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Archive for the ‘Arkansas Politics’ Category

How’s Mike Beebe doing?

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So I chatted by phone this morning with Mike Beebe. It was the first time we’d talked since he left the building.

Any governmental or legislative commentary or analysis was off-the-record, not that he had much of that to offer. I just wondered how he was doing. I miss the rascal.

But on the important stuff he said:

1. Ginger sustained a little physical setback from which she is recovering well, but which had him for a time doing two things he had not really ever much done. Laundry was one and vacuuming the other.

2. He is hitting the golf ball better than ever but can’t putt. Putting is for the younger man who hasn’t missed enough putts in his lifetime to know how scary putting is.

3. Reports that he is mostly coaching the Arkansas State football team are false, in part because they have a good coach and fine recruiter who has landed a class in the top 50 or 60 in the country and comparable to Kentucky’s or Vanderbilt’s.

By the way, he is not doing either lawyering or lobbying. He has affiliated with the Roberts Law Firm on its international business side to advise clients on economic development prospects. I don’t really know what that means. He goes to the office, oh, maybe a half-day a week.

On this day, AETN was coming up to Searcy to interview him for a documentary about him.

So no golf today. No putts left short or pulled wide.

 

 

 

 

 

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Written by jbrummett

April 7th, 2015 at 2:33 pm

Quoting Vickery on the gay matter

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Credit where due: Conservative quipster/lobbyist Bill Vickery said during my monthly sit-in with him on his radio show Sunday morning that, when it came to religious rights and gay rights in Arkansas from the big to-do last week, “nothing has changed and everything has changed.”

That’s exactly it.

I deem that to be Vickery’s best line since he said Liza Minnelli would play Martha Shoffner in the movie. Or when he said voting for Mike Ross as Mike Beebe’s third term was like flirting with the pretty girl all night, then going home at closing time with her ugly sister.

What Vickery meant first was that law in Arkansas is unchanged. Asa Hutchinson’s big show of resistance actually left the status quo. Religion is freely practiced in our Bible Belt state, where no one had even remotely impeded it. And gays remain without expressed anti-discrimination protections in our law.

But, politically speaking, he meant that The Washington Post article was correct that the gay rights movement has won.

Indiana had to retreat. The business and entertainment industries demanded it.

Arkansas had to appear to retreat. Walmart and Acxiom and our fully warranted fear of another besmirched reputation demanded it.

And then Georgia, with such a bill under consideration, looked at Indiana, and then Arkansas, and said to hell with that.

With remarkable rapidity, the gay rights movement has so remade the prevailing American culture that American corporations, under new public pressure in both a micro and macro way from the immediate and intimate public connection of social media, must now get out in front of a cultural issue like that with a purely economic decision to attend to the emerging customer base.

Corporations make the real decisions and government falls in line. That’s an old thing and a bad thing on tax and regulatory policy. But apparently it’s a good thing and a progressive thing for the culture.

What it means on public school policy is a big fight, which is what we may be about to have in the state-usurped Little Rock district.

That’s another blog post.

 

 

 

 

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Written by jbrummett

April 6th, 2015 at 4:28 pm

Too scared to rule, state Supreme Court rules — CORRECTED

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The Arkansas Supreme Court announced Thursday a little something I wish to paraphrase generously, indeed embellish, but only for worthy purposes of candor and clarity.

The court is dealing in chaff and somebody needs to get in there and pick out the wheat.

So here goes:

The court said that it did not want to rule on the same-sex marriage appeal properly before it, and would not, most likely.

The court said we couldn’t make it rule even if we tried.

It said its judgeship positons are matters of popular election and that the people of Arkansas don’t much like same-sex marriage, which the judges might be forced by, you know, justice and stuff, to permit.

So the eminent justices said they simply will concoct lame, indeed nonsensical, excuses not to opine on Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s stayed ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. They said they will stall until the U.S. Supreme Court handles the issue perhaps by June and makes moot the state case and gives everybody in Arkansas someone to blame, probably Barack Obama, who has nothing whatsoever to do with the court case, but so what?

Justice Paul Danielson, the real jurist in the group, dissented. Presumably he favors going ahead and deciding a case that’s been fully argued and pending for months while the other judges have been hiding under their desks with their robes pulled up over their heads.

Justice Rhonda Wood, who is newly elected to the court and didn’t hear the case last year, announced separately that she couldn’t find any record of those proceedings anywhere, mainly because she hadn’t looked, and was not going to participate in the case at all, even in any comical stalling tactics such as these otherwise undertaken by her colleagues, because . . . well, she doesn’t want to. And we couldn’t make her if we tried.

To be clear: Wood is disqualifying herself not only from the original appeal that she didn’t hear, but from this new lame-brained notion to start a whole new case right now on her watch on the question whether to start over on that thing last year she didn’t hear.

You see.

You don’t see? All right, let me break it down further: She don’t want to.

CORRECTION: Turns out I didn’t see either, which would be funny if not about me. Judge Wood tweets to explain what her letter to Chief Justice Jim Hannah plainly says: She disqualified only from voting on whether to create this new case to invite arguments about whether to rehear the original case. That’s because it affected her. She is not disqualifying from the original case or any rehearing of it. She says she is ready to hear the case itself, if the opportunity arises. She says she would have dissented from this latest action to create a new case on the question of whether to rehear, except – again — she disqualified on that, because it was about her. Check Justice Wood’s twitter feed to see if that’s still wrong. If this is unclear, apportion blame among me for the description and the court for the silliness. )

Let’s run through this narrative: Piazza ruled nearly a year ago that same-sex marriage was to be permitted in Arkansas. After a few days of gay weddings, the ruling was stayed for appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Sen. Jason Rapert, as God’s own legislator, got the Legislative Council to adopt an unconstitutional resolution presuming to tell the court that the legislative branch would darned sure appreciate it if the judicial branch would overturn this abominable ruling by this judge whom Rapert calls “Pee-at-zah.”

The appeal was fully briefed and orally argued in early November, and the justices, by usual procedure, would have gone into conference and decided it and issued a ruling by the end of the term in December.

But they didn’t. So then two newly elected judges joined the court in January. So then the Attorney General Leslie Rutledge asked the court to consider the question of whether to start over and rehear the case with the newly constituted court.

So the court said that was a swell question, right up its alley, and asked for briefs, which have now been submitted.

What specifically happened Thursday was that the court said it was now opening a whole new case on this issue of whether to have new oral arguments on this matter, and that, since it was creating a whole new case, the parties would need to supply fresh briefs for that case on the now-recycled question of whether to conduct start-over oral arguments.

It is unclear whether lawyers will be allowed simply to photocopy their existing arguments on that question.

Most likely, the Supreme Court will open a third case on that question.

There may now be a fourth case on the matter of the columnist’s contempt of court.

I would remind you that former Attorney General Dustin McDaniel once said this court seems result-oriented, meaning as opposed to blind justice-oriented. And I would remind that retired Justice Don Corbin wrote a dissenting opinion in a case that offered as a little aside that McDaniel might be right.

 

 

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Written by jbrummett

April 3rd, 2015 at 7:55 am

On the religion-gay issue

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I just released my column for tomorrow on HB1228, the religious conscience bill that outrages the gay and lesbian movement, after inserting a few hedging phrases in concession to a bit of morning buzz.

I am told that Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has committed to signing the bill, has this morning become interested in Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s idea to “clarify” his state’s similar new law, presumably by another measure to assert that the new law does not conflict with anyone’s civil rights.

The talk this morning was whether to put such an amendment on the Arkansas bill, still awaiting a final concurring vote in the House of Representatives, and on whether it would make any difference — either politically or to protesting gays and lesbians or on substance.

Arkansas has no civil rights protections for gays and lesbians and, in fact, just enacted a crazy and hateful law denying local governments the authority to enact any on their own.

My column in the morning will deal with timing, context and perspective and conclude that Arkansas is the worst in regard to timing, context and perspective.

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Written by jbrummett

March 30th, 2015 at 11:52 am

Sounds like him

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So on the front page today the Democrat-Gazette reveals new morsels from the apparently dictated journals of former U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers in the 1980s and 1990s — journals in the sense that the now-ailing senator apparently dictated candid personal thoughts that his secretary transcribed on pages the Bumpers family now says should not have been included in a document donation to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and that the family has retrieved at least temporarily for review.

These were the musings that included the Mother Jones headline discovery that Bumpers had harsh words in 1983 for Bill and Hillary Clinton.

It turns out the Democrat-Gazette copied some pages before the family retrieved them. On the front page today, thus, Bumpers is quoted from decades ago talking about what a “charlatan” and “troglodyte” Ronald Reagan was, and ridiculing the substandard oratorical stylings of Bill Alexander and John Paul Hammerschmidt, former Arkansas congressmen, and calling Gary Hart a scary oddball, and saying he had found three Miss Americas of his acquaintance to be not all that, including one whose legs were, in the former senator’s estimation, larger that his own.

That last one is the big scoop. I knew all the other things already. But that a beauty pageant winner had . . . well, let’s move on.

The new information also has Bumpers praising his own oratory.

There’s something very sad about uncovering and making much of old private thoughts of a man now in cognitive decline and unable to speak to the discovery’s authenticity or context.

But since the thoughts are out there, let me say, as a great admirer of the senator and good friend of his family, that the musings sound like him in his heyday..

His tendency to ridicule Reagan’s intelligence and engagement and to lampoon colleagues . . . well, let me put it this way: It is conceivable that we would uncover someday the private thoughts of one of those colleagues and that colleague would say that Dale Bumpers was the most egotistical person he had ever encountered.

Bill Clinton had character flaws. Hilary Clinton has a bunker mentality. Ronald Reagan wasn’t all there. Gary Hart was eerie. Some other guys were boring speakers. And Dale Bumpers was always very keen on himself but not so much on others.

None of us is perfect.

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Written by jbrummett

March 22nd, 2015 at 6:42 am

Posted in Arkansas Politics

Slapstick with Ross, Asa and other oddballs

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The comedy hits just keep coming in the governor’s race.

Just yesterday:

–Mike Ross said Asa Hutchinson may be the only lawyer in the history of the state to lose a trial with his brother on the jury, and Asa said that was snarky

–Ross assailed Hutchinson for being one of the House prosecutors in the Bill Clinton impeachment and putting his own partisanship over supporting a governor from Arkansas, as if the coincidence of birthplace had anything to do with morality or decency or law.

–A curious character seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Curtis Coleman, whom I previously believed mistakenly to be the football coach at UAPB, unveiled a plan to cut state general revenue nearly in half with deep income tax cuts over eight years.

–Coleman said this tax cut should be our top priority, even higher than . . . well, educating our children.

–Then Coleman put out a followup statement that, oops, his plan would actually raise taxes on the poorest, and that he didn’t mean to do that and would fix it. Which was odd. Republicans favor lower taxes on the wealthy and higher burdens on poor people.

–Hutchinson put out a statement saying, well, uh, we really need to emphasize education. And the Ross campaign declined to respond to this Coleman character, perhaps wondering why the football coach at UAPB was proposing a tax plan.

–Dr. Lynette Bryant, surprise opponent of Ross in the Democratic primary, finally got up that website, the one she said she wanted to unveil before she entertained any questions from reporters. It’s pictures, mostly, including shots of her with Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman and the Republican Huckabees, Mike and Janet. Odd.

So you’re up to date until the next one-liner or pratfall or pie in the face.

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Written by jbrummett

March 27th, 2014 at 7:33 am

Posted in Arkansas Politics

Asa calls, chortles, challenges, converses

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Asa Hutchinson called this morning to chortle, challenge and converse on the matter of Mike Ross’s tax plan, and we covered several points that I want to share.

Let’s get this out of the way: Hutchinson said he had met with officials of the Finance and Administration Department on the Beebe administration assertion he had publicly questioned — that ending the private option would leave an $89 million hole in the state budget — and, well, now is willing to accept that number or something in that vicinity as reasonable guesswork for budgeting purposes.

Meantime, he remains in the position of neutrally studying the private option, which is to say he still has no position.

A fully developed view of the issue, he said, needs to look long-term both to the eventual 10 percent cost to the state and the effect on existing Medicaid policy if the private option is scrubbed. He has not personally satisfied himself on those matters, he says.

He did admit that ending the private option — and producing that budget hole the amount of which he is no longer actively questioning — has potential implications for his ability to cut middle-class taxes by $100 million in his first year as governor.

But he said his cut could still be afforded through the existing surplus, which is an entirely different debate for which I can refer you to my column this morning.

Now, about Ross’s plan:

1. Hutchinson chortled that I have had to admit today on Twitter something I should have caught previously, which is that Ross used bogus math in saying his eventual $575 million income tax cut was barely half the size of Mike Beebe’s more than trillion-dollar cut in grocery taxes.

Ross’s cut, if ever made fully, would be in one year, and would recur year-after-year, while Beebe’s grocery tax amount as cited by Ross is a cumulative one that adds one year’s cut on top of another year’s.

2. Hutchinson challenged Ross’s tax plan on so many conflicting or cumulative grounds — that it would take too much money out of the treasury for higher education and other things, and that it was a “hollow promise” that would never be kept and that it provided no tax-relief for the “job-creating” incomes in excess of $75,000 — that I asked him to please pick one.

He obliged, picking the “hollow promise,” meaning that Ross would never actually cut all those taxes to the tune of $575 million a year every year.

“If you really believed he was going to do it, a liberal like you would be screaming to high heaven,” Hutchinson said.

I’m a moderate. I’m a pragmatist who understands tax cuts are coming to the state Treasury.

I’m a pragmatist who squeals more at present about a candidate’s unwillingness to stand up for the private option and its savings while proposing to take a hundred-million dollars all at once out of the treasury.

And I like Ross’s underlying purpose of modernizing our antiquated and regressive income tax brackets.

But, yeah, $575 million in someday-money is a lot of someday-money.

Should be a good governor’s race. I’ll try to keep up with it for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Written by jbrummett

February 6th, 2014 at 11:38 am

Posted in Arkansas Politics

High drama on private option? Line in sand by Democrats?

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With Sen. Missy Irvin of Mountain View continuing to say it’s not all up to her and that she is a “no” on re-upping the private option for which she fashioned an all-about-me dramatic “aye” vote late in the regular session — though it apparently is indeed all about her — I’ve had very recent discussions with insiders suggesting the prospect for high drama in the fiscal session beginning Feb. 11.

This is insiderly and procedural, but it raises the possibility of high-stakes brinksmanship, which sounds positively Washingtonian.

To begin: The Medicaid appropriation to be introduced in the fiscal session is a mere continuation of the existing Medicaid appropriation. This it contains the hundred-percent federal money for the expanded population under the private option.

Presumably, the Republican minority seeking to obstruct continued existence of the successful and popular program — nine or so voters in the Senate and 25 or so in the House — would need to excise the private option money from the appropriation, and then, by the requisite three-fourths vote, pass old Medicaid with the federal-state match for a tiny segment of the very poorest.

That would require amending the continuing-level appropriation with special language in the Special Language Subcommittee of the Joint Budget Committee. The special language would affirmatively excise the private option money.

Amending the measure that way would require only a majority vote, but I don’t readily see how a narrow extremist minority barely able to stop a three-fourths vote could be expected to get a simple majority vote to take out the program that nearly three-fourths of the Legislature favors.

By that scenario, the appropriation would proceed to the chamber floors in full private option form, starting in the Senate because the House went first last time and wants the Senate to go first this time. And Irvin votes no and we’re stuck.

Presumably, then, faced with that logjam, legislators would concede to the tragic reality of the know-nothing obstructionist minority and amend the measure to take out the private option money to get something passed and get on home.

But now get this: There are some infant discussions — just that, at this point — that the Democratic caucuses of the House and the Senate might declare preemptively that they will vote only for a Medicaid appropriation containing the private option.

That’s 48 votes in the House and 13 in the Senate and plenty to prevent a three-fourths majority.

High drama. Private option or no Medicaid at all. Private option or we go home without any appropriation at all for Medicaid.

Here’s the question:

Is that politically advantageous high ground for these Democrats, drawing a line in the sand for an innovative national program for the working poor and for hospitals and for the state budget’s money for prisons and higher education?  Didn’t that recent Talk Business-Hendrix College poll show a strong plurality of respondents favoring the continuation of the private option?

Or is it political quicksand for Democrats, introducing Washington-style apocalyptic politics like that? Would they get blamed for dysfunction rather than nobility?

That’s such a good question. I think I know the answer. But let’s let the idea percolate for a bit while we think on it a little longer.

 

 

 

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Written by jbrummett

January 31st, 2014 at 9:26 am

Private option looking great except politically

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There are developments regarding the state’s innovative Medicaid private option — developments beyond the potentially tragic political signals sent by the Jonesboro area in the special election Tuesday.

First: The state has compiled the demographics on the tens of thousands of persons below 138 percent of poverty who have been enrolled so far, and they show most of them are younger.

That is the full opposite of the state and nationwide experience in the non-Medicaid health care exchange — where few young people have enrolled so far, but plenty of folks my age have, leading to concerns about “adverse selection” and “death spirals” by which Obamacare rates might be expected to explode to unaffordable levels,  causing the entire reform to collapse under its own weight.

The remarkable thing in Arkansas, then, is that we are using our federal Medicaid expansion money to deliver poor folks to private insurance and produce a more actuarial credible risk pool for Blue Cross and Qual Choice. Our rates conceivably — conceivably — could remain at or near current levels in the second year if not beyond.

That is to say — just to put it in clear individual terms — that my own Obamacare options to be unveiled in October might remain relatively reasonable thanks totally to our state’s private option.

Furthermore, the preponderance of younger folks in this PO pool means they’ll pay relatively lower premiums — to the extent, it seems, that we are going to tap less federal money than previously estimated.

All of that is to say our private option is unfolding as a smashing success just in time for know-nothings to kill it in the budget session beginning Feb. 10.

Second: The Joint Public Health Committee will meet at 3 p.m. today to hear the state’s star consultant, former Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt, a Republican, testify about the personal health saving account component of the private option on which Sen. Missy Irvin of Mountain View insisted on the next-to-last day of the session before casting her vote.

I am advised to expect a bold proposal. It will require getting the federal government to approve an amendment to the waiver by which we’ve done the private option. It ought to be enough to hold Irvin’s vote.

Senate President Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux is quoted today as worrying about several more senators than Irvin.

One Republican legislator favoring the private option told me the only way it survives in February is if something really conservative is put into it.

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Written by jbrummett

January 16th, 2014 at 10:49 am

Darr’s two minds, and the one he’ll follow

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My best reading is that Mark Darr is currently of two minds and goes back and forth between these minds with great speed and dexterity and frustration.

One mind: Yes, I made errors and I was wrong. But, darnit, it’s not serious thievery and I could be given a hall pass to make amends except for this raw political partisanship that is at work against me. The best thing I can do is be strong and take a stand against this criminalization of politics. To resign would be to concede to that criminalization of politics, even encourage those in my party who tell me they resent what’s being done to me and will counterattack some Democrat for retribution.

The other mind: My resignation is the practical thing. It would save the state the nonsense of distracting impeachment. It would relieve those of my party of whatever burden my predicament places on them. What I should do is put my own interests aside and gracefully bow out. I should do so with a statement declaring my innocence of truly impeachable offense, but couching my action as a personal sacrifice for the sake of our state, and pleading with those of both sides to cease and desist this kind of politics of personal destruction.

I think he bounced from one mind to the other yesterday.

I believe he will bear the inconvenience of regretting following either mind, of taking either action, but will choose, at some point soon, to offer himself in sacrifice and resign while making that plea for a less toxic political climate.

It’s the better of bad options, and I think he knows that.

As soon as he takes it, he’s going to be mad at himself. But that’s the nature of his dilemma. A little time away with family might be good.

 

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Written by jbrummett

January 10th, 2014 at 10:56 am

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