Morning report: Pizza boy, schools, judges and more | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Morning report: Pizza boy, schools, judges and more

Posted By on Thu, Jan 9, 2014 at 7:42 AM

Should I or shouldn't I drive to the gym this morning? The rain is melting ice on my street, but patches remain. I'll temporize by running through odds and ends from mail, the newspaper and other places:

click to enlarge WHO NEEDS A STATE JOB? When you have a part-time job at a pizza parlor, as Mark Darr does.
  • WHO NEEDS A STATE JOB? When you have a part-time job at a pizza parlor, as Mark Darr does.
* THE MARK DARR SAGA: Did Lt. Gov. Darr really claim as proof that he's not hanging on to his job just to keep the almost-$42,000 annual pay the fact that he's working part-time for a pizza joint he once owned? If he's doing deliveries, I hope he's not gassing up with his state credit card.

And more on Darr. Senate President Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux doesn't want the Senate to have a trial to remove Darr during the coming fiscal session. If not, that would push any consideration of Darr's removal into at least the second week of March. For the body to meet for removal, wouldn't the governor have to call a special session for that purpose? Expensive business, requiring far more than just per diem for legislators. How long would it take the House to consider voting impeachment. Would there have to be a probable cause hearing of some sort in the House? Then how long would the Senate take to hold a trial? 

I'm still betting on brinksmanship. Darr holds out until the last possible moment before a meter starts running on his potential costs so that he can continue to draw a salary. But the interest in delaying the issue is as much about delaying the need for a special election to replace Darr as it is to keep sending some money to Darr.  The law says a special election must be held within 150 days, or five months, after a vacancy is declared. Does the statute mandate declaration of a vacancy by the governor? What if Darr holds on until April or so and a special election, if held, would only fill the job for a couple of months when the lieutenant governor, a generally worthless office to begin with, has no duties at all to fulfill that couldn't be readily handled by the Senate president, who's next in line? The conventional wisdom is that an election helps Democrats, whose candidate for the regular election, John Burkhalter, can seek the seat. The announced Republicans, Andy Mayberry and Charlie Collins, are legislators and not eligible to run in a special election. A lightly contested special election isn't a sure thing for a Democrat, particularly if traditional constituencies aren't motivated to turn out for a race of little significance. What if the Republicans ran somebody name of Rockefeller, for example, who stood simply for the good of the party with no plans to seek the election?

* A DEMOCRAT OFFERS DARR A DEFENSE: An old friend offers, somewhat tongue in cheek, a defense to the embattled Mark Darr. Do you remember when another former lieutenant governor was fined by the state Ethics Commission for failing to report that, in both a campaign for U.S. Senate and a campaign for lieutenant governor, that he had paid himself out of campaign money? Some $43,000 went to the lt. gov. candidate in the form of carefully obscured payments for lease of a personal airplane. The money was not repaid to the campaign. The belief was that the candidate likely had to do some IRS bookwork to account for that income. That candidate not only didn't resign the lt. gov. job, he went on to be governor for 10 years. Comments a former legislator who was a nemesis of the candidate in question:

 Governor Darr could use a little mentoring on this deal from a good Baptist preacher with slick political skills.

You know who he's talking about, don't you?

* SCHOOL QUALITY: If you're interested, you can go here for all the numbers in Education Week's annual Quality Counts survey of the state's efforts in education. We're evaluated highly structurally, but our performance lags, not particularly surprising in a southern state with a high percentage of poor people.

* CHRIS CHRISTIE HAS A PROBLEM: A federal investigation is being sought over indications that the Christie administration created a huge traffic problem on an interstate bridge to punish a Democratic mayor who didn't support him politically. There's overwhelming evidence that the political punishment happened and that Christie had originally disputed it. It resonates because Christie is a bully. Always has been. 

* CANDIDATE FOR CIRCUIT JUDGE: Luther Sutter of Roland, a lawyer who describes himself as a "strict constitutionalist" has announced as a candidate for the circuit judgeship currently held by Jay Moody. Moody has been nominated for a seat on the federal bench, but if he isn't confirmed before filing deadline in March may file for the office again. Two other candidates have announced for circuit judge — Mike Reif and Cathi Compton. One judgeship, Collins Kilgore's, will be open on account of retirement but it hasn't been clear to date how the filings would shake out because they've been watching the Moody confirmation process.

UPDATE: The Senate Judiciary Committee had Obama judicial nominations, including Moody's and another from Arkansas, on its agenda this morning. They've all been pushed back a week, to Jan. 16. Delay caused by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. Democratic Chair Patrick Leahy notes the group has been delayed twice before. Looks like more GOP obstructionism.

Comments Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who follows the federal judiciary on further delays for Moody and Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville:

There is no reason for further delay other than obstruction as they are well qualified consensus nominees who deserve final votes. This only hurts the other judges in Ark. And people litigating in federal court there for no reason. 

Wonder what Tom Cotton thinks about this?

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