Freebies and foolishness: Legislative business today includes attacks on U.S. Constitution and Libertarian Party and a proposal to make judges partisan candidates. | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Freebies and foolishness: Legislative business today includes attacks on U.S. Constitution and Libertarian Party and a proposal to make judges partisan candidates.

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 7:41 AM


Lots of free eats and drinks are on tap at the Capitol today along with the usual legislative foolishness, such as destroying the U.S. Constitution, punishing Libertarians and stripping the judiciary of even the appearance of political impartiality.

First the freebies:

Breakfast: Capitol Hill Building, hosted by Arkansas Campaign for Grade Level Reading.

Lunch: Red and Blue Events Venue, hosted by the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation/Arkansas Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus. "Legislators only," the calendar says.

Standing special interest lunch: The nursing home lobby, the Arkansas Health Care Association, is continuing its practice of a daily free lunch at the Capitol Square Apartments. Nominally all members are invited, otherwise this would constitute illegal free eats under the pre-loophole so-called ethics amendment. Somehow, I doubt the apartment holds 135.

Cocktail hour: Capital Hotel, Arkansas Realtors Association. Since another valiant effort to bring Arkansas into the 20th Century (I know we're in the 21st) on landlord-tenant law is on the legislative agenda Thursday, I expect some business will be discussed tonight. Realtors historically have crushed proposals to extend legal protection to tenants.

More foolishness:

* CONSTITUTIONAL ATTACK: A lobbying group for an effort to call a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution will be out in force today for what they hope is final passage in the House of a resolution to add Arkansas to the list of states calling for such a dangerous convocation. You can read about the problems here. I'll again add this is a rare moment of harmonic convergence between liberals and ultraright Secure Arkansas. The Kochs and them like this idea. Among others, the central idea is to starve the government by prohibiting deficit spending. You'd think Donald Trump with his trillion-dollar looming deficit would be against THAT. UPDATE: It passed after some debate, 56-40.

* LIBERTARIAN ATTACK: The House also is scheduled to take a vote on the Senate bill to make it harder for a third political party to qualify for the election ballot with higher signature requirements. It's already hard, but the Libertarian Party has managed. It would be even harder courtesy of Republican Sen. Trent Garner, a fan of one-party government.  UPDATE: It passed with no debate, 61-21. Libertarians have talked about a possible lawsuit.

Speaking of one-party government: Republican Rep. Robin Lundstrum has entered the race for worst constitutional amendment with a proposal to make judicial elections partisan again. This would bring us full circle. When the state was dominated by Democrats, Republicans led the charge to end partisan judicial races. It was a good idea. Overt party indication gives a person in court some reason to question impartiality on any number of issues.

The GOP actually favored this change for a practical not principled reason — to end lucrative filing fees for judicial candidates that benefitted the Democratic Party. No matter. It was done.

Since then, an increasing number of judges have gone out of their way to send signifiers that they really are Republicans — Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood employed Mike Huckabee as a robocaller and religiously attended GOP county meetings, for example. The bench has become increasingly Republican in fact, if not in name.

This is not enough for Lundstrum, apparently, who probably correctly presumes an "R" after a judicial candidate's name would produce the automatic vote it has produced for statewide offices. I wouldn't think an overt attempt to put the thumb on the scales of justice would make the ballot, even with a Republican-majority legislature, but who knows?

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