Favorite

Fishy lawmaking 

Last week, the legislature decided not to press a fight that could have further upended a balance of power in Arkansas already tilted too far in favor of the legislative branch.

After threatening to require the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to submit to legislative approval of agency rules, the legislature backed off and accepted filing of agency regulations with the legislature.

Veteran Arkansas Democrat-Gazette outdoor writer Bryan Hendricks explained what this particular fight was really about. It seems that Game and Fish wanted to put some restrictions on where live bait can be gathered and transported. This was to prevent invasive trash fish — carp, particularly — from migrating into waters where they could do damage to other fish populations, particularly the largemouth bass.

Problem: The people who wanted to move bait around were people paid to guide fishermen in search of striped bass, which were introduced into some major Arkansas lakes years ago. The striped bass guides complained to legislators.

Fifteen legislators — the usual GOP suspects (think bullying Mary Bentley of Perryville) — raised heck in a letter that was more about the business of a handful of guides than about preserving Arkansas's ecosystems. Eventually, 35 legislators seemed willing to trash Amendment 35, which granted constitutional independence to Game and Fish in 1945, in a fight over fish bait.

The striper guides stirred up the more powerful largemouth bass lobby. So came the compromise on oversight of fishing rules. Game and Fish will continue to live uneasily as an independent agency.

I say uneasily because this legislature is hell-bent on power building. It was behind a 2014 constitutional amendment — unwisely approved by voters — that strengthened legislative control over executive agency decisions. Governor Hutchinson doesn't like it much, understandably. That amendment also left an open question of whether it, by implication, overrode Game and Fish independence as well as the independence of the Department of Transportation and Department of Higher Education. The latter two divisions of government also are given independence in separate constitutional amendments.

Someday, the issue needs to be decided in court. I'd hope it would result in continued independence for those areas of government.

Understand that oversight of all these agencies is still political. Game and Fish, transportation and colleges all are controlled by governor-appointed boards (rich white male hunters nearly always in the case of Game and Fish.) But we don't need the legislature setting duck season or trout limits nor having specific authority over highway spending. And higher education? People who can't competently handle fish bait?

I'd like to see independence strongly affirmed. A good Arkansas Supreme Court decision — if there ever is such a thing — might agree that it's a violation of Amendment 33 for the legislature to dictate to the colleges on campus safety policies. In other words, the legislature might have gone too far when it said colleges must — despite unanimous opposition from college governing boards — allow concealed weapons on campus. In Georgia, a lawsuit has been filed contesting just such a law imposed on the University of Georgia in the face of similar state constitutional protection.

The Georgia case will have no legal application here. But perhaps it could encourage somebody to take on the Arkansas legislature.

The power-hungry legislature isn't done. It has put an amendment on the ballot next year that would give the legislature control of court rules, too. This would be another big step toward one-branch governance in Arkansas. Imagine what a bunch that can be swayed by 30 fishing guides protecting their shad supply might do for, say, 30 corporate defense lawyers.

Favorite

Speaking of Arkansas Game And Fish Commission, Arkansas Legislature

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Obamacare's ruin: Where are the boastful press releases from Arkansas Republicans?

    Silence so far from Republican politicians such as Leslie Rutledge on achievement of their long-stated dream, death to the Affordable Care Act. Could that be because most people now understand what a good thing President Obama did with its passage? Update: Rutledge applauds and offers empty promise of coverage.
    • Dec 15, 2018
  • Entergy demolishes old power plant near Stamps

    Entergy, the state's largest electric utility, yesterday used explosives to destroy the major parts of its closed Couch Plant near Stamps, which dated to 1943 and was designed to burn fuel oil or gas at two generating units. Named for power company founder Harvey Couch, it's been out of commission since 2013.
    • Dec 15, 2018
  • City Board to consider enriched retirement for retiring Mayor Mark Stodola

    The Little Rock City Board agenda for its last meeting of the year Tuesday includes, as expected, a vote on an ordinance that will significantly sweeten retiring Mayor Mark Stodola's retirement and apply to future mayors as well. The agenda, however, carries no mention of resolution of his claim for an estimated $173,000 in pay for unused vacation and leave time.
    • Dec 15, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • Along the civil rights trail

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The Oval outhouse

    One thing all Americans finally can agree upon is that public discourse has coarsened irretrievably in the era of Donald Trump and largely at his instance.
    • Jan 18, 2018

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Hope and change LR

    While I was away, Frank Scott Jr. won a historic victory in a runoff with Baker Kurrus to succeed Mark Stodola as Little Rock mayor.
    • Dec 13, 2018
  • A real mayor

    Baker Kurrus is trying to brand himself as an agent for change as mayor of Little Rock, but labors under a handicap.
    • Nov 22, 2018
  • How red are we?

    Election results in Arkansas were discouraging for Democrats and progressive voters.
    • Nov 15, 2018
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: No leash

    • Why would anybody trim a cat's claws? That would interfere with their ability to defend…

    • on December 15, 2018
  • Re: No leash

    • "If you're lucky enough to acquire them as little kittens..." Huh. That might even convince…

    • on December 14, 2018
  • Re: No leash

    • Contrary to popular stereotypes, cats are very social and trainable. The key to training them…

    • on December 14, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation