Favorite

As always, the legislature has much to do, and much not to. Distinguishing the one from the other has often been a problem. Term limits, which have removed the longtime legislators who lent experience and judgment to the lawmaking process, have increased the chance for error.

The new governor can be of considerable help in accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative. Mike Beebe served 20 years in the legislature, was one of its most influential members, and his influence was generally used for good, or semi-good. He knows how to talk to legislators and presumably will seek them out, as Gov. Bill Clinton did. (Beebe’s immediate predecessor, Gov. Mike Huckabee, avoided mixing with legislators, who seemed not to mind.)

But Beebe bears watching too. (Even though the Arkansas Times endorsed him against a substandard opponent.) As a senator, he was good friends with agents of the special interests, and he’s chosen as his chief of staff Morril Harriman, a former senatorial ally and more recently a lobbyist for the Arkansas Poultry Federation. Our most vivid memory of Harriman is from a couple of years ago, when he helped win passage of “tort reform” legislation that benefited the poultry industry, the insurance companies and the medical profession, and penalized working-class Arkansans. Being on the public payroll may revive a commitment to the public interest.

The legislature and the governor will spend a great deal of time trying to bring the public school system up to constitutional standards, a difficult task made more so by the fact that nobody knows exactly what the constitutional standards are. Whatever is required will cost money, and limit legislative initiatives in other areas.

High on the list of things not to do is to help Deltic Timber Company with its plans for development on Lake Maumelle, development that could endanger Central Arkansas’s water supply. Deltic’s senator, Bob Johnson, pushed a pro-development bill through the Senate two years ago. That legislation was stopped by a House committee, but the mischievous Johnson might well try again.

Tax reform, on the other hand, is much to be desired. Adoption of a state earned income tax credit, similar to the federal government’s, and an increase in the amount of income a family can have before it starts paying taxes, would help low-income Arkansas workers and would make the regressive Arkansas tax system less regressive. The state needs to prohibit the use of cell phones by drivers, while any of us are still alive, and to adopt a substantive law punishing cruelty to animals, while any of them are. Powerful interests will resist in both cases.

And it’s not too early to consider undoing tort reform. Unlike the organized lobbies, injured Arkansans aren’t asking for preferential treatment. They’re asking for justice.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Arkansas Times Staff

Most Shared

  • Discussion: State killing of the mentally ill

    The Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and others will have a forum on mental illness and the death penalty at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Bowen School of Law's Friday Courtroom.

Latest in Editorials

  • The end of an era

    We're sad to report that Doug Smith has decided to retire. Though he's been listed as an associate editor on our masthead for the last 22 years, he has in fact been the conscience of the Arkansas Times. He has written all but a handful of our unsigned editorials since we introduced an opinion page in 1992.
    • May 8, 2014
  • A stand for equality

    Last week, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel became the first elected statewide official to express support for same-sex marriage. His announcement came days before Circuit Judge Chris Piazza is expected to rule on a challenge to the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Soon after, a federal challenge of the law is expected to move forward. McDaniel has pledged to "zealously" defend the Arkansas Constitution but said he wanted the public to know where he stood.
    • May 8, 2014
  • Same old, same old

    Remarking as we were on the dreariness of this year's election campaigns, we failed to pay sufficient tribute to the NRA, one of the most unsavory and, in its predictability, dullest of the biennial participants in the passing political parade.
    • May 1, 2014
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

October

S M T W T F S
1 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: Caution: government at work

    • The people of Arkansas need to keep demanding that our state government be accountable to…

    • on October 21, 2017
  • Re: Cotton to CIA?

    • Watching C-Span last week, they were talking about Cotton for the head of the FBI…

    • on October 21, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation