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Arkansas Week June 13, 2014

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(Runoffs)  The second primary and the victor, spotlight GOP.  (P.O.) One race in particular what will it mean for the private option and the January session.  (Schism) Will Arkansas republicans follow the regional trend?  (Premiums)  With time running short is there a way out on teacher health coverage?

Transcript

 The second primary and the victors: spotlight GOP.  One race in particular: what will it mean for the Private Option, and for the January session?  Will Arkansas Republicans follow the regional trend?  And with time running short, is there a way out on teacher health coverage? Arkansas Week, next.

 "Arkansas Week" is made possible in part by the "Arkansas Times" keeping you informed by covering people, events, and politics in Arkansas. By FM 89 KUAR Little Rock with in depth news reporting, analysis and discussion each weekday.

 Hello again everyone. Thanks for joining us for "Arkansas Week".  You've all seen the numbers.  In this half-hour we will go behind them.  Hoyt Purvis joins us from the Journalism Department from the University of Arkansas. Steve Brawner an Independent Journalist based in Benton. Lance Turner reporter and for Arkansas Business and Steve probably the most closely watched race for the implications in January was the Senate race between John Burris and Mr. Flippo and Mr. Flippo prevailed.

 Yes and that might push the Private Option out of existence or the way it is now.  This was a big race because Burris is a principle architect of the Private Option and Senator Keye voted for it and Scott Flippo is opposed to the Private Option and now the Private Option passed with the skin of its teeth and no votes to spare is now two votes down, two Senators or two seats that voted for the Private Option before have now flipped to being represented by Senators that said they will vote against it, so it is shaping up -- the session that is coming up will be extremely difficult.  Private Option will be the issue that defines the session bar none.  Everything will revolve around it.

 There has been discussion even before the primary runoff in 17 and potential deadlock or chaos in January.  It seems more possible now than ever.

 The word is that the Democrats in the legislature will not fund Medicaid unless the Private Option is included and there is 150,000 people now being covered through that program.

 Moving closer to 200,000.

 Yeah, almost 180 now.

 And done through the traditional Medicaid.

 Yeah, the whole DHS budget could --

 Yeah, right.  If that happens -- the Democrats have said we're not going to budge on this.  You now have a lot of Republicans who are not for this.  In the middle are the other Republicans who are for it, and they're in the middle right now, but you know it's still -- something will happen. You hear legislators saying -- the rhetoric toned down for some.  Representative Rice who will hold one of the seats.

 Elect now.

 And during the campaign against it and based the campaign on and the moment he won you saw a more conciliatory tone from him and interesting if it's defeated or goes down or a hybrid or compromise.  Seems hard we will kick all those people off of the rolls.  We don't know what it will be.

 I was going to say Governor Beebe will no longer be in office but yesterday he made the comment that he believes that the Private Option will survive, and that may depend in part on who the next Governor is.  That could have impact as well, but clearly I think everything he's said is accurate just looking at the situation in terms of the positions various members  are identified it it's clear that Private Option is in jeopardy.

 Yeah, the Governor is going to be the "X" factor that obviously could make some things happen.  They're bringing their own initiatives to the table. There is talk about tax cuts, tax reform and both of Asa Hutchinson and Mike Ross and there might be opportunities for deals around the Private Option and tax cuts in some form and fashion and make the Private Option in some form or fashion survive the next session but by all accounts it's going to be a tough climb and maybe something Arkansas hasn't seen in its history in terms of divisiveness and tactics applied.

 [INAUDIBLE]

 Hopefully yeah.  Let's not go there.  In budgetary terms they would want have -- the next administration and General Assembly appear to have a lot of maneuvering room just looking at the fiscal year for the first 11 months of the one that's going to end -- we're two weeks to a new fiscal year.  After the tax cuts begin to start rolling there isn't a lot of room -- yet both candidates for Governor are suggesting relief, re.  To me that's cuts and whether they can make that neutral but what do you think of this.  Mr. Ross is leaning toward maintaining the Private Option and Mr. Hutchinson is yet to take a definitive position on it.  What should we make of that and should he prevail in November?

 I think it suggests he's not against it or cut it out completely.  He had a primary opponent.  He had to shore up support.  Asa Hutchinson -- whatever you want to call him -- is a long time elected official /political leader.  He's been around the block.  He served in Congress and he is -- as much as he's seen as a ideologue I don't know if he is that much and I think he is keeping the options open and not jeopardizing everything he wants to accomplish to do this.

 To follow up I think Mr. Hutchinson is looking at the numbers, that is the budget numbers and realizes when we talk about options there's not a lot of options available without keeping the Private Option in effect in some fashion or another.

 We also had a runoff for Attorney General on the Republican side and Ms. Rutledge prevailed over Mr. Sterling and handedly too.

 It was bitter in some ways. Low turnout as most runoffs are. (LOW AUDIO) she's almost won in the primary --

 Close.

 This was -- it's hard to tell why this happened.  Why she was able to pull away.  There may have been backlash against Sterling's advertising. Anecdotally hearing that but it's hard to tell.  There were only 74,000 people that voted in the entire runoff and 10,000 were in Saline County which had an interesting Sheriff's race so it's hard to tell why this happened but if she wins she will be the highest female constitutional officer in Arkansas history.

 In my experience this has been one of the most bizarre campaigns we have seen in Arkansas in that we had this vast amount of advertising funding coming from some mysterious organization supposedly interested in judicial areas and not clear how it would relate to who become the next Attorney General in Arkansas and I think Steve is right in that given the extremely low turnout which was no surprise but that was probably a backlash because it seemed to me a lot of the report that Ms. Rutledge got was a result of the advertising.  I mean to try to portray her as a soulmate to Nancy Pelosi is hard to sell.

 And she would have Mr. Sterling a porno peddler.

 There you go.  It got rough and nasty.  One way to look at this she benefited from the fact of going into a runoff because it gave her more state wide identification.  She was on TV more, et cetera and she's goes into the campaign against the Democratic nominee, Mr. Steel and I think that worked to her advantage.

 From the Northeast quadrant anyway and Mr. Steel from a political family in southwest Arkansas.  Do you want to speculate about November?  Can Mr. Steel do this given the climate of the times and given all this publicity that Ms. Rutlidge?

 I think she starts with an advantage because of name identification that she received even though she didn't set out to get it, and we all know looking at all kinds of records and polling data, et cetera that Democrats  are going to have a hard time in November, but Steele is someone with a lot of experience, has some connections, and I think it will be a good race.

 Steve.

 I guess -- and I don't know this.  I am curious to see what voters will think about electing a female Attorney General.  I am wondering if there is a element of Arkansas hesitant to do that. I'm not saying that is right of course but we never had one.  We never had a female Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor or Governor.  The highest was the Secretary of State and Sharon Priest that I know of and this would be a first and for whatever disadvantage there could be a female having the "R" by the name will make up for it.

 And Mr. Steele will need money and a lot of it.

 Right and it will be interesting if they manifest themselves in the general election as well on behalf of Leslie Rutledge and yes she will have to raise money for that possibility and I think the tone of the campaigns and Leslie Rutledge is going to continue -- the primary as primaries are are playing toward the base and being I want to say extreme, but I don't think anyone would argue that the primary wasn't a case of extreme positions staked out on that side.  Will she continue on that tone and how does Nate Steele combat that?  Will he moderate his tone?  You have two interesting styles here and it will be interesting how they play off each other.

 [INAUDIBLE]

 Pardon?

 It's a good name.  Nate Steele.

 Right out of a novel.  About the times, about this and we had the primary and the three county district and I went back to make sure I was right on this.  Two of the biggest employers in those counties are hospitals. The administrators of both were clearing their throats during the campaign and this Private Option has already helped us quite a bit.  We were looking at staff and service cuts and now some of the pressure for the time being is off and yet the ardent opponent of the Private Option, Obamacare by another name, won, and we talked about this last week when Mr. Cochran from Mississippi to the south was snagged in it and now we have the majority leader you outed by the district and last week we had the Texas platform and conservative and Ted Cruz butchered practically Governor Perry in a poll there so it appears that the southeast quadrant -- is there a Republican establishment left?

 That's really right now if you look at the macro level of politics the interesting thing is this sort of conflict or competition between the far right -- that is the Tea Party and the establishment Republicans, and of course when we talk about establishment Republicans we're talk going some cases people who have an extremely conservative records. Many of them, certainly Mr. Canter, Mr. Cochran are examples of that as well as our legislators.

 Right.

 Yeah, so it's really interesting and important to observe what's happening with the divisions within the Republican party, but clearly the Tea Party if that's the way you want to describe it has flexed its muscles or shown it's still -- and what is interesting just a few weeks back if you go look at the political analysts most of them were saying "Well, that's pretty much of end of it for the Tea Party.  The Republican establishment has prevailed."  Now, we see Mr. Canter, the majority leader and said resoundedly defeated and that is certainly true and also astonishing -- I mean frankly most people didn't even know outside the district that Cantor had any opposition and yet he was beaten badly and always you could say there were local issues and he didn't pay enough attention to his district, et cetera but this is a clear repudiation of the leadership in the Republican party in the House.  No way to get around that.

 He had a new district but he was known at the end of the day he could cut a deal.  Now is Arkansas going to maintain its storied independence even on the GOP side?  I would note Mr. Womack during the debt ceiling debate to say this is crazy.  Of course we have to pay the bills and tend to business and it's foolish to talk about shutting them down.  He didn't get an opponent.  So are we still drinking the independent water here?

I think so.  There are just some things about Arkansas' history that makes it different than the rest of the south and that make it -- we have a little more practical stint, practical viewpoint in some ways.  We are -- we really -- we're almost as much west as we are south.  We just -- I'm not sure why but we just -- there is a practical cooperative independent streak among Arkansas.  Virginia just yesterday turned down Medicaid money.  We just seem to -- maybe it's our history of not ever having a lot of money so we did what we had to do in order to get by.  I don't know what it is.  Maybe it's the agrarian -- we didn't have big farms.  We had small farms and had to work together.

 And a populous stream that is evident and you mentioned Texas and we see the conservative elements in Arkansas making a strong showing.  I mean to compare that to Texas there is no comparison. Texas with -- you mentioned Mr. Cruz a minute ago.  Texas is going far beyond anything we see on a large scale in Arkansas so there is something different and clearly this year with the Senator race, the congressional race, the Governor's race, the Attorney General's race we're going to get a test about just how independent Arkansas remains or whether it's become part of the tide of Republican success throughout the region.

 One more thing to kick around that may feed into this and a wonderful quote in the times this morning about the party situation, the GOP situation and "There is a divide between the country club Republicans and what I call the deer camp Republicans.  The problem is there is more of us than them -- speaking of the deer camp.

 Yeah.

 That is the case.  The establishment Republicans it seems to me at all levels  are trying to campaign by raising a bunch of money and carpet bombing the airways with ads, whereas the boots on the grounds Republicans they are talking about the issues that kind of fire people up and they're a lot more personal involvement and energy on the deer camp Republicans than the country club Republicans right now.

 Steve you are watching the teacher insurance situation and we thought there might be a consensus and now seems questionable.

 I still think there is. They produced two bills so far. The task force is looking at it. One is more controversial.  It would remove part time employees at school districts -- and state employees too from being eligible for benefits.  The other is less controversial.  It would take spouses off who have insurance through their own employers and a couple other things too.  They're still working on it.  There was a education meeting this week. There was disagreement about the part time but there was certainly no fire works there. I think there will be a special session.

 Got to get the scaffolding out.  Lance a couple big stories and let's talk about Tyson and the protein king of the world and beat the beef.

 It did and there are questions on the part of analysts and whether they paid too much.  This is Tyson's acquisition bid for Hillshire Farms out of Chicago and makes hot dogs and Jimmy Dean sausages and other products, and Tyson was in a bidding war with Pilgrims Pride and went a couple of rounds upping the bids and went into a weekend bidding process between the two and Tyson came out on top and it's 8.5 billion dollars.  Tyson is pretty adamant they made what they should have paid for it and it's important and valuable to them.  They have been -- to hear them tell it Donny Smith, the CEO they have been working up and saving for years.  They see prepared foods -- that piece important part of the business they need to grow so they have been saving their pennies and working up to a deal of this magnitude and once Hillshire was in play they didn't want to lose it.

 And Wal-Mart had the stockholders meeting and what is the take away.

 They're in a interesting position just in the changing nature of retail and Amazon.com has emerged as their big rival and they used to play in different sectors and that isn't the case and with Wal-Mart and the new CEO and native guy and trying to position itself to take on Amazon and be the end of to all retailers whether online, in store, drive up to home or directly to your car, so there's going to be pain points in that because you're taking a multi-billion dollar business and pivoting it a bit and trying to play in a space that Amazon is a native in the space and they're not concerned about profits and Wal-Mart has shareholders that care about it but Jeff Bezos is doing that for the long-term and looking down the road hoping that Amazon is the largest retailers and Wal-Mart has the controversies and the briberies and the shareholders and wages for employees and it's an interesting time and very much in transition.

 Institutional and other investors are looking at it.

 Yeah and same store sales are on the decline.  They have to rely on the international relations to prop up -- but that's the part growing.  Same store sales  are stagnant and they're under pressure still with the economy and they're dealing with that and it always interesting in Bentonville for the team up there.

 Speaking of Bentonville and the expansion of Tyson and Wal-Mart's presence despite the problems and how important they have become and this is a good indication of that.

 We have to leave it there. Gents thanks as always and thanks to you for watching.  We will be back next week.

 "Arkansas Week" is made possible in part by the "Arkansas Times" keeping you informed by covering people, events, and politics in Arkansas. By FM 89 KUAR Little Rock with in depth news reporting, analysis and discussion each weekday.

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