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It was a good week for Asa! Hutchinson 

It was a good week for...

ASA! HUTCHINSON. Public Policy Polling, known as a Democratic organization but generally pretty reliable, has released a poll on a potential race for governor in 2014 between Republican Asa Hutchinson and Democratic Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, the only announced candidates so far. The poll puts Hutchinson way out in front, with 46 percent of respondents saying they'd support him versus 33 percent for McDaniel; 22 percent said they didn't know.

BIPARTISANSHIP. There was much talk of working together as the 89th General Assembly began. House Speaker Davy Carter, who was named chair of the Revenue and Taxation Committee by Democratic House Speaker Robert Moore in the last session, took one step toward making that a reality, naming four Democrats and seven Republicans to committee chairmanships.

WALMART. The Bentonville-based corporate giant pledged $670,000 to underwrite Arkansas's new healthcare Payment Improvement Initiative, a shift from the fee-for-service model to payment for "episodes" of care. Walmart, which self-insures its employees, also said it would join private insurers Blue Cross and QualChoice in participating in the initiative. In other news, Walmart has pledged to hire every veteran who wants a job; it estimates it will provide 100,000 jobs in five years.

STATE REP. DARRIN WILLIAMS. The Little Rock Democrat and attorney was named CEO of Southern Bancorp.

CITIZEN LEGISLATION. The Attorney General certified a revised version of the Regnat Populus ethics proposal, which allows the proposal's backers to begin collecting signatures. Two new petitions will be submitted this week: one for a medical marijuana initiated act, attorney David Couch said, that would eliminate the "grow-your-own" provision, and the other a constitutional amendment to repeal the state ban on same-sex marriage.

It was a bad week for...

REP. TOM COTTON. At this rate, he'll be a fixture in this column as long as he stays in Congress. After spending his first week as a U.S. representative voting against authorizing flood insurance payments to Hurricane Sandy victims, he attracted negative national attention again when he said, on Laura Ingraham's radio show, that women are not physically fit to serve in combat in the military.

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