Friday, April 14, 2006

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> How Beebe didn’t get vote right on lenders

Attorney General Mike Beebe’s voting record on payday lenders is more complicated than we realized.

Beebe’s people were unhappy with my last payday lenders column, where I said the former senator actually voted for the Check Cashers Act in 1999, contrary to earlier reports that he voted against the bill.

Although he was recorded as voting for the Check Cashers Act, which the Senate passed unanimously, Beebe says he opposed the bill and should not have been included as a supporter of the measure.

But he did vote yes, probably between dashing from one conference room to another. His staff doesn’t remember how it happened.

Zack Wright, Beebe’s spokesman, sent us this e-mail on Friday: “It was seven years ago — the general doesn’t have recollection of why they recorded the vote wrong. In the Senate, there is not a board to see the vote.

"The clerk reads the names of the Senators and the Senators respond ‘yea’ or ‘nay.’   

"It is marked with a pencil and can be recorded incorrectly simply by checking the wrong box, and sometimes the response is hard to hear because of noise in the chamber. I can’t speak to why it was recorded incorrectly the first time.

"But, since they announced the tally as 35-0, it was obvious his vote had been mis-recorded and hence he corrected it (as recorded in the Legislative Journal).”

Wright also sent us this item:

“BEEBE LETTER CORRECTED ROLL CALL VOTE TALLY. Beebe is incorrectly listed as having voted ‘Aye’ for SB 781 in the Arkansas Senate Journal. Following the vote on March 24, 1999, Beebe learned that his vote had been incorrectly recorded and immediately submitted a letter to the Secretary of the Senate so that the record could be corrected. [1999 Arkansas Senate Journal, Volume 7, page 5461].”

Although Beebe’s letter is legally worthless, I thought I’d share it with our readers.

Earlier this week, one of the consumer groups fighting the payday lenders pointed us to the unanimous Senate vote in favor of the cash checkers.

The vote was brought to our attention because we’ve been reporting Beebe’s opposition to the usurers.
In addition, Beebe fought the measure when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send the bill to the full Senate with a “do pass as amended” recommendation.   

He has been consistent in his opposition, except on the Senate floor, when he apparently didn’t vote the way he meant to.
Beebe and former Sen. Mike Ross (D-Prescott), who is now in Congress, claim they were the only senators who voted against the usurers.

But the official record shows Rep. Travis Dowd (D-Texarkana) as the only legislator who voted against the bill during the official tally.

How did this screwup happen?

Did somebody else vote for Beebe and Ross while they were absent?

Why wasn’t the first vote expunged?

Ernie Dumas, Arkansas’ greatest living journalist, who has covered the Legislature for more than 40 years and writes for The Leader, explains the episode this way:

“Unlike the House, which has voting machines where someone can come over and push your button, they actually physically call the roll in the Senate.

"They say BEEBE and you holler aye or nay or present. It was 35-0 and Beebe and Ross wrote letters saying they were opposed to passage.

"But that doesn’t change the vote. The only way to change the vote legally is to expunge the record (which takes a two-thirds vote, 24 in the Senate). If the bill passed 18-17 and you were recorded as voting aye, that bill becomes law even if you write a letter like Beebe did saying that’s not how you wanted to be recorded. It’s done.

“Only Beebe probably can explain what happened that day. What happens is that the Senate will get into a period of voting on noncontroversial bills. It’s called ‘running’ bills. Senators are in and out of chamber and the clerk just runs down the roll call over and over on one bill after another.

"Scores of them are recorded 35-0, although there may not be more than 15 senators in the chamber on any one roll call. The bill might have been called up during that period and got through like that.

“Sen. Doyle Webb of Benton, a Republican (now chief of staff for Win Rockefeller) was the sponsor. I’m told that Sen. Cliff Hoofman (D- NLR) was furious with Webb for transmitting the bill directly to the House after passage in violation of a gentlemen’s agreement to hold it in the Senate for a while. Hoofman thought it a grievous breach of civility.

(Hoofman is still a critic of check cashers but of course he was representing the pawnbrokers, so he’s a good guy with an asterisk.)

And why was Hoofman not recorded against the bill?

Beebe might not have intended to, but he did legally vote for the bill.”

What’s more important, though, is that the attorney general says if he’s elected governor, he’ll ask the Legislature to repeal the cash checkers act. Asa Hutchinson, his Republican opponent, said he’ll do the same. Now we're getting somewhere.

SATURDAY EDITORIAL >>Huckabee's no liberal

For a relatively obscure Southern governor who wants the Republican nomination for president, a heated debate with a right-wing group over whether you are a liberal is not the dialogue that you want to be having with Republican voters. But there was Gov. Huckabee this week arguing with the Club for Growth and its Arkansas agent, former state Sen. Peggy Jeffries, over whether he was a big liberal.

Liberal is a dirty word in contemporary Republican politics, although the Republicans were the original liberal party from its founding until well after Lincoln’s assassination.

The most liberal governor in Arkansas history by any stretch was Winthrop Rockefeller (1967-71), a Republican, who wanted to raise taxes by 50 percent, including a 12-percent marginal income tax rate, got the first Arkansas minimum wage, cleansed the prisons, toughened business regulation and fought for racial and economic justice. But Rockefeller also disavowed the liberal label, at least publicly, and the media indulged him.

Critics began to apply the liberal label to Huckabee last week when he called the legislature into session to raise the minimum wage, outlaw smoking in business and government offices and sharply increase aid to schools.

The Club for Growth, a big-business organization that wants to free business from government restraints, privatize Social Security, curb government services for the needy and slash taxes on big business and the rich, said Huckabee’s nine years as governor greatly expanded government and taxes.

Huckabee really can’t deny that. Taxes have risen considerably, the state government payroll has swelled by a whopping 20 percent, and vast new public health services have been put in place. That is the Republican definition of liberal, although liberals would object to how he went about it.

The taxes were regressive levies on working people, not those a liberal would support.

A liberal tax program was Sid McMath’s in 1949, which sought to shift taxes to higher incomes and corporations. He failed in the conservative legislature. Huckabee’s expansions of government medical services for the poor would make any liberal heart bleed.

He also fought for wholesale school consolidation, a progressive step that only one other modern governor, the liberal McMath, had championed. And he has vastly expanded government debt to build highways and water impoundments, and tried unsuccessfully to expand it even more until the voters rebelled in December.

Huckabee a liberal? By low Southern standards, maybe. He will need to find a way to turn it to his advantage. What about “compassionate conservative”? Wait, that’s been used.

The governor claimed this week that rather than being a liberal he was the “most conservative governor in Arkansas history.”
He shouldn’t go there. He wants to be known as more right wing than old Marion Futrell, who opposed having high schools for Arkansas kids?

Or the race baiters, the Klansman Tom Terral, or the family that corrupted politics and government and held back the state for a good part of a century?

Just tell them you’re a tepid Southern liberal, governor, except when it comes to gays and abortion.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

SPORTS >> Hitting picks up win by SH ladies

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: The Lady Bears softball team got two wins over Forrest City on Monday in Sherwood.

Sylvan Hills improved its conference record with a sweep over the Lady Mustangs of Forrest City Monday at Sherwood Parks. The Lady Bears took both games by scores of 11-2. There was plenty of hitting during the twin bill, as both teams combined for a total of 116 hits in the two games. Defense proved to be the difference in the game for the Lady Bears, leaving several FC runners on base without scores.

“It took us forever to get going,” Lady Bears coach Laura Allred said. “The past three games we have finally put together some offense. Our defense has been solid all year, but we have struggled offensively.”

Sylvan Hills built its lead slowly in the first game, with a run from Melissa Hobby. Hobby’s run was the first score of the evening for the Lady Bears, giving them the early lead.

Two more runs were added in the third inning for Sylvan Hills, but the third and fourth innings put the game away. The Lady Bears came away with three runs in both innings, putting Forrest City in the difficult spot of making up nine runs in three innings.

The Lady Mustangs couldn’t answer the mid-game streak from Sylvan Hills, as the Lady Bears took game one convincingly.
Pitcher Hannah Scott got the win for Sylvan Hills with three strikeouts. Amanda Harmon was 3 for 4 in the game, along with Megan Uekman, Hobby and Kasey Smith. Sylvan Hills finished the game with 11 runs, 33 hits and two errors. The Lady Mustangs came away with two runs, 26 hits and two errors.

The second game had a similar tone as the opener, with Sylvan Hills building a slow lead in the opening innings before pouring it on late.

Amber Lovell got the Lady Bears’ first run of the game in style in the second inning with an inside-the-park home run. Lovell’s one-run homer gave Sylvan Hills a 1-0 lead, and the Lady Bears never looked back from there.

Another strong offensive performance in the fourth and fifth innings put the game away for Sylvan Hills, with three runs scored in each inning. The Lady Mustangs found themselves forced to climb out of a deep hole once again, and just like the first game, were unable to make it happen.

Starting pitcher Uekman turned in a solid performance for Sylvan Hills with nine strikeouts for the game winner. Stephanie Starks went 2 for 3 for the Lady Bears, with Raven Pickett, Brittany Arnold and Lovell going 2 for 4.

“The pitching was solid in both games,” Allred said. “I was very pleased with the way things went. We had a bunch of junior varsity players that played, they came in and did a great job. Hopefully, this will give us some momentum for the rest of the season.”

The wins improve Sylvan Hills’ record to 6-10 overall and 4-9 in the AAAAA-East conference. The Lady Bears faced league-leading Jacksonville Tuesday after Leader deadlines.Look for details of that game in the Saturday sports section of The Leader.

NEIGHBORS >> Kiwanis to honor students

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: The Kiwanis Club of Cabot will recognize nearly 200 juniors and seniors of Cabot High School with its 10th annual honor banquet on April 20 at the Cabot Junior High School North cafeteria.

The Kiwanis Club of Cabot will recognize nearly two hundred juniors and seniors of Cabot High School with its 10th annual honor banquet at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 20 at the Cabot Junior High School North cafeteria. Academic achievement certificates will be given to students who have maintained a cumulative grade point average above 3.5.

“These young men and women are our future leaders,” said Chris Roberts, president of the Kiwanis Club of Cabot.
“It is important to the Kiwanis Club to commend them on their outstanding academic achievements while giving them our support as they move into the next steps of their lives. Kiwanis and Cabot are proud of these young people.”

The Kiwanis Club hosts the banquet each year to recognize the top students and to encourage academic excellence in the Cabot school system.

The students get a free meal catered by Crossroads Café and Catering of Cabot. Parents and guests wishing to attend must purchase a ticket for the meal at the Cabot High School Principal’s Complex by Tuesday, April 18.

“These students have worked hard to reach their goals and as a Kiwanian it is a pleasure to recognize the accomplishments of not only the students but their parents who have provided their support,” said Teresa Wojciechowski-Allen of the Kiwanis Club of Cabot.

For the past 10 years, the Kiwanis Club of Cabot has endeavored to encourage students to achieve academic excellence and be involved in community service through youth organizations such as K-Kids at Eastside Elementary, Central Elementary, Ward Central Elementary, Magness Creek Elementary and Northside Elementary; Builders Clubs in Cabot Middle School North, Cabot Middle School South, and Cabot Junior High School North as well the Key Club at Cabot High School.

“We award two $1,000 scholarships to graduating students of Cabot High School to encourage post-secondary education,” said Jim Thompson of the Kiwanis Club of Cabot.

“We have seen a growth in the number of students maintaining a higher grade-point average since we started this recognition program ten years ago. That was our hope and we are delighted that it is being realized.”

Seniors to be honored include: Jason S. Aist, Brittany M. Allison, Nicholas Paul Amis, Braylin May Artigues, Lauren Elizabeth Bailey, Lacey N. Ball, Tyler A. Bartels, Christina N. Bearden, Jessica N. Beaulieu, Nicholas T. Billingsley, Melissa A. Bishop, Daniel James Bizzell, Brian Allen Bopp, Jonathan D. Boyd, Jennifer Kristen Bradley, Samantha Lynn Burnett, Billie Ann Branscum, Camron Mitchell Browning, Cara Deann Coker, Jessica B. Cowart, Melissa F. Curtis, Christina M. Declerk, Emily Noelle Dixon, Tiffany L. Duhamel, Amanda Kay Ehlers, Tisha Lanelle Flud, Matthew Michael Ford, Heather Brook Forester, Kevin G. Frey, Daniel S Gates, Bettye Nicole George, Michael Alan Gertsch, Chad R. Glover, Enrico Haarland, Stephanie R. Ham, Christi Leigh Hankins, Lauren Jo Harrington, Jessica Lynn Hazeslip, Loni Danielle Hefner, Jason W. Hill, Jonathan C. Hill, Lauren E. Hopkins, Megan B. Houston, Cody G. Jackson, Kristi Lynn Jensen, Jessica Elaine Jervis, Courtney Danielle Jones, Mary Katherine Jones, Kari Michelle Kiihnl, Katie L. Knox, William Michael Kruse, Joshua A. Lieblong, Danielle Lovellette, Michael Spence Lowry, James R. Madding, Shelli Melissa Mann, Anna J. Manry, Bryan A. Martinez, Brittany D. Mathews, Kevin W. Meeler, Ashley Danielle Meyer, Lynette Marie Mitchell, Mallory D. Morgan, Seth Anthony Murdoch, Anthony M. Nelson, Lindsey Michelle Nichols, Kara Elizabeth Patterson, Ashley Dianne Payne, Kristen L. Phelps, Madeline R. Phillips, Judy Jolene Pitt, Ashlee R. Powell, Colton C. Roberts, Sarah N. Roberts, Candace Brooke Rodman, Christopher E. Rodriguez, Kristin Ann Rogers, Raney Ann Rogers, Michael Andrew Roller, Casandra Ann Russell, Taylor Howell Self, Brady W. Sharp, Michael C. Sherer, Crystal Lynn Short, Melissa M. Simmons, Kimberly Michel Sitzmann, Carly N. Slayden, Mallory J. Styron, Jeanette Lynn Thompson, Seth Charles Thomson, Tyler Worth Troutman, Joseph Bradly Tyree, Samantha Elaine Walker, Shannon Nicole Walker, Sara B. Waller, Jessica D. Walton, Whitney Nicole Watkins, Aaron D. Willis, Cody Rutledge Wilson, Abby Lauren Wisniewski, Coby A. Withers and Brett Wayne Yother.

Juniors to be honored include: Joan M. Abbott, Brandon M. Aist, Patricia L. Ard, Ashley A. Austin, Amy L. Baldwin, Justin Andrew Barnes, Carrie Elizabeth Belt, Katy E. Bittle, Heather Diane Bodiford, Elizabeth M. Buerges, John Russell Burks, Kimberly Ballena Carter, Eric J. Clark, Sarah A. Coggins, Anne Elizabeth Coltrane, Corey Delaney, Krista P. Demiere, Mallory Lynne Eanes, Melissa Ann Edwards, Jeryca A. Einhorn, Melissa A. Euler, Jared R. Evanov, Anthony C. Farler, Jennifer Lea Farnsworth, Alissa Jo Foster, Justin M. Free, Nicole M. Funk, Jessica M. Gann, Holly P. Giblin, Sondra Kristine Grinnis, Cody D. Haas, Ashley A. Harris, Jordan W. Hawkins, Madisan T. Helms, Brianna R. Henderson, Brandon Chase Herekamp, Ryan Noel Hill, Brittany Lauren Hodges, Kevin David Howard, Joshua Michael Huckabee, Chelsea Nicole Hunter, Abigail Elizabeth Jackson, Amanda Nicole Jarman, Austin Gregory Jarrett, Nathan Merritt Johnson, Julianna Michelle Jordan, Kyle James Kobi, Aimee Allison Landry, Ryan W. Laws, Haley B. Little, Victoria Lovellette, Rayna A. Mackey, Mallory S. Magie, Colleen C. Menery, Sarah Renee Miley, Timmy H. Minnie, Derek Samuel Mobbs, Melissa K. Moore, Stevi Neal Moore, Natalie J. Noack, Sara Kristine Oakley, Shannon Lynn Onale, Chelsea Louann Paoletti, Victoria Denise Pearson, Jocelyn C. Pendergist, Maricela Jacqueline Pinedo, Elizabeth Frances Roberg, Michael James Rowlett, Stephanie M. Schneider, Jordan L. Scott, Alex J. Sharp, Codi E. Smith, Tyler K. Spencer, Justin B. Sperry, Mark Joseph Staples, Jeremy Matthew Stark, Jamie Amanda Sterrenberg, Amber N. Stockman, Zachary Wayne Taylor, Dinah Victoria Thomas, Thomas James Thompson, Jessica Lenae Todd, Lauren N. Uhrich, Daniel Shane Walters, Andrew Jeremy Waters, Lindsey Elizabeth Watts, Jamee D. Wawak, Elizabeth Mae Willen, Craig Alan Williams, Sara Elizabeth Wojhoski, Justin Levi Woodall, Sharon F. Wyatt, Monica N. Yarbrough and Brady N. Zweifel.

NEIGHBORS >> Cabot foundation chooses recipients for scholarships

LEader staff writer

IN SHORT: The Cabot Scholarship Foundation has announced the names of 30 Cabot seniors who will be recognized during the annual Roast and Toast on Tuesday, April 18.

The Cabot Scholarship Foundation has announced the names of 30 Cabot seniors who will be recognized during the 11th annual Scholarship Roast and Toast at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 18 at Cabot Junior High North’s cafeteria.

The Roast and Toast is the foundation’s only fundraiser. Last year, more than $7,500 was raised. Donations to the foundation range from $5 to $25,000. An endowed scholarship provides funds from interest earned and many employers will meet employee donations. Donations to the fund are often in memory or in honor of friend or loved one and help send deserving students on to college. The amount of the scholarships and the 2006 recipients are:


Brady Hooper Memorial Scholarship, funded by an anonymous donor, is awarded to an outstanding Reserve Officer Training Corps student who has been exemplary in military leadership as well as participating school and community affairs. This year’s recipient is Melissa Anne Bishop.

Paula B. Green Memorial Scholarship is a one-time award in memory of Green, a teacher in the Cabot school system for 17 years. Donations are by Green’s friends and family. This year’s recipient is Brittany Monica Allison.

There are two scholarships in memory of Carolyn Mann. She served as a Cabot High School counselor from July 1962 until August 1974. Funding for the scholarships provided by the Mann family. A generous bequest from the estate of Bill Mann, Carolyn’s brother who died in 1997, made it possible add a second scholarship and increase the value of each to $1,500. This year’s recipients are Sarah Nicole Roberts and Christopher Benjamin Cockrell.

Luther and Frances Rea Memorial Scholarship is funded by gifts from the Rea’s family and friends. The scholarship is awarded to a student who reflects the attributes of a good citizen as exemplified by the Reas. This year’s recipient is Cody Glenn Jackson.


A Cabot Junior High South National Junior Honor Society Scholarship is being presented in memory of Dakota Hawkins who died in February after battling leukemia for two years. The recipient of the scholarship is Jonathan Christopher Hill.

The first ever Nell and Thompson Barnwell Scholarship is given to the recipient each semester for up to eight consecutive semesters with evidence of successful progress toward a degree. The donor specified that all factors being equal, the scholarship would be awarded on the basis of need, preferably to a student who is a first generation college student. Prior to the creation of the Cabot Scholarship Foundation Nell Barnwell was deeply involved in the administration of the Carolyn Mann scholarship, Cabot’s first endowed scholarship. The recipient is Judy Jolene Pitt.

Bob Brown funds the Jeraldine Brown Scholarship in honor of his wife’s retirement from 31 years of teaching and continued interest in the Cabot School District. The scholarship is awarded to a senior pursuing a career in education. This year’s recipient is Trisha Lamella Flood.

Cabot Centennial Scholarship was established in 1992 as a one-year scholarship awarded to a student with positive character traits and exemplary behavior. Funds for this scholarship are provided through the roast and toast as well as by private donations. This year’s recipient is Michael Andrew Roller.

Cabot Home Builders Association funds the Cabot Home Builders Association Scholarship, a one-year scholarship awarded to a student with proven ability to succeed in college. This year’s recipient is Daniel Sanford Gates.

The first ever Cabot Fine Arts Council scholarship is for a student who receives planning to attend an Arkansas college to major in an applied fine arts field include oral communications, dance or music. The recipient is Joel Bradley Head.

The first ever Class of 1975/Debbie Gilbert Memorial Scholarship is memory of Gilbert, a teacher and assistant principal. Her family and classmates fund the scholarship. It is given to a student planning on becoming a teacher. The recipient is Lauren Jo Harrington.

Lance and Leann Hanshaw Servant-Leader Scholarship honors two of Lonoke County’s servant leaders donated by the Hanshaw family. It is an endowed scholarship given to a deserving graduate who has demonstrated high moral character, strong leadership and service in school, church and community. This year’s recipient is Seth Anthony Murdoch.

The first ever Taylor Lane Keck Memorial Scholarship is funded in memory of Keck who would have been a senior in 2006. The scholarship is to be awarded to a student planning to attend an Arkansas college to become an engineer. The recipient is Christopher Eugene Rodriguez.

Warren and Sandra Knight Scholarship is an endowed scholarship by the family of Warren and Sandra Knight. It is awarded a student whose ACT score, grade point average and class standing indicate the ability to complete college. This year’s recipient is Loni Danielle Hefner.

Jake P. Lowman Memorial Scholarship honors Lowman, a lifelong Cabot resident, businessman, volunteer firefighter and Cabot High School graduate. Friends and family support this scholarship. This year’s recipient is Tiffany Leigh Duhamel.

Mike Malham, Jr. Scholarship is an endowed scholarship through a gift from Joe Dan Ray and Jimmy Ray of Crown Metal Buildings. The scholarship is awarded to a student with proven leadership ability, good moral character and who plays sports. This year’s recipient is Colton Chase Roberts.

Carolyn Park Scholarship is funded by J.M. Park in honor of his wife, Carolyn, for interest and involvement in the Cabot Scholarship Foundation. It awarded to a graduating senior who demonstrates exemplary scholarship. This year’s recipient is Nicholas Paul Amis.

The Mayor Willie and Gene Ray Scholarship is endowed for a senior who will attend an Arkansas college and who reflects the attributes of a good citizen, as exemplified by the donors. This year’s recipient is Jessica Nicole Beaulieu.

Pamela Roberts Smith Scholarship is an endowed scholarship created in honor of Pam by her parents, Raymond and Jeanette Roberts. This year’s recipient is Jeannette Lynn Thompson.

Charley Templeton Memorial Scholarship was created in honor of Charley who worked hard for many years to help Cabot High School graduates attend college. Family and friends collect funds to continue this scholarship. This year’s recipient is Christina Nicole Bearden.

Frances Holt Wittenberg Scholarship us awarded in honor of the 46 year long teaching career of Frances. The award is given to a student who is active in the community, well respected by teachers and working towards becoming an elementary educator.

This year’s recipient is Mary Katherine Jones.


Regions Bank Scholarship recognizes outstanding and well-respected college bound students. This year’s recipient is Candace Brooke Rodman.

The Internship Advisory Council awards two Dr. Martha Ray Marshall Internship Scholarships. This year’s recipients are Reed Ellis Durden and Danielle Lovellette.

James D. Frederick Scholarship is awarded to driven students of strong character. Jay Michael Frederick of the Frederick-Moore Wealth Management Group at Morgan Stanley and his wife, Katherine Frederick, provide the scholarship. This year’s recipient is Kinley Elizabeth Crump.


The Scott Foltz Memorial Scholarship is endowed to a Christian student interested in public service. This year’s recipient is Jason Wayne Hill. He is also the recipient of the $250

The theme of this year’s roast and toast is “Scholarship Round-Up.” The meal is being catered by Back Yard Burgers. The guest of honor is Brooks Nash, school board member and former principal. Past honorees have included Miss Arkansas 2003 Whitney Kirk, J. M. Park, Jack Carrington, Mike Mallham Jr., Del Medlin, Dewey Faught, Joe Allman, Joe Trusty, William Kehler and Jane Morgan Balgavy.

Tickets are on sale for $25 a piece or $175 for a table of eight. Tickets are available at the Bank of the Ozarks, 615 W. Main St. in Cabot or from any of the foundation members including John Thompson, Fred Campbell, Tracy French, Steve Tipton, Nina Butler, Carol Jones, Carolyn Park and Don Elliott. The Cabot Scholarship Foundation, Inc. is a Section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.

NEIGHBORS >> Chamber banquet

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Lonoke honors top citizens yearly event

Peggy Anderson was chosen as the Citizen of the Year, and the Order of the Oakleaf award was conferred upon state Rep. Lenville Evans and state Sen. Bobby Glover on Friday night when the Lonoke Chamber of Commerce celebrated the town’s 135th birthday.

Balloons and birthday cake helped mark the occasion and a timeline, with photographs and period dress, adorned the walls.
Local businessman Bill Ryker donned a period tux and top hat as he recounted many historical Lonoke highlights and introduced those who presented the various awards.

In the absence of chamber director John Garner, Ryker said Monday the catfish and chicken supper was served to about 285 people.

The town was born Jan. 22, 1871, according to Ryker.

The twin themes of the banquet were the birthday party and “Lonoke: Our town, our lives, moving forward.”
The Scott Mitchell family, which tends crops about two miles north of Lonoke on state Hwy. 31, was recognized as both county and district farm family of the year.

A pair of 4.0-plus grade point average Lonoke seniors each received a $600 Future Business Leaders of America scholarship.
Sissy Fletcher presented the scholarships to Ashley Lynch and Charlotte Muse.

Lonoke School Supt. Sharron Havens presented the Educator of the Year award to Karen Burgess, who came to the district 18 years ago as a student teacher and stayed to teach 350 first graders before moving on to teach middle school.

Havens, quoting a parent, said Burgess “Takes the time to work one-to-one and takes as much time as needed.”

Melissa Coefield turned over the chamber gavel to Gary Elmore, who will serve as president for the next year. Seven Lonoke students won awards for their original posters dealing with the town’s birthday, its history or current events.

Primary school winners were Mallory Moore and Drake Adams, elementary school winners were James Chambless and Austin Red, middle school winners were Dylan Elmore and Tim Liebig and the high school winner was Christie Huffman.

SPORTS >> Falcons split twinbill with Oak Grove

Leader sports writer

IN SHORT: North Pulaski took the second game of a twinbill against conference rival Oak Grove Monday.

The North Pulaski Falcons split a pair of AAAA-Southeast conference games with Oak Grove on Monday at Dupree Park. The original date at Oak Grove was rained out, prompting the make-up games to be played in Jacksonville. The Hornets edged out the Falcons in the opener 7-6, but a dynamic performance from Tyler Uptergrove in the nightcap propelled North Pulaski to a 13-3 rout.

The first game started out in the Falcons’ favor, with a run scored in each of the first two innings for North Pulaski.
Zach James put himself in position with a single in the bottom of the first inning. James was driven in with a triple from Uptergrove for an early 1-0 lead.

Shane Graham was the next Falcon to score when a RBI single from Tim Craven gave him the safe path to the plate.

The Falcons held on to the 2-0 lead until the Hornets came to life offensively in the top of the fourth inning. Oak Grove put five runs on the board in the fourth to take a 5-2 lead.

Uptergrove came away with another RBI in the bottom of the fifth inning when he drove in Josh Mansfield with a single. North Pulaski had closed back to within two runs, but the Hornets added a pair of scores in the sixth inning to keep control of the game 7-3.

North Pulaski added three more runs in the sixth inning. Graham reached base with an error, and was driven in with a single from Jason Regnas. After a single from Craven, courtesy runner Andre Nalen stole second to put the Falcons in position for another score. That run was scored when Mansfield singled, who was then driven in by a double from Andrew Peters.

The trio of runs in the sixth inning pulled the Falcons to within one, with the seventh inning still to go. The bottom of the seventh saw the Falcons in position to win with the bases loaded, but reached the third out before any of the runners could score.

Game two went much smoo-ther for the Falcons. The top of the first resulted in three runs for North Pulaski. Graham and Thurman both drove in runs, and Uptergrove scored on a passed ball during Scott Bolen’s at bat.

James and Uptergrove helped three more runs come in for the Falcons in the second inning. Uptergrove’s triple scored James and Peters after James singled to bring in Mansfield, giving North Pulaski a 6-0 lead after two.

North Pulaski extended its lead in the third inning with four more runs. Oak Grove’s first scores of the game came in the third as well, with two unearned runs to make it 10-2.

Another three runs in the fourth inning put the game into run-rule status, as the Hornets were only able to come up with one run in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Falcons took the game with the 10-after-two rule for the conference split.
Uptergrove was the player of the day, going 3 for 4 in the first game with two RBI’s, and also going 3 for 4 in the second game with four RBI’s.

The senior finished the games with two triples and a double, and made two diving catches defensively.

North Pulaski’s records now stand at 7-6 overall and 4-4 in the Southeast conference. The Falcons will play at Helena-West Helena Central on Thursday.

SPORTS >> Hillside sweeps Searcy

Leader sports writer

IN SHORT:The Sylvan Hills baseball Bears got a big doubleheader sweep of previously undefeated Searcy Monday night at Sylvan Hills High School.

Sylvan Hills came one step closer to owning at least a share of the AAAAA-East conference title on Monday with a huge two-game sweep of previously undefeated Searcy. The Bears took a close opener in extra innings 4-3, and routed the frustrated Lions in the nightcap 12-4. They were the first conference losses of the year for Searcy, dropping the Lions out of a first-place tie with Cabot and instantly moving Sylvan Hills above them in the league standings.

“They were big wins for us,” Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton said. “We’ve gone through some adversity in the last week, losing two starters to broken bones. Overall, it was a good night. We swung the bat really well.”

Sylvan Hills took the early lead in the bottom of the first inning when lead-off batter Taylor Roark was driven in by a shot to centerfield from Hayden Miller. Miller was driven in with another deep center hit from Austin Gwatney.

A fielding error put Lions batter Scott Sammons on first base to start the second inning, but starting Bears pitcher Ashur Tolliver ended Searcy’s turn with three of his total sixteen strikeouts for the game.

Sylvan Hills kept a 2-0 lead until the top of the fourth inning, when Searcy senior Scott Hudgins scored off a single from Sammons. Tolliver again prevented a Lions’ slugfest, striking out the following two batters to end the top of the session.
Searcy took its first and only lead of the evening in the top of the sixth inning. After a strikeout from Easton Valentine, Scott Hudgins and Kyle Taylor both singled to put the Lions in scoring position. Catcher Shane Crossen put the ball deep in right field to score both runners, putting Searcy ahead 3-2.

Sylvan Hills needed a run desperately in the bottom of the seventh to salvage the game. Searcy put Valentine on the mound to try and secure the win.

Valentine struck out Tony Pavan to start the inning, but walked following batter Hayden Miller. With the tying run on, Tolliver smashed the ball deep into right field, driving in Miller with a game-saving double. Austin Gwatney attempted to bring in Tolliver, but line-drived to third base to end regulation.

The game went to the bottom of the ninth, when Tolliver struck again for the Bears. Taylor Roark walked, and Tolliver brought him in with another double down the right-field line to score the winning run.

Tolliver went 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles and drove in the game-tying and game-winning runs offensively, and had sixteen strikeouts on the mound.

Despite his efforts, the game win was actually given to Caleb Mayden, who pitched the final inning.

Game two was a pitching disaster for both squads. Three Searcy pitchers and four pitchers for Sylvan Hills highlighted a sloppy nightcap. After the excitement of the first game, game two went on much longer than the extra-inning opener.
The Bears started out strong, scoring four runs in the opening inning. Tolliver drove in the first run when he grounded out, allowing Roark to score. Gwatney, Hunter Miller and Pavan also had RBI’s in the opening frame to put Sylvan Hills up 4-0 after one.

By the bottom of the fifth, Sylvan Hills had built a 10-0 lead and was on the verge of run-ruling the Lions.

New pitcher Blaine Sims walked Anthony Dillon and Justin Rowden to start the inning. Sims balked during Valentine’s turn at the plate, moving Dillon and Rowden to third and second. Another balk scored Dillon, putting Searcy on the board for the first time in the game.

“That was a team trying to lose, and another team trying to let them back in the game,” Tipton said. “They all played like no one wanted it.” Sylvan Hills struggled through the final two innings defensively, giving up three more runs to the Lions to set the final margin.

The wins improve Sylvan Hills record to 14-6 overall and 7-1 in conference. Searcy’s league record now stands at 8-2.

OBITUARIES >> 4-12-06

Annie Taylor
Annie Marie Taylor, 95, of Beebe was born Jan. 15, 1911, at Evansville, Ind., to Andrew and Christine Fisher Gable. She died April 7. She was a member of Union Valley Baptist Church. She is survived by her sons and daughters, Chester Tozer and wife Faye of McRae, Lester Tozer and wife Venus of Garner, Everett Tozer of Austin, Pauline Bass and husband Charles of Beebe and Linda Walker and husband Thomas of Beebe; 22 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by two sons and a daughter, Harley and James Tozer and Mary Campbell. Family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial at Cheek Cemetery at Garner.

Donna Crook

Donna Gayle Crook, 47, of Jacksonville died April 10 at her home in Jacksonville. She was born Oct. 29, 1958, in Harlingen, Texas, to J.C. and Naomi Bond Crook Sr. In 1977, she graduated from Jacksonville High School. Crook was employed the past eight years with U.S. Bank. Miss Crook was preceded in death by her parents who died in 1998; and a brother, Steven Lee Crook in 1989.

She is survived by a sister and brother-in-law, Sharon and Wayne Hol-singer in Jacksonville; a brother, J.C. Crook, Jr., and his fiancée Bridget Norton of Cabot; niece and nephew, Bailey and Jace Crook of Harrison; her dog, Duke and cat, Kitty.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Chapel with Rev. Jerold Posey officiating. Burial will follow at Bayou Meto Cemetery in Jacksonville. Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Elsie Meredith

On the morning of April 8, the Lord Jesus Christ called Elsie “Dolly” Meredith of Lonoke home. She was born on Aug. 21, 1926, in North Little Rock to the late Louie and Augusta Lea of Jacksonville. She was also preceded in death by her husband, R.H. Meredith of Lonoke, two brothers and three sisters. She departed this life at the age of 79. She was a good wife and mother and suffered a long bout with Alzheimer’s disease. She was a Christian and a member of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Cabot.

She is survived by her children, Deborah Kennedy of Cabot and Robert W. Meredith of Harrison; two grandchildren, Ashley Phillips and Brooklyn Villines, both of Har-rison; one great-grandson, Coleman Meredith Phillips of Harrison; three sisters, Helen Kennedy and Janie McRaven, both of Sherwood and Betty Jean Burkett of Atkins.

Funeral services were held Tuesday at Moore’s Funeral Home Chapel in Jacksonville with Rev. Robert W. Meredith officiating. Interment followed at Chapel Hill Memorial Park. Funeral arrangements were under the direction of Moore’s Funeral Home in Jacksonville.

Geraldine Curtis

Geraldine “Gerri” Sims Curtis, 78, of Clarksville, formerly of Jacksonville, died April 7. She is survived by her husband Paul, son Larry Simms of Maumelle, daughters Elizabeth Warren of Clarksville and Mitzie Allen of Coal Hill, seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents, three brothers and the children’s father Frank Edward Sims.

Services were held Tuesday at Landmark Missionary Baptist Church with burial at Shady Grove Cemetery. Arrangements were by Hardwicke Funeral Chapel.

James Anderson

James B. Anderson, 62, of Ward was born April 23, 1943, at Hot Springs to Arthur W. and Gladys B. Sirratt Anderson, and he died April 7. He retired from the Lonoke County Road Department.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Ann; four daughters, Suewaya Cotton and Shawnee Mercelle and husband Chipall of Wichita, Kan., Carol Halsey and husband Jackie of North Little Rock, Susan Patterson and husband Tim of Cabot; one brother, Douglas Anderson of Malvern; nine grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren; sisters, Ernes-tine Dodson and Myrtle Farlow both of Malvern; and four step-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Shawna LeAnn Anderson, his parents and three brothers. Graveside service was Tuesday at Lebanon Cemetery, McRae.

Mary Burgess

Mary Elizabeth Garner Burgess, 83, passed away April 10 after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was born on June 4, 1922, to Claude and Kate Garner in Little Rock. She was preceded in death by her parents; stepfather, Chester Killingsworth; and three brothers, Gerald Wilson Garner, Gilbert Claude Garner and Lele Garner. Survivors include her husband of 66 years, Troy Samuel Burgess; three daughters, Peggy Moore and husband Ben, Sandra Pawlowski and husband Jimmie and Debbie Roark; four grandchildren, Monte Moore and wife Mitzi, Melanie Hassen and husband Randy, Stacy Pawlowski and Courtney Roark and four great-grandchildren, Hunter and Holton Moore, Kate and Karly Hassen.

She was a retired nurse and a charter member of Roberson Bap-tist Church in Lonoke where she served as church secretary for several years. She was previously a charter member of Tyler Street Baptist in Little Rock. Funeral services will be held at Boyd Funeral Home, Lonoke at 10 a.m. Thursday with interment in Pine Crest Cemetery at Alexander.

Visitation will be from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home. Memorials may be made to Baptist Hospice or Alzheimer’s Arkansas.

Percy Hunt

Percy W. Hunt, 87, departed this life April 8. Born on May 12, 1918, in North Little Rock, he was the son of Mr. and Mrs. John M. Hunt. He participated and excelled in all sports and was a graduate of Catholic High School.

He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Mildred “Pat” Bowen Hunt; his daughter, Mary Nelle Whitehead and son-in-law Albert; his son Paul Hunt and daughter-in-law Jeanne; grandchildren Chris Whitehead, Stacy Hunt and husband Jerry Driskill, Kathleen Whitehead and husband Tim Felty, Simon Whitehead, Jason Hunt, Ashley Hunt and husband Jonathan Peoples, Gregory Hunt and Brooke Whitehead along with eight great-grandchildren. He was a decorated World War II and Korean War Air Force veteran. He received more than 16 medals including two Distinguished Flying Crosses for heroism in flight and exceptional and outstanding accomplishment in the face of great danger above and beyond the line of duty over Wewak, New Guinea on August 29, 1943.

He finished his military career of over 30 years with the Arkansas 189th Air National Guard. He was an avid dancer and golfer with his favorite partner and love of his life Pat. He was a faithful and active member of St. Rose Parish in Carlisle and served as a eucharistic minister for many years. Rosary was Tuesday at St. Rose Parish, Carlisle. Family and friends are invited to celebrate Percy’s life at St. Rose for the funeral Mass at 10:30 a.m. Wednes-day with full-military honors and burial in the National Cemetery, Camp Robinson, North Little Rock.
Arrangements are by Boyd Funeral Home, Lonoke.

TOP STORY >> Locations to vote cut drastically

IN SHORT >> Polling places for the May primary have been slashed from 89 to 32 for county residents.

Leader staff writer

Many White County residents won’t necessarily be voting at their customary polling places for the May primary.

A lawsuit filed March 24 to stop the White County Election Commission from reducing the number of polling places in the county from 89 to 32 ended Friday with a ruling from Circuit Judge Bill Mills that the election commission had not acted outside the scope of its authority.

“The Arkansas Legislature has be-stowed considerable discretion upon the county Boards of Election Commission-ers,” Mills wrote in his ruling. “Polling places are to be placed according to the Board’s judgment of what is necessary. There is no standard for what is necessary.

“In order to set aside a decision of this Board, there would need to be proof that the Board abused its discretionary authority. I find the proof insufficient to show abuse of discretion by the Board,” he wrote.

Charles Pryor, one of the two Democrats on the three-member commission, said the polling places were combined to make it easier for commissioners to monitor elections and rectify any problems that might arise.

White County is large and getting across it quickly is impossible, he said. So the commission decided to decrease the number of polling places and place two of the new electronic voting machines in each one.

Pryor said he hoped the judge’s ruling would put an end to the opposition to the commission’s decision, which he said was really an “attempt to reduce the complexity of the election,” but he feared the commission would hear again from Dennis Gillam, the independent candidate for county judge that he says paid for the lawsuit. Gillam isn’t saying he paid for all the legal fees for the lawsuit, which leaves open the possibility that others thought the issue was important enough to pony up. But neither is he saying he didn’t.

Gillam’s detractors say the lawsuit is a ploy to get the support of county residents who feel disenfranchised by the changes. But Gillam says he helped because he thought it was important and he isn’t concerned about any possible backlash. “I don’t think anyone will chastise me for standing up for the handicapped, the elderly, the displaced voters,” he said.

Neither is Gillam, who is considered as a front runner in the race, too worried about bad publicity from a 12-year-old lawsuit in which with a jury awarded a Beebe man $42,000 for an altercation that ended with the man falling into Gillam’s posted fish pond.

Gillam said Bruce Menser, the man who collected the $42,000 from his insurance company, had signed his petition to run for county judge, so as far as he was concerned any differences they had are in the past.

The new polling sites and precincts for White County were effective April 1.

Changes in polling places in the Leader’s coverage area are as follow: Beebe Ward 1, Beebe Ward 2 — Beebe City Hall, 201 W. Illinois, Beebe; Beebe Ward 3, Beebe Ward 3C, Union Township — Beebe Church of Christ, 1906 W. Center, Beebe; McRae Ward 1, McRae Ward 2, McRae Township, Garner City, Garner Township — McRae Multipurpose Building, 4936 Hwy. 367, McRae; Searcy Ward 1A, Searcy Ward 1B, Searcy Ward 1C, Searcy Ward 1D, Searcy Ward 1E— Downtown Church of Christ, 900 N. Main St., Searcy; Searcy Ward 2B, Searcy Ward 2C, Searcy Ward 2D, Searcy Ward 2E — West Race Baptist Church, 1006 West Race Street, Searcy; Searcy Ward 3A, Searcy Ward 3B, Searcy Ward 3C, Searcy Ward 3D, Searcy Ward 3E — Carmichael Community Center 801 S. Elm Street, Searcy; Searcy Ward 4A, Searcy Ward 4B, Searcy Ward 4C — First Assembly of God Church, Benton at Cloverdale Street, Searcy; El Paso, Cleveland, Jefferson, Royal — El Paso Community Building, El Paso; Antioch, Coffey — Floyd Fire Station, 104 Turpin Mountain Road, Floyd.

TOP STORY >> Cabot council will see major change

Leader staff writer

Cabot Alderman Jerry Stephens announced this week that he will not seek a second term on the city council.

“It’s going to be a new look in city government,” Stephens said of the many open seats this election year. “There will be a new council and a new mayor and I think in some ways that might be a good thing.”

Including Stephens’ Ward 2, Position 2 seat, five positions on the council will be open if everyone who has announced actually runs for another office. The aldermen with the most experience will be gone.

Bob Duke, Ward 3, Position 2, is retiring after 30 years. James Glenn, Ward 4, Position 2, with 20 years of experience, has announced as an independent candidate for mayor. So has David Polantz, Ward 1, Position 1, with 10 years of council experience.

Patrick Hutton, Ward 2, Posi-tion 1, in his second, two-year term on the council, is running for the Lonoke County Quorum Court.

And Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh, in the last year of his first four-year-term, is the Republican candidate for Congress in the First District.

Former Alderman Eddie Joe Williams and former Lonoke County JP Bill “Pete” Pedersen have filed for the mayor’s race as Republicans. Former JP Kenny Ridgeway has announced as an independent.

Although he would not talk about the specifics of his decision to not run again, Stephens said it was not because former City Attorney Ken Williams has filed for his seat. In fact, he didn’t know Williams was running until after he decided he wasn’t, Stephens said.

He describes his term on the council as an honor.

“I decided to not run again after a lot of prayer and thoughtful consideration,” he said. “I want to thank the people of Cabot who elected me and allowed me to serve them. I hope in some small way, I’ve made a difference.

“I enjoyed working with the other members of the council. Although we didn’t always agree, I thought we disagreed graciously,” he said.

None of the remaining three council members have said they won’t run again: Eddie Cook, Ward 1, Position 2, in his first term: Odis Waymack, Ward 4, Position 1, in his third term: and Tom Arm-strong, Ward 3, Position 1, in his second term.
Most candidates in Cabot are independents who must file for office from noon July 20 until noon August 9.

TOP STORY >> Millions for jails, but is it enough?

Leader publisher

IN SHORT: Pulaski County faces quandary over jail funding and available space.

What will $20 million get you these days?

Not much if you’re trying to run the Pulaski County Regional Detention Center, which lacks the space to hold the thousands of people accused of breaking the law.

Members of the county’s Public Safety Task Force met last week at the Jacksonville Community Center, and the message they heard was clear: If they want to lock up criminals, the county jail needs at least twice the 880 beds that are now occupied.
But jails are expensive. It costs $51 a day to hold a prisoner, or $357 a week. Multiply that by 800 or so prisoners, and Pulaski County must spend $40,800 a week, or $21.2 million a year.

The county had budgeted about that much for last year but reduced spending to $18.2 million in 2006, which explains why the county jail cannot accept more prisoners. Only the most violent cri-minals stay be-hind bars, while thousands of others go free to await their trials, which can take months or years.

The county has had to cut back the use of its 1,125-bed facility for lack of operating funds and funds to repair dilapidated cells.

Ron Quillin, the county’s comptroller, said the purpose of last week’s public meeting and others that are coming up is to inform committee members of the county’s finances and then decide how much to spend on the jail.

Sherwood Mayor Bill Harmon, a Public Safety Task Force Member, suggested at last week’s meeting that the county ask for a quarter-cent sales tax for more jail beds in hopes of reducing crime.

Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley has requested 2,000 jail beds to hold lawbreakers, but that kind of expansion would require new facilities and a huge investment.

District courts in Pulaski County handle some 7,500 cases with some 13,000 felony counts, he said.

Little Rock’s murder rate, he lamented, ranks with Miami, among the highest in the nation.

“Multiple felony offenders are pretty much the only ones going to prison,” Jegley told the task force.

Other inmates know they’ll be out of the jail in two to three hours, while most are never even picked up, he said.

Jegley said, “The jail has been closed for nearly 90 days this year,” when it lacked additional space for prisoners, who often stay in city jails or go free.

“There’s a generation out on the streets who know there are no consequences because of the way we do business,” Jegley told the committee. “Only a minuscule percentage are held accountable. If we could get only half the people locked up, they’d get the message.”

But Pulaski County, like the county school district, has been reeling financially. The county has seen its general fund reserve dwindle from $12 million in 2000 to just $1.5 million today.

More than 25 percent of the county’s $98 million budget, or $26.6 million, goes to roads and bridges; $8.9 million is spent on circuit courts, prosecuting attorney, the public defenders and operation of the courthouse; $11.1 million goes to the collector, assessor and the treasurer.

The county’s discretionary fund is put at $43.15 million, of which two-thirds, or $28.5 million, goes to the sheriff’s department. But it took a 15 percent cut this year, including the dismissal of 120 positions, leaving the department and jail underfunded and understaffed.

In order to save money, the county cut the number of modules, from 1,125 last year, down toward 800. Finally, 80 more beds were made available when the cities within the county, including Jacksonville, Sherwood, Little Rock and North Little Rock, agreed to kick in one-time money to help. The extra money pays for jailers, food, utilities and medical supplies necessary to house the additional 80 inmates.

The committee heard several options on how to increase bed space, from as few as 192 minimum-security barrack beds, then 296 medium and maximum security units and an additional 320 medium security beds for a total of 808 newly constructed beds.

Cost of construction would range anywhere from $4.5 million to $34.1 million to increase the number of beds from the current 880 beds.

Additional operating expenses would be between $2.1 million and $15 million a year, but even that kind of investment won’t keep most violators in jail. The Public Safety Task Force will meet again at 7 p.m. May 3 in Maumelle.

TOP STORY >> Berry kicks off campaign in Cabot

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Cong. Marion Berry tells Cabot constituents that more road improvements are on the way along with cheaper gas from bio-fuel but immigration reform won’t happen overnight.

In a bid for his sixth term, Cong. Marion Berry, D-Gillett, stopped by Veterans Memorial Park in Cabot to visit with about 30 local residents concerned with rising energy costs, illegal immigration, health care and more.

Wayne Womack, a Vietnam veteran living in Cabot, said the biggest issue for many residents who commute is roads. “If you go to Little Rock, you might as well get ready to make a day of it because of the slow downs and construction,” Womack said.
Berry said over the past five terms, he’s brought more than half of Ar-kansas’ share of Federal highway dollars being spent in the last few years to the First Congressional District.

“There’s more to do. We need more overpasses in Cabot and in Lonoke County. As the area continues to grow, we’re going to have to have this infrastructure,” Berry said.

He told the group more bio-diesel facilities such as Patriot Bio-fuels in Stuttgart that can make fuel out of soybeans and other plant materials, could mean good news for Arkansas farmers as well as consumers facing higher gas prices at the pump.

“We have the potential to turn a problem into a good thing for the First Congressional District,” Berry said. He said many voters he had spoken with were concerned over Presi-dent George W. Bush’s proposed immigration changes, specifically the number of children born to immigrants.

“The problem just didn’t develop overnight,” Berry said.

“We do not have control of our borders. We cannot do anything about the people who are already here until we get control of our borders.”

Berry said he foresees the political parties working to become united because issues like healthcare, the war in Iraq and education are too large to be tackled by one person or one party.

“I can remember in 1993 working with the Clinton Administra-tion to balance the budget. It was Democrat and Republican working together creating the greatest time of economic prosperity this or any other nation has ever known,” Berry said.
A licensed pharmacist, Berry called the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Benefit a “disaster.”
Although it is not mandatory for individuals to register for the benefit, those that do sign up will receive immediate prescription drug coverage.

The Center for Medicare Services (CMS) has approved 15 companies to provide stand-alone drug coverage in Arkansas and four companies to provide all Medicare-covered services including new benefits.

Medicare beneficiaries have until May 15 to sign-up for the benefit before they will be forced to pay a late enrollment fee.
The report, released by a prominent Washington think-tank, argues that Congress could save taxpayers over $800 billion by requiring Medicare to negotiate for lower prices against pharmaceutical and insurance companies. Berry says Arkansas taxpayers will spend $8.8 billion over the next ten years because of specific provisions inserted in the Republican-passed Medicare Part D Prescription Drug benefit at the request of pharmaceutical and insurance companies.

“It was designed to enhance the profits of the pharmacy companies and that’s just what it’s doing,” Berry said.
In the parking lot, a white Chevrolet van with “Stubby Stum-baugh for Congress” painted across the side irked some of the people in attendance. Cabot Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh is seeking the Republican nomination to run against Berry. The van belongs to Stumbaugh’s brother, Lt. Marty Stumbaugh of the Cabot Fire Department.

“That van doesn’t even have a license plate. I wonder how it’s getting around town,” said Odis Waymack, Cabot alderman.
Berry was unfazed by the van or its message.

“That doesn’t bother me, it’s just politics,” Berry said.

First elected in 1996, Berry was elected to his fifth term in 2004 for the First Congressional District which includes the counties of: Arkansas, Baxter, Clay, Cleburne, Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Ful-ton, Greene, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Lawrence, Lee, Lonoke, Mississippi, Monroe, Phillips, Poinsett, Prairie, Randolph, Searcy, Sharp, St. Francis, Stone and Woodruff.

SATURDAY EDITORIAL >> Successful session ends

With an ease that no one could have imagined even a year ago, the Arkansas legislature this week overwhelmingly passed and Gov. Huckabee eagerly signed laws raising the minimum wage by $1.10 an hour and banishing smoking from nearly every workplace in Arkansas. Only the smoking ban attracted more than a smattering of “no” votes in either house.

This does not sound like the Arkansas Legislature that anyone would have recognized the past dozen years, nor does it seem like the same governor who has visited Republican venues around the country talking about small government and business freedom. This little session, also without more than a whimper of opposition, put $200 million more into public education the next 18 months. Even conservative Republican legislators tended to go along with the whole expansive government agenda.

All this was accomplished without much euphoria in the two chambers as if everyone was acting from obligation and not inspiration. The explanation was that the Arkansas Supreme Court had ordered the legislature and governor to revisit school finance and do more to comply with a constitutional standard of adequate and equal education. In the cases of wages and smoking, the legislature and the governor were driven by democratic impulses that they were loath to buck.

A coalition of church and labor groups was putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would have required annual increases in the minimum wage for all workers indexed to inflation, and a poll showed that voters favored it by margins of 3 or 4 to 1. Congress has not raised the minimum wage in nine years and many states are resorting to initiative propositions to give poor workers some relief. Huckabee called the session at the behest of business leaders who do not want automatic wage floors built into the Constitution.

The Republican Party historically has opposed the minimum wage, but peculiar political forces have now twice impelled Republican governors to offer state minimum-wage legislation.

Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, a Republican, proposed the first state minimum wage in 1968, and the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature felt compelled to pass it.

The smoking ban, however, can be chalked up to Gov. Huckabee’s passion. No one can be sure whether it is a passion to be president or his newfound passion for good health. But he should be given credit whatever his motive. Unless you work in a tobacco store or a few other rare spots the air soon should be free of tobacco smoke.

Many legislators resented the governor putting the issue in the legislative call for the session, forcing them to choose between alienating the non-smoking public on one hand and smokers and many business concerns, and all to buff his credentials as the Republican presidential candidate most likely to do something about the health crisis.

While the votes were lopsided, one brand of Republican saw the session as the death knell for Huckabee’s presidential ambitions. Libertarian Re-publicans, they say, will no longer view him as a business friendly, small-government Republican because he has been willing to impose far greater government restraints on the freedom of businessmen and a considerably greater tax burden on everyone but the rich.

They miscalculate. Laissez-faire Adam Smith Republicans are a small cohort even in today’s Republican Party. What even evangelical folks admire is a politician who gets things done. Limited government is an appealing slogan, but hardshell Christians like clean air as much as Massachusetts liberals. Maybe more.

Huckabee did not hurt himself this week.

WEDNESDAY EDITORAL >> Novak outs our senators

If you can believe Bob Novak, our op-ed columnist who outed a secret CIA agent for the White House a couple of years back, a group fronting for America’s billionaires will target Arkansas’ U.S. senators with a television campaign aimed at forcing them to vote to permanently repeal the estate tax. If the group’s campaign makes Arkansans actually study the estate tax, the Free Enterprise Fund will be doing Arkansas and the nation a favor. But it is counting on you to hear its message alone and call or write to the senators.

The vote to permanently exempt the spawn of the very rich from the tax is expected to be close, and Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor may cast the deciding votes. Lincoln voted in 2001 to repeal the tax until 2010, and the last time we checked, against every shred of evidence, she was still saying that the estate tax forces heirs to sell the small farms they inherit. There is no known example of that in the approximate 100-year history of the tax, although the American Farm Bureau pleaded with its affiliates several years back to find at least one instance of it to bolster the argument.

Pryor has not said much one way or the other, but he tends to vote in ways that are helpful to the interests of Arkansas billionaires like the Waltons, Tysons and Murphys.

You won’t hear the ads refer to the estate tax or inheritance tax. Rather, it is the “death tax.” That is the term that Republican pollster Frank Luntz coined to change the debate. People were persuaded that it was a new tax imposed on people who were dying, to tax away the mite left to widows and children. (Widows and widowers do not pay taxes at all on estates left to them.)

When you hear the ads asking you to put some heat on Lincoln and Pryor, remember a few facts about the estate tax, which is being phased out effective in 2010 but will return the next year if the President and the Republicans fail next month to extend it:

n All but about 1 percent of estates will never owe a penny of estate taxes. The first $1.5 million of an estate is untaxed. And the effective tax rate on estates that are large enough to be taxed averages about 19 percent, according to the IRS. The rate on most taxable estates is less than that. A little estate planning avoids taxes altogether even on assets larger than the $1.5 threshold for individuals. People have up to 13 years to pay the taxes.

nWhile those who want to eliminate the tax insist that repeal would have little effect on the budget deficit, it would add about $1 trillion to the national debt in the decade after its total repeal.

You’ve read about “the K Street Project,” ex-Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s strategy to funnel all the big corporate lobbying money represented on K Street in Washington to the Republican Party. It may wind up sending DeLay to jail, but repeal of the estate tax is one of its largest fruits. Another is drastic cuts in federal taxes on investment income.

Elimination of historical taxes on wealthy estates and on income from the profitable sale of stocks, bonds and other assets and on dividends and interest is the No. 1 goal of the class that bankrolls political campaigns, Republican and Democratic.
Taxes, they believe, should be paid only on income from your labor. The leisure class has earned the right not to be taxed. If that sounds worthy to you, Sens. Lincoln and Pryor are waiting to hear from you.

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Candidates vow to ban loan sharks

Leader publisher

The payday lenders are in big trouble. For seven years, ever since the Legislature passed the check cashers law, they’ve charged fantastic interest rates on their loans.

They bought off the political establishment as they set up shop around the state and made millions off the backs of the working poor and members of the military. Gov. Huck-abee has been strangely silent on this moral issue and has let the money changers do as they please.

But now both candidates for governor say they’ll seek legislation that would put the payday lenders out of business. Candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general have also spoken out against the usurers. It’s about time.

Asa Hutchinson, the Repub-lican candidate for governor, and Attorney General Mike Beebe, his Democratic opponent, say they would repeal the 1999 check cashers law that lets predatory lenders charge as much as 3,000 percent on their loans.
Beebe has flip-flopped on this issue several times. He voted against the payday lenders while he was on the Senate Judiciary Committee but voted for the Payday Lenders Act on the Senate floor, where the vote was 35-0. Sort of like Sen. John Kerry, who voted for the war in Iraq before he voted against it.

By the way, we’ve been reporting erroneously that Beebe was one of just two senators who opposed the check cashers law. Not true. After his nay vote in the committee, he cracked and voted with the majority, although we should add that in 2001, he voted to repeal this terrible act. With a tough election fight looming, Bee-be says he’s definitely, absolutely against the check cashers.

Hutchinson told the American Association of Retired Persons last week, “It’s time for somebody to step up and do away with this exploitative practice.

“The system worked well before 1999, when we had usury limits in place,” Hutchinson said. “It was the 1999 act that opened the barn door to abusive payday-lending practices.”

Hutchinson also would fine payday lenders who charge above the 17 percent annual interest limit for consumer loans allowed by the state Constitution.

Beebe says he, too, would ask the Legislature to act against the payday lenders, but except for one lawsuit he filed against a Jonesboro check casher, he hasn’t done a whole lot to end the exploitation of the working poor and members of our military. The Jonesboro lawsuit doesn’t even involve a typical payday lender but has more to do with an Internet rebate scam the Jonesboro outfit is running.

Beebe spokesman Zac Wright had to tiptoe over his candidate’s stand on this issue, mentioning only that he voted as a state senator in 2001 to repeal the 1999 law, ignoring his favorable vote on the Senate floor.

“He’s taken action. He voted to repeal the law five years ago. He would get rid of it as governor. This is not a new position for him,” Wright said, not quite accurately.

“As governor, he’d go a step further because repealing it is not enough. He’d support legislation specifically targeted at curbing the practice.”

Well, good for him. Let’s see if he flip-flops again.

Other candidates for office this year are coming out against payday lenders, but where has Gov. Huckabee been all this time? He has looked the other way while the money changers rip off working Arkansans. Former Attorney Gen. Mark Pryor, now the junior senator from Arkansas, should have put an end to the exploitation while he was the state’s top law-enforcement official. He could have done more to stop the industry’s excesses by insisting the lenders must not violate the state’s 17 percent usury limit.

Pryor reads the Bible, and you’d think he would have found plenty of passages condemning usury. Gov. Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, is also familiar with the Bible and should have chased the money changers all the way to the state border.
Instead, he watched as the Legislature sold out to the payday lenders, did nothing to stop them and will now let his successor lead the charge against the usurers. Better late than never, but what a blemish on his record. The same goes for Pryor, Beebe and all the state’s politicians who accepted campaign contributions from payday lenders and betrayed the people of Arkansas.

But the tide is turning. Saline County Prosecuting Attorney Ro-bert Herzfeld, a Democrat, and Gunner DeLay, a Republican, who are running for attorney general, say they’re for shutting down the payday lenders. Herzfeld, though, says DeLay, too, has flip-flopped on the issue, just like Beebe. DeLay voted for the 1999 act and later voted twice not to repeal it while he was in the state Senate.

As we say, the tide is turning: Rep. Jay Martin, D-Little Rock, and Sen. Tim Wooldridge, D-Paragould, both lieutenant governor candidates, are pushing a bill that would ban usurious loans.

State Sen. Tracy Steele, D-North Little Rock, who tried but failed last year to abolish the check-casher law, has proposed new legislation for next year that would amend the act.

Chances of success look better for next year as more politicians, especially the candidates for governor, jump on the anti-payday lenders bandwagon.

Hank Klein, a former credit union executive who, along with the AARP and consumer groups, has been leading the charge against check cashers, says he’s glad politicians are finally speaking out against payday lenders. But he wants more than words: He wants action.

“When they’re elected to office, we want to make sure they keep their word,” Klein said.