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Roundup of Arkansas editorials

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Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Log Cabin Democrat, April 19, 2014

Fate of judge candidates should be left to voters

When is a judge not a judge? According to some, it's when they are late on paying their license fees. This particular kerfuffle has become quite the molehill over the past few weeks, and several in Faulkner County have been affected.

Both H.G. Foster and Angela Byrd had challenges to their eligibility because of a requirement that a judge has to be a licensed attorney for a certain number of years before taking office (or re-election), and failure to pay one's monetary dues constituted a suspension. At least one judge in Pulaski County believes that if that suspension happens, you have to start back at the beginning again. That's simply just not acceptable.

In the case of Byrd, her suspension lasted about 24 hours. Many of us have taken longer to pay our cell phone bills, and we don't have to start our contract over. Foster's suspension came because of a miscommunication within his office. When both of these candidates found out that payments needed to be made, they did so with haste.

Fortunately, both are still eligible to run for their respective posts, as is everyone in May's Faulkner County judicial elections, save for Mike Maggio, who dropped out of his race for other reasons. That's the way it should be.

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who cleared Foster in his race earlier this week, made the point that there is a difference between a truism and the truth. Far too many times, we are looking at rules in place and forgetting about the circumstances that always play a part. If all we needed were rules ... well, then we wouldn't need judges to interpret them.

And although judicial positions are non-partisan, it certainly seems that these revelations and lawsuits came about as political ploys in order to bring down an opponent and secure a position without a campaign.

That being said, it is interesting to note that so many sitting judges have been shown to go lax on their payments. One would think that if it were so important, there would be more urgency from these judges and lawyers and from the state as well. Shouldn't there be some form of notification in place? Kind of like a bill?

As long as we can determine the nature of any non-payments or "suspensions," we should be able to figure out if there are only simple mistakes being made or if there is definite circumventing of the rules. In those cases, suspensions should very well be reviewed and upheld.

But thank goodness sanity prevailed in the majority of these cases, leaving the fate of these candidates in the voters' hands. That is where it should be.

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Southwest Times Record, April 21, 2014

Refuge renaming fitting

Although Dale Bumpers disarmingly wrote about himself as "The Best Lawyer in a One-Lawyer Town," there's no one around here who doubts the substantial impact former Arkansas governor and senator made on his home state.

That's why it's fitting that on Friday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuge on the White River in southeastern Arkansas was renamed the Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge.

Sen. Bumpers, a Charleston native, was born Aug. 12, 1925. He became the 38th governor of Arkansas, serving four years, and served 24 years in the U.S. Senate.

He grew up during the Great Depression doing whatever he could to make money: picking cotton and peas, working in a cannery, delivering newspapers, driving a hearse and butchering for a grocery store, according to the online Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture.

He served three years in the Marines toward the end of World War II and graduated from the University of Arkansas with a political science degree. He obtained a law degree from Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois

His early legal career was distinguished by his recommendation that the Charleston School Board comply with the Supreme Court decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education. As a result of this recommendations, Charleston began the 1954 school year with 11 black children enrolled, making it the first school district in the 11 states of the former Confederacy to integrate schools following the ruling, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas entry on Sen. Bumpers.

The White River Refuge is not the first entity to be named in honor of this favorite son.

The Dale Bumpers College of Agriculture, Food and Life Sciences honors Sen. Bumpers' service on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. The university's website notes he brought Arkansas agriculture into national and international prominence and secured $80 million in funds for facilities and programs that benefited the state. Notably, he brought home funding for the John W. Tyson Building of the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science, the interstate Food Safety Consortium, and the National Center for Agricultural Law Research and Information.

Because of the commitment of both the senator and his wife to seeing all children immunized, the National Institutes of Health named the Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center in their honor.

While in the Senate, Dale Bumpers facilitated an innovative land swap that exchanged Idaho timberland for bottomland forests and wetlands in Arkansas, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service website. The swap added 41,000 acres to the White River and the Cache River National Wildlife refuges.

As governor, according to the site, he stopped the channelization of 232 miles of the Cache River and its tributary, Bayou DeView.

The White River refuge was established in 1935 for the protection of migratory birds. It is one of the largest remaining bottomland hardwood forests left in the Mississippi River valley.

Speaking about the renaming, David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, said: "I can't think of a more fitting tribute to one of the Refuge System's greatest supporters than naming the White River National Wildlife Refuge after Senator Dale Bumpers. Bumpers is a living legend who played a pivotal role in creating the 80-mile corridor connecting the Cache River and White River refuges. People and wildlife have him to thank for this lasting conservation legacy."

We agree the area is fittingly named for the public servant from Charleston. And we think it just might be worth a road trip to see the Dale Bumpers White River refuge.


Texarkana Gazette, April 17, 2014

Bad bet

Just yesterday, we addressed the idea of Texas allowing video terminals for pull-tab games in charitable bingo halls.

The decision rests with the Charitable Bingo Operations Division of the state Lottery Commission. We are against the move, especially as it seems to fly in the face of the state Legislature's refusal to expand gambling in the Lone Star State. It does't seem quite right to us that an unelected body can decide they know better than those chosen by the people to guide the state.

Now the same thing is happening in Arkansas.

On Wednesday, the Arkansas Lottery Commission voted to allow "monitor-style games" throughout the state.

"Monitor-style games" is a fancy phrase for video gambling, usually the game of keno or bingo but with twist to circumvent laws prohibiting slot machines.

The player buys a ticket from a clerk and then checks the results on the monitor. The game could be instant or it could be held every few minutes.

The lottery commission says these "monitor-style games" are not slot machines. Well, they are as close as you can get and still pretend you're not breaking the law. You can expect to see them in convenience stores and other places where lottery tickets are sold.

The move comes one day after the legislative committee that oversees lottery operations wisely approved a measure proposed by state Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, opposing the games.

Apparently, though, the lottery commission has the final say.

Why the new machines? Well, lottery revenue has been falling. And the commission is looking for ways to bring new money into the game.

And that's the problem with relying on gambling as a revenue source. The games stay popular for a while, then the take falls. So there have to be newer, faster ways to play. It's a cycle that will not stop.

And when these "monitor-style games" lose their luster, it won't be long before we see a move to legalize "video lottery terminals," which is just another term for slot machines. Full-blown casinos might logically follow.

There was a time when legal gambling would have been a bonanza for the state. When the highly illegal but highly profitable and popular gambling empire in Hot Springs was shut down in the mid-1960s, there were a couple of efforts to turn the spa town into a Southern Las Vegas. That was a decade before Atlantic City allowed casinos. Had gambling been legalized then, Arkansas would have shared a monopoly on legal casinos with Nevada and would have drawn tons and tons of money from tourists.

But it was not to be.

Times have changed. There are casinos all over the country and in all but one of the states that border Arkansas. They aren't a novelty. Expanding gambling in Arkansas is not likely to spur an influx of tourism. While those who travel to and through Arkansas would likely drop some cash at the tables and coins in the slots, most of the money would come from local residents_primarily from those who are least able to afford it.

Many state officials see gambling as easy money. But creating more ways to lose money creates a lot of problems as well. Any move to expand gambling in Arkansas should be up to the voters_not to some commissioners in Little Rock.

Arkansas does not need "monitor-style" gambling. It needs stronger laws to allow the Legislature to monitor the Arkansas Lottery Commission.

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