Tone of Legislature may be changing


I’ll give you Nick Wilson. And Lloyd George. And Mike Beebe, but just because of his hair. Without the hair, the governor wouldn’t fit the category.

Arkansas Legislators of the Late 20th Century Who Looked and Sounded Like Legislators.

OK, maybe Jodie Mahony.

Talk to those guys for a few minutes, and you knew you were talking to “Somebody.” To be sure, talk to Mr. Beebe, and you know you’re talking to “somebody,” but not “Somebody,” if that makes any sense.

Most of the (mostly) men in the state House and Senate, though, were just good ol’ boys. Some of them were country lawyers, but they were as likely to just be country.

Exhibit A: Mike Davis.

He was the second state legislator I met in my young life as a reporter in Pocahontas. I would later learn to better appreciate his quiet demeanor, out-of-the-headlines approach and competence.

I’d catch up with him somewhere in Randolph County, and perhaps I could pry a quote from him if I kept after him.

Nick? Just hit the record button.

But with Davis, you never had to worry about craziness. The thought of grandstanding to make a political statement would never have occurred to him. Even if it did, he would have had the good sense to find another way.

Two days removed from Election Day, our next crop of state legislators may collectively fall short of the precedent of days gone by.

(This piece was written in advance of election results.)

It’s entirely possible that Republicans will hold sway in both the state House and Senate. Unto itself, big deal. Republican or Democrat or Green or Whig or Bull Moose, party affiliation at the state level shouldn’t really come into play.

However, this election looks to have less to do with partisan politics than ideological purity.

Since the hyperbolic years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, many state legislatures have swung over to the side of the loons. Not Republican loons. Not Democratic loons. Simple loons, resolute and dangerous.

Somehow, we had resisted this trend. Our Legislature had remained stocked with sensible people, save a few budding fringe-feeders.

That’s probably changing.

We stand on the edge of putting into office more than a few stridently ideologues. These are the folks who will “stand on principle” while they waste precious time passing laws that can’t possibly pass constitutional muster or supersede a federal statute.

In other words, pass all the laws you want to in Little Rock that say that Arkansans must shoot to kill anyone seen attempting to buy birth control items, but Washington’s authority will change that parade’s precipitation forecast.

First bills out of the gate?

Yeah, abortion will be a good candidate. Roe v. Wade says hi, but who cares, right? The sovereign state and all that.

Taxes, taxes, taxes. Somebody will float eliminating the state income tax. Of course, there won’t be any sort of plan to replace that revenue, except in the off chance that somebody quietly suggests raising the state sales tax. In a poor state, that’s … well, that’s just a stupid idea. Stupidity’s in season, though.

To fulfill the loon quotient, there will be a bit of 7-hole ridiculousness. These urgent matters might include mandating school prayers (with each student attending the prayer of his or her denomination of choice), designating a new state holiday to honor Ronald Reagan and/or forcing Muslims to register with the State Police and issuing them a specially colored driver’s license.

Who are these activists who want smaller government, just small enough to poke its nose in every facet of your private life? Don’t worry. You’ll know the names soon enough.

The Rubicon? Look over your shoulder.

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Rick Fahr is an independent journalist in Arkansas who most recently was editor and publisher of the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway. His e-mail is rickfahr@yahoo.com.