The Arkansas Times received an e-mail news release Tuesday announcing that Harvey Joe Sanner of Des Arc, president of the American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas, was among a group of Arkansans applauding Sen. Blanche Lincoln's support of a resolution that would “block heavy-handed regulations” by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. About the same time, the Times was notified of a telephone press conference at which, the news release said, Harvey Joe Sanner would be among those expressing disappointment in Lincoln for supporting the anti-EPA resolution. Whither Sanner? We reached the man himself, who said that he's a strong supporter of Senator Lincoln and agreed with her position on the resolution. Sanner said that because of “a total misunderstanding” his name had been used without permission in the news release critical of Lincoln.
Little Rock and North Little Rock, their fire departments shorted funds by a little noticed vote last summer, may get more money later in the year.
When state Reps. Barry Hyde and Kathy Webb discovered the Intergovernmental Cooperation Council of mayors and the county judge voted to distribute some $239,000 in state funds equally, rather than by population, to all fire depart-ments in Pulaski County, they called foul. The money, part of a one-time $4 million state appropriation, was doled out to the 75 counties on a per capita basis, and Hyde, of North Little Rock, and Webb, of Little Rock, wanted the funds distrib-uted to their cities' departments the same way. The Little Rock Fire Department would have received $90,357, the NLRFD $31,775. As it is, Little Rock and all the other 26 fire departments in the county received $6,911 in December. That's quite a boon to volunteer departments; Cammack Village's got only $425 last year.
Hyde and Webb weren't the only ones upset. Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola and North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays, both of whom missed the July meeting at which the vote was taken, were taken aback.
The distribution, for fiscal year 2009-10, represented only 75 percent of the improvement fund appropriation. Now, to mollify the mayors and representatives, County Judge Buddy Villines said Tuesday he'll call another meeting of the intergovernmental council to consider appropriating the remaining 25 percent by population in the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Without being specific, U.S. Rep. Marion Berry, 67, said ill health had prompted him not to seek re-election this year. He said he didn't fear a re-election fight and, indeed, indicated he had polling that showed him with a wide lead over the only Republican candidate in the race so far. But a friend of the Insider thinks the health issue is real. He recounts a visit to the Coon Supper in Gillett, where a pre-supper event at Berry's barn is a staple part of the activities.
“He looked old, walked with a cane, forgot to introduce several people, jumbled comments. He's not too formal anyway, but even seemed off base for him. Almost none of his fiery rhetoric. … He also made a big deal at the supper that he finally thought his entire congressional staff in DC should experience the supper, said it was the first time ever but wanted them to see what all the fuss was about. Lots of young kids from his office were there, they stood up and were recognized. … It seemed like a farewell event more than anything else.”
Old habits die hard. We may have a new Republican majority in the legislature, but like the old Democratic majority, it still doesn't hurt to have a lawmaker spouse to land a part-time job during the legislative session.
When we first asked Gov. Mike Beebe about the "circuit breaker" idea out of Arizona (automatically opting out of Medicaid expansion if the feds reduce the matching rates in the future), he said it was fine but noted that states can already opt out at any time, an assurance he got in writing from the feds.
An interesting controversy is brewing in Conway Public Schools, periodically a scene of discord as more liberal constituents object to the heavy dose of religion that powerful local churches have tried to inject into the schools, particularly in sex education short on science and long on abstinence.