Breaking into school
No amount of increased financial aid for the schools, no upgrading of facilities, could offset the harm that would be done by letting the legislature dictate curriculum. It was not too many years ago that legislators wanted to put “creation science” in the classroom alongside real science, to value ignorance equally with learning. To turn the educational process upside down, in other words.
The federal courts saved Arkansas that time, but some lawmakers are trying to force the schoolhouse doors again. Rep. Roy Ragland, R-Marshall, is the sponsor of HB 1136, which would require that public school textbooks that define marriage define it “only as a relationship between one man and one woman.” The bill also prohibits any textbook definition of marriage that is contrary to the language of Amendment 83 of the Arkansas Constitution, which defines marriage as a “union” of one man and one woman. Adopted by voters last November, Amendment 83 is an anti-gay proposal that voters will repeal one day. It is no good excuse for legislators to start editing textbooks. (Eighty-three amendments, goodness! Arkansas is short of a lot of things, but we’re flush with school districts and constitutional amendments.)
Let them get the bit in their teeth, and who knows where they’ll stop.
Abortion, religion, evolution again — the possibilities are endless for legislators like Ragland to impose their own views on the state’s schoolchildren. The kids deserve better.
Crises true and false
We are so accustomed legislators manufacturing “crises” to justify the granting of more favors to special interests — “tort reform,” electricity deregulation, etc. — that we’re surprised when one of them recognizes a real crisis and proposes to do something about it. Must be a new hand.
In fact, the principal sponsor of HB 1241 is a freshman, Rep. Dustin McDaniel, D-Jonesboro. HB 1241 is an effort to help elderly and low-income Arkansans afford the prescription drugs they need. Drug prices are a crisis by any standard except the drug companies’ and the Bush administration’s. McDaniel’s bill is a fairly complicated proposal for the state government to negotiate rebates with manufacturers on certain prescription drugs, then pass the savings along to consumers. It is based on laws in other states. The bill may need tweaking, and it probably doesn’t go far enough or it would be generating more opposition, but it looks like a step in the right direction.
SB 230 by Sen. Bob Johnson, D-Bigelow, is a step in the same old direction. It would take away public water utilities’ right of eminent domain in order to please a big corporation, Deltic Timber, that is at odds with the Little Rock water utility. McDaniel has 15 co-sponsors for his bill. Johnson has 20, a majority of the Senate, for his.
The Senate today voted 20-9 to pass Sen. Bryan King's bill that says a fourth commitment to the Arkansas Department of Correction means the person sentenced must serve at least 80 percent of the sentence before parole eligibility.
IndieWire breaks news long whispered downtown — a more ambitious successor to the Little Rock Film Festival is in the works, with backing from writer/director Jeff Nichols, a Little Rock native. His "Loving" has won wide acclaim recently.
We're sad to report that Doug Smith has decided to retire. Though he's been listed as an associate editor on our masthead for the last 22 years, he has in fact been the conscience of the Arkansas Times. He has written all but a handful of our unsigned editorials since we introduced an opinion page in 1992.
Last week, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel became the first elected statewide official to express support for same-sex marriage. His announcement came days before Circuit Judge Chris Piazza is expected to rule on a challenge to the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Soon after, a federal challenge of the law is expected to move forward. McDaniel has pledged to "zealously" defend the Arkansas Constitution but said he wanted the public to know where he stood.
Remarking as we were on the dreariness of this year's election campaigns, we failed to pay sufficient tribute to the NRA, one of the most unsavory and, in its predictability, dullest of the biennial participants in the passing political parade.
Congratulations are in order for Governor Hutchinson. He decided this year to devote the weight of his office to end the state's embarrassing dual holiday for slavery defender Robert E. Lee and civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr.