It was a good week for...
KOCH INTERESTS DIVIDED. It was revealed this week that Koch Industries has committed $60 million to the Big River Steel "super project" in Mississippi County that Gov. Mike Beebe has asked the Arkansas legislature to support, through approval of $125 million in financing. Koch Industries is owned by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, who are active in right-wing and libertarian political causes. They've spent heavily to oppose environmental regulation, fight taxes of all sorts and universal health care, and work to elect Republicans who incessantly champion "free enterprise" and attack "government handouts." Ironically, the Koch-funded political advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, says it does not support subsidies for the steel mill.
THE MEDICAID SHORTFALL. New budget estimates from the Department of Human Services project a shortfall of $61 million for Arkansas Medicaid next fiscal year. That's a $77 million improvement from the earlier forecast of a $138 million shortfall after the governor's recommendation for putting $90 million in new money and $70 million from reserves into the program.
KELLY RODGERS. The North Little Rock School District named Rodgers, formerly superintendent of the Terrell Independent School District in Terrell, Texas, as its new superintendent of schools.
A NEW BRIDGE. The Pulaski County Quorum Court voted 10 to 5 in favor of Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines' proposal to devote $20 million of road and bridge money toward a new Broadway Bridge. We'll see if that means the bridge will be adorned with Villines' proposed red, white and blue color scheme.
It was a bad week for...
COLLECTION PLATE THIEVES. As predicted in this space last week, a bill to allow concealed weapon permit holders to carry a handgun in church by Sen. Bryan King (R-Green Forest) sailed through the House. The governor has said he'll sign the bill, though he may ask for more legislation to clarify matters of liability.
WOMEN. See this week's cover story. Rep. Andy Mayberry's unconstitutional ban on abortions after 20 weeks passed the House and Sen. Jason Rapert's ban on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected passed the Senate.