by Max Brantley
The Arkansas legislature faces a six-day week next week because of the need for extended meetings to complete action on pending business before the currently scheduled end of the session April 19.
Side words about that: The avalanche of excessive government proposed by the Republican majority for every ill, grievance, social agenda and pet project imaginable is a major portion of the problem. Gun, Gods and fetuses, anyone. Meanwhile, the rush to strip government of environmental power, to reorder government to further weaken the executive branch and strengthen the (majority Republican) legislative branch, to cosset the wealthy and, finally, maybe, get around to health care creates additional pressures. Count me unsympathetic that the little Caesars have to put in a few hours of overtime. The Senate has been working steady four-day weeks to begin with.
Long days build tension, though, and there's plenty there.
Pending is a House vote to override Gov. Mike Beebe's veto aimed at suppressing turnout by Democratic leaning voter constituencies, otherwise known as the Voter ID bill. Sen. Bryan King, the bully of the Senate, pitched a fit last week when House Speaker Davy Carter put off a vote until the coming week because of the press of other business. King called Carter a flip-flopper and said he'd been dishonest.
When the subject came up on Twitter last night, Carter commented:
What's more, the wackjob former Republican Rep. Jon Hubbard sent Carter an e-mail haranguing him for failing to put the veto override at the top of the agenda Thursday. Carter's response to Hubbard, which he took pains to share with several colleagues:
Jon, the wonderful thing about being re-elected is that I like my colleagues have a vote. Frankly, I don’t give a damn what you think.
Certainly suggests there'll be a little creative tension in the mix this coming week.
Speculation continues to be fevered on what, exactly, is up. Nobody really believes Carter put off a vote solely because of a busy agenda. If he joined the other 50 Republicans, the override would have been done in minutes, after a few obligatory remarks in opposition from Democrats.
Are Carter and his Democratic staff chief Gabe Holmstrom trying to push some Democrats to support the override in return for favors Carter has extended? This could take Carter off the hook politically because the speaker typically votes only in rare cases. As a potential statewide candidate, Carter might not want to join the vote suppression parade. Might Carter actually vote AGAINST an override? Gov. Beebe, who's worked well and closely with Carter, gave persuasive reasons for his veto.
A word about motives: Watching Arkansas Week last night, I heard yet another journalist parrot the sole Republican specific evidence for the need for voter ID, the absentee vote buying case against former Democratic Rep. Hudson Hallum. It's irrelevant and either inaccurate or, if you know better, dishonest to suggest that it is applicable. Photo ID was not a factor then, and wouldn't be in the future, on absentee voting.
Republicans insist fraud is rampant, though they've produced no evidence. Fact is, as a Republican official in Pennsylvania admitted in taped remarks, these bills are precisely about discouraging turnout. The cost of obtaining a photo ID, or returning to a county courthouse to validate a voter's legitimacy after a ballot is challenged for lack of ID, imposes a cost on voters equivalent or greater than a poll tax, held unconstitutional by courts back in the days when civil rights meant something to the U.S. Supreme Court. Academic study concludes that Voter ID and other voter control laws have had disparate impact on the poor and minorities.
Republicans wouldn't be so hot to trot about getting this done if they didn't expect immediate, concrete rewards.
Grab some popcorn for the show.