The open line: Preparing for a new speaker; tracking more nursing home contributions to a judicial candidate; voter ID lawsuit | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The open line: Preparing for a new speaker; tracking more nursing home contributions to a judicial candidate; voter ID lawsuit

Posted By on Wed, Mar 12, 2014 at 4:28 PM

The midweek line is open. Final notes:

* HOUSE ELECTION SET: The Arkansas House will caucus after adjournment at 1:30 p.m. next Wednesday to hold a secret-ballot election to designate a House speaker for the 2015 session. Such designations are, of course, subject to change should partisan alignment change. Darrin Williams was in line to be speaker in 2013, but then Republicans won control of the House, with a bare 51-vote majority. Rep. Terry Rice thought he'd be speaker under Republican control, but a coalition of Democrats and a handful of Republicans instead gave the seat to Davy Carter. So you can toss out all the various names that have gone around — Republicans Jeremy Gillam, Matthew Shepherd and Kim Hammer and Democrats Fred Love and Tommy Wren — and not necessarily say with great certainty that next week's election will be determinative. Let the jockeying and side agreements begin.

* NURSING HOME MONEY: I wrote this morning about the huge amounts of nursing home cash being pumped into races for state appeals court seats, to the benefit particularly of judges with roots in Faulkner County. Here's another: Troy Braswell, who hopes to succeed the tarnished Circuit Judge Mike Maggio of Conway in District 20, Division 2, is also one of the coterie of Faulkner judges favored by nursing home magnate Michael Morton of Fort Smith. He and three of his related companies have given $8,000 so far to Braswell, who faces Joe Don Winningham. Remember Winningham? He was object of injudicious, and legally dubious, punishment from former Circuit Judge Rhonda Wood, now heading for the Arkansas Supreme Court, for the offense of trying to represent a client more vigorously than Wood preferred. Wood is the biggest recipient of nursing home money among judicial contenders so far. She and Maggio campaigned together at Republican political events in the runup to election filing. Maggio hoped to win a Court of Appeals seat until discovery of his misconduct on an LSU fan website forced him out of the race.

* VOTER ID LAW CHALLENGED: The Pulaski County Election Commission has filed its lawsuit challenging a state Board of Election Commissioners' intepretation that provides around the ne w state Voter ID law's lack of a procedure for curing deficiencies in mailed absentee ballots. 

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