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Green acres

Green acres

March 8, 2018

Vol 44 • No 27

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Arkansas's medical marijuana growers come to light

Four counties, five companies, lots of jobs in the cannabis business.

2018 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase finals preview

We'll crown a winner Friday, March 9.

Hucked

Argenta Community Theater stages 'Follies'

And much more.

Rich get richer

Arkansas State University heard from a paid consultant last week about ways to become more efficient — make more money, in other words — and perhaps even serve students better.

Pass red flag laws

As a parent and teacher, I write to argue against President Trump's assertion, implicitly supported by Governor Hutchinson, that arming teachers would improve safety in our schools. Following the tragedy in Parkland, American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association oppose allowing nonsafety personnel to carry guns in schools.

The new Arts Center

It's four years off, but worth the wait.

The year of the outsider

Most years around this time, political scientists come together at the Arkansas Political Science Association's annual meeting for a session in which we provide our analysis of where Arkansas politics has just been (if a general election has just happened) or where it's going (if we're at the start of an election year).

Dead Meadow comes to White Water

Also, Miranda Lambert is at Verizon.

Growers and $$

Some, but not all, of the five companies the state has scored as eligible for cannabis cultivation in Arkansas included in their applications estimates of job hires and financial impact. Companies estimate hires between 25 and 60; two estimate payrolls will exceed $1 million.

Safe schools

A truth all teachers know: If you want to see the secrets and shortcomings of any community, just take a peek inside its classrooms. You'll find poverty, lack of education, substance abuse, unstable families and socioeconomic segregation. Children have no choice but to bear the brunt of social ills, making schools the easiest places to spot and measure our failings.

The good and bad

Arkansas enters the Southeastern Conference tournament in, of all odd locales, St. Louis this week, and they arrive there with what we'll call the Baskin-Robbins resume. After 31 games, the flavors have mostly been sweet, but there are a handful of 'em that you wouldn't want to sample again.

Unmentionables

The things we're all probably better off not mentioning in service of our collective sanity is growing by the day and hour here in Trumpistan.

An Oscars postmortem

It was the year of the merman.

Work requirement approved

A school safety commission NOT about guns and Finese 2 Tymes to federal prison.

WWJD?

Jesus found something blessed about poor people, even promising them the kingdom of God, and he was always admonishing his disciples to feed and tend to them when they were sick. He reviled the rich and the uncharitable.

Inconsequential News Quiz: Double Jeopardy! Edition

Play at home while not making recipes from "Breaking Bad."

Flying wild

Any day now, somebody's going to get busted for taking an emotional support cow on an airplane.

Rolls are a bright spot at A.W. Lin's

Sushi to the rescue.

Little Rock Zoo adds camel trio

Three female camels have joined the display at the Little Rock Zoo.

Moms are marching in Arkansas for 'gun sense,' safer schools

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a growing presence in Arkansas, will take its message about safer gun policy to a meeting today of the state Board of Education.

Past associations raise questions on marijuana permit awards UPDATE

Questions continue about the medical marijuana permit award process. For example, did Commissioner Travis Story know people for whom he'd done legal work were behind one of the winning applicants, which earned the second-highest score he awarded in the process.

Driver shoots self after police chase

The State Police reports a Missouri man is in critical condition with a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a car chase from Bald Knob to Beebe last night.

Beth Ditto at Rev Room: A Slideshow

Ditto was effusive about her roots in rural Arkansas, her skilled bandmates, her fans, her fellow White County queer movers and shakers (House of Avalon, specifically) and most notably, her family.

The shell game voucher plan: Some facts from Iowa on how it benefits the rich

Who benefits from transfer of tax dollars to private schools through a shell game voucher program being pushed in the legislature? Rich people, according to an analysis in Iowa.

School voucher plan dropped from treasurer's budget

The House today called it quits temporarily on attempting to provide a tax subsidy to K-12 private schools in the current budget session, which should end tomorrow.

UPDATE: The law and Constitution v. Mark Martin

Circuit Judge Alice Gray has a hearing this afternoon to consider Secretary of State Mark Martin's request that he not be required to comply with the state Freedom of Information Act in supplying the information sought in a lawsuit challenging the new state law requiring an ID to vote.

Unblock your Twitter, Sen. Rapert. Trump lawsuit not promising for you

Developments in the 1st Amendment lawsuit challenging Donald Trump's blocking of people from seeing his Twitter account is running in favor of access.

Thursday: Headlines, open line

The daily dose of news and comment, plus your Thursday open line.

Freedom of Choice, the segregation battle cry of the 60s, is now Arkansas law

The state Board of Education today voted 6-1 to reject requests from Camden-Fairview, Hope, Lafayette County and Junction City to be exempt from the state law requiring students to be able to freely transfer between school districts."Freedom of choice" and the segregation it encourages are now the official policy of Arkansas.

The smell also rises: What did Travis Story know about marijuana applicant and when did he know it?

Hunter Field of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette added today to the haze of pollution surrounding the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission's deliberation on cultivation permits. It increases the need for Commissioner Travis Story to answer some questions about what he knew about an application he graded from a legal client.

Process begins to alter method of drawing congressional districts; Rutledge rejects first idea

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has rejected his first submission of a ballot title and popular name for a proposal to change the way congressional districts are redrawn every 10 years.

Walmart bonuses: The rest of the story

Many Walmart workers across the country got bonuses Thursday. A Walmart critic provides some context: The big winner from the corporate tax cut was Walmart, not its workers.

UA-Little Rock fires Wes Flanigan as basketball coach

Wes Flanigan has been fired as men's basketball coach at UA-Little Rock. He had a 22-42 record in two seasons.

The Conversation: With Robert Klein of The Property Group

In this week's edition of our new podcast, "The Conversation," host Matt Price interviews The Property Group Co-Founder and President Robert Klein, who talks about what inspired him to start his own real estate agency and how experiencing loss early on in his life defined who he is today. Plus, some pretty funny anecdotes about showing houses.

Game and Fish advertises for armed guards at its headquarters

A legal ad in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette says the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is seeking proposals for front-door security at its headquarters in western Little Rock — armed guards specifically.

UPDATE: Final cultivation permit payment includes a change of location

Scott Hardin of the Department of Finance and Administration says Natural State Wellness has paid its $100,000 permit fee and posted the $500,000 bond required for issuance of its permit to grow medical marijuana.

Special session to begin Tuesday; agenda grows

Gov. Asa Hutchinson's office says the special legislative session will begin Tuesday.  Adjournment of the current budget session will occur Monday afternoon. Pharmacy benefits, hog farming and school vouchers seem likely to be on the agenda. Along with the question of what got Speaker Jeremy Gillam so hot and bothered about transferring state tax money to private schools.

No Small Talk Ep. 8: Katy Henriksen, Springs Arts preview

A packed episode this week of "No Small Talk": a chat with Katy Henriksen, from Of Note on KUAF; Stephanie Smittle breaks down the Spring Arts issue; and we finish up with just a tiny bit of Oscar chatter.

Rutledge again rejects amendment to fix soverign immunity ruling

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has for the second time rejected the wording of a proposed constitutional amendment to clean up the legal confusion left by a recent Arkansas Supreme Court ruling on "sovereign immunity,' the constitutional principle that prevents lawsuits against the state.

Cantrell Pharmacy settles FDA complaint

Mark Friedman of Arkansas Bsuiness reports that Cantrell Pharmacy, a drug compounding operation, has settled a complaint with the Food and Drug Administration that will allow the company, which is reorganizing in bankruptcy, to stay open.

The Stank Rising Edition

The latest legislative doings and medical marijuana news — on this week's podcast.

Losing marijuana bidder files ethics complaint against Travis Story

Olly Neal of Marianna, a retired judge on the Arkansas Court of Appeals, has filed a complaint with the Arkansas Ethics Commission over Medical Marijuana Commissioner Travis Story's scoring a cultivation permit application by a company owned by people who have been Story's legal clients.

Life in Little Rock: Be careful out there

On the Little Rock City Board agenda: marijuana law enforcement; crime at Southwest Little Rock apartments; a meeting with U.S. Rep. French HIll on sales taxes.

The Blockade: Coping in the age of Trump

The story of an Ohio pig farmer who decided after Donald Trump's election that he wouldn't hear another word about it. The New York Times visits "The Man who Knew Too Little."

The open line

The readers take over.

Legislator calls for delay of marijuana permits until tax issue checked

A state legislator says the Medical Marijuana Commission should delay awarding permits next week because of questions about whether all the rules were followed by applicants, particularly on tax issues.

Remember when presidents were presidential?

Donald Trump unleashed another SOB yesterday, this one at Chuck Todd of NBC. Remember when the president was dignified?

After a rush to cut taxes, a push to fix the legislation

The New York Times reports on efforts to fix the hastily approved tax cut legislation. Consequences — both intended and unintended — now have corporate lobbyists looking for fixes. They include provisions with broad application in Arkansas.

The open line: quiet today, noisier tomorrow with LRPD lawsuit and marijuana issues

The Sunday open line includes a forecast of news tomorrow about lawsuits against the Little Rock Police Department and complaints about scoring of medical marijuana cultivation permits.

Blackface incident spurs panel at UA

The University of Arkansas has scheduled a town hall meeting tonight with top campus officials as a response to a student's recent blackface photo on Snapchat.

DeVos flunks 60 Minutes; to be promoted today to head school safety commission

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was interviewed on 60 Minutes Sunday night and the reviews seem universal: Leslie Stahl knows more about schools than DeVos. It gets worse. She's apparently to be tapped by Donald Trump to head a commission studying school safety.

Man fleeing police jumps off parking deck; is hospitalized

A driver who fled a traffic stop early Sunday morning by driving into the parking deck of Regions Bank and jumping over a barrier on the second floor to a ramp below is in critical but stable condition at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock police said.

Meeting called on Department of Arkansas Heritage

A date has been set for "A Summit Concerned Arkansans" about the Department of Arkansas Heritage, the state Archives and other issues related to management of the dpartment by Stacy Hurst.

Arkansas unemployment rate unchanged in January

The unemployment rate held steady in January.

Hutchinson adds members to school safety task force

Gov. Asa Hutchinson added some additional members to his school safety task force, a group that he has previously said would NOT consider gun safety issues. Still no students.

State responds to legislator's query on tax compliance for marijuana permit applicants

The Department of Finance and Administration has responded to Rep. Scott Baltz's request for confirmation that the state Medical Marijuana Commission made sure no applicants for cultivation permits were delinquent on state taxes.

Protest filed on marijuana cultivation permits

As predicted, a protest has been filed over the state Medical Marijuana Commission's choice of five winning applicants for marijuana cultivation permits, expected to be ratified at a meeting Wednesday.

Black officers file suit against LRPD, alleging discrimination

Saying the Little Rock Police Department is riddled with racism and racial discrimination, attorney Mike Laux announced this morning that he has filed suit against the city on behalf of three black LRPD officers and one former LRPD officer who say they were discriminated against by the LRPD through a pattern of lack of promotions, lower salaries and uneven discipline when compared to their white counterparts on the force. Laux said two other black officers will join the plaintiffs once they receive approval to sue from the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.

Today's news and the open line

The line is open. With news and comment on the legislature and other stuff.

From town hall to the ballot: Meet Kati McFarland

Kati McFarland, whose challenge of U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton's dereliction on health care at a raucous town hall last year drew national attention, asks for a mention about her candidacy for state legislature. Happy to oblige a resister.

Matthew Shepherd wins speaker's race for 2019

The Arkansas House case secret ballots after adjournment today to pick a speaker for the 2019 special session and the winner was Rep. Matthew Shepherd, an El Dorado Republican.

Hutchinson issues special session agenda: Full of hog manure and school vouchers

Like hog manure and school vouchers? You'll love the special legislative session that begins Tuesday.

Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo win 2018 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase

Congratulations to the winner of the 2018 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase, Jamie Lou & The Hullabaloo!

Attorney general rejects casino amendment wording

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has rejected the wording of a proposed constitutional amendment to expand casino gambling in Arkansas.

Indicted lobbyist Rusty Cranford accused of plotting to kill co-conspirator

Whoa. Rusty Cranford, the former powerhouse lobbyist indicated for scheming to kickback a nonprofit's money for profit, bribes and political contributions, has now been named in federal court documents as plotting to kill a co- conspirator

A tale of two cities: Bentonville and LR react to planned student walkouts Wednesday

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land. High school students plan walkouts Wednesday in solidarity with the movement begun by the Florida school massacre. The usual school leadership divide has emerged: Authoritarianism (see Bentonville) to enlightenment (Little Rock).

Trump boots Tillerson, but Cotton doesn't get CIA

Donald Trump has fired Rex Tillerson as secretary of state for occasional truthiness. He'll be succeeded b CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Republican Sen. Tom Cotton who'd been mentioned as a possible CIA director in such an event, wasn't tapped for the job.

Who needs debate? It's just the Arkansas legislature

A fast-track legislative session bodes ill for the citizenry. Consider school voucher, hog waste, and jury trial legislation for starters. There'll be no citizen input and limited debate before pending proposals are crammed into the law books.

One dead another wounded in early morning Little Rock shooting

Little Rock police found a woman fatally shot and a man seriously wounded about midnight last night at 26th and Izard.

Union criticizes Verizon call center closures, including in Little Rock

The Communications Workers of America has issued a statement knocking Verizon Wireless' plan to cut 3,000 of 6,500 workers at six call centers, including one in Little Rock.

Tuesday: An open line and murderous headlines

Here's the open line with a headline roundup that includes suggestions of criminal activity related to both a White House employee and a former top Arkansas lobbyist. 

Another complaint filed on marijuana permits

River Valley Relief Cultivation, one of the unsuccessful applicants for a marijuana cultivation permit, has filed a letter of protest with the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission.

Losing competitors sue over marijuana cultivation permits

The first lawsuit has been filed over the state Medical Marijuana Commission's scoring of the top five applicants for cultivation permits under the new medical marijuana law. Shortly after, a second was filed.

Gun violence protest and a tale of two more schools

Leaders of a Little Rock high school and the state school in Hot Springs for brainy students take different approaches to tomorrow's national student demonstration on gun violence.

Committee approves bill to regulate pharmacy benefit managers over objections of conservative group

On Tuesday morning, a legislative committee overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow the Arkansas Insurance Department to regulate pharmacy benefit managers and require PBMs to obtain licenses to do business in the state.

A victory for Obamacare in Republican primary

A special election for state Senate was a victory for Obamacare. Really.

The jury trial waiver bill, with amendment, is still a gift to special interests

Who could possibly want to expand the ability to waive jury trials? Not consumers. This is a bill so bad — even with amendments — that some Republicans oppose it.

Bentonville School District suspends student for passing out protest flyers

Rules are rules in authoritarian-controlled Bentonville School District, First Amendment be damned.

Tramp, tramp, tramp the students are marching. D-Hall in Bentonville going to be HUGE

Get yourself on social media. And if you don't know how, find a teenager to help you. Then check Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and all the rest for the outpouring of marching students.

Teacher injures student with accidental gunshot

Do we really want to put guns in the hands of teachers?

School voucher bill advances over criticism

The Senate Education Committee this morning approved the bill to divert state tax money to private schools, a backdoor voucher bill that is a historic raid on tax money for private schools.

International attention still on Arkansas's use of the death penalty

David O'Sullivan, European Union Ambassador to the United States, talked about the EU's opposition to the death penalty last night at the Clinton School.

Josh Duggar back in court

Josh Duggar is trying again in state court with a suit he lost in federal court — a claim for damages against local officials for releasing information that reflected an investigation of Duggar for molesting his sisters when they were juveniles

UPDATE: Judge Griffen issues temporary restraining order in suit over marijuana permits

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, acting on a lawsuit filed by Naturalis Health, LLC, an unsuccessful applicant for a medical marijuana cultivation permit, has issued a temporary restraining order to prevent state officials from awarding permits at a Medical Marijuana Commission today.

Proof gives green light to St. Patrick's Day opening

Proof Bar and Lounge at 2611 Kavanaugh Blvd., which got its health inspection late last week and has been in the “soft opening” stage since, will celebrate St. Patrick's Day with special drinks from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, March 17.

Wednesday: Open line and the daily news roundup

Here's the open line. And the daily news roundup.

UberEATS launches in Little Rock

Just as Gusano's owner Tim Chappell told the Times a while back when he was talking about his plans to open The Shack in the River Market district, UberEATS, the food delivery service, launched today in Little Rock. A press release from the company said you can use UberEats to have food delivered from dozens of Little Rock eateries.

House and Senate pass legislation to rein in pharmacy benefit managers

On Wednesday, both chambers of the Arkansas legislature approved identical versions of a bill to regulate pharmacy benefit managers, the powerful health care companies at the center of a dispute over cuts in reimbursements paid to pharmacists.

Legislature finishes action on bill responding to pharmacists' complaints

Benji Hardy reports for the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network on the legislature's completion of action on bills to address pharmacists' complaints about how pharmacy benefits managers have held down reimbursements for drugs covered by Medicaid.

Tune in the governor at 11 a.m. Thursday

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has scheduled an 11 a.m. announcement of an unspecified nature Thursday. My guess is that it's intended to play well politically and that state employees might want to tune in.

Short of drugs, Oklahoma looks for a new way to kill, nitrogen gas

Because of difficulty in obtaining drugs previously used in executions, Oklahoma is embarking on exploration of use of injection of nitrogen gas to kill inmates sentenced to die. Arkansas happens to be in a similar circumstance.
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