Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Feb. 25, 2014:
The word from the boss
A lot of Arkansans/Arkansawyers have mixed feelings about the Private Option, which may explain why the Legislature does. It just comes with the territory, which is called representative government. If the people are divided, their representatives will be, too. The state legislature certainly is: While the Senate has approved this way to expand Medicaid, the House still balks. And will surely be asked to vote on the issue again. What is this, the fourth or fifth time? Will that be the charm?
Why is the Private Option proving so contentious an issue? Maybe because its very name is. For this "private option" is scarcely private. Quite the contrary. It'll require more and more public funds, state and federal, to finance it as the years pass. Let's just say it's not exactly a prize example of truth-in-labeling.
Yet the speaker of the House appears determined to call the thing up for a vote as many times as it takes to pass it. And if Davy Carter doesn't succeed in twisting enough arms to get it through at first, he'll try and try again-and again and again . . . .
The speaker's message to the House last week was clear enough: If its members ever want to go home, they'll have to do Boss Carter's bidding and approve the Private Option during this fiscal session of the Legislature. That's the plain meaning of Davy Carter's statement/ threat last week:
"We're going to get this issue resolved, and there's no question to that. There's 100,000-plus people out there that are literally hanging on (to) what we do up here, and this is serious business and this membership is going to take this seriously." The "or else" at the end of that order was understood.
The trail boss on the old Rawhide serial on television couldn't have been more emphatic as he told his cowboys to round up the herd and head 'em out. Any resemblance between democracy and just following orders may be purely coincidental when it comes to this proposal. It may be only a matter of time before the stampede begins and the whole dubious package passes. Maybe today.
Surely no one would deny the state's poorest Medicaid coverage, and make their lives still poorer. Here is a chance to use federal dollars (Free Money!) to expand the state's Medicaid rolls. What's not to like? Yet the vote in the House keeps falling just short of the magic 75 needed to sign on to this Free Giveaway & Chance of a Lifetime. Why is that?
For starters, this deal isn't exactly a bird's nest on the ground, whatever its most ardent backers claim. There are strings attached. For example, the state's share of the cost for Private Option will increase once it's safely in place and the state has grown used to it. Like any other dealer, the feds are offering samples of their addictive product at a reduced rate-at first. Then the price goes up once we in Arkansas have grown dependent on it. It's a standard sales ploy in such matters: First get the suckers hooked. Then they'll pay any price for the stuff.
There are few habits harder to break than accepting federal grants. As the size of the federal debt attests. That's how Revenue Sharing, the Nixonian panacea for the states' fiscal ills, was accepted for so long-till the states wised up. Or just note the impressive size of the debt that college students amass by signing up for the federal government's student loan programs. Many wind up being dunned for years. Before defaulting. At this rate, the student loan program could prove the next great federal program-like the housing-and-hedge-fund scam just a few years back-that sets off the next great recession. Will we ever learn?
At the end of all this division and disruption sown by Obamacare, if it ever does end, the latest estimate is that 30 million Americans will still not have health insurance-or about the same number as before Obama, Sebelius & Co. foisted this hustle on the American people, not to mention all the supporting actors in this farce. To name just one: Arkansas' own Mark Pryor, who's still a fan of this not so Affordable Care Act, and whose own Signature Accomplishment as this state's attorney general years ago was to give payday lenders a new lease on their predatory life in Arkansas.
Bad ideas are everywhere in politics. Now it's the Private Option that keeps coming back to the Arkansas House again and again. Maybe it'll pass today. Or the day after. Or next week or next month. Till it does, the speaker seems determined to hold the members of the House hostage. ("We're going to get this issue resolved, and there's no question to that . . . this is serious business and this membership is going to take this seriously.") Such language has a familiar ring, as in "I'm gonna make you an offer you can't refuse."
Surely there's a case to be made for the Private Option, for by now it's been made by every vested interest eyeing the funds it would provide-hospitals, insurers, the consulting industry, the bureaucracy that would administer it . . . you name it. Yet the House still hesitates to pass it. Every time Davy Carter issues another of his pronunciamentos, he succeeds mainly in antagonizing the more independent-minded members of that body, the kind that exercise their own judgment and don't just take orders.
Maybe it's just our nature here in still frontier Arkinsaw; it seems Arkies don't take to being bullied. Especially when we're told it's for our own good and the bosses in Washington-or Little Rock-know better than us rubes out here in the country, aka Americans. See the unfolding disaster that is Obamacare, which has only begun to confuse, complicate and confound. To quote that great political sage, Bette Davis: "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night."
Texarkana Gazette, Feb. 25, 2014
Arizona should cut losses on controversial proposal
Back in 1990, Arizona voters rejected a proposal that would have brought the state in line with most of the country in celebrating the federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The story was big news. Arizona was widely criticized.
It cost the state a lot of money, too. The 1993 Super Bowl was scheduled to be played there. But after voters rejected the King holiday, the NFL voted to move the game to Pasadena, Calif. The economic impact was reported to be more than $180 million.
Arizona did get a Super Bowl in 1996-but only after the NFL made it conditional on adoption of the King holiday. The state's voters got the message and approved MLK Day in 1992.
The 49th Super Bowl is set for Feb. 1 of next year. The venue is once again Arizona.
And this time the state may keep the Super Bowl but still lose a lot of the money that usually flows into any site hosting the big game.
This time the turmoil is the result of a controversial bill approved by Arizona lawmakers that protects business owners against lawsuits if they refuse service to homosexuals-providing such service would be in conflict with their religious beliefs.
The bill has yet to become law. But it has already attracted a firestorm of criticism from around the country.
And some major Arizona business groups-including the state Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and the Arizona Technology Council-have asked Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the bill.
Why? Fear of boycotts and lost revenue. Boosters expect the Super Bowl to generate a more than $500 million economic boost, but they worry opposition to the legislation could cut into that cash in a big way.
And they are fearful that conventions and other big events will steer clear of Arizona if the bill becomes law.
Which it may. If Brewer does not sign the bill or veto it, it will become law five days after it arrives on her desk.
This is something the state should stay out of. Let business owners and offended patrons fight out such conflicts among themselves in court That's why the courts are there.
The law would certainly be challenged, leading to lengthy and expensive taxpayer-funded litigation. And it's likely Arizona would lose in the long run.
Brewer should veto the bill, and Arizona should cut its losses.
Southwest Times Record, Feb. 24, 2014
Filing period kicks off election season
Across the state of Arkansas today, political hopefuls will begin the process of filing to run in their parties' primaries, which will be May 20. Filing period ends March 3.
Early voting for that primary will begin May 5 and run through May 19.
In Arkansas, the nonpartisan judicial election is held at the same time as the partisan preferential primaries. For the first time this year, prosecuting attorneys will be included in the nonpartisan judicial primary.
Voters casting ballots for either Republicans or Democrats at the primary also will have the chance to vote in the judicial races. Those who choose not to vote in either preferential primary can vote in just the judicial races.
This year, voters will be required to show legal ID when they arrive at their polling places. According to the Secretary of State's website, acceptable IDs are photo IDs issued by the state or federal government. They include a driver's license, a college ID, a passport, a military ID, a concealed carry permit and a state or federal employee badge.
If the ID has an expiration date, it cannot have expired more than four years before the election in which you are voting. You may also contact your county clerk to get a free voter ID card. An application that spells out what is required to get that card also is available at the Secretary of State's website, sos.arkansas.gov.
Those who arrive at their voting places without ID will be allowed to vote a provisional ballot, which will be accepted if they provide appropriate ID by the Monday following the election. Those who vote by absentee ballot should include a photocopy of their ID (Do not put your driver's license in the mail, we are cautioned.). If they do not, their vote will not be counted. According to an opinion from the Arkansas Attorney General, current law does not provide a "cure period" for absentee ballots.
In Crawford County, officials have decided to move early voting from the courthouse to the Emergency Operations Center at 1820 Chestnut St. The county plans to install a wheelchair ramp in front of the building. Inside will be 10 touch screen voting machines, including one that will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Officials hope better parking and more lanes of traffic, as it were, will move things along faster.
Although Sebastian County considered offering a third early-voting site, in addition to those at the Fort Smith and Greenwood courthouses, in the final push for a budget, justices of the peace removed the $12,937 allocation previously approved.
So things are changing and voters do well to be alert. Be sure you know where your polling place is, be sure you have the ID you will need, and inform yourself about the candidates. You have time but you need to start soon. There is a cost for the democracy we enjoy, and it is the responsibility to be an informed voter. Election season 2014 officially opens today.