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AG’s spokesman going back to politics

Gabe Holmstrom, spokesman for state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, says he is leaving the AG’s office to return to the world of campaign politics.

A former executive director of the Arkansas Democratic Party, Holmstrom said this will be his last week as McDaniel’s spokesman. He said he is not going to work for a political candidate but declined to say what his new job would be. An announcement will be made next week, he said.

“It’s an exciting opportunity,” Holmstrom said.

Kathy Roche, a communications specialist in the AG’s office, will take over Holmstrom’s duties temporarily.

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McDaniel on assault weapons

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced today he has co-authored a letter expressing opposition to reinstating a federal ban on assault weapons — something President Obama has said he will not seek.

McDaniel says he and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott co-wrote a letter, signed by 21 other state attorneys general, informing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder of their opposition to reinstating the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which banned certain semiautomatic firearms known as “assault weapons” and was allowed to expire in 2004.

Obama pledged during his campaign to seek renewal of the ban, but in April he said he would not seek to revive the ban and would instead seek greater enforcement of existing laws.

McDaniel is expected to run for re-election next year, but he says the letter was not about getting re-elected.

“Our decision was based on the fact that earlier this year there was discussion about the reinstatement of the ban, and we didn’t agree with that. … The discussion of the ban reinstatement was what drove our policy, not my election or General Abbott’s, who is a Republican,” he said.

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Next up for AG: Ethics bill

Now that the animal cruelty bill he drafted has passed in the Legislature, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel says he will have more time to focus on other issues, including ethics legislation.

McDaniel says today the current draft of his ethics bill needs more work.

“I took a long look yesterday at the bill in its current form, and I don’t like much of it, so it’s almost like we’re starting fresh,” he said.

McDaniel says key provisions of the legislation, which may be in the form of one bill or multiple bills, include “doing something about absentee lobbying, improving the public’s ability to use technology, online reporting, so they can see what lobbyists are spending, and then also putting a cooling-off period in the law for not just elected officials but department heads and other state officials, when they leave office, to when they get to come back and lobby their former colleagues.”

McDaniel says he expects the legislation to be filed in February.

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Animal cruelty bill to House ag

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel apparently spoke too soon when he said last week the animal cruelty bill he supports should have no trouble getting through the House Judiciary Committee.

Soon the Senate approved Senate Bill 77 today, House Speaker Robbie Wills assigned the  bill by Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, to the House Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development — not to the judiciary committee as McDaniel had expected.

Madison filed a similar bill in 2007 to make aggravated cruelty to dogs, cats and horses a felony on first offense. It also passed the Senate and also went to the House Agriculture Committee, where it died. Madison’s new bill has an advantage over that bill, however: It has the endorsement of the powerful Arkansas Farm Bureau, which opposed the 2007 version.

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Dogs and pickups

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel wants it known that he has no intention of stopping Arkansans from carrying dogs in pickups.

“For some reason, all morning I’ve been asked about dogs in the back of pickup trucks,” McDaniel told the Senate Judiciary Committee today while testifying on Senate Bill 77, a proposal to make aggravated cruelty to dogs, cats and horses a felony on first offense. The bill also includes misdemeanor provisions.

“I don’t know why that’s a new thing that’s come up in the last few days, but I think it’s important at least to address it,” McDaniel said. “There is in my mind and in the mind of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the Sheriffs Association and the Chiefs of Police Association no chance in the world that anybody is going to get charged with any kind of an animal cruelty violation because they put a dog in the back of a pickup truck in Arkansas.”

McDaniel says it would be a misdemeanor under the bill to, for example, transport 15 puppies in a box with no air holes, but “this is absolutely not about my black lab who always has ice on his ears coming back from the woods after a hunt.”

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McDaniel to discuss much anticipated cruelty bill

LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has set a news conference for noon Wednesday to discuss details of his planned animal cruelty legislation that would make torture of a dog, cat or horse a felony.

The news conference is to be held in the Old Supreme Court Room at the state Capitol.

McDaniel has been working for about a year with animal advocates, and those who have opposed an animal cruelty bill, like the Arkansas Farm Bureau, in previous sessions.

The Arkansas Farm Bureau board of directors recently voted to support McDaniel’s current measure because it limits who can enforce the law and takes in consideration routine farm practices.

The legislation would make animal cruelty a felony on first offense, and it would make cock fighting and dog fighting felonies.

The Legislature rejected a proposal during the 2007 regular session.

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