by Max Brantley
No country for old liberals. Happy to see this week close. Finishing up:
* MORE LEGISLATIVE SUGGESTIONS: Let's have a law that says when the Arkansas legislature passes a bill that is unconstitutional, that legislators who gave it roll call approval be assessed a pro rata share of the legal expenses. Also, fingerprint scanning for legislators to receive coverage under the state employee insurance system. And drug testing for all incoming legislators and random testing for all legislators on a periodic basis. And random Breathalyzer screens every afternoon.
* AND SPEAKING OF LEGISLATORS' INSURANCE: Thanks to Jason Lee at the state employee benefits division for spending a healthy part of a busy day putting together the complete rundown on participation by the current legislature (my earlier numbers only included current members who served last year) in the state employee insurance program. The chart that follows shows that 52 of 100 current House members and 21 of 35 current Senate members avail themselves of heavily subsidized state health insurance, in addition to about $15,000 in annual pay and expense reimbursements that typically more than double their pay. State taxpayers contribute from $148 a month for the cheapest employee-only plan to $862 a month for the best plan with coverage of spouse and children. The total cost of all the coverage to taxpayers, through direct contributions and reserve fund payments, is about $233,000. All but 12 of the legislators are covering a spouse, or children or both, in addition to themselves. The state says federal law prevents identification of which legislator is receiving this handsome benefit. Ask yours, particularly if he or she is one of those resisting providing health coverage to poverty-level working people. (Click this link to see a bigger version.)
PS — Roby Brock ran down insurance numbers on the legislature last year, and talked to a few who have been on the dole, including such as Cecile Bledsoe, a doctor's wife and firm opponent of Obamacare.