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40th Anniversary

40th Anniversary

September 18, 2014

Vol 22 • No 30

Read the print version

How the Arkansas Times survived poverty, the Dixie Mafia, the U.S. Supreme Court and Mike Huckabee

An oral history of the first 40 years.

The best and worst of Arkansas Times' first 40 years

From sexy camping to horseradish souffle.

40 years, a lot of ink

Some of it left a permanent mark.

Long and long

The Arkansas Times reflects on 40 years.

The 40th anniversary of the Arkansas Times

A look back.

Billy Joe Shaver returns to White Water Tavern

Also, the Reel Civil Rights Film Festival, WWE Smackdown at Verizon, the ACANSA Arts Festival and 'M' at Few.

What were we thinking?

A survey of Arkansas Times covers from yesteryear that make us say, "WTF?"

Seth Pratt: A star is made

How a stylist and designer from small-town Arkansas helped create the next big thing in pop.

Looking at 40

The Arkansas Times celebrates 40 years of publication this week. I feel a little like Jimmy Buffett's pirate of song. Looking at 40, he muses on the switch from sails to steam. The cannons thunder no more, he laments. He's a victim of fate, too late for the glory days of sail.

ARK Challenge in Little Rock

Business accelerator has teams scrambling for $150,000 investment.

Afterthought menu needs a rethink

Or an entire reboot.

A turn in the right direction for football Razorbacks

With a yearlong winning drought now a bygone thing, Arkansas had to take a quick "next step" back toward respectability.

The judicial marketplace in Arkansas

When the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the old maxim "money speaks" needed to be in the Constitution and, in fact, was already there hiding in the First Amendment, it took a while for the concept to root in remote Arkansas.

Another dubious little war

Have you been hearing a hollow clanging in the middle of the night? Faint, but growing louder in that gathering twilight before the fitful dreams of midnight's slumber?

Mosaic Templars Cultural Center celebrates birthday

Alson, Ron Robinson screens 'Hook."

The time machine

The Observer and the rest of the editorial staff of the Arkansas Times spent the last couple of weeks flipping through the bound archives of the stick-it-to-the-man underground rag-turned-magazine-turned-weekly newspaper we work for, finding stories and tidbits of yesteryear to put on display.

Hard-boiled, slow going

'The Drop' rewards patient audience.

Reality sinks in: No answers in Middle East

Maybe next time, they'll award the Nobel Peace Prize at the end of a politician's tenure rather than the beginning.

The minimum wage shuffle, contd.

French Hill, the millionaire banker running for Congress in the 2nd District, is apparently hoping to have it both ways.

Arkansas Lottery: Who's got the winning ticket

Has Sen. Jimmy Hickey loaded the dice in hand-picking a legislative consultant to review the Arkansas Lottery — a consultant that failed to make the deadline for an audit being conducted by the Lottery Commission?

Former prosecutor gets day in court on harassment charge; 'slap on wrist' neighbor says

A former deputy prosecutor had his day in court yesterday for harassing a Wynne man who'd complain about his free-running dogs. His story was part of a larger look by Mara Leveritt at the difficulty of making complaints about state prosecuting attorneys.

Arkansas Supreme Court upholds suspension of Skylar Tapp's law license

The Arkansas Supreme Court today affirmed a 90-day suspension and $10,000 fine of Hot Springs lawyer John Skylar Tapp for misconduct in a paternity case.

Supreme Court rules against Alltel in cell phone fee case

A divided Arkansas Supreme Court came down narrowly on the side of plaintiffs today in an interim proceeding in a class action lawsuit over termination fees for Alltel cell phone customers.

Johnny Cash Wrote Science-Fiction

Good morning. Did you know that in 1953, before his first recordings, Johnny Cash wrote a science fiction short story called "The Holografik Danser"? According to Steve Turner's biography, "The Man Called CASH," he wrote a number of short stories during this period, many under the pen name "Johnny Dollar."

Eat Arkansas wishes the Times a happy 40th!

The Arkansas Times has spent 40 years detailing politics, food, and culture. Happy 40th!

Uber conversation set in Little Rock; tickets written in Fayetteville

Word comes today that the Little Rock City Board will finally have a discussion on the Uber car service at its agenda meeting next week. A representative from Uber will talk. The local cab franchise holder, who opposes Uber operation here, will talk. No proposal is on the table yet.

New mixtape from Lo Thraxx, 'Deep Waters'

Little Rock's Lo Thraxx has been talking up his next release, "$harkansas," for some time now, but this morning he abruptly dropped a different mixtape altogether, "Deep Waters," apparently a prequel or, in his words, "lay up drills" to warm up for the real thing.

Attorney general reviewing further DHS e-mails about Leslie Rutledge

Leslie Rutledge, the Republican candidate for attorney general, has asked the attorney general's office to review 36 emails pertaining to her that her former employer, the Department of Human Services, thinks should be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Cotton makes ad buy to cover his vote against farm bill

How does Tom Cotton counter criticism of his lone Arkansas vote against the farm bill? Easy. Use President Obama and people on welfare as red herrings.

John Daly closing his golf course, golfing site reports

Pro golfer John Daly is closing his Lion's Den Golf Course in Dardanelle. Hard economic times.

Prison escapee Buffington captured in Logan County

Timothy Buffington, who escaped from the Pine Bluff prison unit in June while serving a murder sentence, was captured today in Logan County, where the crime he committed had occurred.

John Burkhalter goes after Tim Griffin's record

John Burkhalter, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, opened his ad blitz with some effective biographical advertising featuring his church pastor and information about his success in business. His new ad goes after his Republican opponent, Rep. Tim Griffin.

Ethics complaint filed against treasurer candidate Dennis Milligan

A North Little Rock man has filed an ethics complaint against Republican treasurer candidate Dennis Milligan for alleged shortcomings in campaign finance filings.

Here's the Thursday open line; Killer's survival strategy and Tom Cotton ripped for dishonest farm ad

Here's today's open line and video roundup. Plus: Tom Cotton is called a liar and an escaped killer explains how he survived three months on the run.

Pryor joins Senate vote for aid to Syria; Cotton naturally criticizes

A Senate vore for aid to Syrian rebels drew support from Sen. Mark Pryor and an instant critique from his election opponent, Tom Cotton.

LR School Board will likely vote on superintendent's contract before newly elected members take office

Because of a delayed evaluation timeline, the Little Rock School Board's vote to renew Superintendent Dexter Suggs' contract for an additional year is happening at an awkward time: during what's essentially a brief lame-duck session of the board.

Hot damn

I'll not sully the ineffable here with much in the way of prose. And I don't take photographs in restaurants. This is merely some news you can use.

Eight dead in Florida shootings; suspect killed son in earlier hunting accident

The latest gun slaughter came yesterday in Florida — a convicted felon killed his daughter and grandchildren before killing himself. He'd served a prison sentence earlier for killing a son in a hunting accident.

Arkansas Supreme Court 2016 rumor mill; already a non-denial

Some interesting gossip about a future race for Arkansas Supreme Court justice, including a non-denial of interest on the part of Attorney General Dustin McDaniel.

A new look makes Taj Mahal shine

When it comes to vegetarian dishes, Indian food comes through with tasty salads, well-cooked vegetables, and sauces that pile on the flavor.

Arkansas unemployment rate edges up

The unemployment rate in Arkansas edged up in August to 6.3 percent from 6.2 percent the month before. The size of the workforce also declined.

David and Barbara Pryor plan Facebook Q&A

Former Sen. David Pryor and his wife, Barbara, will take questions on their son Mark Pryor's Facebook page at 11:30 a.m. Monday as part of their continuing campaigning for his re-election over Republican Tom Cotton and a couple of other candidates.

How much of the 1st Amendment is protected on Arkansas State University football helmets

If Arkansas State football players are free to put crosses on their helmet, aren't they free to put any symbol they want on there — religious or otherwise? And if not, why not? Answers have been slow in coming from ASU leadership.

Book Review: Stephen Roth's 'A Plot For Pridemore'

What do you do if you’re the mayor of a small Missouri town that has been hit hard by decades of gradual economic decay and whose highway in and out of the city’s center is now known as “Old 54” since the new Highway 54, a vital transportation artery, now snakes around your fair city, leaving your diminutive, but proud populace, and its neglected factories that used to assemble computer chips and automobile parts, miles away from economic stability?

James Jones to become LR assistant city manager

Little Rock City Manager Bruce Moore said today that James Jones, who's been an Entergy Arkansas executive, will join the city staff Oct. 6 as assistant city manager.

How many Arkansas legislators does it take to hold a conference in Alaska?

Twenty-six legislators were approved to attend a state govenrment convention in Alaska in August. Bills have started coming in, with tabs of $2,000 to $4,300 from 14 legislators so far, some of them budget hawks who led the opposition to adoption of the private option Medicaid plan as too expensive.

Arkansas Rugby, Van Lang Cuisine, Sam Lipsyte, the Civil War and a very important laptop fund

I doubt you’re buying writer and Raiders fan Steve Almond’s argument (or his book)—neatly encapsulated by the writer and Seminoles fan Diane Roberts here—that it’s time we stopped watching football altogether.

Highway Department accepts low bid on Broadway Bridge replacement

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has accepted the $98.4 million low bid by a Kansas City construction company to replace the Broadway Bridge in Little Rock. Massman Construction Company proposes to have the bridge out of service only 180 days, a full year shorter than earlier estimates, though the full term of the contract will stretch more than two years.

Shameless Tom Cotton: 'Pants on fire' label for farm bill ad

We plowed this ground thoroughly yesterday, but add Politifact to the near-universal condemnation of Tom Cotton's latest ad, blaming his vote against farm bill on President Obama.

Boston rallies for Arkansas Democrats, response to Nate Bell

A Boston city councillor is headliing a fund-raiser for Arkansas Democrats Monday in Boston in part as a "tribute" to Republican Rep. Nate Bell's offensive remark about Bostonians following the 2013 bombings.

The Tom Cotton Knows Better Than You Edition

Disability rights activists protesting in Little Rock, a national magazine profile of Tom Cotton that unearthed new info that told us what we already knew, the 1st Amendment and Arkansas State University, liquor stores fighting the expansion of alcohol sales in Arkansas, Arkansas Supreme Court rumors and Little Rock School Board elections — all covered on this week's podcas

The gubernatorial debate open line

An open line, a video news roundup, an Arkansas Times birthday and a gubernatorial debate. Live ..... it's Friday night.

Ray Hobbs retiring as Correction Department director Nov. 1

Ray Hobbs, director of the Arkansas Correction Department, sent notice to employees that he was retiring Nov. 1.

WSJ on 'State of the Art': Kept soft for the naive among us: UPDATE

The WSJ on the show at Crystal Bridges: "kept to a PG-13 rating in the hope that CBMAA's viewers—many of whom are first-time museum-goers—might be led somewhat gently into the problematic precincts of contemporary art."

Former insurance executive pleads to embezzlement

John Mathis Lile III, 56, former president of the now-defunct Cosmpolitan Life Insurance Company has pleaded guilty to theft or embezzlement in connection with health care, the U.S. attorney's office announced this evening.

Little Rock City Board to discuss police radio encryption

The encryption of Little Rock police radio signals will be discussed by the Little Rock City Board at a meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday. The Uber car service is also on the agenda.

Reviewing the Ross-Hutchinson gubernatorial debate

The verdicts on the gubernatorial debate between Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson: "My man won." I detect an edge for Ross on substance, however.

Women vote: A new effort to discuss issues should help Democrats

A new organization aimed at bring substantive issue information to women voters will talk about its aims at a news conference in Little Rock next week. Any talk of issues important to women should favor Democratic candidates, it seems to me.

Arkansas Times birthday: A good time was had by all

The Arkansas Times celebrated its 40th birthday last night, a gathering of many friends and former co-workers at the Historic Arkansas Museum.

Petitions submitted today to repeal Fayetteville civil rights ordinance

Petitions were submitted today in Fayetteville by proponents of legal discrimination against gay people. They want a special election on the city's new civil rights ordinance, which covers multiple classes of people but is controversial because of LGBT protection.

Gov. Mike Beebe's papers to be housed at Arkansas State University

Gov. Mike Beebe's gubernatorial papers are going to his 1968 alma mater, Arkansas State University. ASU is going to create a shrine to Beebe at the V.C. Kays House and Dean B. Ellis Library with "interactive presentations of the governor's legacy in public service and illustrate Beebe's role in major Arkansas history issues."

The Saturday line is open

Scribble away.

Black caucus leader in Little Rock today

U.S. Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, an Ohio Democrat who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, will be at Union AME Church, 1825 Pulaski, this morning to join in an observance of Freedom Sunday.

The Arkansas legislature moves to one-branch government domination

The Republican-majority legislature is moving in multiple ways to enhance and consolidate its already great power over the executive and judicial branches. A couple of constitutional amendments are particularly problematic.

Using Social Security to seek the senior vote; some movement for Democrats

Some hopeful signs for Democrats as U.S. Senate candidates go after senior voters by using Social Security as a leading campaign issue.

A cool open line

The Sunday open line.

Blue Hog Report: How Stacy Hurst tried to use a 4-year-old in her state House campaign

David Ramsey has inspected this situation thoroughly already, but Blue Hog Report has done further analysis of Republican Stacy Hurst's attempt to use the nursery school assignment of her Democratic opponent's four-year-old in her race for state House of Representatives. His take of Hurst; "If at first you don't succeed, lie, lie again."

An Arkansas angle in the Rockefellers' charity plan to rid itself of fossil fuel investments

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is divesting itself of fossil rule investments. There's some irony locally. Rockefeller money built the Arkansas Republican Party, whose candidates today are vigorous advocates for fossil fuels and against environmental regulations on them.

Rep. Warwick Sabin gets public leadership fellowship

Rep. Warwick Sabin is among a group of 24 named to receive Rodel Fellowships from the Aspen Institute. They are intended to promote civility in public discourse.

Today's viral video: An Anchorage TV reporter quits on air

Anchorage TV reporter says **** it and walks off set to work for legal marijuana.

Term limits supporters campaign against amendment

Term limits supporters are rolling around Arkansas with a "trojan horse" emblem to oppose the legislatively referred constitutional amendment, Issue 3, that would tighten some ethics rules but also substantially loosen term limits.

Asa dials the D.C. lobby for dollars

Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson is hitting up the Washington, D.C., lobbying community for dollars to help his Arkansas campaign. He knows many of them from his own lobbying days and work in the Bush Administration.

Suspect says girlfriend shooting accidental

Marcus Horton, 37, of 608 E. 23rd, was charged with domestic battery Sunday after the shooting of his live-in girlfriend, Gloria Brown, 48.

Big River Steel breaks ground for Osceola mill

The state trumpeted today the groundbreaking for Big River Steel's $1.3 billion mill and recycling plant in Osceola. It's heavily subsidized by county and state governments, with direct support, tax credits and a huge equity investment in teacher retirement money.

Health Department confirms enterovirus case in Arkansas

Fox 16 reports that the Arkansas Department of Health has confirmed the first case in the state of enterovirus.

Fraternal Order of Police endorses City Director Stacy Hurst

The Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police chapter has endorsed Republican Stacy Hurst, a current member of the Little Board of Directors (which sets pay for cops), in her race for House of Representatives against Democrat Clarke Tucker.

Complaint: Senator Rapert talked with judges about marriage case

A complaint filed today with state judicial regulators alleges that Sen. Jason Rapert contacted multiple members of the Arkansas Supreme Court to talk about the pending lawsuit challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

Google ends support of ALEC

Google has joined the long list of major corporations planning to end financial support for the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization much beloved by Republican state legislators for their subsidized junkets from which they bring back cookie-cutter legislation on the wish list of people like the Koch brothers.

The Monday open line and video

The Monday open line, plus a video news roundup.

Review: 'Memphis' at The Rep

You can’t help but feel the heat of summertime Memphis in 1958 as the forbidden love story of white radio DJ Huey Calhoun (Brent DiRoma) and black club singer Felicia Farrell (Jasmin Richardson) unfolds before you on the stage of the Arkansas Repertory Theater. It’s one of the hottest, loudest musicals I’ve ever seen at The Rep, and perhaps the most uplifting since “Les Mis” came to Main Street in 2008.

Parents of disabled children to sue state over eight-year waiting list for home care waivers

Frustrated with the legislature's apparent reluctance to move forward with the Community First Choice Option (CFCO), a group of some 50 parents are filing a lawsuit against the state that alleges Arkansas's failure to provide home- and community-based care options for developmentally disabled children is in violation of the US Supreme Court's landmark Olmstead decision.

Rich heir to Stephens fortune sues to stopproposed minimum wage increase

A motion was filed today before the Arkansas Supreme Court challenging the initiated act to increase the minimum wage. The plaintiff in the challenge may be one of the state's richest men.

Arkansas Leader: Killer of teen girl working in Cabot school

A Tucker prison lifer who raped and killed an 18-year-old girl in 1974, was discovered last week working on a prison industries job at a Cabot junior high school.

Polling the Little Rock School District

Polling is underway about attitudes toward the Little Rock School District. Many factors suggest the pollsters won't find high enthusiasm for public schools.

Ethics groups challenge Walmart's PAC matching offer for managers

Common Cause and other good government groups have challenged a Walmart scheme to increase employee giving to its PAC by making a 2-for-1 charitable match.

What didn't get said when Dallas Cowboys exec Charlotte Anderson spoke in LR yesterday

Jerry Jones daughter, Charlotte Jones Anderson, a top Dallas Cowboys executive, talked in Little Rock yesterday of the NFL getting its house in order when it comes to domestic issues such as treatment of women. Might the Dallas Cowboys' house need a little straightening, too?

Another blow for equality in Louisiana

A state court says a lesbian couple in Louisiana — legally married in California — are unconstitutionally discriminated against in Louisiana when it comes to adoption. The judge has ruled the state's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, despite the recent divergent view of a federal district judge.

On pasta

This week, we're celebrating pasta on Eat Arkansas, starting by opening the floor to our readers. Let us know all about your favorite way to eat noodles.

New music from Bombay Harambee, 'Check, Check, Checkmate'

Little Rock's Bombay Harambee, who played in this year's Times showcase and released a great EP in February, were nice enough to give us an early copy of their new single, "Check, Check, Checkmate."

Guest Mix: Andrew Morgan

This mix came about like most do: I grabbed a stack of records — some recent acquisitions some not so — that included tunes I'm currently obsessed with, put a tape in the deck, started mixing without a plan, and then tried to stop by the time the tape ran out.

Yes, the private option costs more. And, yes, there's a better option

Ernest Dumas admits the awful truth — the "private option" version of Medicaid expansion dreamed up in Arkansas cost more than expansion of traditional Medicaid. That doesn't make it a bad thing. But if you really want to save money, there's a much better option.

Judicial Disicipline confirms review of complaint on Rapert-Hoofman talk

David Sachar, executive director of the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, confirms our report yesterday that a complaint has been filed regarding a conversation between Supreme Court Justice Cliff Hoofman and Sen. Jason Rapert.

Tracy Steele leaving Youth Services Division

Tracy Steele, the former state senator, King Commission leader and, most recently, director of the Youth Service Division, is leaving that job Oct. 31. Keesa Smith will be interim director.

Arkansans favor the death penalty: But a majority is favorable toward one alternative

A new poll shows continued majority support for the death penalty, but also favorable opinion on replacing it with a life sentence without possibility of parole.

Attorney general's opinion favors release of more Leslie Rutledge DHS e-mails, but probably not the important ones

An attorney general's opinion says a few more of Republican candidate Leslie Rutledge's e-mails as a state employee should be released, but it's clear that they only way to clarify her negative job rating is for her to voluntarily release the information.

New poll: 'GOP leads ticket in Arkansas'

A new round of polling by a Democratic-leaning research firm shows Republicans in the lead up and down the ballot in Arkansas. If only Democrats could clone Mike Beebe.

Larry 'Goose' Garrison, long time White Water Tavern owner, dies

Larry “Goose” Garrison, the longtime Little Rock bar owner known for rebuilding White Water Tavern three times after three separate fires nearly destroyed it, died Saturday, Sept. 20. He was 63.

New documents raise questions about Leslie Rutledge's work at DHS

The release of nine pages of documents related to Leslie Rutledge's work at the Department of Human Services in 2007 indicate questions about her work were raised in November, shortly before she abruptly resigned. Questions had also been raised earlier about her work on two adoption cases.

Tuesday's open line, video review and Tom Cotton tirade. Plus: police scanner news

Open line, video review and a rant on Tom Cotton, who has AGAIN voted against federal spending that helps disaster relief IN ARKANSAS.

Arkansas GOP congressional delegation sends letter to state Insurance Commissioner, gets facts wrong

Congressmen Rick Crawford,Tim Griffin, Steve Womack and Tom Cotton sent a letter today to Arkansas Insurance Department (AID) Commissioner Jay Bradford asking for details on 2015 rates on the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, the Obamacare-created health insurance exchange. Apparently, the Arkansas congressional delegation is getting their (misleading) information from Americans for Prosperity. They claim that a wave of cancellations is coming this fall in Arkansas because of Obamacare and that consumers therefore need to begin to shop for alternatives for 2015 on the Marketplace. In fact, no plans have been cancelled due to Obamacare non-compliance in Arkansas. And no one will be kicked off their plan due to Obamacare non-compliance this fall. Apparently unbeknownst to the Arkansas Congressional delegation, AID decided back in March to take advantage of a change in federal rules and allow insurance carriers to continue to offer non-compliant plans in the state through October of 2016 (which means consumers can keep their plans through the fall of 2017). All of the state's major carriers have told AID they plan to continue to offer these non-compliant plans to consumers who currently have them.

Arkansas has 16 National Achievement Scholarship semi-finalists

Arkansas has 16 semi-finalist in the National Merit Scholarship program's National Achievment awards competiton for promising black high school students. Four of the 16 attend Little Rock Central High School.

Democrat goes after Jason Rapert on his record

No more Mr. Nice Guy from Tyler Pearson, the Democrat from Conway who's mounting a spirited challenge of incumbent Sen. Jason Rapert, the Repubican who's running a hate-the-liberals campaignj for re-election. Pearson has hit mailboxes with a mailer on Rapert's poor record. Fair game. Rapert doesn't respond well under pressure. I expect a volcanic eruption.

Tom Cotton's blunders: Not enough to beat him in race against Barack Obama

Gene Lyons writes that Barack Obama is Tom Cotton's real opponent in his race for Senate, a factor that overcomes Cotton's manifest shortcomings as an Arkansas political candidate.

Moving voters: Women's and children's issues

Advocacy groups called yesterday for voters to pay attention to where candidates stand on women's and family issues.

Woman's body found on Interstate 40 near Palestine

The body of a woman aged 25 to 35 was found on Interstate 40 near Palestine early this morning, the State Police. The cause of death is not yet known.

French Hill goes negative with false attack on Pat Hays

J. French Hill, the millionaire Republican, has launched attack advertising against Democratic opponent Pat Hays that opens with Hill claiming Hays has been attacking HIM. One problem: That's not true.

What is Leslie Rutledge hiding?

It's now clear that Leslie Rutledge, the Republican nominee for attorney general, will stonewall attempts to understand why superiors said should she not be rehired after abruptly resigning as a juvenile court lawyer for the Department of Human Services effective Dec. 3, 2007. Voters deserve better.

Ask the Times (me, in other words) UPDATE

Send in questions now for an Ask Max Q&A to be recorded for video and posted to our blog and Facebook pages.

A peek at corporate money buying governor's elections

The New York Times reports today on the unearthing of secret details on the corporate money pouring into the Republican Governors Association, which in turn is spending heavily in Arkansas and other states to win governor's seats.

New music from King Dyl, Oddie Banks, Ball Jones and E Side Shawty

King Dyl says "Money is my only subject," but this thing is all over place, an awesome, desolate rant about honesty and violence and Chris Tucker. He explains why he doesn't answer the phone anymore, insults Migos, Washington D.C., all of us listening, etc. He's also really proud of Little Rock and it's contagious.

Kroger sued over job harassment of clerk

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued Kroger for sexual harassment of a female clerk by an older worker in a North Little Rock store. The harassment began when she was hired at 15 and continued for several years.

McDaniel will let secretary of state argue for state in voter ID case

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced today that he would "yield" his time to the secretary of state's office in oral arguments next week on the challenger to the 2013 voter ID law.

DHS will not ask feds for adjustment to 2014 cost caps for the private option

The Arkansas Department of Human Services will not ask the feds for an adjustment to the private option's "budget neutrality" cap, according to DHS spokesperson Amy Webb (for lots more on the budget neutrality caps, see this post). Last month, Webb told the D-G last month that the agency was not planning to ask for an adjustment "at this point," but officials have been cagey ever since, stating that the agency did not believe it would need the adjustment but would wait to make a final determination closer to the deadline, October 1. That decision has now been made, Webb said. DHS is confident that the private option will be able to stay under the caps even without a 2014 adjustment, officials said, a decision with potentially tens of millions of dollars at stake for the state.

UPDATED: Privatizing teacher insurance unlikely; merger with state employees gains support. Plus, a genuinely new idea.

The legislative task force created to study the public school employee insurance problem doesn't like the idea to cut school districts loose to shop for insurance on their own, but there's support for the proposal to merge the teacher insurance system with the state employee system. Meanwhile, a Republican legislator has an innovative proposal that could potentially make a big difference.

New poll indicates stronger Democratic showing in top Arkansas races, including Mark Pryor lead

New polling by Suffolk University for USA Today offers a better outlook Democrats in the November election, from top-of-the-ticket races in Arkansas to several farther down the ballot. The poll has Democrat Mark Pryor ahead two points of Republican Tom Cotton in the race for U.S. Senate and Democrat Mike Ross two points behind Republican Asa Hutchinson in the race for governor.

The open line: New video, plus a meth bust in Van Buren County and sentence for fake nurse

Here's your midweek open line, the video roundup for the day and other news. Imagine. Some people were dealing meths in the hills and hollows of Van Buren County.

A return to form and more at Jason's

A classic Hot Springs eatery is back open under original ownership and better than ever.

Prison labor being used in several school districts

The Arkansas Leader continues to pursue related angles to the story it uncovered about a convicted rapist/killer working on a prison labor detail at a middle school in Cabot. Other schools are using prison labor, too, the Leader reports.

Liquor stores go on the attack against alcohol sales amendment

Liquor stores, particularly county line liquor stores that profit from neighboring dry counties, hope to kill a statewide alcohol sales initiative in a challenge before the Arkansas Supreme Court. But they are already at work, too, with a campaign to persuade voters to oppose the constitutional amendment to end local option dry areas.

What's the matter with Kansas? Sex toys.

You might remember that far-right Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback boasted that his state would be a "red-state model." He would slash taxes and prosperity would rain down! Instead the real, live experiment has been a disaster. The state is in fiscal crisis. What's a state bleeding revenues to do? How about auctioning off thousands of sex toys?

ACANSA Gallery Hop: Disfarmer, beer, art under $100 and more

Tonight's ACANSA Gallery Hop will have you bouncing all over town from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Venues are The Art Group Gallery, Cantrell Gallery, Greg Thompson Fine Art, Hearne Fine Art Gallery, M2 Gallery, Gallery 221, L & L Beck Art Gallery, Local Colour Gallery, Matt McLeod Fine Art, Stephano's Fine Art Gallery, The Edge Gallery, The Hot Springs Art Group, Argenta Gallery and Boswell Mourot Fine Art.