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Hometown: South Texas. most of my life I lived in Austin and Dallas
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Middle-aged white guy who believes in justice and equality for all. Math and computer analyst with additional 21st century jack-of-all-trades skills. I'm a stud, not a dud!

Journal Archives

AG Leslie Rutledge rejects proposed ballot initiative to increase minimum wage to $11

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) today rejected a proposed ballot initiative from David Couch to raise the minimum wage again, this time to $11. Voters previously raised the state's minimum wage via a ballot initiative in 2014, bumping it from $6.25 to $8.50

As readers of this blog have grown accustomed to, a protracted back-and-forth to win approval form the attorney general for ballot measures has been typical. This particular rejection, however, is outrageous: The language in the proposed ballot initiative is identical to the language in the previous minimum wage initiative, which was not only approved by the previous attorney general, but ratified overwhelmingly by voters!

Couch, a Little Rock attorney who has worked on a number of successful ballot initiatives, said he was shocked by Rutledge's opinion. "She rejected the same ballot title that was approved last time," said Couch, who worked on that campaign. "It was approved by 66 percent of the voters in 2014."


To proceed, the ballot measure first needs to be certified by the attorney general. At that point, the amendment would need to collect around 85,000 signatures of registered voters by July to make it on the ballot in November.

Thus far this year, Rutledge has rejected more than 50 proposed ballot titles and not accepted a single one.

Read more: https://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2018/04/26/rutledge-rejects-proposed-ballot-initiative-to-increase-minimum-wage-to-11

AG Leslie Rutledge grandstands against Affordable Care Act in lawsuit that aims to strip coverage

Leslie Rutledge grandstands against Affordable Care Act in lawsuit that aims to strip coverage from millions of Americans

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office issued a press release boasting that she is part of a 20-state coalition of red-state attorneys general requesting a preliminary injunction to shut down the Affordable Care Act, thereby stripping health coverage from hundreds of thousands of Arkansans and millions of Americans.

Rutledge proudly joined a lawsuit filed in February that argues that the health care law is now unconstitutional because the GOP Congress nixed the individual mandate as part of the recently passed tax cut.

If a court actually enjoined the entire health care law, the health care marketplaces would be thrown into chaos and millions of Americans would have coverage and access to care threatened. If the entire law was actually thrown out on the basis of this lawsuit, millions of Americans would lose Medicaid coverage, millions more would lose subsidies they depend on for affordable insurance, millions of people with pre-exisiting conditions would again face price discrimination from insurance companies, the exchanges where millions of people currently have health plans would disappear, the Medicare donut hole would be re-opened, and millions of young people would lose coverage they're now getting on their parents' plans. In Arkansas, the uninsured rate would likely more than double overnight. Billions in federal spending on health care in the state would stop. But Republicans would be able to say they beat Obamacare. There can be no greater prize for Rutledge.

Rutledge doesn't mention any of these issues in her press release, instead offering some slapdash talking points: "In its current unlawful form, Obamacare still imposes rising costs and transfers an enormous amount of regulatory power to the federal government."

Read more: https://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2018/04/27/leslie-rutledge-grandstands-against-affordable-care-act-in-lawsuit-that-aims-to-strip-coverage-from-millions-of-americans

Satanic Temple plans to sue state of Arkansas over alleged religious discrimination

The First Amendment firebrands at the the Satanic Temple are preparing a lawsuit against the state of Arkansas, alleging religious discrimination in the wake of the erection this week of a monument to the Ten Commandments. The monument is being feted with a dedication ceremony this morning (Benji Hardy is on hand and will have more soon from the scene, including an interview with Lucien Greaves, the Temple's spokesperson and co-founder).

In a press release, the group announced that it will file a lawsuit arguing that the rejection of their own proposed monument amounts to religious discrimination, with the state showing unconstitutional preference for one religion over another in promoting a Biblical monument over the Satanic Temple's monument. The lawsuit will be merged with expected suits filed by other groups arguing that the Ten Commandments monument violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

The Satanic Temple (a non-theistic religion that does not worship a supernatural Satan) has a sense of humor, but they are not a joke. They have been dogged in pursuing legal challenges on First Amendment grounds; they made headway this year, for example, in Missouri challenging anti-abortion laws on religious freedom grounds.

The background, familiar to readers of this blog: Sen. Jason Rapert and other Republican lawmakers pushed a bill through the legislature in 2015 that decreed that a privately funded Ten Commandments monument be placed on the Capitol grounds. ACLU-Arkansas and others called that a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Read more: https://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2018/04/26/satanic-temple-plans-to-sue-state-of-arkansas-over-alleged-religious-discrimination

Proposed amendment to Arkansas Constitution sparks debate

A proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution has elicited strong opinions from both proponents and detractors.

Annabelle Imber Tuck, a retired Arkansas Supreme Court justice who is chairman of the Defending Your Day in Court, or D-Day, Legislative Question Committee, spoke to the Sebastian County Bar Association in Fort Smith on Monday about Issue 1.

Tuck said Issue 1, which will be on the ballot in the Nov. 6 general election, has several parts. The first part is limiting the percentage that attorneys can charge clients in contingency fee contracts. Tuck also discussed a provision that limits awards of non-economic damages in lawsuits for personal injury, property damage or wrongful death to $500,000 for each claimant, or $500,000 for all beneficiaries of an deceased person in a lawsuit for wrongful death.

The last part of the proposed amendment, Tuck said, is shifting the authority of court rule-making from the Arkansas Supreme Court exclusively to the Legislature. An official statement from the D-Day Legislative Question Committee provided by Tuck states the shift would allow special interests and politics to directly interfere with due process, access to justice and the fair and impartial administration of justice.

Read more: http://www.swtimes.com/news/20180422/proposed-amendment-to-arkansas-constitution-sparks-debate

Officials to appeal after Arkansas judge blocks voter ID law

LITTLE ROCK, — Arkansas officials on Friday said they’re appealing a judge’s order blocking the state from enforcing a voter ID law that revived a nearly identical restriction struck down as unconstitutional four years ago.

Secretary of State Mark Martin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed notices Friday that they’re appealing Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Alice Gray’s ruling against the voter ID law to the state Supreme Court. Gray on Thursday ruled the law was unconstitutional. She also issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the state from enforcing the measure, less than a month before Arkansas’ May 22 primary. Early voting for Arkansas’ primary begins May 7.

Rutledge’s office said she’ll continue to defend the measure’s constitutionality, and Martin’s office said he strongly disagreed with the ruling.

“Presenting identification is required for almost all facets of American life. Securing the integrity of our electoral system is vitally important,” Chris Powell, a spokesman for Martin, said in a statement. “Changing the rules in the middle of an election is irresponsible and creates confusion for voters. It is our job to uphold the law and to conduct a secure election.”

Read more: http://www.swtimes.com/news/20180427/officials-to-appeal-after-arkansas-judge-blocks-voter-id-law

Judge rejects GOP challenge, says Arkansas House candidate eligible

A Republican lawsuit challenging the eligibility of a Democratic state House candidate was thrown out of court Thursday for lack of evidence.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen concluded an almost two-hour hearing by saying that the Republicans had proved that Morgan Lee Wiles had actually exceeded the yearlong residency standard set by the Arkansas Constitution.

"The evidence shows Mr. Wiles has resided [in the district] since 2016," Griffen said.

The residency issue is also the basis for a Democratic Party-backed suit challenging state House Republican leader Marcus Richmond's eligibility to run for office.

Read more: http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2018/apr/27/judge-rejects-gop-challenge-says-house-/?f=news-politics

Defense rests for ex-Arkansas legislator accused of fraud

Attorneys on Friday finished their defense for former state Sen. Jon Woods (R), who is accused of taking kickbacks in exchange for directing state grants to two nonprofits.

Woods told the judge he did not plan to testify. Woods' co-defendant, Randell Shelton, was to begin his defense next.

Woods was indicted in March 2017, accused of a kickback scheme involving state General Improvement Fund grants issued in 2013 and 2014. Two alleged co-conspirators — Shelton, formerly of Alma, and Oren Paris III, former president of Ecclesia College in Springdale — were indicted with Woods.

Paris pleaded guilty April 4 to one count of conspiracy and agreed to testify for the government. He was not called before the government rested its case Wednesday, but he may testify for the defense. In a hearing Friday morning away from the jury, defense attorneys told U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks they are in talks with Paris' attorneys on whether he will be called as a defense witness.

Read more: http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2018/apr/27/ex-arkansas-legislators-attorneys-finish-defense-k/

Even if he's impeached, Gov. Greitens likely to fight to stay on the job

JEFFERSON CITY — The last time a Missouri statewide official was impeached, she was suspended from her official duties by the Missouri Supreme Court, and an interim officer temporarily replaced her.

Gov. Eric Greitens appears unwilling to let the same thing happen to him, if House lawmakers vote to impeach him.

"With respect to the governor, the Missouri Constitution does not contemplate any suspension upon impeachment, and so even if a governor were impeached, he or she would continue to function as the governor through any trial," said Ross Garber, an attorney working for the governor's office who is renowned as a national expert on impeachment law proceedings.

A House committee investigating Greitens continued meeting this week behind closed doors after issuing an explosive report earlier this month detailing allegations of misconduct against the Republican governor, who has been charged with two felonies.

Read more: https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/politics/2018/04/27/even-if-hes-impeached-gov-greitens-likely-fight-suspension-stay-job/554530002/

State workers in line for raises, but will have to wait

JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri prison guards, child welfare workers and other members of the nation’s lowest paid state workforce will have to wait an additional six months to see larger paychecks under a budget plan approved by the Senate Wednesday.

Facing rising health care costs for state employees, the Senate voted unanimously to delay giving workers $700 per year raises until Jan. 1, 2019, rather than when the state’s fiscal year begins July 1.

Sen. Dan Brown, a Rolla Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said it wouldn’t make sense to give workers raises if they were wiped out by an increase in health insurance premiums.

“If we do not do something about health care, then the premiums likely would increase twice as much as the pay raise,” Brown said. “I think we benefit every employee in the State of Missouri by this move.”

Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/state-workers-in-line-for-raises-but-will-have-to/article_db203fe8-9cb8-5f0a-82e0-5e8563ebbbed.html

St. Louis judge in Greitens case orders inquiry into source of $100,000 cash payment

ST. LOUIS • Circuit Judge Rex Burlison on Friday ordered lawyer Al Watkins to be deposed next week about the source of two $50,000 cash bundles delivered anonymously at his Clayton law firm a month before Gov. Eric Greitens was indicted on a felony charge of invasion of privacy.

"I think that's a relevant inquiry," Burlison told lawyers toward the end of an hour-long hearing Friday. "The answer to that question needs to be tracked down."

Watkins, who represents the ex-husband of the woman who accused Greitens of taking a partially nude photo of her without her consent in March 2015, told reporters Monday that the cash was delivered to his law firm by courier and that there was "no doubt" it was related to the case involving the governor. Watkins said he had "no idea" who the donor was. His statements followed a claim in court from Greitens' lawyers that the money came from a "political operative" to cover legal bills for the ex-husband.

On Friday, Watkins' lawyer Chuck Hatfield said one of Watkins' clients "was involved" in the delivery of one of the $50,000 payments, and therefore Watkins shouldn't have to disclose the source of the cash. Hatfield would not reveal the identity of the client and said the fact the money came via a client makes it privileged.

Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/st-louis-judge-in-greitens-case-orders-inquiry-into-source/article_496efea4-c328-52d6-ad9b-70714b8eac96.html
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