Rounding up legislative activity:
* CLEAN WATER (NOT): The House Public Health Committee approved a bill gutting water quality standards in Arkansas. HB 1929 by Rep. Andy Davis weakens federal standards, another sort of interposition of Arkansas interests against those of the federal government. Environmental regulators and the Arkansas Public Policy Panel raised questions about the legislation. Fruitlessly.
* SCHOOLS: The House Education Committee fell one vote short of approving a bill calling for a two-year moratorium on consolidation of small school districts.
* VOTE SUPPRESSION: The Senate Rules Committee is hearing debate on whether a two-thirds vote is required to pass the Voter ID bill, which would change constitutional guidance on voter rules significantly. The majority Democratic Committee will issue a recommendation that the majority Republican full Senate is free to ignore. I'm guessing the bill — aimed at depressing vote among key Democratic constituencies, particularly minority groups — will pass sooner or later. And then wind up in court, not for procedural reasons but constitutional ones. UPDATE: On a party line vote, the Senate Rules Committee said a supermajority vote is required. Now to the full Senate. A simple majority vote is required to ignore the Rules Committee and then to pass the bill and send it to the governor. Done and done, final vote 22-12 (short of two-thirds).
* CORPORATE WELFARE: It's a bipartisan article of faith that if you cut taxes enough, people will create jobs in Arkansas, despite the mountain of evidence that natural resources, workforce, venture capital and good ideas are a whole lot more efficacious that state tax handouts. Nonetheless, the latest corporate welfare scheme from the legislature (Darrin Williams and Jonathan Dismang, props.) gives a
corporate tax break premium tax credit for investments in companies that agree to create OR RETAIN jobs paying an average wage of 115 percent of the federal poverty level.
Wow, what a deal. 115 percent of the federal poverty level is $13,213 for a single person.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25, or $290 a week or $15,080 a year. So we'd hand out a fat tax benefit for sub-minimum wage jobs, including to companies to simply RETAIN existing jobs? As usual, this is touted as a powerful economic engine. If corporate welfare was a powerful economic engine Arkansas would be Silicon Valley.
CORRECTION: I based my original item on the Talk Business summary. The bill requires a wage of 115 percent of the poverty level for a family of four, or $27,000 a year, a bit more than $520 a week, which does exceed the minimum wage at $13 an hour. And that item has been corrected to clarify that the incentive is a premium tax credit, as opposed to a corporate tax reduction.
* GUN NUTTERY: The House approved legislation to strip the governor of the power to limit sale, dispensing or transportation of firearms in emergency situations. The governor still may limit alcohol, combustibles and explosives. The vote was 78-9, with 11 present and two not voting. Amazingly, this thoroughly unnecessary bit of gun demagoguery did not carry an "emergency clause."