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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

By The Associated PressJune 4, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. June 2, 2019.

In the medieval-style world portrayed in the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” men dealt with the stresses of a violent, king-of-the-hill culture through the consumption of alcohol, visits to brothels or the plotting of ultimate revenge.

No, this isn’t an editorial about that fantasy TV series. After all, if you did not watch Game of Thrones, you were decidedly among the majority. The final episode of the eight-season series on HBO attracted 18 million viewers when it was originally broadcast a couple of weeks ago. More viewers have watched since, but it’s still a relative smattering of the overall population.

For our purposes, it’s only important to know the series well reflected a masculine tendency to ignore one’s own mental state, to tough it out when circumstances fill one with anxiety, uncertainty or unhealthy thoughts. To do otherwise might reveal weakness, and weakness in a world of thrones, swords and kingdoms can be deadly.

Now to the real world: Kit Harington is an actor who played the brooding but valiant Jon Snow in Game of Thrones for all eight of its seasons. In the pages of this newspaper, readers recently learned Harington, 32, had checked into a wellness retreat, using some down time in his schedule reportedly to work out issues with stress, exhaustion and alcohol use.

In many ways, attitudes about Harington’s need for mental health attention aren’t all that different these days than in that fictional setting. Why can’t he just man up, right?

That Harington has the awareness to seek out help (and certainly the financial wherewithal) is, rather, a credit, and ought to be examined as such.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. Less than half of them actually receive mental health services. Among adolescents, nearly half are believed to suffer from some mental disorder.

In our little oasis known as Northwest Arkansas, we are not immune. Most people can recognize the fact in extremely disruptive cases, ones that lead to reported crimes. Beyond those, however, are thousands more in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, in our places of faith, in our schools.

The recent news that Northwest Health plans to spend $4.35 million to renovate a hospital floor in Springdale to add 30 beds for mental health care is worth noting in the continuing fight against mental illness. It’s the second expansion in as many years for the hospital.

It’s not hard to think back a few years when local capacity to deliver in-patient mental health care was anemic.

Things are getting better. The opening of the Northwest Arkansas crisis stabilization unit in Fayetteville is approaching, giving area law enforcement a place to take disruptive people in need of mental health services far more than a jail cell. Once they’re stabilized, the availability of longer-term care facilities is a necessity to guide people toward a lasting management of their ailment.

The state is testing the waters with “pilot” stabilization units like the one in Fayetteville with hope to develop more than the four authorized so far. Craighead, Pulaski, Sebastian and Washington counties each stepped up to provide facilities; the state will provide annual funding for operation. In a state that has ignored the plight of the mentally ill for too long, these facilities are a needed step in the right direction.

Private facilities offer avenues for respite and treatment, too.

Northwest Arkansas can be proud of its growing population, for it reflects the qualities that make our region such a wonderful place to live. But population growth also means a heavier load on mental health care systems. It’s exciting to see the region’s health care providers responding to that need.

We don’t know anything about Harington’s challenges, except for the fact that he’s taken responsibility for his own mental health. When someone of his stature in the entertainment world does so, it helps set an example, demonstrating that it is far from weak to seek out help. Indeed, it’s a sign of strength.

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Texarkana Gazette. June 3, 2019.

Perhaps some of our readers have received an unpleasant notice in the mail after driving in another, often larger Texas city.

A letter, usually with a blurry photo attached, informing of a traffic violation — along with a bill for the fine.

Of course, you are free to go back to wherever the letter came from and fight the charge, but most just pay the fine. It’s intentionally kept fairly low_usually around $75. It would cost more to challenge the citation in court.

It’s been that way for a while since traffic enforcement cameras started going up in some cities. But no more.

Over the weekend, Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation barring the use of such cameras across the state. The law goes into effect in September.

The traffic light cameras have been legal in Texas since 2007 and have been controversial since coming into play. There have been unsuccessful attempts in the Legislature to ban them before.

This time, however, it’s a done deal. A couple of cities still have contracts remaining for the cameras, but when they expire the use of these cameras will be history in the Lone Star State.

And we say good riddance.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. June 4, 2019.

When was the last time you saw the Ledge pass anything but a highway name change by a unanimous decree? The Red Tape Reduction act passed 92-0 in the state House and 35-0 in the Senate. Folks, the Ledge couldn’t pass a Friday lunch menu with no opposition. (Fried catfish? Who in Arkansas eats fried catfish?)

These might be the days of miracles and wonder. This particular legislation will probably do a lot of good for working folks in Arkansas.

You see, back in 2017, an outfit called the Institute for Justice came out with a report that said Arkansas ranked as the “third most broadly and erroneously licensed” state in the Union. This got the attention of lawmakers, inky wretches and more important folks--like plumbers and massage therapists. Or those who’d like to become plumbers and massage therapists if they could only get their licenses. Because it ain’t easy in this state.

Not only are licenses difficult to get in Arkansas, but you wouldn’t believe all the jobs that require them. Certainly, there are certain professions for which we’d like to see licenses and other requirements. Such as, say, your family doctor. Put the ol’ medical degree on the wall, doc. And for those who’d apply pesticides around your home. And midwives and teachers and school bus drivers. There are degrees to these things. A free-market supply-sider probably won’t mind if his kids are carried to school by a licensed bus driver.

But a manicurist? Why does Arkansas require 140 days of training and two exams before licensing a manicurist?

Arkansas is one of only two states that require a license to be a nursery worker, and we don’t mean the ones chasing toddlers. We mean the nursery worker who helps you find the right shrub for the front lawn.

Arkansas requires a license to be a title examiner. And a milk sampler. And a football coach. And requires fees and sometimes multiple exams to be an auctioneer, an athletic trainer, a sign language interpreter, a drywall contractor, a door repair contractor and a bill collector. It takes three tests to be a barber. And a minimum grade level to be a makeup artist. Arkansas requires you to get a license before you’re allowed to shampoo hair.

If it’s so important that a body have a professional license to sample milk or call a screen play to the tight end, then why don’t most other states require it? Answer: It’s not. These sold indulgences by our government only make it more difficult to work.

Licenses and such are supposedly put in place to protect the public. But over the years, certain lobbies have “helped” the Legislature put these requirements on the books in their own professions. A cynic might suggest they did so to make their occupations more difficult to enter, thus keeping the supply of professionals down and demand up. Neat. Also mostly unnecessary.

The bottom line is that Arkansas has put up obstacles in front of hard-working blue-collar people who want jobs and a livable wage. Now the Legislature has a chance to undo some of that.

A subcommittee of legislative types will conduct a review of all these occupational license requirements this year. “We call ourselves a right-to-work state, but we are one of the hardest states in the United States to go to work,” said state Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs).

The act authorizing the review says it would “determine and implement the least restrictive form of occupational authorization to protect consumers,” which sounds like common sense. Nobody wants just anybody spraying ant poison around the nursery — either kind of nursery.

But it would seem the market could determine if the manicurist gets repeat business.

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