by Max Brantley
What have I missed in five hours away while the legislature plays:
* DEEP POCKETS MCDANIEL: Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has offered to provide $450,000 from court settlements won on behalf of the state to solve the lingering shortfall in the fund that pays for salaries of 120 assistants to circuit judges. I've asked which settlements the money is being drawn from and whether they are cases in which court orders are already in effect. I'm not aware of any state class action lawsuits in which avoiding furloughs for circuit judge staff members would seem to relate. The state should pay trial court assistants. I understand the appeal of any source in a drought. But I'm still not sure it's constitutional or wise for the attorney general, whatever the practice has been, to act as both executive and legislative in doling out money won in the name of the state.
UPDATE: The money came from $2 million that went into the a.g.'s office
slush, er, consumer education and enforcement fund in a lawsuit over Zyprexa and $185,000 for attorney fees in a case against DirectTV. No mention of trial court assistants in either order or the efficient administration of justice.
* IRRESPONSIBILITY ABOUNDS: Sen. Jason Rapert, the puffed-up peacock of a preacherman, claims to be gaining strength for his proposal to add Arkansas, right behind misbegotten Louisiana, to states that would allow legislators like themselves to control the federal budget. In times of financial crisis, only the convening and affirmative vote of 26 legislatures (each, you can be sure, with special agenda items to complicate the deal-making), could allow for budget deficit increases under the debt ceiling amendment. Ernie Dumas has outlined the idiocy.
Unless the country takes leave of its collective good sense and amends the U.S. Constitution for this idiotic meddling, Rapert's agenda is just about this election, not the future of the country or the next generation. But here's immediate harm: In a budget where every penny counts and John Burris would like to lay off the equivalent of 400 or so state workers just to show he and the Republicans can, we have Republicans leading the charge to cut taxes on the truckers who tear up our highways without adequately paying for it. Legislation to prevent the tax cut — which takes effect July 1 but was meant to offset a diesel tax increase that truckers reneged on seeking — will be introduced in the House. The Senate? Hard to say.