Forewarned is forearmed
The high point of the 2005 legislative session — the only one above sea level, actually — was a House committee’s interment of a bill that declared corporate profits more valuable than clean water. Word is that the bill’s backer, Deltic Timber Corp., will offer it again in 2007. These people are not easily embarrassed.
Deltic wants to weaken the laws protecting Lake Maumelle so that the developer can build an expensive subdivision on the Lake, which is the principal source of drinking water for Central Arkansas. We found it amazing and appalling that the Senate approved the bill by a comfortable margin last time, setting off a huge public outcry, but legislators such as Sen. Jack Critcher, D-Batesville, are talking as though they’re eager for another go. “I thought it was the right thing to do,” Critcher told a reporter. “I still feel that way.” Critcher will be the president pro tem of the Senate in 2007, replacing Sen. Jim Argue, D-Little Rock. It is a sharp drop from Jim Argue to Jack Critcher.
Critcher’s constituents don’t drink from Lake Maumelle, so he may consider himself relatively safe from political reprisal, even though the precedent set by the Deltic bill could eventually pollute water supplies statewide. But some legislators will respond to heat from angry voters. It’s not too early to start turning it on.
Whatever else he may be, Asa Hutchinson is a confirmed authoritarian. He would use the power of the state against the individual at every opportunity.
As a federal drug warrior, he sicced government agents on cancer patients and other sufferers who obtained relief only from medicinal marijuana, and he did this in states whose voters had approved the use of medicinal marijuana. He has championed government dominion over women’s bodies, and government-imposed religion in the public schools. Even his service as a prosecutor in the Clinton impeachment was a form of authoritarianism, an effort to use government muscle to oust a popularly elected leader.
Now a candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Asa told a group of city officials that if elected he would promote drug testing in the workplace. Arkansas workers effectively have no rights except the right to low wages and the right to be fired on a whim, but Hutchinson wants to further oppress and intimidate them, squeezing them in a government-management vise.
Arkansas needs no expansion of drug-testing in the workplace. It needs government officials who will respect the dignity and privacy of the working people of this state — people who pay more than their fair share of taxes, incidentally. It needs officials more concerned with raising workers’ income than subjecting them to further harassment. They’ve plenty of that already.
The Arkansas Supreme Court has reversed the circuit court decision upholding the Fayetteville civil rights ordinance, which was aimed at extending protection to LGBT people, along with other protected classes.
Bubbling at the Capitol this week is a legislative effort — a chief instigator is Sen. Bryan King — to end the autonomy of the state Election Commission and put it in the office of Secretary of State Mark Martin. The legislation would create an investigative staff in the secretary of state's office.
Sheila Kennedy, a professor of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founder of Kennedy & Violich Architecture Ltd., will give the June Freeman lecture tonight at the Arkansas Arts Center, part of the Architecture + Design Network series at the Arkansas Arts Center.
The Walton College of Business is working to expand its executive education by opening an office in downtown Little Rock that would offer non-degree programs to the health, banking and finance and retail industries in Central Arkansas, the school confirmed today.
A former mental health agency director has won a default judgment worth $358,000 over a claim for unpaid retirement pay and Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson is apparently to blame for failure to respond to pleadings in the case.
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.