by Max Brantley
Legislative news begins to simmer .... Republican Rep. Duncan Baird will be House chair of Joint Budget ... Democratic Rep. John Edwards will chair the Legislative Council ... bills are being filed ... voter ID ... repeal of the ban on cell phones on school campuses, to be replaced with individual school policies ... state income tax credit for private school tuition ... a nickel-an-acre increase in the private timberland tax to shore up the Forestry Commission ... our former colleague Warwick Sabin of Little Rock was elected chair of the 41-member freshmen caucus — and lots more.
House Speaker Davy Carter is expected to name the committee chairs during his opening speech.
Carter likely will talk about taxes and repeat his desire to make the state income tax system fairer. Here's a way NOT to do that. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wants to eliminate the personal income tax and replace the lost revenue with a sales tax increase. Bottom line: Windfall for wealthy, tax increases for 80 percent of tax payers.
UPDATE: Carter appointed seven Republicans and four Democrats to committee chairmanships. Terry Rice, who lost the House speaker's seat to Carter's late candidate, will chair Joint Performance and Review, often a place that executive agencies can run into trouble on contract work. Noted that Rep. John Burris, who joined Carter's insurgency and who's been a persistent critic of the Beebe administration on Medicaid and Obama-related health issues, will chair Public Health. The rich man's friend, tax slashing Republican Charlie Collins will head Revenue and Taxation. Note the word "revenue," Rep. Collins.
Here's a summary from Talk Business and their list of chairmanships.
Revenue and Tax — Rep. Charlie Collins (R)
Education — Rep. James McLean (D)
Insurance and Commerce — Rep. Tommy Wren (D)
Judiciary — Rep. Marshall Wright (D)
Public Health — Rep. John Burris (R)
Agriculture and Economic Development — Rep. Matthew Shepherd (R)
State Agencies — Rep. Andrea Lea (R)
City, County and Local — Rep. David Fielding (D)
Transportation — Rep. Jonathan Barnett (R)
Rules — Rep. Stephanie Malone (R)
Aging, Legislative, Youth — Rep. David Meeks (R)
Joint Retirement — Rep. Allen Kerr (R)
Joint Energy — Rep. David Branscum (R)
David Ramsey of the Times asked Carter about Burris' appointment and whether anything should be read into it related to Medicaid.
“No, I’m still getting my thoughts in order on that issue," he said. "public health committee is pretty diverse — 11 Democratic members and nine repubican members. I don’t think that has any real outcome on the debate, so I wouldn’t read a whole lot in to that.”
He continued: “Rep. Burris is pretty open with his thoughts. He’s a great colleague of mine, been through a lot here together. He’s an open book, you can ask him anything you want to ask and he’ll tell you more than I’ll tell you.”
Did Burris ask for the slot?
"Burris is capable of doing a lot of things. That was one area where I think you’re going to have a lot of you guys asking a lot of questions of that person that has that chair. Rep. Burris certainly handles himself well in that regard. He’s just a good personality to be there."