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Abortion laws halted 

Also, another voter data dump and more.

Abortion laws halted

Federal Judge Kristine Baker last week enjoined enforcement of a new state law outlawing the most common surgical procedure used in second trimester clinical abortions as well as three other laws aimed at ending abortions in Arkansas. Most of the laws were to take effect July 31 and would have crippled the last remaining provider of clinical abortions in the state.

The injunction stops enforcement until a full trial but it suggests success of the suit by plaintiff Dr. Frederick Hopkins. Similar laws targeting the dilation and extraction procedure, the preferred method of second-trimester abortions, have failed elsewhere.

Little Rock Family Planning, where Hopkins works, is the only clinical abortion provider in the state.

The judge, in a 140-page opinion, also enjoined three other new laws: one that demands vast amount of personal records for a woman seeking an abortion; one that sets requirements for disposal of fetal remains (hotly controversial because notice is required of the father of an aborted fetus, someone who might be a rapist); and another raising to 16 from 14 the age of women receiving abortions for whom fetal tissue must be sent to the state Crime Lab.

Hopkins argued that the statutes threaten him with criminal penalties and "deny and burden patients' constitutionally protected rights to decide to end a pre-viability pregnancy, to make independent decisions related to their pregnancy care, and to protect their private medical information." The judge agreed.

Two other laws remain under challenge. A hearing is set in federal court in August on a law requiring heightened inspection requirements for abortion clinics, more than for other medical offices. Baker had enjoined the other, which required a doctor with admitting privileges at all clinics, even the Planned Parenthood clinics that only dispense miscarriage-inducing pills. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals last week lifted an injunction on that law, a troubling ruling by an ultra-conservative panel of Republican judges.

Another voter data dump

The hotly controversial request for voter information from an ad hoc panel working for President Trump was renewed and once again Arkansas has again turned over voter data. The original request for voter information from the president's Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was met with widespread resistance. Only Arkansas supplied information before the initial request was withdrawn on account of pending lawsuits. The commission, later given a pass by a federal judge in one case now on appeal, told Arkansas officials that information was "deleted."

Commission Vice Chair Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state infamous for bogus voter fraud claims, sent letters to all 50 states asking for all publicly available voter information. California has already refused.

Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin has now twice sent to Kobach files that include names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, birth dates and voting history (which elections, including which primaries) and party identification. This information is available on disk to anyone who asks for a $2 charge and is often tapped by political parties and candidates for get-out-the-vote efforts. Nonetheless, many voters haven't been happy to learn this personal information is being shared so widely. Martin wasn't too happy to get calls at home after his information was shared. In some states, voters have canceled registration rather than having information shared.

Support for bike trail from quorum court

The Pulaski County Quorum Court approved spending county matching money toward building a 65-mile bike/foot trail from Little Rock through Saline County to Hot Springs. The vote was 10-3, with two absent.

County Judge Barry Hyde, a recreational biker himself, rounded up the 10 Democratic members of the county governing board necessary to approve the spending, which matches a federal grant of $2.6 million. The vote was 10-3, with three Republicans in opposition and two Republicans absent. Republican opposition had slowed the project previously.

Cozy up to the speaker

Give $5,000 a year to the House Republican Caucus and you, too, can own a genuine, autographed (not autopen, we hope) thank-you letter from House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, according to a flyer for a Sept. 14 Arkansas House Republican Caucus fundraiser. Also a photo with the speaker (six-person limit). And dinner every year with the speaker. Just don't pick up his dinner tab if you are a lobbyist or employ one, because that wouldn't be legal. Of course, who but a lobbyist or somebody who employs one would want to commit to $5,000 in annual payola to a legislative caucus?

The House Caucus seems to put more value in Speaker Gillam than, say, the Republican State Committee. On July 29, it adopted a resolution objecting to a rule change engineered by Gillam that ended seniority as an element in House committee assignments and made the speaker the dictator. The resolution called for a return to the seniority system. Gillam said his way is better in getting members on committees to which they are best suited. He told the Democrat-Gazette: "Democracy should have a little bit more forethought going into it than a random draw out of a bowl."


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