Quote of the Week:
"You are right, we were wrong, and we won't do it again."
—Whitney Moore, an attorney representing the Pulaski County Special School District, in a letter to the ACLU of Arkansas. The ACLU had expressed concern over a school assembly at Maumelle High School in which ninth-grade black students — and black students only — were called to listen to a talk on gang violence by a local pastor. Parents were not pleased. The district said an assistant to the Maumelle High principal had conceived of the assembly as a misguided attempt to meet the district's obligations under a federal desegregation order and is now facing a reprimand from Superintendent Jerry Guess.
Debunking the truth
Gov. Hutchinson last week held a press conference with legislators in which he made the argument for continuing the state's Medicaid expansion (which he calls "Arkansas Works," but which is substantially the same as the private option). The governor's points in defense of the policy were good — it helps the state budget and hundreds of thousands of Arkansans — except for one thing. Hutchinson said he aimed to "debunk" the argument that backing Medicaid expansion is the same as supporting Obamacare. Sorry, but that's exactly what Medicaid expansion is: a major component of the Affordable Care Act. Yet to keep the expansion intact, the governor's logical contortions are politically necessary, since Republican Party dogma insists Obamacare is by definition a plague on the nation.
Where exactly is Marco Rubio country?
On Sunday, presidential hopeful Marco Rubio paid a visit to Little Rock to rally Republicans to his side as the last, best hope of the sizable contingent of the GOP that can't stand Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. Rubio won Gov. Hutchinson's endorsement; he'd already attracted the support of dozens of other Republican legislators and party notables in the state. The question is whether any of that will matter. Although establishment support is flowing toward Rubio with renewed vigor after Jeb Bush's withdrawal from the race, the fact is that the Florida senator has yet to win a state; his just-barely second-place finish in South Carolina was spun as a victory, but Trump took every delegate in that state. Could Arkansas deliver for Rubio on March 1 with Asa's help? It's possible, but far from certain: A poll earlier this month showed Arkansas Republicans favored Cruz, with Trump and Rubio tied for second place.
First they came for the sweatpants
The Arkansas Legislative Council last week heard a proposal from Sen. Jimmy Hickey (R-Texarkana) to require legislators to dress "business casual" at minimum at meetings. Members should not be allowed to show up to work wearing jeans, T-shirts, sweatpants or sweatshirts, Hickey said. But his fellow lawmakers disagreed, calling the dress code unnecessary and anti-democratic. The measure failed.