What is it with Arkansas Republicans and the homestead tax exemption? Last month, it was gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson who eventually apologized and paid back the state after it was revealed that he had improperly taken exemptions on two different homes (only one is allowed). Last week, the Blue Hog Report blog dug through tax records and found that Secretary of State Mark Martin had been improperly taking a second exemption as well. The double dipping dates back to 2003. Martin initially blamed his trouble on the "politics of personal destruction," but he finally fessed up in Tuesday morning's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The law only requires repayment for the last three years, but Martin said he'd pay back all of what he owed (likely more than $3,000 plus penalties). Perhaps some prayerful consideration helped Martin see the light: "My wife and I believe that as Christians, while not legally required, we should make arrangements to pay anything that we owe so that we might be above reproach."
Gov. Mike Beebe won't be around for Round 3 of the legislative battle over the private option, the state's unique version of Medicaid expansion. But while many believe the policy could be in jeopardy in the 2015 session — reauthorization requires a three-fourths supermajority and it appears they could be a few votes short — Beebe told a panel at the Southern Governors Conference that the private option is here to stay because a small minority of legislators wouldn't run over the bipartisan majority:
"This isn't going away. ... Let's say 26 percent don't want to do it and therefore you don't have the three fourths. What's that 74 percent going to do? Are they just going to roll over and play dead, stick their feet up in the air and say, OK, you killed me? Let's all go home? Nah."
When Roby Brock interjected with "compromise," Beebe scoffed, "Compromise? Not much." He continued: "They may tweak it, they may change it, the circumstances may require that. Data may suggest it needs to be done. But you're not going to take an overwhelming majority of the legislature and let a small minority of the legislature wag that tail to the point that they're just going to roll over and play dead, in my opinion. I've been watching this stuff for 32 years."
Who let the dogs out?
Ammo, the Little Rock police dog who bit two neighbors after escaping from his keeper's fenced enclosure in Saline County, is back on duty, the LRPD announced over the weekend. From the LRPD statement: "Ammo will work from a leash only for a two-week observation period. He will only assist with the tracking of suspects and will not assist any further."
By the numbers — police militarization
Military weapons and equipment received since 2006 from the Pentagon by police departments in Pulaski County, as part of a Defense Department program passing on used equipment for free (reported by the New York Times):
Assault rifles: 178
Other armored vehicles: 2
Grenade launcher: 1
Mine-resistant vehicle: 1
Night vision pieces: 1
Last week, an interim legislative committee passed a resolution to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency's new proposed rule to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, which are a primary driver of climate change. Always looking for a crusade, Republican state Sen. Jason Rapert (the co-chair of that committee) is now calling for the Arkansas attorney general to sue the feds over the rule. But Rapert's endless stream of hot air is to be expected. Even more depressing: the wholehearted agreement voiced by his Democratic co-chair, Rep. Tommy Wren of Melbourne. Most other Arkansas Democratic politicians are no better on this issue, shamefully, including Mike Ross. Both Ross and Republican Asa Hutchinson have vowed to fight the EPA rule as governor. Long-term environmental catastrophe means nothing compared to the electoral expediency of the moment. The echo chamber built by SWEPCO, Entergy and others is just too tightly sealed.
Crab Cake country
Maryland governor (and rumored future Democratic presidential candidate) Martin O'Malley, in town for the Southern Governors Conference, received a copy of the new CD from Central Arkansas's favorite honky-tonk crooner, Bonnie Montgomery. The gift came courtesy of Tyler Pearson, the Democratic candidate challenging state Sen. Jason Rapert; Pearson said he had recently seen Montgomery play at White Water Tavern, "one of our favorite watering holes." Montgomery gained national attention for her opera based on the life of Bill Clinton; maybe O'Malley is next (let's recruit David Simon of "The Wire" to write the Baltimore libretto!).