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February 27, 2014

Vol 22 • No 1

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The brutal randomness of Samantha Olson's murder

In August 2013, Samantha Olson was shot to death at the intersection of JFK and McCain in North Little Rock. As the investigation drags on with few solid leads, the apparent pointlessness of the crime has left Olson's family asking why.

An open line: They're already playing the old woman card against Hillary Clinton; Democrats have treasurer candidate; UA frat probed for racially themed party

Is Hillary Clinton too old to run for president. Mike Huckabee raises the question. Also on our open line: A Democratic candidate for state treasurer and an investigation of a UA fraternity for having a racially stereotypical party on M.L. King Day.

Latest enrollment figures from DHS: 127,000 have gained coverage under the private option

The latest enrollment numbers from DHS are out: more than 127,000 have gained coverage under the private option. That's 127,000 Arkansans who will lose their health insurance if a minority of the legislature gets their way and blocks the private option.

A Medicaid beneficiary explains his legislative opposition to Medicaid expansion

Republican Rep. Josh Miller of Heber Springs caught my attention last week with an impassioned speech against Medicaid expansion for Arkansas's working poor. I knew Miller, who has a rental housing business, was a recipient of significant past and current Medicaid help himself. I asked him to explain his viewpoint. He talked candidly and extensively about how he suffered a serious injury, the help he received from Medicaid and how he views his situation and that of others somewhat differently.

Arizona governor vetoes bill to protect discrimination against gays

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Tweeted her decision to ban the Arizona legislation aimed at protecting businesses that want to discriminate against gay people.

In pursuit of Cloar

Find him at the Arkansas Arts Center.

Local fatigue

Has there been a word or phrase so commonly used in political discourse recently, and so little understood, as "private option"?

On a run

By the time you burden yourself with these fresh Pearls, you'll likely be all frothy with anticipation of the singular basketball stanza that will pretty much dictate how the postscript for 2013-14 is written.

See that mountain over there?

Looking out of our office window, The Observer can see the Historic Arkansas Museum's 1850s homestead and log cabin preserved amidst the urban jungle of Little Rock's downtown.

Rockefeller and death row

Governor commuted death sentences in 1970.

Rep. Josh Miller, recipient of significant government assistance, opposes Medicaid expansion in Arkansas

Last week, Rep. Josh Miller, a Republican legislator from Heber Springs, spoke against the private option Medicaid expansion last week. He invoked FDR's New Deal — a "hand up," he said, not a "handout."

Making it official

Republican Asa Hutchinson announced his candidacy for governor Monday at the Capitol.

It blows

But 'Pompeii' has its moments.

Five of a kind

It's not often we have a chance to praise five members of the Arkansas Congressional delegation for their votes on one bill.

Move to Pakistan, Nugent

I have been in the music business since 1967. During this time I've represented artists including Black Oak Arkansas and Krokus.

Gentlemen, start your 'staches

Pick your hirsute horsey, race fans! It's time for the second annual Arkansas Times/Root Cafe Beard Growing Contest.

Televised fictions beat printed facts

Politically speaking, here's the thing about those melodramatic ads attacking the Affordable Care Act currently running on TV: In terms of actual policy, they're as futile as the 40-odd votes to repeal the law that House Republicans have already cast.

Jimbo Mathus to White Water

Also, Neil deGrasse Tyson at UCA, DJ Paul at Juanita's, 'Slow Southern Steel' at Robinson, Evelyn 'Champagne' King at the Doubletree Hotel, Jack Oblivian at White Water Tavern, the Little Rock Marathon and Willie Nelson at Walton Arts.

Arkansans agree: It's time to raise minimum wage

The idea of raising the minimum wage gets traction, critics like to say, only in election years. So, because it is a vote-getter, President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress are pushing a wage bill this year, that is doomed to failure in a Congress controlled by Republicans.

Paleface comes to White Water Tavern

Also, Lil Ronny MothaF comes to Elevations.

An Arkansas classic

Jones Bar-B-Q is worth a visit to Marianna.

Duckstronaut launched to finals

Last semifinal round on Thursday.

Does Dustin McDaniel have duty to defend ban on same-sex marriage?

Early this week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had a message for folks in Dustin McDaniel's position. Holder called on the nation's state attorneys general to consider taking up the cause of marriage equality by refusing to defend their states' laws that block same-sex couples from access to marriage.

It was a good week for Judge Jay Moody

It was also a good week for Sen. Mark Pryor, clearing dead wood and not taking a position. It was a bad week for legislative ethics, an Arkansas National Guardsman and Philander Smith College.

Flying on right wing

It's become accepted — because it's been repeated by corporate media so often — that PBS and NPR and their local affiliates are left-leaning. It may be true of some of the local affiliates, though demonstrated in ways so small as to be irrelevant.

Chew on this: Salpicão from Cafe Bossa Nova

Looking through the menu at Cafe Bossa Nova, one dish in particular may get brushed over rather quickly due to its somewhat odd combination of ingredients. But this dish is placed at the top of the “Especialidades da Casa” section for good reason—the Salpicão deserves your attention.

Budget office details harsh impact of health plan backed by Tom Cotton

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor's campaign is touting a Congressional Budget Office study that details the harsh effects of health care legislation favored by his opponent, Republican Rep. Tom Cotton.

A watershed year for marijuana

The New York Times writes this morning that more than half the states may consider ballot measures this year to legalize use of marijuana in some fashion,

Carroll Cloar at the Arkansas Arts Center

The artist talks about his work in a video from a Memphis TV station.

Quest charter school relocation was in works when state Board approved different site

Public hearings and a state agency hearing are scheduled for a proposed change of the recently approved Quest charter middle school from a location on Rahling Road in Chenal Valley to a location several miles east off Financial Center Parkway near I-430. The school operator, Responsive Education Solutions, has provided documents under an Arkansas Times Freedom of Information Act request that shows the alternate site was under study before the state Board of Education approved the school application at the Rahling Road site. Location of the school was an aspect of the board's debate.

Martha Shoffner makes federal court appearance

Former Arkansas treasurer Martha Shoffner made an initial appearance in court today on recently filed federal charges that she'd illegally spent campaign money on herself. David Goins of Fox 16/KARK reports that Shoffner had no comment for reporters and that her attorney said he was prepared for trial Monday on earlier charges that she took money from a securities salesman in return for state bond business.

Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival chosen as Academy Award qualifier

In a press conference at the Ron Robinson Theater this morning, representatives from the Arkansas Film Office, the Arkansas Motion Picture Institute and the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival announced that the festival has been named an Academy Award qualifier in the Documentary Shorts category. Susan Altrui, chair of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute board, pointed out that only "one percent of all film festivals in the world have this designation," and emphasized the economic potential for Hot Springs.

Phil Wyrick to run for Pulaski County judge again

Pulaski County will have a vigorously contested race for county judge this year. Republican Phil Wyrick, an unsuccessful candidate against Democrat Buddy Villines six years ago, told me that he'll be filing this afternoon. Villines is retiring. Former legislator Barry Hyde of North Little Rock will run as a Democrat. Glen Schwarz, a perennial candidate, is running as a Libertarian.

No progress this week on Medicaid expansion

The Arkansas House adjourned today until 1:30 p.m. Monday. So further votes or action on amendments to make the private option Medicaid expansion acceptable to holdouts will wait until at least then. The measure has passed the Senate but needs 75 votes in the House. It has not gotten past 73 known supporters so far.

No vote on private option today, but details of possible deal emerge

As expected, there was no vote today in the House on the private option, but details have emerged of a possible deal. Here's what we know...

Arkansas Times photo intern shoots the drag queens of Sochi

As part of Ball State University's BSU at the Games, Arkansas Times photo intern Matt Amaro covered the culture of Sochi during the Winter Olympics. Along the way, he became part of the news in a Sochi gay bar.

Cranford Johnson to relocate to Third and Main

A potential move reported here weeks ago has been firmed up: Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods, the state’s largest marketing, advertising and public relations firm, will move from Capitol Avenue to the Fulk Building at Third and Main, the long-time home of Bennett's Military Supplies. Jones Film Video, which has been at Sixth and Chester, will move into a building across the street that has been occupied by Mr. Cool's.

Natural Resources Commission rebuffs legislative pressure, refuses payment to builder of illegal dam

Legislative pressure tactics failed today to persuade the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission to pay any legal or engineering fees incurred by Dan Eoff in Clinton as a result of his construction of an unpermitted earthen dam in Van Buren County. Sen. Bryan King of Green Forest and Rep. Josh Miller of Heber Springs, both Republicans, had pressured the agency to pay the fees and had held up the agency's budget to force the payment.

Name that Arkansas artist

This artist has an exhibition soon in Little Rock. Who is it?

Photos of Rohwer at Arkansas State

A one-day exhibit complements discussion of the Japanese-American internment camp.

Open line: Curbing violence among young black men. Election filings. KATV's Christina Munoz to UCA. A legislative prediction.

The evening open line news roundup includes a conference in New Orleans about the homicide rate among young black men. Also: More election filings. UCA steals an anchor from KATV for a top PR job. And a legislator predicts resolution of the Medicaid impasse by Tuesday.

Do you know what's in your tamales?

Fresh from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission: Wildlife officers today arrested a White County couple on several wildlife violations. The pair allegedly used wild animals, such as deer, to make tamales in their roadside stand.

Come to the Ark. Times-Root Cafe Beard Growing Contest, stay for Woody Pines

Time to clear your calendar, people. The second annual Arkansas Times/Root Cafe Beard Growing Contest is just around the corner. It's scheduled for 12:45 p.m. on Saturday, March 1 at the Bernice Garden, after the conclusion of the SoMa Mardi Gras Parade.

Food Feedback Friday: soup, short rib, scrambles

Now it’s time for everyone’s favorite time of the week — Food Feedback Friday. That portion of our program that allows you all to comment on what you’re eating around town — what you like and what you don’t.

Huge fire at vacant Majestic Hotel in Hot Springs

The landmark Majestic Hotel in Hot Springs, vacant since 2006 and recently boarded up, caught fire last night and kept burning as dozens of firefighters worked to extinguish the flames. Coverage of the spectacular fire kindled memories among thousands of Arkansans from the resort hotel's happier days. The fire was still burning this morning.

Votes set to move judicial nomination of Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid moved last night to overcome Republican obstruction of more presidential nominations, including that of Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville to a federal district court judgeship in the western district of Arkansas.

UPDATE: Sen. Johnny Key won't seek re-election, Rep. John Burris in the wings

Sen. Johnny Key, the Mountain Home Republican, told his hometown newspaper, the Baxter Bulletin, that he would not seek re-election this year. That indicates he expects a favorable look by the committee that will choose from dozens of applicants to be the next lobbyist for the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. Rep. John Burris is expected to file for the seat before filing closes Monday.

Little Rock makes Top 10 crime list

KARK reports that Little Rock has made a Top 10, ranking at No. 5 on a list of the country's most dangerous cities in the category of population under 200,000. Among those 10, Little Rock was one of only three that didn't report a decline in crime according to recently released FBI statistics, KARK reports.

Rep. Josh Miller gets national exposure on MSNBC as Medicaid expansion opponent

Republican Rep. Josh Miller of Heber Springs was interviewed by MSNBC's Chris Hayes last night. He defended his opposition to Medicaid expansion in the face of his own significant benefit from the program. He said the government can't afford to cover more people. He also again made the inaccurate claim that he and other opponents don't want to take coverage away from people already signed up.

Gun slaying on Baseline Road

Cedric Pennington, 44, was shot to death shortly after midnight last night outside apartments at 8621 Baseline Road.

UPDATE: Clinton Library plans release of presidential papers

Politico reports that the Clinton Presidential Library will begin releasing papers this afternoon that had been allowed to be kept secret until last year. Some 25,000 pages are to be released in the next few weeks, with about 5,000 pages coming today. Review continues on about 8,000 pages of material.

John Neal Rock&Roll wins round 5 of Musicians Showcase

John Neal Rock&Roll secured the fifth and final spot in the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase finals last night. See video of a performance by the band and the night's three runners-up below and make plans to attend the finals, 8 p.m. Friday, March 7 at Revolution.

Beebe signs bill to avoid lieutenant governor election

Gov. Mike Beebe today signed SB 139 which gives him the power not to call a special election to fill the lieutenant governor's office this year.

Ron Robinson to screen 'Stripes', host post-screening Q&A with Judge Reinhold

Awesome. Ron Robinson Theater will celebrate one of actor/writer/director Harold Ramis' greatest comic achievements with a special screening 7 p.m. Friday March 7. "Stripes" of course stars Ramis, who co-wrote the script, Bill Murray and John Candy. It also marked the feature film debut of Little Rock's Judge Reinhold, who'll be on hand next Friday to talk about the film and working with Ramis, who died earlier this week.

Bennett's Military will stay downtown, but precise location still under study

News yesterday about plans to renovate the Fulk Building, current home of Bennett's Military Supplies, for a new home for the Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods ad/PR firm didn't include an answer to the future location of the venerable retailer, 144 years old and a 74-year resident of Main Street. A new location should be decided by next week. It will be downtown.

Denis Seyer to consult for 1620 Savoy, Cache

Locally beloved restaurateur Denis Seyer has become chief consultant for RH Cuisine, owner of 1620 Savoy and Cache Restaurant, Arkansas Business reports. Seyer will assist with menu development.

Race develops for Court of Appeals, Bart Virden to challenge Mike Maggio

Bart Virden, a Conway County district court judge in Morrilton, filed today for the District 2, Position 1 seat on the Arkansas Court of Appeals. Circuit Judge Mike Maggio of Conway had filed earlier for the position.

Election filings include Democratic gubernatorial candidate

Republicans are tickled. Mike Ross will have to spend some money in the Democratic primary. He drew an unexpected opponent today — Lynette "Doc" Bryant of Little Rock. She's been active politically, but generally in losing efforts.

Pulaski Tech board restates support for Ellibee

The board of trustees of Pulaski Technical College expressed its support for president Dr. Margaret Ellibee.

Open line: The shrinking news business; Pryor nicked for Koch contributions; dispute on voter ID; Walton grant application slowed by questions

The open line news roundup: Most of Stephens Media news bureau in Little Rock lose their jobs. Mark Pryor bites Koch hand that feeds him. Lawsuit possible over new state election rule. Unable to answer my questions, a state agency delayed a rubberstamp vote on a Walton-financed bid to get some federal money to pass out to charter schools.

The Josh Miller in the Spotlight Edition

The latest in the fight to over reauthorizing the private option in Arkansas, the legislative hypocrite of the week, Sen. Johnny Key and the University of Arkansas and a beginning of the end of the lieutenant governor’s office leftovers — all covered on this week's podcast.

Enrollment begins for Quest charter middle school, though location remains to be approved

Gary Newton, the Walton Foundation-paid charter school lobbyist who's led the formation of the Quest charter middle school, says on social media that the enrollment process for the new school will begin Monday and continue through March 17. That period will finish before the state Education Department's charter review panel takes up the school operator's application for a change of location from the site originally approved by the state Board of Education.

Josh Miller gets constituent mail; good arguments for all legislative holdouts on Medicaid expansion

Carol Balderree of Heber Springs thought she heard a different sort of representative when now-Rep. Josh Miller was campaigning for the legislature. But his words and deeds on implementation of the Affordable Care Act have made her think otherwise. Her letter to Miller, published by Blue Hog Report, is worth a read.

National media spin on the Clinton papers — Hillary was powerful!

The New York Times put its gloss on the Clinton White House document dump at the Clinton Library yesterday. In short: Nothing new, but we have to make it seem like there is.You will be shocked, undoubtedly, to learn that Hillary Clinton has an aversion to media. That she was a champion of women's rights. That her staff wanted her in public more. That the health care initiative was a bummer.

Tom Cotton invokes Nazi era in faulting U.S. response to Russian action in Crimea

Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to send troops into the Crimean region of Ukraine has drawn a blistering response from a reliable hawk, Republican Rep. Tom Cotton. He compares the Obama administration's reaction so far to timid response in 1938 to Hitler's annexation of Austria. Cotton is not calling for U.S. military action. Yet.

Pulaski County to sue over state election board's rule on absentee voting

As expected, the Pulaski County Election Commission voted this morning to sue over a new state Board of Election Commissioners rule on handling absentee ballots submitted without ID required under a 2013 law. The action will be broad, which means it could expand into the whole question of the constitutionality of the Voter ID law generally.

The Crimean open line

The Saturday night line is open and foreign policy wonks will be studying up on Ukraine, Crimea and such. President Obama has talked to Putin. Talks and diplomacy won't satisfy the hawks. Or maybe Ukrainians either. Nothing less than a cage match will do for warmongers like Tom Cotton.

Another bad amendment for Medicaid expansion

The latest amendment being discussed to win the critical votes to pass the Arkansas version of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare is another bad idea.

Lee Lorch, a figure in Little Rock's '57 crisis, dies at 98

The New York Times carried a lengthy obituary yesterday on desegregation activist Lee Lorch, a college teacher whose work in breaking down segregation barriers in Manhattan housing was his lead accomplishment. But he also played a role in the Little Rock school desegregation crisis in 1957.

Little Rock marathoners face wintry conditions

The 2014 Little Rock Marathon is in progress in misting rain and temperatures dropping by the minute. But on they go. Brian Chilson has lots of photos at the start at this link.

The Medicaid expansion open line

The Sunday open line includes a video from the Daily Show, again leading the way on essential news coverage, this time on the need for Medicaid expansion.

Iced in as election filing draws to a close

Filing for political offices closes at noon today for the partisan primaries. Judicial candidates have until 3 p.m. to file. Judging by the looks of my street, I won't be able to make it to the Capitol to file. I wonder how many others are in the same situation.

Fear mongering with Medicare Advantage

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, whose perfect world would include a safety net only for those able to purchase it, has been trying to stir up seniors with a drumbeat of attacks on what the Obama administration has supposedly done to Medicare Advantage, the private option version of Medicare. This New York Times editorial explains how far off base he is. It is also a time to remember that when you inject a subsidized private profiteer into health care delivery it doesn't lower costs, it increases them. See the private option version of Medicaid now under consideration in Arkansas.

Walmart starts blogging today

Some time today, Walmart is supposed to unveil on its corporate website a new blog to communicate with stockholders and anyone else who wants to talk with the giant retailer. Public comments will be permitted, though it's not yet clear if they'll be pre-screened.

Wildlife officers raid cockfight in Desha County

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission arrested 29 people Sunday at a cockfighting ring in Desha County, near Kelso.

Democrat Mark Robertson files today for Land Commissioner

Mark Robertson, a Little Rock landscape architect, is filing this morning as a Democrat for state land commissioner against incumbent Republican John Thurston. That fills a statewide slate for the Democratic Party in its quest to hold on to a majority of the seven statewide offices, a count that deterines partisan control of election commissions statewide.

Whistler biography by UA historian released

Daniel Sutherland draws on the brilliant artist's correspondence to contrast his public and private side.

Science bests religion in Texas textbook battle; decision trickles down to Arkansas

Texas Monthly reports that, after years of control by religionists, the Texas science textbook battle has been won by scientists. This is a development that has implications in Arkansas,

Candidates filing despite ice; Rapert gets a challenger in Conway

Candidates seem to be overcoming the conditions to make filing today at the state Capitol. State Rep. Fred Love made it. Chase Busch of Mena has completed his Democratic filing to challenge everyone's favorite troglodyte, Republican Rep. Nate Bell. And Tyler Pearson of Conway has filed to challenge the leading Senate troglodyte, Jason Rapert.

Jeff Rollins shifts from Republican to Democratic Party

Jeff Rollins, seeking to be one of 15 member of the Pulaski County Quorum Court, which oversees county government, filed for election today as a Democrat, switching from the Republican Party. He issued a news release saying the GOP had become a party of "attacks" and he said Democrats "value common-sense problem solving."

Nothing today on Medicaid expansion in Arkansas House

As expected, the Arkansas House of Representatives met briefly today to consider several amendments and then adjourned for the day without taking up the Human Services appropriation bill that includes continuation of the so-called private option expansion of Medicaid made possible by Obamacare. Most expect a vote tomorrow.

Democrats question Cotton on consultant background

Arkansas Democratic Party Chair Vince Insalaco wants U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton to answer some questions about work he did as a private consultant for McKinsey Co., one of the world's biggest and most influential consulting groups. There've been hints the work included work for the insurance industry.

Bailin, Criswell and Peters in "Disparate Acts" at ASU

They'll talk about the work on March 12, the day before the opening.

The iced-in open line: Republican edge in election filing; a new boss at Baptist; Arkansas's surprising love of higher education

The icy Monday line is open. The roundup includes an election filing edge for Republicans in the Arkansas House; new leadership at Baptist Health, and a figure that shows how well Arkansas supports its colleges.

Arkansas Repertory Theatre announces 2014-2015 season

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre, not to be held back by bad weather, released the details of its 39th season this afternoon, a diverse lineup that includes Tony and Pulitzer winners alongside "Elf."

UPDATE: Internet postings point to Judge Mike Maggio as source of provocative comments and remarks on confidential adoption proceeding involving Charlize Theron; judicial agency reviewing

Blue Hog Report has just posted an extensive report on a story I expected today. In it, he cites voluminous web comments that include personal information pointing toward Circuit Judge Mike Maggio, a candidate for Arkansas Court of Appeals, as the source. The comments range from sharply political or sexual in nature to comments about the confidential adoption proceeding of actress Charlize Theron.

Putin on foreign interventions

Russian President Vladimir Putin, firing back at U.S. critics, notes our intervention in foreign countries. He disclaims desire to annex Crimea. Expect bluster soon from some in Congress.

With vote today, supporters say private option the moral choice

A coalition of representatives of religious, labor and grassroots groups have issued a statement urging the Arkansas House to approve continuation of the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare by a plan known as the private option. It is, they said, a moral and human rights issue.

Statement expected today from court candidate Mike Maggio over web postings

Circuit Judge Mike Maggio, a candidate for Arkansas Court of Appeals, has still not issued a public statement about his investigation by a judicial ethics agency for comments made on an LSU fan website. Under a pseudonym Maggio apparently made dozens of provocative comments and also revealed a confidential adoption proceeding in his court by the famous actress, Charlize Theron.

The iceman stayeth

Arkansas Times photographer Brian Chilson writes that walking off his hill in Little Rock isn't possible, much less driving. He provides a current photo of five becalmed cars in his neighborhood.

Pryor campaign calls out Cotton on insurance flipflop

To score political points, Republican Rep. Tom Cotton said repeatedly that he'd forego the congressional health insurance plan and sign up on the new health exchanges. It was only fair, he said. But now it appears he's slipped out and gotten himself a low-cost grandfathered plan.

A tax break for frackers fails in committee

The special language subcommittee of the Joint Budget Committee is where the smelliest blood sausage of the legislature gets made. Today, Sen. Jonathan Dismang used it to attempt to insert a tax break for fracking sand into the law, outside of the usual process of voting it through both houses of the legislature.

Beebe calls National Guard to help stranded travelers

Gov. Mike Beebe has called out the National Guard to help the State Police and others bring aid to motorists stranded on ice-covered stretches of Interstates 40 and 55 in Northeast Arkansas.

Little Rock Horror Picture Show to screen 'Metropolis' with live score

More news from the Little Rock Horror Picture Show team: the 3rd annual festival, which be held March 20-23 at the Ron Robinson Theater, will feature a screening of Fritz Lang's classic, Expressionist, sci-fi head-trip "Metropolis," featuring a live score by last year's Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase winners The Sound of the Mountain.

February state tax take below forecast

February as another month of mixed results on state revenue, though the total still came in ahead of last year. The key monthly numbers, including poor results on sales taxes:

Hank Williams Jr., Salt-N-Pepa and Buckcherry announced as 2014 Riverfest headliners

Riverfest has announced its first three 2014 headliners, and it's a diverse bunch: Hank Williams Jr., Salt-N-Pepa and Buckcherry, three acts with impressively non-overlapping fanbases. This year's festival will be held May 23-25, and three-day passes will be on sale at half-price ($20) starting April 1. Check back next Tuesday for the next three headliners.

North Little Rock site selected for new veterans home

Cissy Rucker, director of the state Veterans Affairs Department, has announced her choice of a site recommended by a study group for a new state veterans home.The site adjoins the Veterans medical center at Fort Roots. Financing and design are not firmed up, but planning will proceed.

House approves Medicaid expansion bill on fifth vote

The Arkansas House today approved, on its fifth vote, on the federally funded expansion of Medicaid under President O bama's Affordable Care Act. Needing 75 of the 100 House votes, it passed 76-24.

Maggio issues a no-comment on judicial investigation; his campaign consultant drops him

Circuit Judge Mike Maggio of Conway, under investigation by a judicial ethics panel for comments on a website that included release of confidential adoption information, finally issued a statement on the matter today. It amounted to a no comment. His failure to quit the race prompted his campaign consultant to quit him.

The open line: Good judge, bad judge

The line is open. The evening roundup includes progress on a judicial nomination from Arkansas and the identification of the syndrome that got Judge Mike Maggio in so much trouble.

Judge strikes down 2013 law aimed at hindering ballot petitions

Circuit Judge Mary McGowan ruled today that the 2013 law aimed at making it harder to petition for ballot initiatives was unconstitutional and enjoined its enforcement. The state will likely appeal.

Congressional candidate Reynolds says he changed name because of girl-sounding name

Tea Party Republican Conrad Reynolds, a 2nd District congressional candidate who legally changed his name to Colonel just in time for the May primary, said the name change was rooted in a desire to rid himself of a name that sounded like that of a girl.

Careful driving on ice prompts road rage gunshots

Fox 16 reports on a road rage incident on Pinnacle Valley Road west of Little Rock. A driver apparently angered by the slow driving of another car on the icy road blocked the car and then got out and pumped three rounds into the car before driving off.

E's Bistro excels

Chef Dempsey has got a really special operation in this corner of North Little Rock. It’s probably safe to say that it hasn’t really gotten the attention it deserves at this point, but hopefully it’s getting there. And although I’ve become increasingly ornery about crossing the river to Dogtown to grab a bite to eat, I would not hesitate for an instant to sample the dynamic and extremely well-executed menu at E’s Bistro.

Republicans playing the military card against Mark Pryor today

MSNBC today featured U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor's race to hold onto his seat against Republican Rep. Tom Cotton. He gave Republicans the sound bite they wanted, though they've massaged it a bit to make Pryor look like he's disrespectful of the military.

Ed Pennebaker is FOCC speaker Sunday

Will talk about his blown glass creations.

Robbery suspect shot by Little Rock police

Little Rock police officers this morning shot a man suspected of the robbery of the Mapco at 8101 Stagecoach Road.

Again with the 'special language': Dismang wins frackers a tax break

Despite a warning from state finance officials that the proposal is unconstitutional, Sen. Jonathan Dismang won approval on a revote today of his proposal to give a $5 million-a-year tax break to the fracking industry by exempting materials injected in wells from the sales tax.

The greatest beards of Arkansas

Check out photos from the second annual Root Cafe/Arkansas Times Beard Growing Contest, including several of KUAR's Nathan Vandiver and a man whose beard touches the ground.

Beards galore: It can get hairy out there

Just what the doctor ordered amid the political squabbling and other assorted bad news. Rock Candy has posted the photo results of the Root Cafe/Arkansas Times beard-growing contest. Portraiture, candids and a surprise trip on the wayback machine to the University of Arkansas, circa 1972, featuring a younger Arkansas Blog author.

Josh Miller protected insurance for himself while opposing it for poorer people

Blue Hog Report beats me to the punch in digging up some legislative work by Rep. Josh Miller of Heber Springs. The Republican featured here previously for his opposition to expanding Medicaid for the working poor has, among limited legislative accomplishments, managed to protect Medicaid coverage for people with outside income like himself.

Arkansas's political realignment: It's a numbers game

Good commentary from Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly on the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor and Republican Rep. Tom Cotton. It's about the state's political realignment from blue to red and the numbers that don't offer hope for Democrats that exist in other Southern states.

UPDATE: Officer fatally wounds older man causing disturbance on bus in North Little Rock

A North Little Rock police officer today fatally wounded a man who'd been causing a disturbance on a bus and reportedly attacked the officer with a cane.

Shoffner's broker friend revealed in open court

The trial of former Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner begins with pre-trial motions and jury selection today in federal court in Little Rock. For the first time in an official forum, though not here, Steele Stephens was identified as the broker cooperating in the government's case.

Arkansas judicial nomination creeps to completion over Republican obstructionism

The U.S. Senate broke filibuster and today confirmed the presidential appointment of Timothy Brooks, a Fayetteville lawyer, to a federal district judgeship. The nomination had been pending for months, delayed by a general Republican roadblock to judicial confirmation.

The open line: Tossup predicted on Arkansas House control; million-dollar lottery winner; Al Jazeera visits Little Rock

The evening news roundup includes an analysis of Democratic Party hopes to regain control of the Arkansas House and a look by Al Jazeera America at the lack of help for LGBT youths in Arkansas.

Judge Mike Maggio withdraws from Court of Appeals race; acknowledges web postings

In an e-mail, Circuit Judge Mike Maggio has announced with his withdrawal from the Arkansas Court of Appeals race after disclosure ofhis injudicious commentary on Tiger Droppings, an LSU fan website. He acknowledged the comments and, while saying he took "full responsibility" nonetheless invoked the "politics of personal destruction."

Answers sought on Arkansas Highway Department response to winter weather

The Arkansas Highway Transportation Department is getting, or will get, a shellacking for snarls on roadways in the recent ice storms. The governor wants answers and a joint legislative committee also has been asked to investigate.