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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

January 22, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Texarkana Gazette. Jan. 22, 2019.

The idea of microchipping employees to track hours worked, allow secure access to sensitive business documents or computer files, ease passage through security checkpoints or restricted areas at company facilities — or even just pay for meals at the company cafeteria or snacks from the vending machines — is nothing new, really.

But it’s also not without controversy.

To be sure, many folks have privacy concerns. Will the company use the technology to track employees’ movements after working hours or pry into their private lives in any way? There are those as well who fear even darker motives, calling the microchip technology a mask for the Biblical “mark of the beast.”

Despite the concerns, there is no real regulation or oversight on private businesses and microchipping.

One Arkansas lawmaker wants to change that.

Republican state Rep. Stephen Meeks — chairman of the House Advanced Communications and Information Technology Committee — has proposed a bill that would allow microchipping, but forbid companies from requiring it of their workers.

Meek’s bill would also require the company to fully disclose how the chip — and any data collected — would be used and to pay for removal of the chip if an employee leaves the job.

Companies would be free to take advantage of the technology as long as they observe a few basic safeguards. Employees would have a choice and their privacy would be protected to some degree.

Sounds like good common sense to us. Having some basic ground rules would be good across the nation as well.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Jan. 22, 2019.

It’s possible, even probable, that Bob Ballinger’s intentions are good. But, when it comes to the minimum wage in Arkansas, We the People will just have to sit on our blisters. The election was convincing. Besides, you know where the road of good intentions leads.

The gentleman from Hindsville probably understands how raising the minimum wage hurts those who need unskilled jobs the most. Which may be why the state senator has filled Senate Bill 115, which would exempt certain workers from the increase passed by Arkansas voters only two months ago.

His bill would exempt anyone under 18 (understandable), as well as employees of nonprofits (understandable) or employees of small businesses (understandable). It’s as if Sen. Ballinger knows that raising the minimum wage would force employers to save money by getting rid of young workers — or, more likely, not hiring them in the first place.

This very column begged the voters not to increase the minimum wage back in November. But up it goes, from $8.50 to $11 by 2021. Arkansas already has a higher minimum wage than the feds require, not to mention the highest of any neighboring state.

But try to convince young people, when they’re promised a raise, that any raise might mean fewer jobs. Or that the TV commercials claiming a rise in the minimum wage was only “fair,” and not job-destroying. Or that the last raise came only a few years back in 2014, or the part about neighboring states, or the feds’ minimum, or any other logical argument. When somebody hears “raise,” that sometimes can be all they hear.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Upton Sinclair might have meant that in a different sense, but it makes perfect sense in several ways.

So now Bob Ballinger wants to “fix” that vote. And get around the initiated act and $11-an-hour.

Thanks, senator, but no thanks.

We’re Ivory Soap-certain that his bill would help business. But two-thirds of the voters in November voted for this increase. Those of us who’d hope for the best should only hope the minimum wage doesn’t hurt too much. That is, that the economy stays humming along, and jobs remain plentiful, so that the minimum wage isn’t a factor in hiring (or not hiring). And that the next effort to raise the minimum wage — is it every four years now? — is less successful, so the natural state of the economy can eventually catch up.

But getting around the vote?

Regnat Populus.

The people rule in this state. It’s more than a motto. It’s a good idea.

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Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Jan. 22, 2019.

Few things will get some Arkansans invested in protecting the Trail of Tears quite so effectively as the historical path’s potential capacity to thwart conversion of a red dirt pit into a limestone quarry.

The Benton County Planning Board voted 6-1 in December to table the plan for the quarry indefinitely after the Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears Association expressed concern the Cross Hollows mine at 1425 N. Old Wire Road was too close to a well-preserved section of the path Indians from the southeastern part of the nation traveled for resettlement.

The Trail of Tears, as it has become known, was actually a collection of paths traveled by Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, Seminole and smaller tribes after they were forced out of their homelands by the U.S. government.

One of the most effective ways these days to throw a monkey wrench into someone’s plans for a new development is to show how moving forward will disrupt historical, ecological or archaeological sites. Find an endangered species that might be adversely affected and a developer’s nightmare has just begun. Just ask the Arkansas Department of Transportation or the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport how many millions of dollars it cost to mitigate the impact projects could have on the Ozark blind cavefish.

Imagine for moment what a constant parade of dump trucks coming into contact with a section of the Trail of Tears could do? It wouldn’t take long for the historic path to be obliterated and replaced by the Trail of Trucks.

The red dirt mine is just northeast of Lowell. Owner David Covington proposed to convert the 135 acres for limestone extraction. Each 10 acres represents a five-year operational period for the business, according to the Benton County Planning Department. Anchor Stone of Tulsa would quarry the limestone.

Naturally, nearby residents have voiced opposition and see some hope in the concerns expressed by those fighting for the Trail of Tears. Those concerns may just be a means to an end, if the end is to stop the quarry.

More likely, it seems, is that quarry owners will identify steps to protect the historic path of the Trail of Tears in an effort to calm those objections. Preservation and Cherokee authorities have recommended the people asking for the quarry conduct a cultural resources survey to make clear any impacts and mitigation.

“Cross Hollows is historically significant for many reasons and is sacred to the Cherokee, whose ancestors traveled along the path of the Old Wire Road as they neared the end of their journey to Indian Territory,” a letter from Preserve Arkansas Executive Director Rachel Patton says.

It’s not worth destroying irreplaceable pieces of historical significance in pursuit of limestone, but does that settle the question of whether the quarry can exist or not? We’re doubtful.

But all the voices of concern about the impact of the quarry have delayed decisions so far, which we hope to be a sign that nobody is considering this a rubber stamp kind of project. Quarries are a necessary part of a growing region like Northwest Arkansas, but the drive toward the future cannot come at the expense of the past, nor should people’s lives and property be adversely affected without serious deliberations.

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