulaski County Transit Tax