I believe in the transparency of government and I support the strength and integrity of the Freedom of Information Act. If this document is a working paper, the public’s right to know outweighs any exemption from the reach of the FOIA.
He's not conceding that the papers aren't gubernatorial working papers. But he's saying the public's right to know outweighs the office's claim to that protection. This was always a distinction that Mike Huckabee refused to draw, even if he understood it. Just because a paper MAY be kept secret under FOI exemptions, it doesn't mean it MUST be kept secret. Thus Beebe has set an example that I suspect he'll follow on such matters as accounting of Governor's Mansion expenditures and the like. Even if it is a gubernatorial working paper (which those records are not) public interest is more important.
With salaries averaging $118,719.51 each it would not appear that this group was underpaid. But they received an average raise of almost $10,000 ($9600.54) each or almost 10% (8.9%) this fiscal year beginning July 1, 2013. And what is the total bill to the state? It is almost half a million dollars ($480,026.78) per year.
When I asked staff to research this I expected we would find 1 or 2. I hoped we would find none. It is shocking to find 49. This appears to be an organized effort. 49 cannot be mere coincidence.
I hope the state legislature and the people of Arkansas will join me in protesting this unauthorized transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the most well to do employees of the state. I further hope that the legislature will rescind these raises, censure those responsible, and take steps to see that this can never happen again. We must create a new political culture where these affronts to public service cannot occur. I am tired of business as usual at the State Capitol.
The joint Judiciary committee today discussed capital punishment and the controversy over allowing staff members in public schools to carry firearms. For unrelated reasons, key witnesses were not present to provide testimony, so the conversation was short. But Senate Chair Jeremy Hutchinson (R – Benton) suggested that the General Assembly address both issues by crafting statutory changes during the upcoming 2014 fiscal session. Add these to the growing list of substantive topics that the legislature may tackle during February’s abbreviated session (which is supposed to only concern budgetary issues): various details of the private option, concomitant complications to tax policy, a fix for the public teachers’ insurance system, and modifications to parole.
Taxpayers pay A.J. Kelly $100,043.62 per year in his position with the Secretary of State, in a state where the median household income is barely over $40,000. No one can honestly say that they have no problem with a full-time state employee spending his well-compensated work hours performing a second job and getting paid for both..
And if you happen to be a taxpayer in Fairfield Bay, you are really getting shafted. In addition to your tax dollars paying Kelly’s state salary, you also paid him an additional $18696.50 in 2012 alone. Fairfield Bay Municipal Code states only that the city attorney is appointed and serves at the pleasure of the mayor and city council. It doesn’t define a salary or limit his billing rate, so Kelly is free to bill your town $125/hr for answering emails from his other job, and he’s apparently allowed to bill you by submitting little more than a list of dates and actions (with no amount of time specified for each event) and claim 135 total billable hours that you have no way of verifying
“It is my understanding that nearly 700 state employees have already been furloughed as a direct result of the federal budget crisis and thousands more are expected to be furloughed should federal shutdown continue. I believe it is our duty to see that employees in Arkansas are treated fairly and guaranteed the same back pay options as federal employees.”
As the furloughed employees are paid with federal funds through federal programs, we will have to wait and see what officials in Washington do whenever the shutdown ends. We have to abide by federal law on these positions and personnel. Obviously we hope the federal government will make these employees whole after denying them pay through no fault of their own.
State employees paid with Arkansas funds have not been furloughed as a result of the federal shutdown.
...require the [public insurance] board to provide more education about plan options
If there are issues and and downturns in LOPFI, are they going to come back to the state and want money?
From Gov. Mike Beebe's office:
Governor Mike Beebe has named Dr. Nathaniel Smith as Director and State Health Officer for the Arkansas Department of Health. Smith has been serving as Interim Director the past three months following the departure of Dr. Paul Halverson.
"Nate has proven himself to be a steady, knowledgeable leader of this large and vital state agency," Governor Mike Beebe said. "I'm confident he'll continue to guide our state through the many important health issues that we face."
Smith began working for the Arkansas Department of Health in 2004. A specialist in infectious diseases, he has served previously as State Epidemiologist and as Deputy Director for Health Programs.
“The Commission’s reforms adopt a simple and balanced approach that protects security and public safety needs, ensures providers receive fair compensation while providing reasonable rates to consumers,” it said.
In an interim move, the FCC limited per-minute rates to 25 cents for long-distance collect calls, meaning that a 15-minute call cannot top $3.75. Debit and prepaid calls were capped at 21 cents a minute, or $3.15 for 15 minutes.
Extra fees and commissions to connect calls also are banned. The new rules go into effect immediately, the agency said.
The FCC’s vote ends a practice in 42 of 50 U.S. states where a handful of phone companies were awarded the bulk of prison contracts.
We've written in the past about the Arkansas Correction Department's contract with an outside company, Global Tel-Link, to provide prison phone services and the department reaps a 45 percent commission on each call, a commission worth $2 million a year.
Until the FCC ruling, this was the practice previously in Arkansas:
For personal calls, inmates pay a surcharge of $3 per call for in-state calls and $3.95 to call out-of-state. On top of that, inmates are charged 12 cents per minute for in-state calls, and 45 cents per minute for out-of-state calls. Currently, a 15-minute in-state call would cost $4.80 before taxes, while a 15-minute interstate call would cost $10.70. An inmate making a once-a-week 15-minute call to a family member out of state would pay more than $550 per year. With all inmate calls being made collect or by a debit system that allows family members to put money on an inmate's phone account, the cost of those calls is usually passed on to the inmate's family.
These prices are actually lower than they once were. As the Times story linked above noted, the calls are an important lifeline for many inmates to stay in touch with families and make preparations to return to the free world, a factor cited by the FCC in its ruling.
The FCC ruling applies only to interstate calls, but officials have said the agency may also consider reducing the cost of in-state calls.
Department spokesman Shea Wilson said: "Yes, it means changes. We will be looking at our system and making the necessary changes to be in compliance with the ruling." It's not clear yet how this will affect the existing contract — if, for example, the provider will continue to pay a 45 percent commission on lower rates.
Many other jails face changes, too. The Pulaski detention facility, for examples, allows inmates to make collect and prepaid calls through a service that charges $3.95 on each interstate call plus 89 cents a minute. It's revenues and charges can be seen here.
The national ribbing continues: Reuters cites a Chronicle of Higher Education study that the Arkansas has the highest percentage of state legislators with zero college education.
There are 135 legislators in Little Rock, 25 percent of whom do not have any college experience, according to the study. Comparatively, 8.7 percent of all state lawmakers nationwide have not attended college. ... The Arkansas legislature mirrors its state's population, said Hal Bass, a political science professor at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. ... "Our rural, frontier political culture has not traditionally placed an especially high value on academic credentials for positions of leadership in society," Bass said.
UPDATE: This was correct in 2011, when it was written. It's been pointed out to us by a reader that it's not news, though for obvious reasons various news outlets are recirculating it. Who knows what the figures are now.
UPDATE: The D-G found (paywall)that the numbers were incorrect at the time. "At least 106 of Arkansas’ 134 state lawmakers say they have a bachelor’s degree, a number that significantly exceeds what was in a national report that said Arkansas had the least-educated legislature in the county," the D-G reported.
Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, who wants to arm everyone all the time, including at the altar rail, has thought of a way to provide for target practice time for elementary school children: Cut their art education in half.
His SB 826, which of course is named "An act to provide public school students with additional opportunities to pursue a more rigorous study of visual art or the performing arts," would change Arkansas law to let elementary schools offer 40 minutes of visual arts or performing arts, rather than 40 minutes of both. It doesn't exactly specify that their time could be better spent at target practice; perhaps he's saving that for the next legislative session.
The bill's "more rigorous study" provision is that in either seventh or eighth grade, students will have to "participate" in visual arts or performing arts. What does that mean? Would performing in a school production of "Annie Get Your Gun" meet that requirement?
Waiting for comment from the state Department of Education.
The state department's spokesman, Phyllis Stewart, says the bill's requirement for middle school is less rigorous than what is now required in seventh and eighth grades. Frameworks for those grades require instruction in both visual art and music.
It seems to me that the Tea Party is the descendent of both the Dixiecrats…
The Huck speaks: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/14/us/polit… A quote: '“Anybody who would run for any reason other than…
BHR: ROFL!!!!! Thanks!
And thanks for the work of Blue Hog!!
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