Quote of the Week
"Let me state, this is a local control bill and not a bill to support or oppose the addition of fluoride to the drinking water. If you live in Texarkana, Gravette, Corning or Lake Village, Little Rock is a capital far, far away."
— Rep. Jack Ladyman (R-Jonesboro), arguing in favor of allowing local water distribution systems to control the level of fluoride added to water. Ladyman's bill passed the House. 60-34.
Prepare for re-entry
Gov. Asa Hutchinson unveiled a major new plan for the state corrections system last week: It calls for spending an additional $64 million, most of which would go towardadding additional space in Arkansas's jails and prisons. However, it does call for $14 million in starting alternative sentencing programs, hiring new parole officers and investing in "transition re-entry centers" to provide workforce training to offenders. "Right now, if you leave prison, you get $100 and a bus ticket," Hutchinson said. "That is really not going to help repeat offenders from going back in. They need an opportunity ... to find their way back into society."
Cold and cruel
In Randolph County, 46 dogs, mostly Great Pyrenees, were rescued from a suspected puppy mill late last week. Some animals were tied up outside with no shelter from the recent freezing cold temperatures, while others indoors were living in their own waste; several needed immediate medical care. The Humane Society said it's working with legislators on a bill to inspect breeders with more than 10 dogs.
Walmart wage hike, by the numbers
The nation's largest private employer announced last week that it would increase wages for its lowest-paid U.S. employees to a minimum of $9 an hour by this April and $10 an hour in a year's time. Rising pay at Walmart also makes it more likely that other low-wage employers — fast-food restaurants, for example — will follow suit.
500,000 — The number of Walmart employees who currently make under $9 per hour, which amounts to about 40 percent of the retailer's American workforce. Most of those folks already make more than the federal minimum wage, $7.25 per hour, so their actual raises will vary between $1.75 to less than a dollar.
$1 billion — Together with other programs, the amount the wage increase is expected to cost the company.
$473 billion — Walmart's gross revenue in 2014. According to a labor group, about $16 billion of that was profit.
$3.16 billion — The combined value of dividends received by Rob, Jim and Alice Walton in 2014. The six richest members of the Walton family together have a net worth of $148.8 billion, according to Forbes.
In our annual Big Ideas issue last December, Carlton Saffa suggested that the Little Rock Police Department create a safe place for individuals to carry out Craigslist transactions. Now, the Maumelle PD is inviting the public to use its parking lot for just that purchase. Only two weeks ago, a Sherwood man was robbed and killed in Little Rock while trying to sell a motorcycle to a potential buyer he met on Craigslist, so it's a welcome service. Driving to Maumelle beats a gunshot, on most days at least.
School suits forever
The battle over the Little Rock School District continues. Three former members of the defunct local school board are now suing the state over its January takeover of the LRSD, alleging that the State Board of Education acted outside its authority in seizing control of the district. The suit calls the takeover "arbitrary, capricious, [and] in bad faith" and asks a judge to return governance to the elected local board.