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The legislature rolls on: Westerman effort to clean up revenue cap fails

Posted by Max Brantley on Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 1:37 PM

Several significant bills on the legislative agenda today:

* GOVERNMENT SPENDING: Rep. Bruce Westerman failed to amend his government-strangling HB 1041 to place an arbitrary cap (no more than 3 percent, but less in hard times) on state spending growth. The amendment would have addressed structural problems pointed out with the original bill, particularly the cap it placed on spending of gross revenues, an amount from which operation of statewide offices and other expenses are taken off the top. Some separation of powers problems there.

Westerman got 49 votes for the amendment, not enough to pass it. I haven't seen the roll call yet, but that suggests he's mainly got the Stepford Republican Caucus and most of its 49 votes behind his bill, but few others. For now, Gov. Mike Beebe is winning one. (UPDATE: Two Democrats, John Edwards and John Catlett voted for the amendment. Four Republicans didn't vote, two because of absences and one Speaker Carter, who traditionally doesn't vote.)

* LOTTERY SCHOLARSHIPS: The House passed, 69-21, HB 1295 to change lottery scholarship amounts to a system that provides less for all recipients, but comparatively more for students in the third and fourth years of a four-year college education. Two-year students now get $2,250 and Four-year students get $4,500. The bill changes the amount to $2,000 for all first-year students, regardless of institution, then $3,000, $4,000 and $5,000 for second-, third- and fourth-year students in four-year colleges. A two-year college student would be limited to $2,000 the second year. Cumulatively, community college students take less of a cut than four-year students, particularly the first two years. Two-year students going forward take an 11 percent cut in the first two years over current amounts. Four-year students take a 44 percent cut.

* VOTE SUPPRESSION BY VOTER ID: The Republican Party's bill, sponsored by Bryan King, to suppress Democratic voter constituencies by requiring a voter ID to vote was delayed briefly in the Senate today by addition of an amendment that, among others, removed a photo ID requirement for nursing home residents and made other changes. None lessen the burden on obtaining IDs by people who don't have them or a second trip to a courthouse to attempt to get a challenged vote counted, a process that resulted in wholesale invalidation of votes in states where Republicans have legislated similar schemes.

* TEACHING THE BIBLE IN SCHOOL: "This bill does almost nothing," says Rep. Denny Altes of his bill to allow school districts to develop curriculum for teaching an "academic study" of the Bible. No debate. Three no votes. Is there a better example of the empty demagoguery that defines this legislature in the era of Republican majority? A bill that does nothing but blatantly designed to pander to a narrow interest group.

* 20-WEEK ABORTION BILL PASSES SENATE: Rep. Andy Mayberry's bill to ban abortions in the 20th week of pregnancy and after (except to save a mother's life or in cases of rape and incest) passed the Senate 25-7 and goes back to the House for concurrence in amendments. By banning abortion before fetal viability, the law violates current U.S. Supreme Court precedent. A lawsuit is a certainty when, not if, it becomes law. The no votes — L. Chesterfield, Elliott, S. Flowers, K. Ingram, D. Johnson, U. Lindsey
D. Wyatt. Not voting, same as a no in effect: Burnett, E. Cheatham, B. Pierce.

* POLICE POWER EXPANDED FOR CHURCH COLLEGE: The House approved, 84-4, Rep. Mark Biviano's bill to give police powers to private college police forces. Biviano is home to Harding University. Rep. Jim Nickels questioned giving police power to a private entity and asked whether constitutional rights would be protected. Biviano said similar statutes had been upheld in other states.

* GUN SECRECY: The House was scheduled to vote today on Sen. Fireball Holland's to make secret the names of people issued concealed carry permits by the state of Arkansas. But the bill was passed over. It would end the tiny shred of accountability the list now provides for errors in permits granted and in checkusp on permit holders who commit acts that should result in loss of permits. Meaningful resistance? Hard to fathom in the God, Guns and Fetuses Session of the General Assembly.

Comments (12)

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"...his bill to allow school districts to develop curriculum for teaching an "academic study" of the Bible. "

Pure posturing. School districts already have that ability, along with any other religious book. The Supreme Court stated plainly public schools "may sponsor the study of religion but may not sponsor the practice of religion.." It went on to say schools "may expose students to all religious views but may not impose any particular religious view on its students." It's obivious the function of the schools is to educate students about all religions, not convert students to any one religion.

That's what the Altes of this nation can't stand.

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Posted by Cato on 02/18/2013 at 2:20 PM

A month into the session and they have yet to do anything that helps the state and its residents, all they have done is pass bills that are guaranteed to cost of money defending lawsuits.

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Posted by arkdemocrat on 02/18/2013 at 2:38 PM

When Arkansas loses at the lowest level in the federal court system on the Andy of Mayberry and RAPErt of the Vagina's abortion bils, I assume the state has existing legal talent on board in the AGs office already paid for and thus will lose no money except for the useful work these atttorneys could have been doing. There is no reason for Dustin, for the state AG's office, to appeal the decision. Are the Rapert/Mayberrys of the world willing to take up a collection among their friends to buy legal counsel? If the lower courts uphold legal precedent, why should we taxpayers, who don't support any of this foolishness (and the month of wasted time), have to pay for the state to be made the laughing stock of the nation AGAIN. Hell, we are making Jon Stewart and Leno three days a week already (and Stewart is only on 4 days a week).

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Posted by couldn't be better on 02/18/2013 at 2:46 PM

Mississippians already heard saying, "Thank God for Arkansas."

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Posted by Norma Bates on 02/18/2013 at 3:08 PM

To which narrow interest group does the Altes bill pander, Max? If you're referring to conservative Christians in Arkansas who believe the Bible should be taught in school, I'd say the AT readership is the more narrow interest group--not that there's anything wrong with that, as in supporting the Constitution. Or am I missing something?

Related note: Did I see somewhere that ALEC's minions across the nation are pushing bills to mandate teaching a 'balanced' view of global warming, i.e., scientists are wrong, just like evolution? Any word on such in Ark?

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Posted by Bulkington on 02/18/2013 at 3:17 PM

LOTTERY SCHOLARSHIPS:

Heard a KUAF report at end of last week. Two Year college programs have a 69% incompletion or dropout rate. Four year colleges not so many. UA has the highest number of entering students graduate.

Speaking of lottery numbers. While the scholarship lottery has lost gross revenues (down from $100 mil to $84 million per yr) seems the horse and dog tracks are making out like bandits:

ELECTRONIC WAGERS OFF TO FAST START IN 2013: The latest statistics released by the Arkansas Racing Commission show that casino-style gambling at Oaklawn and Southland are off to a fast start in 2013. Hot Springs-based Oaklawn posted January EGS wagers of $79.877 million, a 22% increase from January 2012. West Memphis-based Southland totaled $148.262 million in EGS wagers in January 2013, a 13% uptick from the previous year.
--Talk Business, today

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Posted by eLwood on 02/18/2013 at 3:22 PM

I wonder who the school districts will find who actually knows the history of the Bible as most school teachers aren't going to give a balanced view. You need a Father Tribou who called them as they were, good and evil, and I would expect what the districts need will be a good Jesuit that wouldn't mind degrading themselves to put up with a public school system.

There are Benedictines at Subiaco but most protestant ministers actual knowledge of church history wouldn't come anywhere near the historical background of Father Tribou or Richard Dixon at LRU/UALR. But I am betting that Altes doesn't really want a balanced world religion history course. And most the "literature" value is in the Old Testament which also has some of the most violent, gory, and sexual parts of the Bible (but I bet they want to skip those part).

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Posted by couldn't be better on 02/18/2013 at 5:39 PM

Norma - "Mississippians already heard saying, "Thank God for Arkansas."

This is the future. Mississippi will have a much better telecom infrastructure than Arkansas when AT&T shuts down their copper wireline network. Mississippi's state government was much smarter than Arkansas's about wireline utility quality-of-service.

Senator David Johnson got the quality-of-service provisions abolished from Arkansas utility statutes. He is described as 'progressive'.

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Posted by radical centrist on 02/18/2013 at 5:54 PM

The epitome of hypocrisy -- pedophile priest/minister praying
outside a Planned Parenthood Clinic to end abortion!

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Posted by ButWhoCares on 02/18/2013 at 7:08 PM

FDR summed the gop quite awhile ago an nothing has changed.

"A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward."

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Posted by ButWhoCares on 02/18/2013 at 7:14 PM

By admitting that "this bill does absolutely nothing," Altes proves that he should be removed from office. He presents legislation just to pander to Bible-thumping, conservative voters. I have observed Arkansas legislatures since the one of 1959, which gave birth to all of the infamous "Bruce Bennett Bills," to attempt to circumvent integration of the public schools. They were all passed overwhelmingly; none of them survived court challenge, after costing the state a lot of money in attorneys fees, and the law of the land was upheld. Previously, I believed it was the worst session yet. Now, I have changed my mind, the current legislative session is the worst ever.

This is exactly the situation that we have today with all the anti-abortion bills in the legislature. In a very revealing article in the Democrat-Gazette Sunday, the advocates of those bills admitted that they knew the bills ran counter to the current law of the land, but they were deliberately trying to force a new court test, hoping that the Supreme Court would change its position. I ask all Arkansas voters who are not foaming-at-the mouth, hopeless anti-abortion warriors, such as my state Senator, Cecile Bledsoe, whether this is responsible legislation? I will answer my own question by saying, of course it is not. A responsible legislator does not pick fights that he knows he can not win. The anti-abortion warriors should know, by know, that Roe and Casey are the law of the land, and the Supreme Court is not going to overrule them. So, the bastards are playing politics, and nothing more. Is that responsible legislating?

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Posted by plainjim on 02/18/2013 at 8:39 PM

Rep. Weatherman= major dumbass!

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Posted by RYD on 02/19/2013 at 10:38 PM
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