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Poll: Snyder’s approval rating 42 percent

A new poll suggests U.S. Rep Vic Snyder could face a tough re-election fight next year.

Raleigh, N.C.-based Public Policy Polling’s survey of 400 voters in Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District found that 42 percent approve of Snyder’s job performance, compared to 46 percent who disapprove.

The poll also showed the Democratic incumbent leading three potential Republican opponents by only slight margins — margins that are smaller than the poll’s 4.9 percent margin of error.

Snyder, first elected to the U.S. House in 1996, did not draw a Republican challenger in 2008.

Other statistics from the poll: 54 percent of voters in Snyder’s district disapprove of the job congressional Democrats are doing; 52 percent disapprove of Barack Obama’s job performance; 50 percent say congressional Democrats are too liberal; and 55 percent say they’re opposed to the health care bill the House passed last week with Snyder’s support.

“Snyder seems to be bearing the brunt of a lot of animosity toward national Democrats in his district,” the pollsters said in their report on the results.

Not all Democrats fared poorly, however. The poll showed that 70 percent of voters in the 2nd Congressional District approve of Gov. Mike Beebe’s job performance, compared to 20 percent who disapprove.

The telephone poll was conducted Nov. 11-13.

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Beebe rocks out

Photo by John C. Jones/Stephens Media

Photo by John C. Jones/Stephens Media

Gov. Mike Beebe brought his binoculars to check out the Dave Matthews Band’s concert at Dickey-Stephens Park on Tuesday in North Little Rock.

Beebe was joined by North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Hays, right, and, Beebe’s son, Kyle, seated behind the governor. Also spotted in the luxury suite were state Sen. Shane Broadway and his wife and Beebe’s communications director, Grant Tennille.

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Beebe: Health care debate should be civil

Public debate over health care reform is healthy but should be civil, Gov. Mike Beebe said today.

The subject came up while Beebe was fielding calls on his monthly radio program, “Ask the Governor,” on the Arkansas Radio Network. A caller asked if Arkansas would be able to “push back” if a reform bill ultimately passed by Congress contains unfunded mandates for the states.

“I read or saw where both Congressman (Vic) Snyder and Congressman (Mike) Ross got some push-back the other day,” Beebe said, referring to a public forum Wednesday at Arkansas Children’s Hospital during which audience members heckled and jeered at the two Democratic congressmen.

On Thursday, Sen. Blanche Lincoln criticized the rowdiness of audience members at recent public meetings on health care. Lincoln told reporters Thursday that efforts to disrupt public forums are “un-American,” though she later said she should not have used the term.

“I think the debate on this is healthy, as long as it’s a civil debate,” Beebe said today. “I think people are scared, I think people are unsure, I think people are uncertain. Part of the whole democratic process is to voice those concerns to your elected representatives, and I think that is going on and I think it should go on. Again, I hope it goes on in a civil and constructive fashion.”

Beebe told the caller Arkansas would have to comply with any federal mandates, but he added, “We need to slow down a second here, because first of all, I don’t think anything that they’re talking about right now is necessarily what you’re going to see come out of Congress, based upon what I keep hearing.”

Beebe said there is “a whole lot of information out there that’s scaring the heck out of a lot of people,” including rumors that seniors’ health care will be cut off or rationed.

“It’s not going to happen, in my opinion, and if it does I will be one of the most shocked people around. I just cannot see that occurring,” he said.

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Deputy higher ed chief retires

Steve Floyd, deputy director of the state Department of Higher Education, is retiring after 12 years with the department.

Floyd is officially retiring June 30, but Friday was his last day at work, according to a department news release.

The release quotes Floyd as saying, “I’ve got a lot of outside interests I intend to pursue and I’ve got my beautiful grandchildren to keep me busy. I think I’ll have plenty to do.”

A 1969 graduate of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Floyd served as principal of Sallie Cone Elementary School in Conway from 1973-1976. After receiving his doctorate in education from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in 1981, Floyd served as assistant superintendent of the Russellville School District for six years and as superintendent of the Lakeside School District in Hot Springs for seven years.

In 1994, Floyd was named coordinator and teacher at the Arkansas Tech University Center at Westark Community College (now the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith), where he served until being named deputy director of the state Department of Higher Education in 1997.

Floyd has served twice as interim director of the department, following the departure of Lu Hardin prior to the appointment of Linda Beene to the director’s position, and again two years ago following Beene’s departure and the appointment of the current director, Jim Purcell.

“Having Steve here to help guide me through the process during my first legislative session was truly a great help to me,” Purcell said. “It made all the difference in the world. I hate to see him leave now, but Steve is at a time in his life where he has given years of himself to the cause of education in Arkansas and now he wants to give himself completely to his wife, his children, and his grandchildren.”

Gov. Mike Beebe also praised Floyd for his service.

“Steve has always answered the call to serve Arkansas, and his contributions to higher education will endure well beyond his retirement,” Beebe said. “I thank Steve for his unwavering dedication to education and to Arkansas on behalf of all our citizens.”

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Honoring Mahony

Former state Rep. Jodie Mahony of El Dorado received a standing ovation today at a joint meeting of the House and Senate Education Committees.

Mahony,  who also served in the Senate and is now an assistant to House Speaker Robbie Wills, was honored for sponsoring Act 102 of 2003, which requires Arkansas high schools to offer Advanced Placement courses in the four core subjects: math, English, science and social studies.

Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, who worked with Mahony on the legislation, presented him with a framed map of the U.S. with school districts that offer AP courses shaded in green. Arkansas was one of the greenest states on the map.

Elliott said the before the legislation passed, only 35 percent of districts in the state offered AP courses. Starting with the 2009-2010 school year, 100 percent of districts in the state will be required to offer the courses.

“Thank you for a wonderful surprise,” Mahony said.

The College Board provided the framed map. Identical maps were given previously to Elliott, Gov. Mike Beebe and the state Department of Education.

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Lottery wheels turning

The state lottery should move a step closer to becoming a reality next week, House Speaker Robbie Wills advises.

Wills says he is “shooting for Tuesday” to name his three appointments to the nine-member lottery commission.

The governor, the House speaker and the Senate president pro tem each get to make three appointments to the commission. Sen. Bob Johnson announced his appointments Wednesday, the same day Gov. Mike Beebe signed legislation to create the commission.

Johnson named former congressman, university president and state Supreme Court justice Ray Thornton to a six-year term, businesswoman Patty L. Shipp of Morrilton to a four-year term and Little Rock lawyer Derrick W. Smith to a two-year term.

A spokseman for Gov. Mike Beebe said he did not know when Beebe would announce his appointments.

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Elliott pondering tuition bill

With the March 9 bill-filing deadline just a week away, state Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, says she is still considering filing a bill to offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

“I’m still trying to be very thoughtful about it and do a lot of research,” she said today. “I am pretty much complete with getting that done. I’ll make a decision about what to do about it sometime in the next few days — because I have to.”

A 2005 bill by Elliott, then a state representative, that would have extended in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, was defeated in the Senate after passing in the House. Gov. Mike Beebe has said he will oppose any such measure.

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Beebe to attend Obama inauguration

Gov. Mike Beebe will be in Washington Monday and Tuesday of next week to attend inaugural events for President-elect Barack Obama, a spokesman for Beebe said today.

“He wants to show support for the president-elect, who of course has supported him in the past,” Matt DeCample said.

Obama appeared at a rally in Little Rock for Beebe and other Democrats in October 2006, while Beebe was campaigning for governor. Beebe endorsed Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination but endorsed Obama when he became the party’s nominee.

DeCample said Beebe also wants to attend because of the historic nature of the event and its importance for the Democratic Party.

“It’s a great day for America,” DeCample said.

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To each his own

Lt. Gov. Bill Halter says it’s OK with him if his crowning achievement — a state lottery — isn’t Gov. Mike Beebe’s top priority in the upcoming legislative session.

Beebe says balancing the state budget, funding public education and cutting the grocery tax are higher on his to-do list for the session than creating a structure for the lottery Halter pushed and voters approved in the November general election.

But incoming House Speaker Robbie Wills and Senate leader-to-be Bob Johnson this week identified the lottery issue as their main focus for the session that convenes Monday.

Halter says today, “Everybody’s going to have different points of view about that, and there are several significant issues obviously before the Legislature … People just rank them differently, and that’s fine.”

Halter briefly ran against Beebe as a candidate for governor in 2006 before switching to a campaign for lieutenant governor. The former Clinton administration official then led the effort to put the lottery measure before voters as a way to fund college scholarships. Beebe didn’t take a stand on the lottery until announcing as he left the voting booth he had voted against it.

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Gone with the wind? UPDATE

LITTLE ROCK — Could the slowing economy be calming the sails of Arkansas’ soaring windmill blade manufacturing business?

Windmill blade manufacturer LM Glasfiber announces today it is laying off more than 150 workers in Little Rock because the national credit crunch is putting some of its customers in a bind. The company says it idle its plant on Scott Hamilton Drive in Little Rock and shift about 60 workers to its facility at the Port of Little Rock to prepare for a 24-hour, 7-days a week operation there. 

LM Glasfiber says it will maintain some 350 workers in the capital city. 

Gov. Mike Beebe’s office already had its ear to the wind as word came from West Fargo, N.D., over the weekend that wind tower manufacturer DMI Industries is trimming its work force, just six months after announcing a major expansion.

The company cites production demands for 2009 it says are significantly lower than projected.

“We’ve been hearing, even before this (North  Dakota) announcement, that the wind industry is seeing some slowdown with the rest of the economy,” says Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample. “We don’t know what the extent of the impact in Arkansas will be.”

Just last month, Beebe hinted Arkansas could be in line for a fourth windmill manufacturing operation, joining LM Glasfiber and two other companies that have announced plans to begin operations, one each in Little Rock and Jonesboro. Together, those plants were expected to employ more than 2,100 workers.

Polymarin Composites executive Frank Epps says the company pushed back hiring of senior management in Little Rock during the fourth quarter of last year, in part because of the souring economy. That hiring is taking place now, which he says may push back the roll-out of the first blades this year by several months.

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