- Crazy about cannabis
- Tuesday: An open line and the daily roundup
- 'Standing Figure Knife Edge' appears in peek at new Arts Center
- Advocates for medical marijuana gather at the Capitol
- Judge Tim Fox dismisses city of Little Rock's lawsuit over candidate exploratory committees
- Here are your 2018 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase finalists
- Officer-involved shooting reported in western Little Rock
- Arkansas legislators to talk school safety
- Farm Bureau push for Buffalo River hog feeding operation continues
- A three-way race for Arkansas Supreme Court
- A victory against gay discrimination in the workplace
- Corporations use tax cut for themselves
- Doping the medical marijuana permit winners
- In the Ozarks: A look at an African-American monastic community
- Rutledge, other Republicans move to kill Affordable Care Act (and some Americans while they're at it)
- 42 Bar and Table chefs team up with Historic Arkansas Museum on inaugural dinner series
Posted: 27 Feb 2018 01:34 PM PST
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission meeting to award five cultivation permits starts at 3:30 p.m. today. It will be streamed on the web at this link.
There'll be an overflow crowd. Lots of jostling in the line that formed outside in advance of the meeting.
The beginning of the meeting included a discussion of how much work was required in the review of just the cultivation applications. It will likely be several months before the dispensary applications are completed.
Posted: 27 Feb 2018 01:19 PM PST
The open line, plus news headlines and comment.
Posted: 27 Feb 2018 12:45 PM PST
The photograph above is terrible — it was taken in the dark from the side of a room with an iPhone. But it reveals that Henry Moore's "Large StandingFigure Knife Edge" will have a new home: in the renovated and expanded Arkansas Arts Center.
Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang architecture firm in Chicago and Kate Orff of SCAPE landscaping firm in New York presented design concepts for the new Arts Center to its board of directors and other city agencies today.
The construction budget for the new Arts Center was increased to $70 million, up from the original $46 million, when the Arts Center and its foundation realized the lower figure would not provide the pizzazz Little Rock expects to see in the facility, which will receive an estimated $35 million from a bond issue financed by the city tourism tax receipts.
Studio Gang's design showed a new entry uncovering the historic, WPA-designed entrance to the Arts Center, now hidden in one of the galleries; a wide north-south hallway connecting the north and south entrances covered with a flowing, faceted roof and dividing the Arts Center in half (sort of like a dog trot, one of the directors joked); a glass-walled restaurant extending into a plaza on the south; a second story "Cultural Living Room" with a view of Little Rock; and landscaping that provides a natural entrance to the property on both the north and south sides. The design solves the Arts Center's lack of affinity with MacArthur Park, in which it sits; its asphalt and barely landscaped surrounds, and does away with the unwelcoming Western entrance added in 2000.
"Large Standing Knife Edge" stood at the intersection of Fifth and Main streets in 1978 and was later moved a block away to the Union National Plaza at Fifth and Louisiana Street. Mayor Mark Stodola confirmed the sculpture's move at the board meeting. There will be a public presentation of the plans tonight in the lecture hall starting at 6:30 p.m.
Posted: 27 Feb 2018 12:17 PM PST
Advocates for expanding access to medical marijuana in Arkansas gathered at the Capitol to speak to legislators today, hours before the state Medical Marijuana Commission was to award the first licenses to grow cannabis for medicinal use.
The second annual "Patients Day" at the legislature was led by Melissa Fults, a longtime proponent of medical cannabis in Arkansas and a Democratic state Senate candidate for District 33 (now held by Republican Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson).
In the crowd were people like Stephen Griego, an Army veteran who said his PTSD is best treated by cannabis, and Tiffany Krisell, whose 49-year-old mother has Lupus, among other conditions, and doesn't want to use opioids.
In front of a crowd of people wearing red "Patient Not Criminal" T-shirts, Fults laid out the state of medical marijuana affairs: Yes, medical marijuana is now law — a seeming pipe dream not too long ago — but the amendment voters passed doesn't go far enough.
"You know, back in
Fults wants more of everything: more conditions that qualify patients for a medical marijuana card ("a minimum of 40," she said; there are now 18), more dispensaries (the state is expected to grant 32 licenses in May) and more accountability over those who will be rewarded lucrative contracts to grow and sell cannabis.
"We have a lot of work to do," she said. "And the way to do that is to work with our legislators."
Fults then led the group from the Capitol steps around the back of the building and down the hill to the Big Mac legislative building. At first, the medical marijuana group began filing into the building to talk to legislators, but the Joint Budget Committee was still in session and there were few legislators outside the meeting room. (Speaker of the House Jeremy Gillam [R-Judsonia] was leaned back in a chair chatting in the foyer. He told the Times that there wasn't much that could be done about expanding conditions now. "They're about a year too early.")
Fults then directed the group back outside to fan out around the entry, creating a tunnel-gauntlet of sorts through which legislators would have to walk as they exited the building.
When Rep. Doug House (R-North Little Rock) — who has legislatively shepherded the medical marijuana law — emerged, applause rippled through the crowd. He gave a pseudo-speech: promising to "put the drug cartels out of business" and that they'd been working hard to get everything ready.
Rep. Mark McElroy (D-Tillar) spent the most time among the group, chatting with person after person about medical marijuana. He said he understood objections to the implementation of the law, but now that medical marijuana was part of the state Constitution it was time to put it into effect.
He also had a personal connection. His sister died from cancer about 30 years ago. Near the end, her doctor asked McElroy if he could get his loved one some cannabis. He didn't because it was illegal. "I just felt helpless," he said. "But the thing of it is: Now it's the law in Arkansas and we're supposed to uphold the Constitution."
The Medical Marijuana Commission meets at 3:30 p.m. today to announce who will be awarded the cultivation licenses.
Posted: 27 Feb 2018 10:28 AM PST
Circuit Judge Tim Fox has dismissed the city of Little Rock's lawsuit attempting to stop two candidates for mayor for using exploratory committees to raise money in advance of the July 1 starting date in city ordinance for contributions to candidates for city office.
He ruled from the bench after a hearing this morning.
The state Ethics Commission had earlier approved the use of exploratory committees under state law. The City Board voted to seek a declaratory judgment that the city ordinance on fund-raising should prevail against candidates Warwick Sabin and Frank Scott, announced opponents to Mayor Mark Stodola. At the same time, the city said state law overrode a part of the same ordinance that would otherwise prohibit Stodola from using $78,000 in carryover money from previous campaigns. The judge said the city lacked
City Attorney Tom Carpenter notified the City Board of the decision in this memo:
Although the time to respond to various motions and counterclaims filed by the defendants had not yet run, Judge Timothy Davis Fox dismissed all of the claims in the City's action. The Court held the City did not have standing to raise certain issues because it was not a candidate or an exploratory committee. The Court found all but one of the various statutory definitions the City relied upon to be relevant. The one not mentioned was Ark. Code Ann. § 7-6-201 (4)(A) which defines contribution. Without this statute being held relevant, there was no way the City could prevail since it refers to a contribution as something given directly, or indirectly, to a committee on behalf of a candidate. The Court also ruled that the neither Mr. Sabin nor Mr. Scott are candidates.My suggestion to the City Board, which was voting self-interest in fighting exploratory committees, drop the lawsuit. If the city needs stronger ordinances, ask the legislature for enabling legislation.
The mayoral candidates are essentially on even ground. If Stodola feels burdened, he can form an exploratory committee too.
Though the judge ruled Sabin and Scott were not candidates and thus able to operate exploratory committees, Carpenter said Fox had said the ordinance was facially neutral insofar as a five-month limit on fund-raising was concerned.
Statement from Sabin:
I am pleased that Judge Tim Fox dismissed the lawsuit brought by the Mayor and the City of Little Rock and confirmed all of the arguments set forth by our legal team. Our position has been consistent from the beginning, and Judge Fox clearly agreed that under state law I have the right to have an exploratory committee as I consider running for Mayor of Little Rock. This matter is now finally resolved and we will continue our exploratory campaign. I am very grateful to our legal team for their diligent work to have this politically-motivated lawsuit thrown out of court.Statement from Scott:
"I am pleased that Judge Fox dismissed the City's claims and cleared me of any wrongdoing. This case was an inappropriate attempt by Mayor Mark Stodola to use city resources to compel the Arkansas Ethics Commission to enforce a misguided ordinance, which the Court rightfully dismissed. It feels great to finally be vindicated, however, I am even more excited for the residents of Little Rock. Now that this frivolous lawsuit is behind me, I can focus my efforts on engaging with more families across the city that are in desperate need of bold mayoral leadership."
Posted: 27 Feb 2018 09:13 AM PST
The 26th Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase is drawing to a close, and five of the 17 semifinalists who scored top points in four categories - songwriting, musicianship, originality and showmanship - face off for the title at The Rev Room on Friday, March 9.
The winner of that final round will be named the 2018 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase champion, and will receive a prize package including: cold hard cash, an in-studio showcase at Capitol View Studio, a live spot at Patio on Park Hill 2018, live spot at the Arkansas State Fair Bud Light Pavilion, a live spot at Musicfest El Dorado, a live spot at a reinvented Riverfest, a live spot at Low Key Arts' Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival in Hot Springs, a Thursday Night Live performance at Griffin Restaurant in El Dorado, eight hours of artist development at The Hive Studio, a PRS SE 245 Standard 22 Electric Guitar from Sunrise Guitars and more.
Check out the sounds of our five finalists; four winners from each night of the semifinal round and a "wild card," determined by taking the top scoring band from the remaining pool of semifinalists.
Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo
Posted: 27 Feb 2018 08:53 AM PST
TV reporters are responding to a police call of an "officer-involved shooting" at the Bowman Heights Apartments on Markham Mesas Drive off Mara Lynn in western Little Rock.
More as it's known.
UPDATE: The shooting occurred about 10:25 a.m. A man reportedly banged on the door of an apartment in which a Little Rock police officer lived, then tried to force his way in through a window. He was then shot by the officer and was reported in serious condition later.
Posted: 27 Feb 2018 08:14 AM PST
Co-chairs of the legislative Joint Performance Review Committee have scheduled a 2:30 p.m. news conference at the Capitol to discuss their plans for improving school safety in the aftermath of the Florida massacre.
The co-chairs are Republicans, Sen. Missy Irvin
A Senate news release quotes Irvin as saying the committee will gather ideas from other states and assess current school safety efforts. Their aim, they say, is a plan for the 2019 regular session.
Irvin touted the 2015 legislation that allowed school employees with to take concealed weapons onto campuses. From the release:
"School safety legislation entails numerous overlapping issues. You have the issue of Second Amendment rights. You have job descriptions of classified personnel. There will be budgetary concerns, especially in smaller districts. A statewide strategy can be complex, so we need to take advantage of the remainder of this year so we'll be prepared when the 2019 session begins," Irvin said.Here's a plan:
Universal background checks. Outlaw bump stocks. Deny gun ownership to domestic abusers. Finance public health research in Arkansas on gun safety. Outlaw military-style weapons and outsized magazines. State finance of at least one law enforcement officer at every school campus.
Somehow I doubt those items will make the final plan. More guns
UPDATE: Good timing. Ernest Dumas has written about the history of gun legislating in the U.S. for this week's Times. Spoiler alert, nothing good will come of the latest round of hand-wringing. His prediction:
If Trump says arm schoolmarms, Rep. Charlie Collins will introduce the bill, the legislature will pass it and Hutchinson will sign it.
Posted: 27 Feb 2018 07:58 AM PST
Legislative lips remain largely sealed, but environmentalists attempting to protect the Buffalo River from factory hog farm waste say they continue to expect emergence of legislation to override the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and clear continued operation of the C and H Hog Farm in Newton County, whose topical application of hog waste, it is feared, could pollute the Buffalo National River, an
The Arkansas Farm Bureau, both a powerful political lobby and immense insurance company, fears overly stringent environmental regulation of farming could put farmers out of business. Environmentalists are putting out the message that sending premiums to Farm Bureau is paying to support pollution of the Buffalo River.
The farm fattens Brazilian owned hogs for slaughter and export.
The environmentalists' battle cry:
Dollars to Brazil, pork chops to China, hog shit to the Buffalo.
Legislative leaders had suggested, outside normal rules, a Monday deadline for filing of bills for the special session Gov. Asa Hutchinson is expected to call. As yet, no formal proposals have emerged on the Buffalo or the hotly contested pharmacy reimbursements under the Medicaid expansion. Early filing or no, a two-thirds vote of the legislature can expand topics in any session. The hog farm legislation is being circulated with an eye toward gathering that level of support.
C and H
Posted: 27 Feb 2018 07:35 AM PST
Reliable sources say Arkansas Court of Appeals Judge Kenneth Hixson will file for the Arkansas Supreme Court seat held by Justice Courtney Goodson, who has said she'll be seeking re-election. AP reached him later for confirmation.
That would make a three-way race. David Sterling, legal counsel for the Department of Human Services, announced earlier. He's an extreme-right Republican who made an unsuccessful Republican primary race for attorney general against Leslie Rutledge in 2014.
Hixson's biography from court website:
Judge Kenneth S. Hixson was born in Paris, Arkansas in Logan County, the youngest of five children. Growing up, he worked with his father at the coal mines around Paris. He graduated from Paris High School in 1974. He received a B.S. degree in Mathematics from the University of Central Arkansas in 1978 and received a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in 1982.Hixson, 61, could be an option for the segment of voters who follow court races and who weren't enthused by the Goodson-Sterling option. Goodson was beaten up by dark money in her race for chief justice two years ago and likely again will suffer from her marital connection to class action lawyer and UA trustee John Goodson. He and friends have spent freely on Supreme Court races. Goodson angered the business community as a justice. After backing her candidacy against John Fogleman she joined decisions corporate interests didn't like. She's also been enmeshed in internal court bickering that has grown so poisonous that the court went to video conferencing rather than meeting together in person.
Sterling touts his Federalist Society, NRA
Sterling's announcement, by the way, claims he's an "appointee" of Gov. Asa Hutchinson. The chief legal counsel of DHS is NOT a gubernatorial appointee, though the governor did "announce" the hiring and praise Sterling.
I note that Hixson told AP he hoped out-of-state groups wouldn't get involved in the race. Wishful thinking, I'd guess. Deep-pocket conservative groups are
Posted: 27 Feb 2018 06:07 AM PST
This is big news: A 10-3 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that it was impermissible for a New York company to fire a skydiving instructor because he was gay. It is the second such ruling by an appellate court, against one in favor of discrimination in another circuit.
The Trump Administration went to court to defend the firing, over the finding of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. The case may force a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a majority opinion joined at least in part by eight other judges, Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann wrote, "Since 1964, the legal framework for evaluating Title VII claims has evolved substantially," adding that it now included expanded protections against discrimination based on factors like "sex stereotypes." The opinion said that the law should be read to include sexual orientation.Arkansans who want to discriminate have a couple of added degrees of protection. For one, we reside in the 8th U.S. Circuit, perhaps the most conservative appellate court, controlled by Republican judges. Arkansas also has a law intended to protect those who want to discriminate against LGBT people. You need only say it's about religion and you may discriminate in employment, housing or even serving a hamburger. In time, that sham to protect discrimination will find its way to court resolution, too. But if Republicans continue to control the judicial appointment process, the chances of erosion of hard-won gains in non-discrimination are great.
Posted: 27 Feb 2018 05:53 AM PST
The Republican tax cut, with its big benefit for corporations, was supposed to trickle down on lower-income people. The New York Times reports:
President Trump promised that his tax cut would encourage companies to invest in factories, workers and wages, setting off a spending spree that would reinvigorate the American economy.Buybacks are good for the stock market. Warren Buffet said he might put some of his company's $28 BILLION windfall into buybacks. But rising stock prices don't necessarily lift the economy.
At a news conference Thursday, the head of the White House's Council of Economic Advisers, Kevin Hassett, acknowledged that many companies were spending their money on buying their own shares.Free beer tomorrow.
(Yes, there have been announcements of one-time bonuses and even at a few companies some wage increases, but they've amounted to a small percentage of the corporations' tax cut bonanza.)
Posted: 27 Feb 2018 05:44 AM PST
Five permits for
I mentioned yesterday the shadowy work of an unidentified party to compile information about political ties, well-known people and sources of financial support in the various applications. I also mentioned that this outfit made a guess on the winners. Here's their tout sheet.
Comprehensive Care Group
Natural State Wellness Enterprise
Heritage Farms of Eastern Arkansas
Each has an association with well-known names or fortunes, though they are hardly alone in that among applicants.
The commission meeting is at 3:30 p.m. at the ABC conference room at 1515 W. 7th. It is expected to be overflowing.
PS: It's fair to note that applications were scored individually and then composite scores added, supposedly without knowledge of the commissioners. So the winners, in theory, will be a surprise to all.
Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman, M.D. - Chairwoman (Appointed by Governor Hutchinson)
James Miller (Appointed by Senator Dismang)
Dr. J. Carlos Roman M.D. (Appointed by Senator Dismang) (2 Year Term)
Dr. Stephen J. Carroll, PharmD. (Appointed by Representative Gillam) (2 Year Term)
Travis W. Story, Esq. (Appointed by Representative Gillam)
At least one has a work connection to a figure connected to one of the applications.
Posted: 27 Feb 2018 05:31 AM PST
The Ozarks have always sheltered a diverse range of people — hardscrabble farmers, hillbillies, pot growers, back-to-landers, you name it. Here's another interesting segment, detailed by KUAF's Jacqueline Froelich in a 14-minute piece for Ozarks at Large.
From her summary:
The Purple People, members of the reclusive Nahziryah Monastic Community, live deep in the Ozarks wilderness of Marion County. Led by a self-described African American mystic, disciples and family members are required to take strict vows under his "Nazir Order of the Purple Veil." From the outside, the 20-year-old agrarian commune dotted with purple dwellings appears almost whimsical, but ......
The Purple People have a website (mailing address St. Joe.) They have a marketplace as well selling oils, incense and meditation supplies.
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 05:22 PM PST
20 Republican state attorneys general, including Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, have gone to court to
Their argument, in a Texas federal court, is that since Congress has removed the fee, or tax,
"Obamacare has been an overreaching, unconstitutional burden for all Americans from its inception," said Attorney General Rutledge. "For too long the federal government has mandated Arkansas's health care without regard for the medical care Arkansans desire or can afford. It's time for this act to be rightfully held unconstitutional so that Americans can again be free to select the health coverage best suited to their needs."If the whole law is struck down, doesn't that spell the end of the related expansion of Medicaid, a program that Arkansas has tailored to serve more than 300,000 people?
And if the Medicaid expansion goes?
How many of the 300,000 will die from lack of
What becomes of the state budget, stripped of hundreds of millions of federal dollars?
What happens to UAMS, already teetering but propped up to a degree by a reduction in free charity care?
What of rural hospitals?
What of people who'll lose jobs in the health industry?
What of the state's loss of premiums through the private option program?
What if the depressed economy generally affected by the loss of a billion dollars in spending in Arkansas?
I'm seeking a comment from the governor's office.
Will the Democrat Party field at least a token candidate?
Posted: 26 Feb 2018 02:44 PM PST
On Feb. 23, the Historic Arkansas Museum kicked off its first History Is Served dinner, where local chefs create a multi-course meal inspired by traditional Arkansas food culture. First up were Chefs Michael Selig and Gilbert Alaquinez of 42 Bar and Table at the Clinton Center. They did food inspired by Quapaw cooking, including sunflower seed cakes, lima bean succotash, New York strip-style bison topped with sweet potato
HAM has an interview with Alaquinez on the experience on the museum's blog. An excerpt:
What was it like for you to cook a dinner based on traditional Quapaw food?The next dinner is April 5, and the theme will be Colonial Arkansas with French and Spanish foods. Tickets will go on sale on March 12 at historicarkansas.org.
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