Favorite

Perilous provisional plaudits 

One who praises an unfinished Arkansas legislative session does so at his own peril.

Religion and state could still get mixed. Privacy could get invaded. Micro-management could abound. Predatory payday lenders could be protected on the outrageous notion that poor people need cash so desperately that it’s all right to choke them on interest.

Put this down, then, as taking the risk of speaking entirely too soon.

On top of that, here’s an assertion that risks the appearance of a lost mind: Our term-limits law, while wrong-headed generally and made worse as the most restrictive in the country, hasn’t hurt anything.

Legislative leadership, which is the key, has been mostly adequate to good in the term limits era. Members have moved between the House and Senate to compile experience.

The House, more restricted by term limits than the Senate, had a minor meltdown two sessions ago. But it had a strong leader last time in Bill Stovall and now has a pretty good one in Benny Petrus.

We’ve always relied on the lack of sophistication of part-time citizen legislators and placed a premium on sophisticated staff and sophisticated lobbyists. These term-limited legislators haven’t been any worse than the old regimes, or in some cases as bad. State government may not be the advanced calculus that some of us said.

Now, to the original point, which was that this may be the best regular session of my experience.

I started observing these exercises a quarter-century ago. This is my 13th, since regular sessions occur biennially. Well, it’s my 12th, actually. I spent 1993 in Washington observing something else. But I am assured that session wasn’t anything special.

Being but a lad at the time, I wasn’t covering in 1971 and 1973 when, with Dale Bumpers in the governor’s office, the Legislature raised the income tax, reorganized government, started community colleges and made progress on free textbooks and childhood immunizations.

That reminds me: Mike Beebe’s model always has been Bumpers more than Bill Clinton. Beebe’s affinity for Bumpers began when Bumpers picked him at 27 for appointment to the board of trustees of Beebe’s alma mater, Arkansas State University.

Another thing, to continue the stream of consciousness: Term limits may have had the effect of making Beebe governor. If the Constitution had allowed him to stay in the Senate, running things and never getting an opponent, then, as a cautious man who enjoyed the legislative process, he might never have taken a chance.

Anyway, here’s what this session appears well toward accomplishing:

• It will make the tax system fairer by taking half the sales tax off groceries, raising the floor for the income tax and raising the homestead property tax exemption.

• Blessed with fat budgets, it will manage even while cutting regressive taxes to grant reasonably generous funding increases for higher education, pre-kindergarten and categorical aid to public schools.

• It will use about half the surplus to meet a court order to improve public school facilities and probably get the state freed from the Lake View court case.

• It will make at least one marginal improvement, and perhaps others, in ethics law.

• It will cease the unaccountable mad rush on surplus funds for local capital projects. It will choose instead to appropriate general sums for these not unworthy purposes through proper disbursing agencies or programs in the executive branch.

• It will provide $50 million from the surplus for a world-class cancer center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

• It may even do a road program, dependent on voter approval of bonded debt.

That would be pretty good for three months’ work, especially for novices and even taking into account the inevitable advancement of the occasional lame bill.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by John Brummett

  • Obstruction is the preferred conservatism

    Is there greater conservative virtue in opposing federal health reform, period, or in saying it ought to be implemented locally instead of from Washington in the event we are unavoidably laden with it?
    • Oct 5, 2011
  • A fate not quite as bad as prison for Lu Hardin

    There is no crime in being overly and transparently solicitous for the purposes of aggrandizement and personal political advancement. That's simply acute neediness, a common and benign human frailty.
    • Sep 28, 2011
  • Can we talk? Can we get anywhere?

    Dialogue is good. It would be even better if someone would venture off script every once in a while.
    • Sep 21, 2011
  • More »

More by Max Brantley

  • Waiting to die. An account from Death Row

    Ibby Caputo, who contributed to our coverage of the legislature this year, has written an article for Slate about Morgan Holladay's experience as a spiritual helper to Jack Jones, one of four men executed in Arkansas last month.
    • May 22, 2017
  • Trump's budget could hit Arkansas hard

    If Donald Trump succeeds in cutting "entitlements" by $1.7 trillion, the impact will be felt particularly in poor states. In other words, Arkansas.
    • May 22, 2017
  • The open line and daily video roundup

    The open line and the daily video.
    • May 22, 2017
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Trump unfit

    Even as an oligarch, President Trump turns out to be breathtakingly incompetent. Is there any reason to suppose he's even loyal to the United States? Does he even understand the concept? Trump is loyal to Trump, and to his absurdly swollen ego. Nothing and nobody else.
  • You want tort reform? Try this.

    The nursing home industry and the chamber of commerce finally defeated the trial lawyers in the 2017 legislature. The Republican-dominated body approved a constitutional amendment for voters in 2018 that they'll depict as close to motherhood in goodness.
  • Goodbye, Mr. Trump

    It is hard to escape the feeling that the fortunes of President Trump and the country took a decisive, and for Trump a fatal, turn May 9-10, when the president fired the director of the FBI over its investigation of Russian efforts to swing the presidential election to him and the very next day shared top-secret intelligence with Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting closed except to a Kremlin press aide toting electronic gear to capture the intimate session for Russians but not Americans.
  • Raw feelings in the Arkansas Justice Building over workload, pay

    Strained relations between the Arkansas Supreme Court and the Arkansas Court of Appeals broke into public view this week. I expect more to come.

Latest in John Brummett

  • Gone to the DoG

    We're now longer carrying John Brummett's column in this space.
    • Oct 12, 2011
  • Obstruction is the preferred conservatism

    Is there greater conservative virtue in opposing federal health reform, period, or in saying it ought to be implemented locally instead of from Washington in the event we are unavoidably laden with it?
    • Oct 5, 2011
  • A fate not quite as bad as prison for Lu Hardin

    There is no crime in being overly and transparently solicitous for the purposes of aggrandizement and personal political advancement. That's simply acute neediness, a common and benign human frailty.
    • Sep 28, 2011
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

New Entrance and North Forest to debut with Chihuly exhibit opening at Crystal Bridges

New Entrance and North Forest to debut with Chihuly exhibit opening at Crystal Bridges

Dual Chihuly exhibit opening also brings culmination of year-plus forest project

Event Calendar

« »

May

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 Viewed

  • Trump unfit

    Even as an oligarch, President Trump turns out to be breathtakingly incompetent. Is there any reason to suppose he's even loyal to the United States? Does he even understand the concept? Trump is loyal to Trump, and to his absurdly swollen ego. Nothing and nobody else.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Trump unfit

    • Well, Al - I'll give it to you - I can't find, again, that phrase…

    • on May 22, 2017
  • Re: Trump unfit

    • Well, not only does Al do the Projection shuffle, he also does the Strawman two…

    • on May 22, 2017
  • Re: Trump unfit

    • Al, you're a little late to the party, and have arrived with dated info. The…

    • on May 22, 2017
 

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