Hutchinson Talks About Disability Rights & Crosses On ASU Football Helmets

Sep 17, 2014

Gubernatorial nominee Asa Hutchinson (R) speaks to an audience member after the Political Animals Club.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

One day after 21 disability-rights advocates were arrested outside of Asa Hutchinson’s locked Little Rock office the GOP’s gubernatorial hopeful is still uncertain on the push for more home-based disability care.

Speaking Wednesday at the Governor’s Mansion after a meeting of the Political Animals Club Hutchinson said he supports providing choices but did not say if he supports the Community First Choice Option that allows Medicaid funds to be spent on home-based care rather than institutionalized care.

“I think some prefer living in an institutional environment and others prefer options of a home environment. I think it depends and I think what’s important is that they have options,” said Hutchinson.

This week the disability-rights demonstrators also targeted the offices of Governor Mike Beebe and the Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mike Ross. Beebe and Ross both met with demonstrators and said they largely support the possibility of shifting disability funds away from institutionalized care toward home-based care. Part of the Affordable Care Act allows Medicaid money to be spent this way with state approval.

When asked, Hutchinson did not say if he would meet protestors associated with the group ADAPT in the future.

“There’s a lot of Arkansans that want to express themselves on that issue and that’s who I would like to listen to at the right time. I’d be happy to meet with Arkansans on an issue of great concern that we have to make decisions on,” said Hutchinson.

ADAPT is a national organization with local chapters that helped advocate for wheelchair lifts on buses in the 1980s before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990. 

Arkansas State University: Football and Religion

After Hutchinson’s speech to Political Animals Club, reflecting familiar campaign themes, he also commented that football players at Arkansas State University should be allowed to affix cross decals to helmets as a memorial to a deceased player. Last week the university in Jonesboro directed the football program to remove the cross after complaints were made about a public institution endorsing one religion. Hutchinson said as long as the effort is student-led he thinks religious symbols can be affixed to a uniform of a public university.

“The students ought to have the freedom to do that. I share the frustration of the students in not being able to remember their fellow students in the way that they wish to. I’m not in a position to tell ASU what they should do. I hope they have a conversation at some point. I know they’re relying upon legal counsel but I think they need to look at that very carefully,” said Hutchinson.

Students have been allowed to place a memorial decal on their uniforms as long as any imagery placed on the state-financed football program is not religious. At least one religious group has openly speculated on filing a lawsuit to allow the crosses to be put back on helmets.