by Max Brantley
At the legislature today:
* NONPARTISAN PROSECUTORS: The House approved, 63-24, a bill to provide for nonpartisan election of prosecuting attorneys. The bill had bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition. One Republican who spoke in opposition, Rep. Stephen Meeks, said that partisan labels served as a useful tool for informing voters about political philosophy and he said his local Republican prosecutor opposed the bill. The prevailing argument was that the bill would remove any possibility of partisan taint of prosecutorial decisions, though nobody offered any examples of that happening. And it was noted that candidates already may run as independents.
* 'TORT REFORM': I note some movement on a hot issue, the competing efforts to craft a constitutional amendment to overcome Arkansas Supreme Court decisions that have overturned earlier legislative efforts to curb awards in damage lawsuits. Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, who's carrying the chamber of commerce interests on the issue, has amended his proposal that originally stripped the court of rule-making power on damage lawsuits. I'm trying to find out if this will have the effect of undercutting a competing proposal from Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, who surprised Williams with a proposal backed by bipartisan sponsors that also had support from plaintiffs' lawyers. It would institute some limits, but is something of a compromise with the more extreme approach favored by the business lobby.
UPDATE: The chamber will make a run at pushing Eddie Joe Williams' constitutional amendment out of committee tomorrow, I"m told by opponents. The plaintiffs' bar remains in opposition. The chamber has shown no willingness to compromise. It continues to push with the amendment and companion legislation to reinstate a way for the legislature to strip the Supreme Court of jursdictional power, put caps on non-economic damage, make losers pay in lawsuits, remove the nursing home patients bill of rights and just about everything else a corporate interest could love. In this legislature, you have to like their chances.