The line is open | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The line is open

Posted By on Sat, Dec 10, 2011 at 4:23 PM

Not much to report. However:

* BOBBY PETRINO SPEAKS: BMFP finally emerged after post-LSU seclusion and much staff shuffling to meet reporters today. He finally conmented on the famous LSU lip synch (Arkansas Sports 360):

Petrino said he did not remember what he said or what caused his reaction. However, Petrino acknowledged he needs to be more mindful of his action.

“Obviously, I’ve got to be more aware of my actions and my language,” Petrino said. “We’ll work on improving that.”

* THE DEFIANT CLERK: The Sebastian County clerk won't rehire the workers he's been ordered to hire by local circuit judges. Article doesn't discuss it, but I do think there are some separation of powers at issue here, no matter how demonstrable a jackass Clerk Ken Blevins might be.

* KOCHS TELLING YOU HOW TO ZONE: Yes, a Kochs-paid Arkansas lobbyist was on hand today at Joe T. school to tell Pulaski County people to fight land use rules for the protection of the quality of drinking water in Lake Maumelle. Rep. David Sanders was also on hand to build his run for Senate on fighting a quality water supply. Time was, Little Rock people were pretty solid about this issue. Ask Death Star Bob Johnson sometime, David.

* SPEAKING OF KOCHS: The billionaires and their paid lackeys have joined the fight to kill public schools in America (and Arkansas) in favor of privatized, charterized profit opportunities. They and their ilk are addressed in a rafter-raising speech by Diane Ravitch, called by this diarist on Daily Kos one of the most important education speeches in years.

* SPEAKING OF LACKEYS: Couldn't help but notice that Sen. Gilbert Baker hardly let any time elapse Thursday before blasting the Arkansas Supreme Court's ruling that the state Constitution means what it says — the legislature can't limit damages in a lawsuit with a cap on punitiive damages. You'd almost think he's plotted out a course for future employment when his term in the legislature is up next year. Plenty of money around to employ legislators as interest group consultants and front men, if not, for a brief interval, as a registered lobbyist.

This will be an easy message to sell, judging by erroneous commentary I've already heard on this decision.

For example: It has nothing to do with the declining claims payments and insurance rates for workers comp, as some commentators harrumphed on Arkansas Week Friday night. The precise point of workers comp law is to eliminate damage lawsuits. Workers comp rates went down because the workers comp law made claims harder to make. It had nothing to do with a punitive damage cap or tort reform.

Two attorneys general — name of Beebe and Pryor — had opined that a punitive damage cap was unconstitutional and the legislature passed it anyway in 2003, hoping to extort acquiescence out of a Supreme Court fearful of the business lobby.

Arkansas isn't known as a runaway verdict state where punitive damages are routine, in any case. And, to again address some erroneous instant commentary, punitive damages have nothing to do with medical malpractice rates here in any meaningful way. Nationally, med mal punitive damages are a tiny percentage (single digit) of all punitive awards, so scare mongering about health insurance rates should also be taken with a grain of salt. When Doug Smith wrote about the 2003 tort reform changes in Arkansas for us, there hadn't been a punitive damage claim in a medical malpractice case in Arkansas since 1971. Or since, I'm reasonably sure. The docs' self-insurance group had a record profitable year, they just announced, thanks to numerous other limitations on lawsuits undisturbed by last week's ruling.

But you may be sure the State Chamber will shortly have its megaphone out — its message rebroadcast by toadies in the legislature and media — that the very economy of Arkansas is imperiled by last week's decision. Sad, really. Because the chamber campaign is all about protecting bad actors in the corporate community who harm working people and their families. Bayer CropScience, the loser last week, can afford to pay for the damage it did to Arkansas farmers, normally held holy. Except they lose their holiness in the eyes of the Chamber when they were victims of shocking corporate negligence and the bad actor needs a tangible financial reason not to repeat the mistake.

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