A question for the opening of the legislature: Why not phone it in? | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A question for the opening of the legislature: Why not phone it in?

Posted By on Sun, Jan 11, 2015 at 7:06 AM

click to enlarge ASA, A LIBERAL? Well, not exactly. But the new governor's wife, Susan ,says she's more conservative than he is. - THE CITY WIRE
  • The City Wire
  • ASA, A LIBERAL? Well, not exactly. But the new governor's wife, Susan ,says she's more conservative than he is.
Everybody is writing previews of the legislative session that begins Monday, such as this report from John Lyon of Stephens Media.

Republicans hold an unassailable legislative majority, every constitutional office and every congressional seat.

The legislative forecast is what you'd expect from the election outcome:

Tax cuts; more limits on women's medical autonomy; gun bills; punitive measures against gay people's rights; attacks on national education standards; further limitation of access to voting; curbs on environmental protection.

Expect a blitzkrieg of agenda bills tat the outset.

My question is this: Apart from the split on continuation of the private option Medicaid expansion — with its implication of endorsement of Obamacare — is there any meaningful possibility of divergence on legislative outlook?

Is there among the 85 Republican legislators anyone who passes for a moderate, who might depart from orthodoxy? If not, does the legislative session really need to last 85 days, as Sen. Jon Dismang expects? Why not just phone it in?

A glimmer of hope in the gloomy outlook is Asa Hutchinson. He's a classic conservative, make no mistake, but he exhibits more thoughtfulness than many of his supporters. I was reminded of this today by Joe Stumpe's profile of his wife, Susan, in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She noted that her husband, whom she met while both were students at Bob Jones University, wasn't as conservative as she. For example, he's long been an opponent of school vouchers, which she supports.

You take encouragement where you can find it.

One of the first big questions about the incoming Hutchinson is about education. Perhaps he'll join the many successful school administrators, including from his part of the state, who believe strong national standards are important in improving education. Will he have a mix of philosophy in appointees to the state Board of Education, as Mike Beebe did, or simply turn it over in time to Billionaire Boys Club acolytes? His education director, to be revealed in the next few months, will be an important indicator.

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