Leader Blues

Monday, July 31, 2006

TOP STORY>>McDaniel backs district

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader editor

The Democratic nominee for attorney general has thrown his support behind an independent Jacksonville school district, but he says federal oversight of the Pulaski County school districts must end before a new district is to be carved out in north Pulaski County. Rep. Dustin McDaniel, D-Jonesboro, told Jacksonville supporters Friday that if he’s elected in November, he will work toward the creation of an independent Jacksonville school district. Attending a fundraiser in Jacksonville, he agreed with local supporters that communities need independent school districts to attract new residents and businesses.

In an interview with The Leader afterward, he pointed plants. “A quality school district is critical,” McDaniel said. “Jack-sonville is too important, and it has too much pride, not to have its own school district.” He said Jacksonville will not gets its own district until federal desegregation lawsuit is settled. A federal judge has previously squashed attempts to form a new Jacksonville district. But as attorney general, McDaniel said he would work to get the Pulaski County school districts out from under court supervision. McDaniel also said his local supporters have asked him to help create a Jacksonville Senate district, which the city lost during reapportionment. The city is now in District 29, which also includes White County, whose senator is John Paul Capps, D-Searcy. McDaniel continues to campaign around the state, making stops in Gilett and Dumas this weekend. He said his opponent’s focus on McDaniel’s vote to provide state funded scholarships for children of illegal immigrants oversimplifies immigration issues.

The Republican nominee for the office, Gunner DeLay, a former state senator from Fort Smith, has criticized McDaniel for supporting the scholarships during last year’s legislative session. “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says we have to provide unlimited benefits to people who enter this country illegally,” DeLay said. “If you provide incentives for people to break the law, that’s exactly what they’re going to do.” But McDaniel noted Wednesday that the scholarship proposal, which failed, was backed by Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee, and said immigration enforcement should not punish the children of illegal immigrants. “I think on this issue overall, there’s been an attempt to oversimplify things,” said McDaniel, D-Jonesboro.
The two candidates for attorney general addressed the Political Animals Club at an off-the-record forum Wednesday at the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas in Little Rock. But McDaniel and DeLay went on the record in speaking to reporters after the meeting.

DeLay said that, if he were to be elected, he would seek a court order to prevent Entergy Arkansas from incurring additional costs under its contract with sister Entergy Corp. utilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. State regulators have said they fear the agreement could lead to additional costs for 667,000 ratepayers in the state. Entergy Arkansas officials say they cannot leave the agreement before 2013.

“Looking at the problem, that is an avenue we could pursue,’’ DeLay said. “It only makes sense that all parties be enjoined from adding additional costs to the system.’’ McDaniel described DeLay’s proposal as “wielding the sword of the attorney general’s office against those who hire and employ Arkansans without giving adequate thought to the efficacy of doing so or the prudency of doing so.”

“There’s a big difference between having the Public Service Commission do its job in a regulatory manner and filing suit on behalf of the state to enjoin a company from incurring debt or paying bills even in the normal course of business,” McDaniel said. “You can’t just go off into court filing motions that may do more harm than good.”