While trying to figure out how to compare today’s Arkansas General Assembly to the ones of yesteryear, the sig line of a website commenter came to mind.
The nugget of information at the bottom of each post reminds that a federal guideline sets an allowable limit of two rodent hairs per 100 grams of peanut butter.
Not wanting to potentially destroy the veracity of that wonderful bit of culinary awfulness, the fact remains unchecked, but it does provide a jumping-off point for a political discussion.
Back in the day, Arkansans could count on their legislative branch to not utterly lose its collective mind and do something really dangerous or stupid enough to set a precedent. In return for that cushion, the state’s residents almost accepted as the cost of doing business the occasional boondoggle.
Take, for example, Nick Wilson.
Wilson represented the Pocahontas area in the state Senate for a long, long, long time. His service spanned the spectrum from the really good to the really bad. On the plus side of the ledger, he helped make Black River Technical College a regional hub of affordable academic study and marketable workplace training. He helped get roads and bridges, public facilities and programs that helped many poor, rural people in his district. On the other side, though, his ultimate political obituary begins with the scandal that turned him into a felon. He funneled several million taxpayer dollars to himself and his cronies.
Good Nick. Bad Nick.
But there wasn’t a Crazy Nick. Of course, Wilson was not the only Arkansas pol who did good things and greedy ones at the same time and over the same back-room table.
But even Wilson, power broker that he was, probably would stop short of some of the legislative zealousness of his successors.
To be sure, the General Assembly has not fallen completely off the wagon as have those in some other states. No one has taken to the floor of our state House or Senate to suggest secession. Nor have our legislators failed to come to an agreement on a budget for state government.
But, our Legislature is heading, if not quickly at least noticeably, in the direction of those across the land with way-out-there attempts to trump the federal government’s constitutional authority.
State Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, a number of fellow GOP General Assembly members and one Democrat, Sen. Gene Jeffress of Louann, have suggested tying Congress’ hands in regard to the national debt ceiling. Their plan, a constitutional amendment, would call for state legislatures to approve any limit increase to the country’s credit card.
Yes, you read that right. State representatives and senators from sea to shining sea would rule over not only state revenues but federal money and, therefore, expenditures.
If there’s any group less worthy than Congress to sit in judgment of such matters, that group would certainly include our collective 50 state legislative outfits.
State houses and senates are fertile breeding grounds for crazy ideas and half-baked, far-reaching plans. Many of the people elected to these positions shouldn’t be in charge of a small picnic, let alone a mechanism that would, in essence, control all federal spending.
To be sure, there are thousands of fine men and women serving their respective states in legislatures. The number of those who are half a bubble off plumb might be in the minority, but those folks are a loud minority, to be sure.
Such a debt ceiling measure would expansively grapple with all federal expenditures, and when even Congress can’t get its work done on deadline, how in the world would 50 state legislatures come to any sort of consensus in a timely manner? Not gonna happen.
This resolution should die a quick death so our General Assembly can get down to its business in this fiscal session. That work should include passing a new budget, adjourning and doing no more harm than necessary.
Even Nick Wilson would call foul on such a scheme, and, friends, that’s a mouthful.
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Rick Fahr is publisher of the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.