I heard some statehouse related predictions this morning related to key players in the coming legislative session. We shall see. Make a note:
1) Gov. Mike Beebe will call tomorrow for a one-cent reduction in the remaining three-cent state tax on groceries. Cost: About $40 million. It's about all the state can afford in tight times, he'll say, but he'll continue to move toward his pledge to end the tax. All legislators may not immediately buy this tax break. Some will argue instead for corporate tax breaks left on the sideline in 2007. Legislators always prefer to trickle down on us in favor of the guys who buy them steaks and martinis.
2) Death Star Bob Johnson, the rising Senate president pro tem, will attempt to burnish (scratch that: create) a legacy as a statesman. Already, he's been quoted as favoring a return to gubernatorial control of the general improvement fund, once the focus of legislative battles that helped create The Brotherhood that he now controls. Of course, annual legislative sessions and tight money probably means there'll be no money left to fight over. Could Death Star earn retirement of the moniker by fair, moderate and successful leadership of the Senate?
3) House Speaker Robbie Wills' top priority is to create a statewide trauma system and save some rural health clinics. Nobody is likely to oppose the general idea. Money, as ever, is the sticking point. Is a new tax on cigarettes possible as a means? I vote aye.
So much to do and so little will to do right. Environmental protection of the Fayetteville shale territory. Punishing animal cruelty. Meeting school suffiency with a tight budget. Tougher ethics laws. The Equal Rights Amendment. (Arkansas legislators ready to declare women should enjoy equal protection of the law? Not before snipe hunts about unisex bathrooms and gay marriage, I can assure you, no matter the irrelevancy.)