On the Floor 

On the floor

Yes, sharp-eyed viewers did see former governor and former U.S. Rep. Jim Guy Tucker on the floor of the U.S. House during the his-toric vote Sunday on health care reform.

Tucker, who has floor privileges as a former congressman (1977-78), was in Washington for a family wedding and while talking to a friend who works for U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder about the coming vote decided to go over with Snyder for the debate.

Would he have voted for the legislation? “I think I would have,” Tucker said.

“It appears to be something that needed to be done. It is clearly going to help a lot of people.” He said some fears about complications may be realized, “but I think they can be dealt with in a reasonable way. I'm disappointed it couldn't have been a more cooperative effort.” No Re-publicans supported the legislation.

Tucker, 66, said he found five people on the floor Sunday who were in Congress when he entered, all now committee chairmen. He commented that he was impressed by the quality of Democratic candidates seeking his former seat in Congress to succeed the retiring Snyder.

Gardeners alert

Yes, that's a For Sale sign on the property that contains Hocott's Garden Center, a 71-year presence in Hillcrest.

A Hocott's employee explains. The business has been owned since 1978 by James Mauney, who leases the land from the founding Hocott family. Mauney's lease expires in 2013. The Hocott heirs apparently have begun thinking sale of the land might be the best course for future generations of the family.

The business occupies 1.24 acres. The asking price: $1.3 million. It's unknown at this point whether a new lease, perhaps for a smaller portion of the property, is a possibility to continue the enterprise, a frequent winner in our Best of Arkansas contest category for garden centers.

Did he really retire?

Recent news reports have focused on some top state employees who “retired” and then returned to their jobs after a short period in order to collect, as the law allowed, retirement benefits along with their paychecks. Some of them continued to receive perks from the state during the time off.

A reader drew our attention to one of them, Randy Young, director of the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. Young continued to use his vehicle, cell phone, computer and office while on leave and retained administrative authority during his retirement period.

The reader wondered: Did Young's “administrative authority” include continuing to serve in his ex officio spot on the state Pollution Control and Ecology Commission. Five state agency heads serve by virtue of their office on the state's environmental policymaking body.

When Young was no longer head of Natural Resources, it would follow that he could no longer hold a seat on the Commission, our reader said.

Good point and a potentially sticky one, had Young continued to take official actions on the commission while “retired.” But, according to the Natural Resources Commission, Young “retired” from July 1, 2006, to August 1, 2006. During that time, no PC&E meetings were held, although one was scheduled for July 28, but did not take place.

When asked if Young notified the PC&E commission of his retirement, the commission's hearing officer, Michael O'Malley says he isn't aware of a statute that requires it.

“The statute simply says the director of the agency serves on the commission. It doesn't go into detail about when or if we need to be noti-fied if that is not the case,” O'Malley says.



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