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Arkansas Week June 6, 2014

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(Tuesday) The runoff is days away, we'll have a rundown of the races. (Senate) For Democrats the long march to November isn't getting shorter. (Grass roots) Yet another attempt at medical marijuana, has anything changed? (Session?) And teacher insurance, is a solution at hand, and for how long?

TRANSCRIPT

HOST: HELLO AGAIN, EVERYONE. THANKS FOR JOINING US FOR "ARKANSAS WEEK". WE'VE GOT POLITICS AT THE TOP OF THE AGENDA TONIGHT WITH REPUBLICAN RUNOFFS GIST AROUND THE CORNER. AND WE'RE JOINED BY MICHAEL HIBBLEN WHO IS NEWS DIRECTOR FOR KUAR PUBLIC RADIO IN CENTRAL ARKANSAS, STEVE BRAWNER AN INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST BASED IN BENTON AND ANDY DUMAS COLUMNIST FOR ARKANSAS TIMES. THANKS, EVERYBODY, FOR COMING IN. WHAT A RACE, THIS ATTORNEY GENERALS CAMPAIGN IS.

YEAH, THIS RUNOFF ELECTION HEADING INTO TUESDAY'S VOTE, IT'S REALLY GOTTEN CONTENTIOUS BETWEEN LESLIE RUTLEDGE AND DAVID STERLING. WE HAD THEM OVER TO KUAR THIS PAST WEEK FOR A DEBATE AND THEY WERE JUST AT EACH OTHER'S THROATS TO A GOOD DEGREE FOR MORE THAN A HALF HOUR. WE DO HAVE THE VIDEO ON OUR WEBSITE, KUAR.ORG, IF ANYONE WANTS TO WATCH IT.

HOST: LITTLE PLUGGING.

A LITTLE BIT OF PLUGGING THERE. IT'S LESS FUN TO WATCH TO SEE THESE TWO GO AT EACH OTHER THIS WAY. [LAUGHTER]

A COUPLE OF KEY ISSUES HERE. STOPPING THE FEDERAL OVERREACH IS SOMETHING BOTH SAY, BUT DAVID STERLING A LITTLE MORE ADAMANT ABOUT IT. HE HE IS ALSO PUSHING FOR STAND YOUR GROUND LAW. IF YOU'RE THREATENED, YOU'RE JUSTIFIED IN SHOOTING SOMEONE. THE DEATH PENALTY, SAME-SECOND MARRIAGE, ALSO SOME TALK ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN FUNDS AND IN PARTICULAR OUTSIDE MONEY BEING USED FOR ADS IN THIS RACE. YOU'VE HAD AN OUTSIDE GROUP THAT'S COME IN AND POURED A LOT OF MONEY INTO THIS RACE FOCUSING ON THE STAND YOUR GROUND ISSUE. AND YOU'VE PROBABLY SEEN IT IF YOU'VE WATCHED TV MUCH HERE IN THE LAST WEEK OR SO, SHOWING A VERY HE DISHEVELED LOOKING LESLIE RUTLEDGE, JESTING THAT SHE BELIEVES LIKE NANCY PELOSI THAT YOU SHOULDN'T PROTECT YOUR FAMILY AND YOU SHOULD BACK DOWN IF YOU'RE THREATENED. IT'S, IT'S INTERESTING, IN A WAY IT'S A COMICAL SEEING ADS LIKE THIS THAT ARE SO OVER THE TOP. BUT IT'S A VERY CONTENTIOUS RACE. THESE TWO CLEARLY DON'T LIKE ONE ANOTHER. THERE WAS A LOT OF TENSION IN THE AIR WHEN THEY MET UP AT THE STATION.

THESE ISSUES HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE. THE ATTORNEY GENERAL CANNOT, CANNOT ENACT A STAND YOUR GROUND LAW OR ANY OTHER KIND OF LAW. HE CAN ASK THE LEGISLATURE TO PROPOSE ONE, BUT IT IS, IT IS AN UNUSUALLY CONTENTIOUS RACE. PRACTICALLY THE ONLY RACE THERE IS IN THE STATE OF ARKANSAS THIS YEAR. THE PRIMARIES, THE REPUBLICAN PRIMARY OBVIOUSLY WAS THE PLACE TO GO WITH THIS LAST ELECTION BECAUSE IT HAD A LOT MORE RACES. BUT THIS IS THE ONE THAT ATTRACTED THE MOST ATTENTION PARTLY BECAUSE OF THE PERSONALITIES OF THE TWO. LESLIE RUTLEDGE WHO IS ORIGINALLY FROM BATESVILLE, ARKANSAS, LAWYER, WORKED FOR MIKE HUCKABEE, WORKED IN HIS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN, I THINK, AND HAS DONE SOME WORK FOR THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE. SO, HER REPUBLICAN CREDENTIALSESES ARE PRETTY GOOD, BUT SHE'S CHALLENGED THOSE CREDENTIALSES THIS LAST WEEK AND, WELL, THERE WAS A PERIOD OF TIME WHERE SHE WENT OVER AND VOTED IN DEMOCRATIC PRIMARIES AND SUGGESTED THAT SHE CONTRIBUTED TO DEMOCRATS BECAUSE SHE HAD ONCE BOUGHT A TICKET TO MIKE BEEBE'S INAUGURATION, INAUGURAL BALL OR SOMETHING, AND THAT MONEY GOT FUNNELED OVER TO THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OR SOMETHING, SO, HE'S SUGGESTING SHE SUPPORTED DEMOCRATS. IT'S KIND OF A POINTLESSLY MEAN RACE, I THINK, BUT THAT'S THE ATTRACTION FOR THE TUESDAY ELECTION.

HOST: STEVE, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE 13TH COMMANDMENT?

YOU SHALL NOT KILL ANOTHER REPUBLICAN, RONALD REAGAN. YOU KNOW --

HOST: IT WASN'T JUST THIS RACE. THAT'S A REAL BARN BURNER THANK YOU LEGISLATIVE LEVEL, TOO.

THAT WAS PROBABLY MORE TRUE WHEN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY WAS TRYING TO SCROUNGE UP ANYBODY FOR THE RACE. PARTS OF ARKANSAS NOW FOR SURE. AND, SO, IT'S COMPETITIVE. SO, YOU'LL SEE MORE AND MORE OF THIS. YOU SAW THE CONGRESSIONAL RACESESES IN THE 2ND DISTRICT AND THE 5TH DISTRICT. GOT A LITTLE SLEEPY AT TIMES IN THE 2ND DISTRICT. THIS IS THE WAY IT'S GOING TO BE FOR A WHILE. WE MAY HAVE, YOU KNOW, WILL ROGERS -- I'M NOT A MEMBER OF AN ORGANIZED PARTY, I'M A DEMOCRAT. BUT NOW HE MIGHT SAY THE DEMOCRATS ARE MORE UNIFIED THAN THE REPUBLICANS GOING AFTER EACH OTHER.

HOST: AND THE MARQUEE LEGISLATIVE RACE UP IN NORTH CENTRAL ARKANSAS, BAXTER IN THAT AREA UP THERE, AND BOONE, WHICH INVOLVES A STATE SENATE RUNOFF BETWEEN MR. FLIPPO AND MR. BURRIS, WHAT APPEARS TO BE AN IDEOLOGICAL DIVISION.

THROUGHOUT REALLY THE HISTORY OF THE 20TH AND 21ST CENTURIES, TYPICALLY IT WAS THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY THAT WAS SPLIT NATIONALLY AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HAS BEEN FAIRLY UNIFIED DEFINITELY SINCE THE REAGAN ERA. BUT IN ARKANSAS YOU HAD THIS, THIS REAL SCHISM IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY ABOUT THE PRIVATE OPTION. BURRIS IS ONE IN ARKANSAS FOR THE PRIVATE OPTION. ALL THE DEMOCRAT ARE FOR PRIVATE OPTION. THERE IS NOBODY THERE THAT'S AGAINST IT. SO, THIS IS A, YOU KNOW, THIS HAS BEEN A REALLY IMPORTANT RACE. NOW WE'VE ALREADY LOST ONE PRIVATE OPTION SUPPORTER, BRUCE HAHN WAS -- YOU'VE GOT -- YOU COULD -- THE SUPPORTERS MIGHT COULD FIND A SPLIT TO SWITCH SIDES. BUT IF THEY GO DOWN TWO, THEY LOSE TWO SENATOR. THAT'S GOING TO BE TOUGH. SO, THAT RACE BETWEEN JOHN BURRIS WHO WAS AN ARCHITECT OF OPTION IN THE HOUSE VERSUS SCOTT AGAINST IT IS A REALLY IMPORTANT RACE.

AND IT'S REALLY PUT JOHN BURRIS ON THE DEFENSIVE. I MEAN, HE'S BEEN SAYING THE PAST WEEK, YOU KNOW, WE REALLY DID THE BEST WITH WHAT WE HAD. WE DIDN'T WANT THIS MONEY TO LEAVE THE STATE. WE MADE THE BEST DECISION WE COULD WITH THE SITUATION AND THAT THIS, AT LEAST, WOULD GIVE THEM SOME CONTROL. SO, HETRYING TO, YOU KNOW, EXPLAIN HIS DECISION, BUT CLEARLY SCOTT FLIPPO BASICALLY SAYING YOU'RE ENABLING "OBAMACARE". IT'S EVENTUALLY GOING TO COST ARKANSAS, SO, IT, TOO, CONTENTIOUS.

THE "OBAMACARE", IN A WAY THAT HAD BEEN THE BIG SPLIT FOR REPUBLICANS. IT'S KIND OF DIVIDED REPUBLICANS BECAUSE YOU HAD THE LEADERSHIP -- REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP IN THE HOUSE AND THE SENATE AS WELL THAT CAME UP WITH THIS SOMEWHAT DIFFERENT VERSION OF THE MEDICAID PORTION OF "OBAMACARE". I THINK IT'S STILL "OBAMACARE". IT IMPLEMENTS -- IT IS THE REAL "OBAMACARE". BUT I THINK THAT THEY'VE MISSED THE BOAT IN THAT I DON'T THINK THAT IT REQUIRES A 3/4 VOTE TO PASS THE APPROPRIATION. AND ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS SEPARATE THE FEDERAL APPROPRIATION OUT OF THE BILL. AND I THINK IT'S PRETTY CLEAR UNDER THE CONSTITUTION YOU CAN PASS THAT WITH A SIMPLE MAJORITY AND THAT WOULD REMOVE THIS AS A BIG ISSUE, I THINK, AND ALL THE IMPORTANCE OF EACH OF THESE PRIMARIES IF THEY DID THAT. BUT THEY DIDN'T DO THAT AT THE LAST SESSION. I TRIED TO GET SEVERAL OF THE SPONSORS TO DO THAT, TO SEPARATE IT OUT AND TAKE CARE OF THIS ISSUE ONCE AND FOR ALL AND IT WOULDN'T BE SO DIVISIVE TO THE PARTY MUCH --

HOST: MISCHIEF AGAIN.

AT ANY RATE, I JUST WANT TO THROW THAT IN THAT THERE IS A SOLUTION TO THAT ISSUE.

HOST: IT WOULD SOLVE A POLITICAL PROBLEM FOR SOME REPUBLICANS.

IT OUGHT TO. I THINK THAT'S WHY IT SHOULD BE DONE, FOR THE SAKE OF THE PARTY. [LAUGHTER]

HOST: ALL RIGHT, MOVING ON, WE HAD -- WE'RE GOING TO BACK INTO THE ARKANSAS SENATE RACE HERE. WE HAD A REPUBLICAN PRIMARY, A HOT ONE IN -- A VERY PERSONAL SENATORIAL, U.S. SENATORIAL PRIMARY IN OUR SISTER TO THE SOUTHEAST, MISSISSIPPI, THIS PAST WEEK AND A MEMBER COMING UP, ERNIE, I GUESS 40 YEARS, PAST 40 YEAR, THE INCUMBENT PAT COCHRAN.

SNAGGED IN A RUNOFF BY ABOUT A HALF OF 1%, I THINK.

HOST: I THOUGHT 2000 VOTES.

YEAH.

HOST: AGAINST A MUCH, MUCH MORE CONSERVATIVE CANDIDATE OR AT LEAST HE PRESENTED HIMSELF --

IT'S HARD TO GET TOO MUCH MORE CONSERVATIVE THAN COCHRAN, BUT -- COCHRAN IS A SOUTHERN GENTLEMAN, LIKED BY BOTH SIDES, GETS ALONG WITH EVERYBODY.

HOST: HE NEVER CAUCUSED WITH THE DEMOCRATS. YOU'RE RIGHT.

NEVER CAUCUSED WITH THE DEMOCRAT, NEVER VOTED WITH THEM ON ANYTHING. DANIEL, MISSISSIPPI IS THE MOST CONSERVATIVE STATE IN THE UNION AND IT DESERVES THE MOST CONSERVATIVE SENATOR. THAT'S WHAT I WILL BE, I WILL BE THE MOST CONSERVATIVE MEMBER OF THE SENATE IF YOU ELECT ME. AND I THINK THAT'S -- IF YOU THINK HAD I STYLE IS APPEALING AND SOUTHEASTERN MISSISSIPPI, WHICH HE CARRIED HEAVILY -- THAT'S WHAT PUT HIM INTO THE LEADERSHIP IN THAT PART OF THE STATE WHERE HE'S FROM, DOWN AROUND THE HETTYS BURG. 95%. SO, IT'S LIKELY THAT HE WILL WIN THE RUNOFF BECAUSE -- AND I THINK COCHRAN'S FORCES AND THE REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP NATIONAL FEAR THAT, THAT IN THE RUNOFF HE WILL EXCITE THE TEA PARTY VOTERS AND REALLY ARCH CONSERVATIVE VOTERS, THEY'LL GET EXCITED AND TURNOUT. THAT'S THE ISSUE PROBABLY IN ARKANSAS, WHO IS GOING TO TURNOUT TO VOTE IN AN OTHERWISE WEAK ELECTION.

HOST: OF COURSE, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT AN INTRA-PARTY, STEPHEN, IN MISSISSIPPI, AN INTRA-PARTY FEUD DUEL. IN ARKANSAS WE HAVE A SOMEWHAT SIMILAR DYNAMIC IN THAT YOU HAVE IN MR. PRYOR A CANDIDATE WHO PRESENTS HIMSELF AS, YES, CONSERVATIVE, BUT SOMEWHAT MORE MODERATE, MORE MAINSTREAM THAN THE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE MR. COTTON. DOES THE PATTERN FIT NECESSARILY? IT SEEM TO ME THAT IT MAY. THE ARGUMENTS, THE DYNAMIC.

WHEN THIS STARTED I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT FOR SURE COTTON WAS GOING TO WIN BASED ON THE TRENDS IN ARKANSAS. BUT PRYOR HAS DONE A NATURAL JOB REALLY OF TRYING TO PAINT HIM AS AN EXTREMIST. IN SOME WAYS HE'S DONE IT THROUGH COTTON'S VOTES. HE'S DONE IT THROUGH HURRICANE SANDY. LAST WEEK IN NEW JERSEY, TALKED ABOUT HOW COTTON VOTED AGAINST SANDY RELIEF, IT WAS A POOR WASTE OF MONEY, DIDN'T GO TO SANDY RELIEF. NEVERTHELESS HE'S BEEN TALKING ABOUT THE WOMEN ACT. HE'S BEEN TALKING ABOUT THE COTTON VOTE AGAINST. HE'S BEEN TALKING ABOUT HIS VOTE AGAINST THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ADMINISTRATION. REALLY, AT THIS POINT PRYOR IS ACTUALLY KIND OF MAKING THE CASE -- MAKING THE PRO GOVERNMENT CASE IN SOME WAYS AND SAYING THAT THESE ARE PROGRAM THAT PEOPLE TEND TO LIKE AND COTTON IS AGAINST THEM. SO, WE'RE ACTUALLY IN SOME WAYS SENATE RACE HAVING AN ACTUAL DEBATE ABOUT THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT, NOT A VERY GOD ONE, BUT IT'S ACTUALLY OCCURRING WHERE WE HAVE A CLEAR CONTRAST THAN MISSISSIPPI OF 22 CANDIDATES WHO REALLY HAVE DIFFERENT VIEWS ON THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT.

AND WE'RE SEEING IN THE ADS EFFORTS TO REALLY HUMANIZE TOM COTTON NOW TO -- WITH NOW AN AD RUNNING WITH HIS WIFE. WE'VE SEEN THE PREVIOUS ONE WITH HIS MOM AND REALLY TRYING TO MAKE HIM SEEM NOT SO MUCH THE POLITICIAN, BUT REALLY TRYING TO MAKE HIM MORE HUMAN TO THE VOTERS BECAUSE SO FAR HE REALLY HASN'T COME ACROSS AS A REALLY LIKEABLE GUY, AT LEAST, ACCORDING TO WHAT POLLS ARE SUGGESTING. AND REALLY, THE INDEPENDENT POLL FOR THE MOST PART HAVE SHOWN PRYOR COULD STILL WIN THIS. IT HASN'T BEEN A CLEAR TOM COTTON. HE HASN'T REALLY TAKEN THE MAJORITY HERE SO FAR. SO, IT'S STILL GOING TO BE A CLOSE RACE, BUT THEY'RE MAKING EFFORTS NOW TO MAKE TOM COTTON A LITTLE MORE LIKEABLE TO THE AVERAGE ARKANSAN.

HOST: MR. COTTON'S PARENTS SEEM TO BE RATHER FOND OF HIM. WE'LL GRANT HIM THAT. THE INTERESTING THING ABOUT MISSISSIPPI -- I DON'T KNOW THAT THE DYNAMIC IS NECESSARILY OR THE MATH IS NECESSARILY THE SAME, BUT THE INTERESTING THING TO ME IS YOU HAVE A MR. McDANIEL THE CHALLENGER WHO GOT A PART OF HIS APPEAL, CERTAINLY PART OF HIS PLATFORM IS, YOU KNOW, THERE'S TOO MUCH GOVERNMENT SPENDING. WE HAVE GOT TO CUT THE SPENDING, CUT IT, CUT IT. AND A CANDIDATE IN MR. COCHRAN AND INCUMBENT WHO BRAGS ABOUT ALMOST HERE THE McCULLEN PRIOR RACE OF 1972, LOOK AT ALL THE STUFF THAT I HAVE BROUGHT HOME TO MISSISSIPPI. AND, IN FACT, IT'S TRUE. MISSISSIPPI SENDS ABOUT A BUCK -- FOR EVERY BUCK IT SENDS TO WASHINGTON, IT GETS $2.50 OR $3 BACK, AND YET MR. McDANIEL HAS --

A LOT OF THAT MONEY, A LOT OF THIS PUT MONEY FOR VARIOUS PROJECTS -- [MULTIPLE VOICES]

IT'S BEEN VERY IMPORTANT TO THE MISSISSIPPI ECONOMY. BUT A LOT OF THAT DISPARITY AND IN GO AND OUT GO IN TEXAS IS ALSO HUMAN SERVICES, FOOD STAMPS --

HOST: MEDICAID.

AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDIES. SO A LOT OF THAT IS A DISTINCTIVE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TOM COTTON AND MARK PRYOR IN ARKANSAS AND COCHRAN AND McDANIEL IN MISSISSIPPI, THAT THEY STILL SUPPORT LARGELY THESE HUMAN SERVICE KINDS OF FOCUS. THE DEMOCRAT DO AND COCHRAN AS WELL IN MISSISSIPPI BECAUSE IT'S BEEN IMPORTANT TO MISSISSIPPI ECONOMY.

HOST: WELL, THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEES, CERTAINLY IN THE SOUTH, THEY'RE NOT GETTING A GREAT DEAL OF HELP FROM THE WHITE HOUSE OF LATE. NOW, THEY HAVEN'T ALL YEAR LONG. ON MONDAY, I BELIEVE, WE HAD NEW COAL STANDARDS WHICH COULD HAVE A PRONOUNCED IMPACT ON ARKANSAS, CERTAINLY IN THE DEBATE, AND THE PRISONER EXCHANGE WHICH WE HAD, MICHAEL. EVEN THE GENTLE WOMAN FROM CALIFORNIA, MRS. FEINSTEIN, WAS UP IN ARMS OVER THAT.

YEAH, THESE AREN'T REALLY GREAT ISSUES FOR DEMOCRATS TO COME OUT RIGHT NOW. THEY SAY WITH THE NEW EPA LEVELS, CO2 LEVELS THAT CAN BE EMITTED FROM POWER PLANTS, THAT'S GOING TO RAISE UTILITY BILLS. THAT'S WHAT THE UTILITIES IN ARKANSAS ARE SAYING. ENVIRONMENTALISTS ARE APPLAUDING IT, THE SIERRA CLUB IN PARTICULAR SAID THIS IS ONE DIRTY COAL FIRED POWER PLANT NEAR WHITEHALL THAT THEY'RE ESPECIALLY GLAD TO SEE IS GOING TO HAVE TO HAVE SOME WORK DONE TO IT. BUT IF IT REALLY DOES CAUSE UTILITY BILLS TO GO UP, THAT'S GOING TO MAKE ARKANSANS VERY UNHAPPY.

HOST: EVEN THE PROSPECT OF THEM IS ALREADY CUT.

YES.

THIS IS ALSO SOMEWHAT OF AN OPPORTUNITY FOR DEMOCRAT BECAUSE THEY CAN TAKE A STAND AGAINST PRESIDENT OBAMA AND SHOW THAT THEY'RE INDEPENDENT. SO, IN THE CASE OF THE COAL FIRE STANDARD, YOU'RE FOR MARK PRYOR, CONCERN ABOUT THE IMPACT IT WOULD BE ON ARKANSAS CONSUMERS HAVING TO PAY MORE FOR THEIR POWER, EVEN THOUGH WE HAVE ONE OF THE DIRTIEST POWER PLANTS IN AMERICA, WE PUT OUT -- I'VE FORGOTTEN THE FIGURES A FEW YEARS AGO, ABOUT HOW MANY BILLION OF TONS OF CARBON DIOXIDE ARE EMITTED INTO THE ATMOSPHERE EVERY YEAR FROM ARKANSAS. PLUS SULFUR DIOXIDE AND MERCURY. BACK WHEN WE AUTHORIZED THOSE PLANTS BACK IN THE '70s, THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION DIDN'T REQUIRE THEM TO INSTALL SCRUBBER, HAVEN'T SINCE. SO, THERE IS STILL AN AMOUNT OF SULFUR DIOXIDE AND POLLUTANTS FROM THESE POWER PLANTS THEY'LL HAVE TO COME ALONG IN THE NEXT 15 YEARS OR SO AND CORRECT. BUT THEY CAN DO IT IN OTHER WAYS, FOR EXAMPLE, BY LOWERING CONSUMPTION. SO, ANYWAY, BUT IT'S A BIG ISSUE, BUT AS I SAY, IT'S SOMEWHAT HELPFUL FOR DEMOCRATS BECAUSE THEY CAN TAKE A STAND AGAINST THE PRESIDENT AND THAT'S POPULAR.

HOST: I SHOULD THINK NATURAL GAS FUTURES WENT UP, TOO.

SHOULD.

HOST: AND WE'VE GOT THIS. ERNIE, WE HAD A REVENUE, OF COURSE THE MAY NUMBER, WE HAVE ANOTHER ONE MONTH REMAINING IN THE FISCAL YEAR AND IT'S STILL SNUG.

WELL, THROUGH 11 MONTHS OF THE FISCAL YEAR, THE NET GENERAL REVENUES HAVE -- OVER A YEAR AGO, SAME A YEAR AGO, ONE-TENTH OF 1%. NOW, EVEN DURING RECESSIONS THERE IS ALWAYS MODEST, NEARLY ALWAYS, ONLY ONCE OR TWICE IN MODERN HISTORY HAVE WE ACTUALLY REDUCED THE AMOUNT OF REVENUE FROM ONE YEAR TO THE NEXT. BUT A ONE 10TH OF 1% IS ALMOST A RECESSION LEVEL FIGURE AND GROWTH IN ARKANSAS HAS BEEN FAIRLY GOOD. SO, WE HAVE ONE MONTH REMAINING. WELL, WE'LL MEET OUR PROJECTIONS. OBVIOUSLY WE'LL NOT MEET DEFICIT SPENDING. OF COURSE, THE REASON FOR THAT IS AS WE ALL KNOW, THEY CUT TAXES HE IN THE LAST -- THEY CUT TAX HE AND THE GOVERNOR EVENTUALLY WENT ALONG WITH THOSE TAX CUTS AND THAT'S -- THAT PLUS THE INCREASING SHIFT OF PURCHASING FROM STORES TO BUYING ON THE INTERNET. THAT'S AFFECTED RETAIL SALES AND RETAIL, THE TAXES HE ON RETAIL. SO, ALL OF THAT IS COMBINED TO REALLY PUT THE STATE IN KIND OF A CRIMP. SO, WE'LL COME ALONG NEXT YEAR, I THINK AND THERE ARE SOME REAL FISCAL PROBLEMS FACING THE STATE IN THE NEXT SESSION BECAUSE OF THESE FIGURES.

HOST: WHILE WE'RE TALKING NET AVAILABLE, GROSS THROUGH THE FIRST 11 MONTHS OF THE FISCAL YEAR WAS UP OVER LAST YEAR 6/10 OF 1%. NOT QUITE $34 MILLION. THAT'S A LOT OF MONEY TO ME. THAT'S A BUMP IN THE ROAD IF THAT'S ONE TINY EMERGENCY.

AND YOU'RE FACING THE BIG ISSUES WITH THE PRISONS, SCHOOLS, HEALTH INSURANCE, UAMS OR HAVING TO BAIL UAMS OUT WITH THE RAINY DAY FUND. SO, YOU'VE GOT A LOT OF ISSUES LIKE THAT THAT'S GOING TO AFFECT THE SESSION COMING ALONG IN JANUARY.

HOST: WELL, WE MAY -- MAY, STEVE, HAVE A SESSION BEFORE JANUARY.

SEEM LIKELY, ACTUALLY. STILL TRYING TO WORK OUT THE PROBLEM WITH THE TEACHER, EDUCATOR HEALTH INSURANCE SYSTEM. THE COST HAS BEEN SKY ROCKETING THROUGH THE YEARS. AS COSTS GO UP, TEACHER, SCHOOL EMPLOYEES GET OUT. THEY FIND A NEW WAY OF GETTING HEALTH INSURANCE, WHICH MEANS THE COSTS GO EVEN HIGHER. SO, THIS IS LOOKING FOR A IF I CAN. ~ FIX. THEY ARE MEETING TUESDAY. THEY HOPED TO HAVE A SPECIAL SESSION, A NUMBER OF FIXES CONSIDERED EITHER THROUGH THE SPECIAL SESSION OR THROUGH THE REGULATORY BODY. AMONG THINGS BEING CONSIDERED ARE TAKING STAFF OUT OF THE EQUATION, PART TIMERS OUT OF THE EQUATION. THEY HAVE TO FIX THE GOAL PLAN WHICH HAS NO REDUCTIONS. VERY, VERY EXPENSIVE. SO, RIGHT NOW THEY TALK ABOUT A SPECIAL SESSION. IF IT HAPPENS, IT HAS TO HAPPEN SOON BECAUSE AUGUST IS WHEN SCHOOL STARTS WHEN THEY HAVE TO HAVE THE PLANS IN OR AROUND THAT TIME PERIOD. THEY HAVE NOT TOLD THE MEMBERSHIP YET AND THAT HAS TO HAPPEN. GOVERNOR BEEBE IS BIG ABOUT THIS. HE DOESN'T CALL SPECIAL SESSIONS UNLESS THE DEAL IS DONE BEFORE HAND AND RIGHT NOW THE DEAL IS NOT DONE, BUT THEY ARE WORKING ON TRYING TO GET IT DONE. AND IF THEY DO, THEN WE'LL HAVE A SPECIAL SESSION.

HOST: OBVIOUSLY YOU'RE WORKING THE STORY. HOW CLOSE ARE THEY?

WELL, IF THEY HAVEN'T CALLED THE MEMBERS --

HOST: ON A CONSENSUS, ANYWAY.

AH, SENATOR THE HEAD OF TASK FORCE SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS, TWO OR THREE WEEKS AGO, THEY WERE PRETTY CLOSE. THERE WAS A LOT OF AGREEMENT ON THING AND THEY CAN DO A LOT OF THIS THROUGH, THROUGH STATE REGULATIONS. I WOULD -- I THINK IT'S QUITE LIKELY THEY'LL HAVE A SESSION --

IF I CAN, ALSO THE ARKANSAS SHERIFF'S ASSOCIATION IS ASKING FOR A SPECIAL SESSION TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM WITH JAILS AND PRISONS, OVERHE CROWDING. HAVEN'T HEARD SUPPORT FOR THAT HAPPENING, BUT JUST SHOWS A GROWING PROBLEM THERE SINCE WE TIGHTENED REGULATIONS FOR PAROLE VIOLATORS. WE'VE SEEN JUST AN ASTRONOMICAL GROWTH IN STATE PRISON INMATES BACKED UP IN COUNTY JAILS AND SHERIFF SAYING THIS IS A BIG PROBLEM WE NEED TO ADDRESS, BUT IT MAY LIKELY BE PUSHED UP AND TAKEN UP DURING THE REGULAR SESSION NEXT YEAR.

HOST: ERNIE, A LONG-TERM FIX, WHATEVER THAT MIGHT BE, OBVIOUSLY IT WOULD INVOLVE THE POOL. ALONG ANYTHING OTHER THAN A SHORT-TERM FIX AND A SPECIAL SESSION WOULD SEEM IMPROBABLE OR NOT?

I THINK THAT'S PROBABLY WHAT WOULD HAPPEN. MAYBE TO HAVE A SPECIAL SESSION RECENTLY, THE CASE OF THE SCHOOL INSURANCE PROGRAM, IS THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE TO RAISE THE MAYBE CONSERVATIVE FUND $100 MILLION SOMETHING FUND OUT THERE, SURPLUS FROM PREVIOUS FISCAL YEARS. THEY COULD TAKE SOME OF THAT AND PUT IT INTO THE INSURANCE PROGRAM FOR THE NEXT YEAR. THAT WOULD KICK IT OVER UNTIL A PERMANENT SOLUTION MAY BE AT THE REGULAR SEGO IN JANUARY. THEY COULD PROBABLY DO THE SAME THING FOR THE PRISONS. DOESN'T SEEM TO BE MUCH INTEREST IN THE LEGISLATURE OR THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE IN TRYING TO ADDRESS THE PRISON PROBLEM, WHICH IS REALLY MONUMENTAL AT THIS SESSION. SO, THEY'LL KICK IT OVER UNTIL, UNTIL JANUARY, BUT THERE ARE SOME BIG MONEY PROBLEMS COMING UP.

HOST: THERE'S ALWAYS SOME DISCUSSION, ANYWAY, OF BLENDING -- MOVING THE TEACHER INSURANCE FUND INTO A LARGER POOL, MERGING IT WITH ANOTHER STATE AGENCY.

ENOUGH WITH THE STATE AGENCIES. OF COURSE, I THINK THAT'S --

HOST: STATE EMPLOYEES.

YEAH, THE STATE EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT. THE STATE IS ALWAYS TAKING A LARGER SHARE FROM THE STATE EMPLOYEES BECAUSE THEY DO NOT CONSIDER SCHOOL, TEACHER, SO FORTH, OTHER STATE EMPLOYEES AS BEING STATE EMPLOYEES, ALTHOUGH SCHOOLS ARE LARGELY FUNDED BY THE STATE AS WELL. AND IT IS AN OBLIGATION UNDER THE CONSTITUTION TO PROVIDE EDUCATION. IT'S AN OBLIGATION ON THE STATE. SO, THERE IS AN ARGUMENT BY THE ARKANSAS EDUCATION ASSOCIATION. WELL, YOU OUGHT TO PROVIDE THE SAME AMOUNT OF IF YOU HADVTIONING -- LEVEL OF FUNDING FOR THE TEACHERS INSURANCE PROGRAM AS YOU DO STATE EMPLOYEES. THAT'S QUITE A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE IN FUNDING LEVEL AT THAT. I SUSPECT THIS SESSION THEY'LL KICK IN SOME MONEY FROM THE -- FROM ONE FISCAL YEAR, ONE SCHOOL YEAR.

HOST: STEVE, GO AHEAD.

THEY'LL HAVE TO HAVE -- THERE WILL BE SOME -- THERE WILL HAVE TO BE SOME KIND OF FIX THIS SESSION OR CALL ONE. THERE HAS TO BE -- THERE WILL HAVE TO BE SOME WAY THE SCHOOL EMPLOYEE INSURANCE SYSTEM IS WELCOME. SO, THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO FIX IT.

HOST: GOT TO LEAVE IT THERE. WE'RE OUT OF TIME. JENS, THANKS TO YOU FOR COMING IN. AND THANKS TO YOU FOR WATCHING. AND WE'LL SEE YOU NEXT WEEK. ♪♪ ♪♪

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