IT WAS A GOOD WEEK FOR …
CLEAN AIR. A petition drive to force a vote on Pine Bluff’s new smoking ban failed.
THE DILLARD FAMILY. The big department store chain is getting hammered in the market place, but you couldn’t tell it by pay to Dillard family execs. A Democrat-Gazette survey showed the four top Dillards enjoyed pay increases of 158 to 295 percent in 2004, for a combined take of some $25 million.
BLACK INK. The state ended its budget year June 30 with more than $100 million in unallocated cash. Most politicians rushed to say taxes should be cut or the surplus rebated to taxpayers. They’ll wait until next year to worry about the unpaid portion of court-ordered school construction work, rising Medicaid costs and a highway program, among others.
IT WAS A BAD WEEK FOR …
TAX INCREMENT FINANCING. All three major party candidates for governor seem to indicate Arkansas law should not allow government taking of private land for other private projects. Bulletin to the candidates: This will require amending the brand-new TIF law to remove that explicitly granted power. Will the developers and bond daddies stand for it? No, they won’t give up school tax money as a subsidy to build shopping centers.
ARKANSAS GOVERNOR’S SCHOOL. Because of a single complaint — and without reading the play — the school director banned assignment of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Angels in America” and apologized that it had been assigned to any of the school’s gifted high school seniors in the first place. The issue was stirred by a right-wing religious group that despises homosexuality.
THE LITTLE ROCK HOUSING AUTHORITY. The authority’s board decided to offer the permanent directorship to Shelly Ehenger, who’s been presiding as the agency dealt with lingering issues about crime, fire safety, questionable dealings with a nonprofit agency set up by a former director and nepotism — Ehenger’s husband has a high-paying job.
Sen. Linda Collins-Smith (R-Pocahontas) made a run at imposing a stronger ethics requirement on the legislature, but she fell short. Her bill got a 20-6 favorable vote in the Senate, but as amendment to an initated act, an ethics reform measusre of 1988, she need 24 votes.
Hog fans just can't quit blaming the refs for the NCAA men's basketball tournament loss to North Carolina. Now the Arkansas Senate has gotten in on the act, with this resolution introduced by Democratic Sen. Keith Ingram and getting bipartisan co-sponsorship from that brutish and short sandlot roundball player, Republican Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson.