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May 15, 2014

Vol 22 • No 12

Read the print version

2014 Little Rock Film Festival schedule

Films, panels and parties.

Marriage equality comes to Arkansas

A state court overturns Arkansas's same-sex marriage ban.

A new home for the Little Rock Film Festival

The Ron Robinson Theater is a dream come true.

Ten to watch at the 2014 Little Rock Film Festival

A can't-miss list.

No Drama Obama

When it comes to foreign policy, everybody's a drama critic. Particularly on cable TV, the world outside U.S. borders is presented as an ongoing melodrama on moralistic themes.

Arkansas Supreme Court: Nursing home money floods Tim Cullen

The latest campaign reports add a wrinkle to the perplexing race pitting Arkansas Court of Appeals Judge Robin Wynne against a little-known trial lawyer, Tim Cullen. Nursing home money, particularly from the infamous Michael Morton of Fort Smith, has flooded into the Cullen race.

Quest charter school still working on next year

The proposed Quest charter middle school for west Little Rock was dealt a setback when the state Board of Education denied its proposal for a new location on Hardin Road, but it hasn't given up on trying to find a way to open next year. Meanwhile, the company that will operate the school has provided me some interesting information on the families of nearly 180 children who'd sought admission.

A law lesson for attorney general candidates from Cliff Jackson

I liked a letter to the editor from Cliff Jackson, a Hot Springs lawyer with a certain degree of notoriety for past political activities. He comments on the Republican primary race for attorney general and their woeful comments on constitutional law as applied in the famous same-sex marriage case. The floor to Cliff:

Real people, real discrimination: A project to change the heart and minds of the South

The Human Rights Campaign has begun its push to change attitudes in deep red Southern States on equality for gay people. The campaign targets Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas. "If we can move the South, we can move the nation," says one of the people, including several Arkansans, featured in the film.

Exploring Food and Farm Magazine

Arkansas Food and Farm is out now. Here's a brief rundown of what you'll find inside.

UCA announces 2014-2015 Public Appearances lineup, featuring Randy Newman and Common

Last night, UCA released the details of its 15th anniversary season at the Reynolds Performance Hall, with a public appearances lineup that includes Broadway musicals, lecturers, musicians, family programs and comedians.

Stop the presses: A kind word for Asa Hutchinson

News today that the state and local governments were pouring millions of public money to entice a food wholesaler to expand its warehouse in North Little Rock has occasioned a Democratic Party swipe at Republican gubernatorial nominee Asa Hutchinson. He deserves praise for rare courage on the utterance in question.

Attorney general asks Supreme Court a different way for a stay

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, delivering on his promise to the Religious Right to fight defend laws it supports, has filed another pleading with the Arkansas Supreme Court to stay Judge Chris Piazza's ruling that the state ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

UPDATE: Protest planned on 'dark money' in judicial races

The Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association announces a news conference tomorrow to express concern about "dark money" — money from an anonymous sources — being spent in Arkansas judicial races. Retired Supreme Court Justice Annabelle Imber Tuck will participate and all Supreme Court candidates are invited.

UALR gets $1 million to help non-traditional students finish college

The Bernard Osher Foundation of San Francisco has created a $1 million endowment at UALR to help working adults between 25 and 50, out of college for five years or more, to finish their degrees.

Arvest denies knowledge of documents involved in fraud case

Arkansas Business has been ahead of the rest of state media in coverage of a loan fraud investigation involving Dennis Smiley, former CEO of Arvest operations in Benton County. Today it has a report related to a document purportedly signed by another Arvest official that allowed Smiley to use Arvest stock as collateral on a loan at another bank. Arvest disclaims knowledge.

Environment under attack in Batesville today

A right-wing congressman, Doc Hastings, abetted by Republican Rep. Rick Crawford, is holding a hearing in Batesville today to continue the public alarum over designation of habitat for some endangered wildlife species in Arkansas. Environmental groups aren't happy, but a torrent of publicity has left little sympathy here for the mussels at issue.

The potential First Man rises to Hillary's defense

Bill Clinton. Force of nature. Master explainer of the complicated. Great with a sound bite. Like today, when he was asked at the 2014 Pederson Fiscal Summit about Karl Rove's effort — aided by Fox News — to plant the baseless notion that Hillary Clinton suffered brain damage in a 2012 fall.

Advocacy groups going after Republican private option supporters in primaries

A dizzying array of advocacy groups — at least ten 501c4s, 501c3s, PACs, and independent expenditure committees — co-founded and at least partially funded by Fayetteville businessman Joe Maynard, a vocal critic of the private option, have spent or donated tens of thousands of dollars this election cycle, focused on opposition to the private option. Much of it has been aimed at Rep. John Burris, now vying for an open Senate seat, one of the co-sponsors and key Republican backers of the private option. Meanwhile, AFP has only gone after one private option supporter in the primaries, leading to some puzzlement from opponents of the policy like Sen. Bryan King.

Obamacare: Is it really political poison?

Story lines are important in politics. They tend to get repeated. So check Greg Sargent at the Washington Post, revisiting the notion that Obamacare is pure electoral poison for Democrats, particularly in the South. U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor's recent lead in polls and his insistence on touting the "private option" version of Obamacare in Arkansas as good bipartisan governance at work undergird Sargent's premise that the theory needs a retink to extremist Tom Cotton's view that repeal of Obamacare is a winning theme.

Wanted: Transparency from Secretary of State Mark Martin. Good luck.

Both the Arkansas Democratic Party and his Democratic opponent, Susan Inman, called on Secretary of State Mark Martin to stop stonewalling on the subject of his aide Alex Reed. Reed worked in a congressional campaign for Ann Clemmer and questions have since been raised about his handling of campaign finances as treasurer. Reed remains on the payroll, but no longer as a public spokesman for Martin, and Martin has yet to utter a word about the controversy.

Arkansas Supreme Court lets stand all rulings in judicial election challenges; sniping over 'results' emerges. Voter ID law remains in limbo

The Arkansas Supreme Court has just issued a batch of rulings in the various cases challenging the qualifications of judicial candidates. Bottom line: No judicial candidates were disqualified and one earlier disqualification was upheld. Justices quarreled over the court's "results orientation." The Court also essentially preserved the status quo on Voter ID. A challenge to an absentee vote rule was upheld, but the court said a ruling overturning the whole law hadn't been adequately litigated for judgment.

The waiting-for-the-Supreme-Court open line

Open line. The day is drawing to a close with no decision so far by the Arkansas Supreme Court on whether it will stay or stay out of the same-sex marriage challenge until all lower court actions are completed before Judge Chris Piazza.

A note on the Supreme Court voter ID ruling; GOP chair gets cut a break by court

A touch more on the Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that overturned Circuit Judge Tim Fox's holding that the Voter ID law was unconstitutional. To be clear: It was not a substantive ruling and it took Republican Chairman Doyle Webb off the hook for giving the judge a premature opening to strike down the law in the first place.

Arkansas Supreme Court denies stay of marriage order, but a wrinkle in ruling will halt issuance of licenses in Pulaski County

The Arkansas Supreme Court has denied a request for an emergency stay of Judge Chris Piazza's order overturning the ban on same-sex marriage. The court also dismissed as premature an appeal of Piazza's ruling because it wasn't a final order. But a wrinkle will bring an end to the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses in Pulaski County, at least temporarily.

Pizzeria Santa Lucia to open brick-and-mortar location at Terry's in the Heights

Jeremy and Jacquelyn Pittman, along with their partner/pizza mastermind, Georges Launet, will be bringing a brick and mortar location of Pizzeria Santa Lucia to Terry's in the Height. Here's what to expect.

Tech Park site investigator narrows search

The realtor looking at possible sites downtown on Main Street where the Little Rock Technology Park might build or lease says two of the four clusters in the "technology corridor" have insufficient properties available to accommodate the park.

Baja Grill: ready to rock

Saline County's hit food truck Baja Grill makes its debut in the Heights, putting its unique stamp on the taco scene in Little Rock. Can the Mexi-Cali menu that made the food truck so popular work in a brick and mortar setting? When it tastes this good, you bet it can.

Shift part-time school employees to Obamacare, says state senator opposed to Obamacare

On Wednesday, the legislative panel tasked with fixing Arkansas’ public school employee (PSE) insurance fund issued recommendations that will keep the chronically distressed program solvent, according to the chair of the task force, Sen. Jim Hendren (R-Gravette).

The week that was

We need my retired colleague Doug Smith to make short pithy work of a momentous week in city and state politics. I'll try to hit the high spots, in chronological order.

Thick Syrup Records Anniversary Shows

Also, Arkansas Festival Ballet's 'Snow White' at the Arts Center, the Greek Food Festival, 'Chihuly' at the Clinton Center, Lil Boosie on the North Little Rock Riverfront, Books in Bloom in Eureka Springs and 'Jackyl' at Juanita's.

Odd bunch

How odd is this Arkansas Razorback baseball team? I mean, rhetorical though it may be, it's a legitimate question.

Standing orders

New edicts from the Office of The Observer for the week of May 14-20 are as follows.

Sad about Smith

You are sad to report that Doug Smith has decided to retire, and I'm sad to hear of it.

Tree of Knowledge zine-making workshop at the Children's Library

Also, "Everything Old Is New Again: The Arkansas Foodways Movement" at Pulaski Tech.


The scene from above as same-sex couples get married at the Pulaski County Courthouse on Monday.

Grown-up comedy

Seth Rogen enters early middle age in 'Neighbors.'

Small bites from north of the river

A recent sampling from our food and drink blog, Eat Arkansas.

Rapert's brain

In the wake of the May 9 ruling by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza overturning Arkansas's ban on gay marriage, Rev. Sen. Jason Rapert, Republican of Bigelow, has gone on a multiday tantrum, posting a screed on his Facebook page in which he said gays "have no right to redefine marriage and dilute the bedrock principle of families in our country," and later posting that Piazza's "decision was reckless and has thrown Arkansas into an uproar." Funny, we didn't see much uproar at the Pulaski County courthouse on Monday, unless you count a lot of kissing and whooping for joy.

Promises kept

When the mossbacks gathered in 1874 to write a new Arkansas constitution, they put at the top, right after a description of the state boundaries, that government's first job was to protect the rights of everyone equally to enjoy life and freedom and to "pursue their own happiness."

Done gone and broke my heart

A story about a film about a man named Phil Chambliss.

Three GOP senate battles could determine the future of the Arkansas health care private option

Opponents of incumbent Sens. Bill Sample and Bruce Holland, Rep. John Burris focus on private option vote.

Conway business owner pleads to cash deposit charge

The U.S. attorney in Little Rock has announced a negotiated guilty plea by Patrice Duncan, 59, of Conway, one of the owners of Duncan Outdoor, to structuring cash bank deposits to evade reporting requirements on deposits of more than $10,000.

Opinion: Opposing gay marriage is a 'waste of your time'

Former Arkansas news reporter Ron Fournier, now at the National Journal, has been in Little Rock and writes here about the legal battle to overturn the state ban on same-sex marriage. He draws parallels to the fight for civil rights of black people and a resistance on the part of many to that comparison. He visits, too, with Gov. Mike Beebe.

Religious Freedom: To some it means discrimination

A story from Mississippi illustrates precisely the outlook I've seen in many Arkansas politicians. Religious freedom means the imposition of discrimination against despised minorities by the state. I expect this battle to arrive here before long.

Baby it's cold outside, temperatures set records

The National Weather Service notes record lows all over Arkansas this morning — including 43 at North Little Rock, well below the old record of 48 and third-lowest May temperature ever. It fell to a record 39 in Jacksonville. and the 42 recorded in Pine Bluff broke a 107-year-old record.

Plaintiffs in Arkansas same-sex marriage case move to clarify Piazza order

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging Arkansas's same-sex marriage ban have filed a motion this morning asking Judge Chris Piazza to clarify his order to make clear that he intended to rule all statutes that prevent clerks from issuing marriage licenses are unconstitutional.

'Gay Panic in the Ozarks' — a new novel from former GOP Congressman Ed Bethune

A timely title to be sure. Former 2nd District Republican Rep. Ed Bethune tells me he has just published a novel, "Gay Panic in the Ozarks." No, it's not a quickie roman a clef about last Saturday in Eureka Springs.

New video from Goon des Garcons, 'April 18th'

Here's a new video from YGOA and Little Rock's own Goon des Garcons, in which he mostly smokes weed, hangs out with a cool dog and warns you not to fuck with his luggage. It looks like a pretty good time, which is what I would expect from a guy who took us on a nature hike in his last visual, for "Thanks 4 Nothing."

Judge Piazza clarifies order; Pulaski County has resumed issuing same-sex marriage licenses

As expected, Circuit Judge Chris Piazza has clarified that he intended to strike down both a state statutory ban and a specific statute addressing county clerks when he ruled state bans on same-sex marriage constitutional. The Pulaski clerk resumed issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The state immediately filed notice of appeal and will try to get Piazza's order stayed while the appeal is pending.

Middle of the road Chinese at Forbidden Garden

Sometimes, trying a new restaurant brings a revelatory dining experience that changes lives and brings joy to all who experience it. This isn't one of those times.

California's broken pipeline at Plains West terminal

The big pipeline gusher today in California that sent between 10,000 and 50,000 gallons of crude oil into a Los Angeles suburb occurred at a pump station run by Plains Pipeline LP, a unit of Plains All American.

Arkansas hospital survey: since enactment of private option, ER visits and number of uninsured patients down

Preliminary data from a survey of acute care hospitals in Arkansas suggests a dramatic decline in the number of uninsured patients hospitals are seeing since the enactment of the private option, Surgeon General Joe Thompson and Bo Ryall, president of the Arkansas Hospital Association, testified before a legislative subcommittee today. The survey also found that ER visits are down 2 percent statewide.

Video: More good news for marriage equality in Arkansas

From our North Little Rock studios atop Verizon Arena, Max boils down what today's clarifying order from Judge Chris Piazza means for same-sex marriage in Arkansas and where the legal fight goes from here.

The University of Arkansas extends insurance coverage to same-sex spouses

And the walls of discrimination come tumbling down. UAMS is now allowing employees who married to spouses of the same sex to add them to university benefit plans. Until Judge Chris Piazza's ruling, Arkansas law prohibited conferring the benefits of marriage, much less marriage itself, on same-sex couples.

The freedom train open line

Open line and this final thought: The Arkansas Supreme Court has set a noon Monday deadline for replies to requests to stay Judge Chris Piazza's marriage equality ruling. That means at least two more days of opportunity for marriage licenses in Pulaski and Washington counties. More happy faces. More families who want to celebrate the institution of marriage, not tear it down. The usual legislative suspects will convene tomorrow to lobby to stop the march of civil rights. That prospect inspired a reader to do a little photoshopping with the famous picture in the Alabama schoolhouse door.

Private option looms large in GOP primary race between Sen. Bill Sample and challenger Jerry Neal

Our Reporter in the paper this week looks at three GOP state Senate primaries that could have an outsized impact on the future of the private option — the state's privatized version of Medicaid expansion which has been the defining issue in intra-party Republican squabbles. Here are some additional tidbits from one of those races, between Sen. Bill Sample and retired financial auditor Jerry Neal.

Food Feedback Friday: Izzy's, Stickyz, and So

Alright...let's hear it. FFF is your time to let the world know where and what they should be eating.

UPDATE: Witness: it's important in court. So is following judges' orders.

Slate writes — and dozens if not hundreds of media outlets are writing — about hundreds of couples getting marriage licenses under Judge Chris Piazza's marriage equality ruling. Courts will be watching. They'll watch, too, as legislators protest equality and as defendants in the lawsuit ignore the order.

Tom Cotton gets a little touchy in TV interview, apologizes

Without the video clip, I make little of this. But I did track down a hot current rumor that indicated Republican Senate candidate Tom Cotton might be feeling a bit of pressure from his inability to smack down incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor. He got snippy with TV interviewers recently, enough that he apologized later.

Donald Pederson to retire from University of Arkansas

Donald O. Pederson, vice chancellor for finance and administration at the University of Arkansas, will retire June 30. The university announced. He's held the role since 1998.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette speaks — softly — on same-sex marriage debate

A week after Circuit Judge Chris Piazza's historic ruling, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette commented on same-sex marriage, though not directly on the ruling. It was empty commentary.

Arkansas unemployment rate drops to 6.6 percent in April

Despite a small drop in the labor force, the unemployment rate in Arkansas dropped from 6.9 percent in March to 6.6 percent in April. The U.S. rate was 6.3 percent.

UPDATE: Former sheriff, two others arrested in Saline County sheriff's probe

Reliable word on the street is that arrest warrants can be expected today in Special Prosecutor Cody Hiland's review of the Saline County sheriff's office during the reign of Bruce Pennington. Multiple arrests in the offing. Pennington recently dropped out of a bid to be elected to the office again.

Arkansas Supreme Court moves up deadline for comments on request for stay of marriage ruling

The Arkansas Supreme Court notified parties in the same-sex marriage case that it was moving up from noon Monday until 2 p.m. today the deadline for filing responses for requests to stay Judge Chris Piazza's order striking down the Arkansas ban on same-sex marriage. My guess: A stay is coming before the day is over.

Procedural vote blocks vote on anti-gay marriage resolution at legislature

By a roll call vote this morning, the Arkansas Legislative Council failed to suspend the rules to consider Sen. Jason Rapert's resolution expressing support for Amendment 83, which mandates discrimination against gay couples by prohibiting them from marriage or any measure giving them the legal rights of marriage.

Argenta tonight: Delita Martin, Lisa Krannichfeld and other Southern women artists

Delita Martin will demonstrate printmaking at the Laman Library branch on an evening when women dominate in the galleries.

Allen West comes to Arkansas to campaign for Tom Cotton

Wow. I'd missed that extremist former Republican Congressman Allen West was coming to Arkansas Saturday to campaign for Tom Cotton. Birds of a feather. Cotton already had the wackjobs lined up, not sure how West adds to that total.

Davy Carter explains his procedural vote on gay discrimination resolution

Republicans are furious that House Speaker Davy Carter, a Republican, voted against suspending the rule so that the Legislative Council could take up Sen. Jason Rapert's resolution in support of Amendment 83, overturned by Judge Piazza, which mandates discrimination against gay couples. He endeavors to explain

Rapert opponent rips him on marriage resolution stunt

Tyler Pearson will oppose Sen. Jason Rapert's re-election bid as a Democrat in the fall. It's always hard to unseat an incumbent. But he'll give voters a clear choice. He blasted Rapert's stunt today on gay marriage and pointed to Rapert's silence on a judicial scandal in his backyard.

Rep. John Burris and Scott Flippo squabble over private option in GOP primary

Our Reporter in the paper this week looks at three GOP state Senate primaries that could have an outsized impact on the future of the private option — the state's privatized version of Medicaid expansion which has been the defining issue in intra-party Republican squabbles. Here are some additional tidbits from one of those races, between Rep. John Burris and Scott Flippo, owner of a Bull Shoals nursing home.

Marriage plaintiffs object to stay of Piazza's ruling

The deadline is 2 p.m. for arguments on whether the Arkansas Supreme Court will stay Judge Chris Piazza's marriage equality ruling. I think the court's decision to move up the deadline from Monday to 2 p.m. on five hours' notice indicates their minds are made up to stay the ruling. But plaintiffs in the lawsuit are taking their licks at keeping the order in effect.

Arkansas Times Recommends: 'Fade Out Lines,' Ted Lucas and Homemade Irish Cream

'Arkansas Times Recommends' is a weekly series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying (or, in Max's case, not enjoying) this week.

Supreme Court to rule on marriage stay at 4:30 p.m.

Stay tuned. The Arkansas Supreme Court has sent word through its spokeswoman, Stephanie Harris, that it will issue its ruling on a request for a stay of the marriage equality ruling at 4:30 p.m. today. Hope I have to eat my words, but I'm still predicting a stay. I hope it includes a few words that indicate this shouldn't be taken as a hint on a future ruling.

A Q&A with Robert Greene, director of 'Actress' and Little Rock Film Festival programmer

Tonight at the Little Rock Film Festival, Robert Greene is screening his feature length documentary "Actress" tonight at 6 p.m. at the Historic Arkansas Museum. It's really good — one of of our "Ten to Watch" picks — and really fun to hear Green and subject (collaborator?) Brandy Burre talk about it, as they will tonight. Greene's also in town to oversee the LRFF's new cinematic nonfiction slate. Last week, I talked to the filmmaker/editor/critic about what "cinematic nonfiction" means, what his forthcoming book is going to focus on and how he self-identifies as an artist.

Arkansas Supreme Court stays ruling overturning same-sex marriage ban

At 4:30 p.m. today, with many of the justices at an out-of-state conference, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a stay of Judge Chris Piazza's ruling last Friday that Arkansas law and constitutional bans on same-sex marriage violated the U.S. Constitution.

The bash-Jason-Rapert open line

What better way to start an open line with a salvo at Sen. Jason Rapert, the bully of Bigelow, who's made oppression of gay people his life's work as a legislator. It's a letter from the Arkansas Advocates for Nursing Home Residents by its president, Martha Deaver, about the noisy Rapert's silence on Mike Maggio and campaign contributions by nursing homes who also support Rapert.

The Wedding Bell Blues Edition

The ups and downs of the fight for marriage equality, the latest on the state’s voter ID law, Republican primaries, a possible fix for the state public school employee insurance fund and a really weird state Supreme Court race — all covered on this week's edition.

Bicyclists plan 'Ride of Silence' Wednesday

Local bicyclists have asked me to spread word about the annual Ride of Silence, a national event that will be observed in Little Rock at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 21.

Clinton Library opens Chihuly show; book signing today

Hillary Clinton was on hand at the Clinton Presidential Center last night for a party to open the new exhibition of blown glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly, who was also on hand.

Speaking of Hillary Clinton …. It's a big day for PAC pushing her to run

Funny. Gayle Collins of the New York Times riffs this morning on how Hillary Clinton is the country's all-purpose celebrity, not to mention the cause of every bad happening in the world from Benghazi to the abduction of Nigerian girls. Coincidentally, today is a "Day of Action" for nationwide events orchestrated by the Ready for Hillary PAC, aimed at encouraging a 2016 presidential candidacy.

Open line: Tom Cotton is a young man in a hurry — to punish old people

The line is open early. We close out with praise for Mark Pryor advertising showing how extreme a budget cutter Tom Cotton was barely 60 days into his first term in Congress, with slashes for programs popular with seniors such as Medicare and Social Security.

Scenes from the Ozark Natural Foods "Tour de Farms"

Farm tour hosted by Ozark Natural Foods in Fayetteville brings consumers directly to the farm.

Make that Dr. Mara Leveritt. UALR honors a famous grad

I was going to wait until morning, but too many fans at UALR demand instant news coverage of UALR commencement today at which Chancellor Joel Anderson awarded an honorary Ph.D. — Doctor of Humane Letters — to Mara Leveritt, who graduated from UALR 40 years ago. Dr. Anderson taught her then.

Another pioneering opportunity for Arkansas — marijuana

The New York Times today talks about a problem with the growing availability of legal marijuana — inconsistency of the product. What's needed is the research might and efficiencies of corporate agriculture. What say the University of Arkansas expand its horizons from blackberries and catfish to Ozark Mountain sensimilla. What say the Arkansas Farm Bureau put its muscle into making Arkansas — a wizard with beans and rice, among others — the nation's leading marijuana producer.

Nursing home spending doesn't stop at Arkansas Supreme Court races

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today did a thorough look at nursing home spending, particularly by Fort Smith magnate Michael Morton, a subject we've been reporting about on the Arkansas Blog for months. Too bad they stopped at the Supreme Court, particularly on a day when they featured the hot races for judgeships in Faulkner County.

Republican candidates for attorney general scoff at independent judiciary

Roby Brock talked today with the three Republican candidates for attorney general. None would distance themselves from the notion of impeaching a judge, such as Chris Piazza, for a decision with which they disagree.

The open line forecast: Cool with a chance of TV monopoly

Cool weather and more consolidation of the TV signal delivery business are topics on the open line.

Independent expenditure for Republican private option supporters

It's a drop in the bucket being poured by big-money conservative outfits, but a grassroots group in Arkansas that works from the leftish side of the political spectrum is spending a little money to help "educate" voters about Republican legislators in contested primaries. They are being lauded for their votes on the private option version of Medicaid expansion financed by Obamacare.

From barbershop to bank tower, a look at Arkansas races for Senate, governor

Ron Fournier, the former Arkansas newspaper reporter who's now a premier correspondent for the National Journal, continues his reporting on Arkansas politics with an assessment of races for U.S. Senate and governor beginning with a throwdown on President Obama and Democrats in general while sitting in a chair at Jerry's Barber Shop in the Heights. It's not all bad.

Zaffino's makes you feel like family

There is something about Italian food that just brings out a sense of family. This is a stereotype that is exploited by certain national chains, and something we rarely get to experience in Central Arkansas. When we visited Zaffino’s in Sherwood recently there is no doubt that we felt like a part of the family.

Little Rock Film Festival awards roundup

The Little Rock Film Festival came to a close last night with a screening of "Devil's Knot," and a Closing Night Awards Gala held at the Old State House Museum.

Study: Students sacrifice to pay top university executive salaries

The New York Times reports a study that shows higher student debt and greater use of part-time faculty at public universities with the highest paid top executives. A good time to look at university executive pay in Arkansas, with tuition increases up for consideration this week by the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees.

Poll: Arkansas voters favor Pryor, Ross and minimum wage increase

This poll came during the visit of President Obama to Arkansas and got lost in the shuffle, though I think the U.S. Senate number got some attention. But the Give Arkansas a Raise Now coalition hired Opinion Research Associates to conduct telephone interview polling on its minimum wage increase proposal and also included some key political races. The results favored U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross and an increase in the minimum wage.

Police officer fatally wounds alleged robber Sunday night

Police say a 50-year-old Little Rock police officer fatally wounded Juvon Allen, 21, after Allen tried to rob him in the 2300 block of Rebsamen Park Road about 11:30 p.m. Sunday. The officer's name has not been released.

University of Arkansas Board to consider undergrad tuition increases up to 6% for 2014-15

The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees agenda for its meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Hope outlines proposed tuition and mandatory fee increases for system campuses ranging from 3.5 percent at UAPB to 5 percent at the Fayetteville campus.

135 greyhounds removed from Arkansas farm because of poor conditions

A news release from the American Greyhound Council says 135 greyhounds have been removed from a farm in rural Arkansas because of apparent mistreatment.

No, there is a not a "bailout" for the Arkansas private option

Apparently if you call something a “bailout,” people won’t like it! This is the approach taken in a piece on the private option posted earlier last week at Forbes, the third article Forbes has published in the last month or so criticizing the Arkansas plan. We take a look at some of their insinuations, and where things actually stand on the policy and politics of the private option.

Sheriff candidate with hot check conviction wants Supreme Court to keep him on ballot

Josh Johnston, a former Republican state legislator from Rose Bud, has filed an emergency petition with the Arkansas Supreme Court in hopes of overturning a circuit court order that ruled him ineligible to run for Cleburne County sheriff because of a 1995 misdemeanor hot check conviction.

Arkansas gets national attention for sleazy judicial races

The New York Times mentions in an editorial the dishonest and underhanded anonymously funded TV campaign being used to defeat Tim Cullen in his race for Arkansas Supreme Court. It's also drawn the unflattering attention of the respected fact-checking operation.

Another marriage ban falls, in Oregon

A federal judge has struck down Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage. A federal appeals court refused to stay the ruling. In Oregon, the state declined to defend the law because, as in Arkansas, it's demonstrably a denial of equal rights and due process under the U.S. Constitution to discriminate against people on account of sexual orientation. In Arkansas, of course, the majority of the legislature doesn't recognize the U.S. Constitution except when it comes to guns.

D.C. politics come to Little Rock; Photo ID for press

You don't think D.C.-style politics — militant partisanship and super-aggressive message control — have come to Little Rock? I got a small chuckle this afternoon after learning a photo ID and campaign-issued credentials would be required to attend one of the election night watch parties for the Republican primary tomorrow.

Waltons sue photographer's widow for prints, negatives: UPDATE

In what photographers are calling a “David vs. Goliath” situation, the widow of a photographer who with his father shot hundreds of pictures of the Walton family from 1950 to 1994 is being sued by the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and the Walton family to have negatives, proofs and prints turned over to them.

Supreme Court denies rehearing Valerie Bailey judicial race decision

The Arkansas Supreme Court today declined to rehear its decision dismissing Valerie Bailey's appeal of a lower court ruling that found her ineligible to run for circuit judge this year against Tim Fox. The court ruled last week that Bailey had not acted expeditiously enough in challenging the ruling, though it indicated she'd have qualified for the ballot under other interpretations it issued last week on ballot qualifications.

The TGIM open line

The line is open. Why am I glad it's Monday. Because the election is tomorrow and some, candidates, such as Republican gubernatorial candidate Curtis Coleman will soon be in the dustbin of history. Coleman today said the legislature should have veto power on state courts.

McDaniel approves ballot proposal to legalize alcohol sales statewide

It took four tries, but Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has now approved the form of a proposed constitutional amendment by Little Rock lawyer David Couch that would allow the manufacture, sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages everywhere in Arkansas. It would wipe out local dry jurisdictions and leave regulation — but not prohibition — of the sale of alcohol to the legislature. About half the state is nominally dry, though most counties have some private club outlets.

And now November: James Lee Witt opens with Bill Clinton

Primary day marks the beginning of the November general election season and congressional candidate James Lee Witt is kicking off his race for 4th District Congress with a testimonial from former President Bill Clinton.

Dirty trick? 'Democrats for Bruce Holland'

The City Wire reports about something I heard about yesterday and puzzled over: An anonymously financed mailer, said to be from Democrats for Bruce Holland, the Republican Senate candidate, urges Democrats to avoid the no-interest Democratic primary and cross over to help Holland defeat his Republican challenger, Rep. Terry Rice. I'd wager a small sum no true Democratis organization is behind this.

A near-death experience is a reminder: Bicyclists have rights, too

There's a law that is supposed to protect bike riders on streets and highways. But motorists don't know or don't care. A bike rider seriously injured by one such rider says law enforcement agencies need better education, too.

LR Airport's expansion plans look sketchy with decline in traffic and flights

The long-expected news that Southwest Airlines would trim flights at Little Rock's Clinton National Airport with expiration of the law limiting its flights in and out of Dallas suggests that the Airport's 2020 Vision Plan, including a second phase with a new 16-gate concourse on top of the just completed $67 million expansion, might be a bit optimistic.

Missing in GOP primary debate: The success of Obamacare

Don't try to tell it to all the one-note campaigners in the Republican primary, but news keeps coming in about Obamacare and nearly all of it is good. Ernie Dumas lays out the details — good for the U.S., good for Arkansas — unless a Republican tide really does succeed someday in overturning it all, with disastrous consequences for the people and budget of Arkansas.

Josh Johnston's petition for emergency order on Cleburne sheriff's race denied

A split Arkansas Supreme Court denied without comment today an emergency stay of a circuit court order disqualifying Josh Johnston from being a Republican candidate for Cleburne County sheriff.

Startup acclerator AVC has formal launch

Mike Steely and Lee Watson announce their new accelerator business, which will receive a $500,000 grant from the state of Arkansas if matched.

Oops. Voter ID advocate Asa Hutchinson forgets Voter ID at polls

A bit of morning chatter on Channel 4 this morning indicated that Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson of Rogers didn't have the proper ID when he first went to early vote on Monday. The candidate later explained his forgetfulness caused him to drive from a poll back to his law office to get his ID.

New at the Promenade: Cafe Brunelle

The Promenade at Chenal shopping center in West Little Rock announced a much-needed addition today: a new cafe and specialty coffee shop called Cafe Brunelle. The cafe is now open. A press release calls Cafe Brunelle quaint and cozy at 1,395 square feet, with a menu of deli-style sandwiches, soups, salads, pastries, and a coffee bar. A locally-owned venture by UAMS' Dr. Ali Krisht and his brother Abbas Krisht, the cafe is located in the Promenade Courtyard near yoga apparel seller Lululemon.

Marriage equality arrives in Pennsylvania

The ACLU reports that a federal judge has struck down the Pennsylvania ban on same-sex marriage. What with Arkansas, Oregon and Pennsylvania in the span of a couple of weeks, Bro. Rapert has a lot of impeachment drives to get underway.

University of Arkansas, on account of Supreme Court stay, pulls back from insurance coverage for same-sex couples

Easy come, easy go. The University of Arkansas, which announced May 12 that it would in the future provide insurance benefits to spouses of same-sex married UA employees, has now made it clear that policy can't take effect on account of the Arkansas Supreme Court's stay of Judge Chris Piazza's May 9 marriage equality ruling.

Oxford American unveils Summer 2014 issue

The Little Rock-based Oxford American magazine has released the cover for this year's Summer issue, which will be on newsstands June 1. The issue features novelist Lauren Groff on the mermaids at Florida's Weeki Wachee Springs, music critic Amanda Petrusich on the rare 78 collector Joe Bussard, a dispatch from the Boy Scout Jamboree from The Morning News founding editor Rosecrans Baldwin, John T. Edge on truck-stop Indian food and fiction by George Singleton.

The Voter ID law takes effect; questions raised

Two readers of the Arkansas Blog have reported that, after presenting a valid voter ID at polls this week, an election clerk held the ID and then asked the voter to recite vital information, including address and birthdate. Fail the test and they couldn't vote, the readers said. This isn't how the law is supposed to work.

Reminder: Peter Bohlin tonight at Ron Robinson

Architecture and Design Network presents Peter Bohlin, who will give the lecture "Nature of Circumstance" tonight at the Ron Robinson Theater.

The primary night open line; fearless forecasts on the results

What if the Republican primary turned out to be an endorsement for politicians who backed the Arkansas flavor of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion? It could happen. But of course that wouldn't stop the same politicians from ranting about Obamacare against Democrats in the fall.

Superior Bathhouse Brewery to begin selling growlers

Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery in Hot Springs took another important step toward Spa City Beervana on Friday when it received its Arkansas Native Brewer’s permit from the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. But owner Rose Cranson said she still doesn't have an estimate on when she'll start brewing beer.

Election watch — UPDATE

Post election developments here tonight. I'll check in as I'm able during TV duty at Fox 16. UPDATE: Couple of surprises in early vote from Pulaski County.

The private option and the Republican primaries

Roundup on the GOP primaries in which the private option played a heavy role: three private option supporters win, two go down, and one is heading to a runoff. And the Senate — where the margin for re-authorization is extremely tight — now appears to be one vote short.

Primary roundup: An election for the ages awaits in November

With primary races done, a general election for the ages awaits Arkansas in November. Some high and low lights from Tuesday night's events.

UPDATE: Ross nearly matches Hutchinson vote and the question now is who and how many vote in November

The pitifully low primary turnout raises the question of how many and who will vote in November. And where was that tsunami of Republican voters?

The time is now to investigate the Voter ID process; something is bad wrong

The Voter ID law was in place for the first time statewide yesterday and voters statewide reported a process of ID checking that is now provided in the law.

Gallup puts same-sex marriage support at record high

New Gallup polling puts American support for same-sex marriage at 55 percent, a record. Younger Americans and Democrats are the most supportive of same-sex marriage, the poll found.

Meet Karen Sealy Garcia, Democratic candidate for state treasurer

Dennis Milligan's defeat of Duncan Baird in the Republican primary race merits a closer look at the Democratic candidate, Karen Sealy Garcia of Hot Springs. She has a sparkling resume.

Officer identified in fatal shooting during reported robbery

The Little Rock Police Department has identified Scott Stovall, 50, as the off-duty officer who fatally wounded Jovon Allen, 21, after Allen reportedly jumped him and tried to rob him Sunday night on the parking lot of an apartment complex at 2300 Rebsamen Park Road.

Your tax dollars at work: Lt. Gov. office

Taxpayers are still spending $200,000 a year to staff an office, lieutenant governor, without an officeholder. What are they doing to pass the time? Good question. And one that even an FOI request has been unable to dislodge answers for as yet.

Mike Ross hits TV — and Asa

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mike Ross did next-to-no campaigning against a token opponent in the primary, conserving cash to begin hitting expected Republican opponent Asa Hutchinson as soon as possible. First effort above. He's mixing an attack on Hutchinson's past as a DC lobbyist with some small-town positive messaging.

35 Arkansas artists selected for Delta Exhibition

The 56th annual Delta Exhibition that opens June 27 at the Arkansas Arts Center will include works by 35 Arkansas artists. Award winners will be named on opening night.