Half-empty glass 

Half-empty glass

It’s a pretty self-satisfied bunch out at the Capitol these days. Call it the era of good feelings.

Gov. Mike Huckabee had difficult relations with legislators, both in his party and out. He liked to call the shots. He wasn’t much of a negotiator. Working majorities joined him on a number of important legislative issues, but many lawmakers felt he rushed to claim not just more credit than he was due, but all the credit.

Gov. Mike Beebe has been, to many, a breath of fresh air. He’s spent a lifetime in the legislature negotiating, not dictating. He could host “Let’s Make a Deal.” He understands the system. He can manipulate it without being seen as manipulative. He’s not a quip waiting to happen, so he avoids unplanned ingestions of shoe leather.

He won a huge victory over Asa Hutchinson. He entered office with a surplus of nearly $1 billion. Even after meeting the demands of the Lake View school legislation, there’s still plenty of money to go around, including for some of the not-so-worthy ideas that spring readily from the legislature.

Since Beebe had no particular agenda — save knocking a few cents off the tax on food — or any evident core principles, it was easy for the legislature to work with the governor. There’s money to spend. Taxes have been cut. What’s not to like?

From my point of view, there are reasons to be less than satisfied. The Republicans, despite smaller numbers, have greater power thanks to a spoils system that has rewarded them richly with clout in both House and Senate in return for their votes in leadership elections. It’s gotten so bad that a Joint Budget subcommittee wasted a day of hearings on Rep. Jim Medley’s idea to cut 12 permanent jobs and five temporary jobs from the staff of the Arkansas Supreme Court, including the chief justice’s own secretary. It was a petty, transparent payback for court rulings limiting legislative pork spending and the Lake View case.

Republicans have pushed worse ideas, with little vigorous pushback from what should be a powerful governor’s office, if only it wasn’t so fearful to give offense. There’s Sen. Shawn Womack’s mean-spirited bill to prevent gay people from adopting or fostering children, even blood relatives. There’s Sen. Shawn Womack’s bill to further enrich the private residential facilities for troubled youth, such as the Lord’s Ranch, supplier of jet service to Gov. Huckabee, with favored state licensing and reimbursement treatment. (The Lord’s Ranch, naturally, has greased the palms of legislators on committees that consider this bill.) There’s Shawn Womack’s constitutional amendment to legalize pork barrel spending and make taxes impossible to raise with a 75 percent vote requirement.

There’s silliness galore. The usual drug hysteria. Efforts to curb free speech. An unwillingness to vote for better legislative ethical standards. A free pass for the payday lender piranhas, people who make Shylock look benevolent. Corporate welfare galore. An educational system sold to the silver-spoon-sucking spawn of discount store barons.

Again this year, the historically rambunctious House has offered the occasional bow to responsibility, on account of sounder leadership, the Senate being primarily about greed and right-wing social issues. What’s been missing, when it counts, is the governor. He’s content to let things work out as they will and sign whatever reaches him. It’s a good way to guarantee that a lot of bad stuff hits your desk.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • The education legislature

    Republican political control in Arkansas means many things: lots of gun bills, lots of anti-abortion bills, lots of efforts to make religious belief law, such as discrimination against gay people.
    • Mar 10, 2015
  • Supremely discredited

    Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood and her allies continue to discredit the state's highest court.
    • Jul 30, 2015
  • Hutchinson pulls Faubus move

    I don't know what if anything might arise or be planned in the future relative to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's order to end Medicaid reimbursement for medical services (not abortion) provided by Planned Parenthood in Arkansas.
    • Aug 20, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Trumped in Arkansas

    After two solid debates and the release of a video and corroborating testimony that further confirmed the misogyny of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidential election Nov. 8
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • So many provocations...

    Another bad week demands a Worst Of listing.
    • Oct 6, 2016
  • State university secrets

    Today's subject: lack of accountability at state universities.
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Searching for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Searching for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park

A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Trumped in Arkansas

    • What a funny article, I hope sarcasm was your intent! First, since this was written…

    • on October 23, 2016
  • Re: The big loser

    • We are leaving in 3 hours. An I never said that anybody said I DID…

    • on October 22, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation