The upper chamber | Arkansas Blog

The upper chamber

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The House continues to merrily approve tax cuts the state can't afford. House members, making cheap plays for points with constituents, knows the Senate will clean up its mess. That's been the pattern all session (action yesterday on the gun permit secrecy bill was one example). I can tell you senators are getting tired of being forced into this position.

Well, the House can return the favor.

The amiable and moderate seeming Sen. Gilbert Baker has had a heckuva week. Earlier, he did a disingenuous turn with me in downplaying his role in serving the Religious Right on a little anti-contraceptive gruel in the state Education Department budget. Yesterday, he did far more harm. Using his Joint Budget co-chairmanship, he ignored procedure and prevented a fair vote on separate consideration of another Religious Right pet project -- providing financial subsidies to home schoolers (of which Baker is one).

With his guidance -- and over the clear objection of the majority on Joint Budget -- Baker rammed through an 11th hour doubling of state payments to home schoolers in the form of some $6 million in support to a so-called "virtual charter school." This is an outgrowth of a national money-making venture dreamed up by Republican Bill Bennett to create companies that siphon money away from public schools to fatten wallets of those providing nominal services to home schoolers at the same rate money is paid to schools with walls, teachers, janitors, gyms, labs, etc. It's a scam and an outrage and slick Gil passed it through Joint Budget yesterday like you-know-what through a goose. Details down in this story, overshadowed by the larger budget discussions, as Baker undoubtedly contemplated.

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