Over the past several months, For AR People and On AR Watch have reported a number of stories about what’s going on in Arkansas, and those stories weren’t over when we reported them. So we thought that, assuming Sarah Sanders hasn’t lied about her $700 Alexa-enabled ice machine or Dan Sullivan isn’t trying to police kids’ books again by the time this story comes out, we’d do a brief recap of some old stories and update you on how they’ve turned out.
Unfortunately, the dust up over the “appropriateness” of children’s books turned out exactly how we feared it would. In August, the Saline County Quorum Court finally approved the ordinance that would give County Judge Matt Brumley the power to fire Library Director Patty Hector. Somewhat surprisingly, he didn’t immediately do so, but this week he finally showed her the door. It’s possible the ordinance and Brumley’s actions violate Amendment 55 of the Arkansas Constitution, so this story isn’t over. Hector stated she’s retained legal counsel, so we expect an imminent lawsuit.
Less than forty-eight hours before the start of the school year, the Arkansas Department of Education announced that the state would not officially sponsor AP African American Studies. Six schools around the state called ADE’s bluff and announced they’d still offer the course for local credit. The University of Arkansas also pushed back against ADE’s overreach, saying that they’d give credit to any student that passes the exam. It’s frustrating students won’t get the credit they deserve, but we applaud the high schools and U of A for doing the right thing here.
In late June, Helena-West Helena’s water system failed, leaving residents under a boil water advisory for most of the hottest summer on record. The Sanders administration expedited a $100,000 loan to the city, but given the necessary replacement is estimated to cost upwards of ten million dollars, this is a drop in the bucket. Sanders didn’t make it out to the city of 10,000 people for over a month after the system was stabilized. This ended up as another example of historical injustices perpetrated against the Delta community. The water is flowing again, with summers getting hotter, the state should step in and help facilitate the system’s replacement without waiting for the (admittedly much-needed) federal money to start flowing from the Infrastructure Act.
Sanders’ continuing lectern-related scandals have caused some collateral damage that have gotten lost in the chaos. We raised alarms before about Sanders’ treatment of the judiciary, but LecternGate has raised renewed questions about the most recent Arkansas Supreme Court Justice, Cody Hiland. As people dug through old campaign expenditures looking for more evidence or potential misdeeds, Little Rock attorney Benjamin Cody noticed payments totaling over $40,000 to Hiland labeled as “consulting.” Sure seems like Sarah bought a Supreme Court Justice.
Incredibly, the news regarding voting rights from the US Supreme Court is still good! After SCOTUS directed Alabama to draw two majority-minority opportunity districts, the state decided to thumb its nose at the federal courts and ignore SCOTUS’ decision. The district court overseeing the case, understandably, did not take kindly to this, writing that it was “deeply troubled” at the state’s refusal to comply with the law. Alabama tried to go over the district court and back to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court continued to do the right thing and refused to hear Alabama’s plea. This means that the Arkansas lawsuits over the “cracking” of Pulaski County into three different districts will have an even stronger foundation as the lawsuits make their way through the courts. We’re hopeful these will turn out well and get decided before election season next year, especially with rumors swirling about Steve Womack’s potential retirement and French Hill’s vulnerability in a non-gerrymandered district.