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Gas pains 

Rep. Robbie Wills, recently tapped to be House speaker in 2009, is from Conway, the heart of the Fayetteville Shale play. So what does he think of Sheffield Nelson's proposed ballot initiative to raise the severance tax on natural gas? Like Gov. Mike Beebe, he prefers a legislative solution and wants all revenue from a tax to go to roads. He also urges caution with the tax in case gas companies decide to take future business elsewhere. “If we're going to emulate these states like Oklahoma and Texas that have a severance tax, we have to look at incentives,” said Wills in a recent interview. “I think we've only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of production. This is a long-term opportunity.”

Excuse us, Mr. Speaker. But this is one industry where you can't buy industry. Gas companies try to drill where the gas is. See Texas and Oklahoma, higher tax rates notwithstanding.

You might be a Huckabee if …

A blogger for The New Republic provided this nugget from the campaign trail:

“Checking out a rental car at the Enterprise counter at the Charlotte, North Carolina airport, I mentioned I was heading to South Carolina to do some work on the primaries. ‘We just put Mike Huckabee's son in a car!' the clerk said, and then added, ‘He wanted the most expensive one we had.'”

Thea gets a home

Thanks to generous gifts, the Thea Foundation will be able to promote art education in Arkansas from a building at 401 Main St., North Little Rock. Philanthropist Judy Tenenbaum donated $500,000 and John Gaudin and partners in The New Argenta Fund gave the foundation a break on the $1.1 million purchase price. Thea will use the first floor of the 12,000-square-foot building, which formerly housed an architectural firm, for offices and a gallery for student artists. It will lease out space on the second floor.

It's been a good year for the Thea Foundation, named for Thea Leopoulos, the teen-aged daughter of Paul Leopoulos, who died in a car accident in 2001. An Ohio foundation recently donated $35,000 in art supplies, which the Thea Foundation distributed to the three school districts in Pulaski County. The SanLori paper company made a gift worth $25,000 previously.

Leopoulos said the foundation will kick off a capital campaign later this year to refurbish the new building, where he hopes to be able to offer arts workshops as well.

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