Quote of the Week:
"We're dealing with the cards that have been dealt to us ... . We're making the best decision for Arkansas right now. If Congress makes different decisions, we'll deal with those circumstances at that time."
— Gov. Asa Hutchinson, answering (in the loosest definition of the word) a reporter's question last week about what would happen to low-income people currently insured by the Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion in the event that congressional Republicans one day succeed in repealing Obamacare. In the meantime, Hutchinson has asked the state legislature to keep the Medicaid expansion, known in Arkansas as the private option.
Abuse of power
Kenneth Dewitt, a former chaplain at the McPherson Unit, the women's prison in Newport, was charged last week with 50 counts of third-degree assault for having sex with three inmates over the course of about two years. Dewitt, 67, resigned his position last year after admitting he'd had a physical relationship with a subordinate, herself a parolee. These new allegations are on another level, though: For an Arkansas Department of Correction employee to have sexual contact with current inmates under his or her control and trust is a crime, not merely unethical. A broader investigation of the McPherson Unit continues.
The airing of grievances
Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin recently denied a request by a Florida man to erect a rainbow-colored festivus pole on the state Capitol grounds alongside other holiday displays. Chaz Stephens of Jupiter, Fla., has been taking his festivus fight to statehouses around the country, targeting states with a record of discrimination against LGBT people. (And sometimes winning: Last week, Oklahoma's Capitol gave the pole the go-ahead.) In a rejection letter, Martin's office cited a number of problems with Stephens' request, including a "lack of specifics in application concerning anchoring of stand."
The women's volleyball coach at the University of Arkansas resigned last week after multiple players complained of verbal abuse. According to the Arkansas Traveler, the UA's student paper, Robert Pulliza called female players "bitch" and once told a student he wanted to punch her. Pulliza first denied that he'd used threatening and demeaning language against the young women he coached, while conceding that his coaching style entailed "tough, but fair, love." Then, he stepped down.
Little Rock School District Superintendent Baker Kurrus announced this week that the LRSD will open a new middle school in West Little Rock, with sixth-grade classes starting next fall. The school, which will eventually serve grades 6-8, will be located in the former Leisure Arts building on Cantrell Road. It's a victory for West Little Rock parents who've been pushing for years for a middle school on their side of town, but a new campus in a predominately white and higher-income part of the city inevitably raises concerns about equity and resegregation. Kurrus is also moving ahead with plans to build a new high school in economically and ethnically diverse Southwest Little Rock, although that project will take years to come to fruition.
After an 84-57 win over Northern Arizona on Sunday, the Little Rock Trojans were 10-0 for the season — a new record for the school. But on Tuesday, the UALR men's basketball team was beaten by Texas Tech, 65-53, on the road in Lubbock, Texas.
Congrats to Chelsea
Chelsea Clinton announced on Twitter that she's pregnant with her second child: "Next summer, Charlotte is going to be a big sister!" she tweeted on Monday. Hillary and Bill both tweeted back their congratulations — though we hope the grandparents were also notified beforehand, perhaps in a non-tweet format.
And congrats to Leslie, too
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge married Boyce Johnson, a farmer from Marion, on Saturday at the Lafayette Building in downtown Little Rock. It's the first marriage for both. After the AG's communications director, Judd Deere, tweeted the news — "Congrats to Mr. & Mrs. Boyce Johnson" — we asked if Rutledge would be taking the new name professionally. "The handle @AGRutledge is not changing," Deere replied.