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Monday, March 25, 2013

Good morning — what's good about it?

Posted By on Mon, Mar 25, 2013 at 7:01 AM

The news is slow today, but what bubbles up is mostly more potentially alarming legislative news.

* SHYLOCKERY: Stephens Media reports that a Springdale Republican hasn't given up on a long quest to provide a renewed foothold for payday lenders in the state.

* AIR AND WATER IN PERIL: I got a long and informed plea this morning from an environmental steward about HB 1929, which would gut water quality law in Arkansas, and SB 796, which would similarly wreck the state's efforts to regulate clean air. Both are technical issues, but both bills are primarily the work of the industrial polluters' lobby, the laughingly named Arkansas Environmental Federation. That the industry lobby is pushing these is all you need to know about whether they advance the cause of clean air and water. It's not like Arkansas is a zealous regulator in the first place. The judicial arm of environmental efforts, the Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, is packed with industry-friendly members, including a board member and legislative issues chairman of, who else, the Arkansas Environmental Federation. These issues are expected to come to a head Wednesday before the Senate Public Health Committee. Care about clean air and water? Join the meeting. Or get in touch with a committee member, shown here in a map provided by the Citizens First Congress.

* RELIGION ESTABLISHMENT: Pending, along with dozens of other bits of wing nuttery this session, is a bill to prohibit the state from enforcing any rule that "burdens" the free exercise of religion. In short, if you declare that a state rule or law is a matter of religious faith to you, you need not comply. The hypotheticals are limitless, from condom and birth control sale to use of illicit drugs in religious ritual, with many more in between. (There seem to be some religions in Arkansas in which guns are near Holy Trinity stature.) This is cookie cutter legislation from religion extremists. Happily, some politicians exist who won't be steamrollered. The Kentucky governor has vetoed similar legislation there because, among others, of fears that it would provide an opening for abridgement of civil rights. Equal rights for women and sexual minorities? That is contrary to some so-called religious teaching held dear in these parts.

This roundup is, of course, merely stuff on the margins of greater debates with profound long-term consequences. Outlook: Gloomy.

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