First half is over; let’s get serious


Frustration seems to have hit some people at the Arkansas Legislature last week. The sniping between the governor and lieutenant governor over an action that, ultimately, made no difference — Lt. Gov. Mark Darr’s signing a bill Gov. Mike Beebe had decided to let become law without his signature while Beebe was out of the state — was the least of it.

On Tuesday, Davy Carter, speaker of the state House and leader of the Republican majority there, took a moment to act the coach.

“We’re at halftime of this session, and third quarter starts today,” Carter said.

Carter made a round of appearances at various committee meetings Tuesday morning, according to an Arkansas News Bureau report. He started at the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, where he urged representatives to pass $150 million in tax cuts this session, beginning with a $50 million package and following with incremental packages of $25 million each.

Gov. Beebe has challenged lawmakers to show how they would pay for these tax cuts.

In other committee meetings, Carter pressed his message of urgency, asking House members to get on with the major issues of the session, which has been dominated by “social issues” like abortion and gun rights, rather than economic and budgetary issues like tax cuts and Medicaid expansion — the issues many of the elected officials campaigned on.

Not to be outdone, the House Democratic Caucus held a news conference to announce its legislative agenda, nearly seven weeks into the session.

Specifically, Rep. Greg Leding of Fayetteville, House minority leader, asked fellow lawmakers to get to work on Medicaid expansion, now that Beebe has obtained new assurances from Washington regarding its implementation. The governor, Leding said, “brought back some great options from Washington, D.C., and now it’s up to the Legislature to discuss, debate and act on these options.”

Rep. Darrin Williams, D-Little Rock, expressed Democrats’ frustration more directly.

“This (session) is a little different for us, because we’re not used to being in the minority,” he said. “But we believe that we can work with our colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle and put Arkansas first.”

Taken together with Carter’s comments, these statements may signal a change in topics at the Capitol.

The time to look at the monetary issues is upon us. Tax cuts, economic development, Medicaid: It is time to turn legislative attention to these issues.

Both “sides” have had their halftime pep talks. Now it’s time to make a budget.