Favorite

The fun begins 

Legislators have begun “pre-filing” bills for the 2007 legislative session.

It’s the usual mix of trivia, attention-grabbing and even the occasional important piece of legislation.

The really tricky stuff generally gets slipped in later in the session, when most people have too many distractions to pay close attention.

So far, we have measures to reduce the sales tax on groceries, a bill to make drivers stick around accident scenes for 30 minutes, a way for members of state boards and commissions to claim more per diem and a bill to declare the Diana fritillary the official state butterfly. The NRA flavor of the day has been introduced. It would end any duty to retreat before opening fire on the criminal miscreant of your choice. This shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later legislation is needed only because the NRA requires a legislative loyalty oath of some sort every session. It matters not that the gun nuts can’t name a case of Arkansas prosecutorial abuse that justifies return-to-the-Wild-West legislation. To the contrary, we can still remember when a local prosecutor even exonerated a hothead who chased an unthreatening petty thief for blocks before gunning him down.

Nothing has been filed so far on the ethics and accountability fronts, sorry to say. For instance:

We need to outlaw the lobby’s wining and dining of public officials. Fact is, you can buy votes with steaks and Scotch in Arkansas.

With a new governor taking office — and no finger-pointing to be feared — it’s also high time to bring greater accountability to the governor’s office. For one thing, it is no longer possible to tell from available public records how a fat expense allowance is used at the Governor’s Mansion. There’s circumstantial evidence it’s being used for personal expenses, but it’s impossible to tell and nobody seems interested in finding out. Transparency is needed.

The governor has even claimed a bogus “gubernatorial working papers” exception to financial records kept at the Governor’s Mansion by people who are not employees of his office. This is but one reason why Arkansas, at long last, needs some better definition of “working papers” under the Freedom of Information Act. The governor needs some privacy in his deliberative process, yes. But not absolute secrecy for documents generated by public employees and others that influence public decisions, such as clemency.

Accountability is fashionable this year. In an article in Roll Call this week, Lou Jacobson wrote of ethics advancements in Montana, Colorado, South Dakota, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Among other measures he listed were laws to prohibit a lawmaker from moving to the lobby ranks for two years. Here in Arkansas, we have sitting legislators who are de facto lobbyists. Colorado put a $50 annual limit on gifts to public officials and, yes, that includes wining and dining and big contributions to inaugural festivities. South Dakota put a strict limit on personal use of the state airplane, a law that would have cramped Gov. Mike Huckabee’s style (and that of his wife). Some states banned political contributions by lobbyists.

Much of the new legislation came as voter-driven initiatives. Legislators — here and everywhere — are reluctant to turn off their own spigots. That reluctance speaks louder than anything for the need.

In his honeymoon period, Mike Beebe could strike a couple of blows for good government by jumping in front of this current parade.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Sunday and another open line

    Got anything for the open line?
    • Jul 23, 2017
  • But what about the Clintons? Last refuge of Trump, New York Times

    Trying to compare Donald Trump's reaction to the Russia investigation with Bill Clinton's dealings with Kenneth Starr should be a non-starter if the facts mattered. But these days — and to the New York Times — it ain't necessarily so.
    • Jul 23, 2017
  • Football is king, Bentonville edition

    Good analysis in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette of an unannounced Bentonville School Board vote last week to put $2 million into a football stadium for West High School despite board assurances in last May's tax election that no money would go to a football stadium.
    • Jul 23, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016
  • Double-talk

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

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • We're No. 1! in vote suppression

    It's not often that Arkansas can claim national leadership, so give Secretary of State Mark Martin credit for something.

    • Jul 13, 2017
  • Bangin' in LR

    About 2:30 a.m. Saturday, with the Power Ultra Lounge downtown jammed for a rap show by Finese2Tymes (Ricky Hampton of Memphis), gunfire broke out. Before it was over, 25 people had been wounded by gunfire and three others injured in the rush for safety.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

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

  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.
  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Another Jesus

    • IBS, were you there in Benghazi to personally witness all of Hillary's blunders like you…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Another Jesus

    • If God felt it necessary to replace the ten commandments, he could do it like…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Football for UA Little Rock

    • He's BSC. Students and tuition-paying parents should be VERY vocal that a football program won't…

    • on July 23, 2017
 

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