by Max Brantley
More thoughts this morning.
* IRS REVIEW OF TEA PARTY TAX APPLICATIONS: What a monumental screwup and, in the bargain, poorly handled in the rollout of the news. There must be consequences for the people responsible. The tragedy is that this will likely hinder, if not derail, deserved scrutiny of abuse of that portion of the tax code that is being exploited by overtly political groups in increasing ways. The story is stripped across the full width of the front page of the Charlottesville paper, as well as leading the Washington Post. The Tea Party is active and noisy in Virginia and when you can produce a government admission that somebody really WAS out to get you, it's enormously beneficial to the cause. Sigh.
* A DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR LT. GOV.: I received this note overnight from Dianne Curry, long-time Little Rock School Board member:
I am right now doing an exploratory campaign phase but will most likely announce I am a candidate for Lt. Governor in July as a Democrat. Some supporters have asked me to look at the state auditor's race, since I have experience as a former Bank Examiner, but I leaning towards running for Lt. Governor.
* REPUBLICAN ELECTION LAW: MORE BUREAUCRACY, MORE COST TO BENEFIT POLITICIANS: Waylon Harris reported an interesting political story yesterday in the Jonesboro Sun, which is utterly protected by a paywall. The gist is this: The Craighead County Election Commission is undertaking what will be a process with at least some expense for them to comply with Republican Rep. Charlie Collins' new law that requires election precincts to have no more than 3,000 voters. There's some indication the sponsors will seek to lower the number even further in a future session. Redrawing lines, perhaps the need for additional equipment, will be a cost for the small number of counties affected.
The really interesting part is the revelation of what this bill is about. It's to make political campaigning easier for political candidates. Smaller precincts will make it easier to "micro target" voters with mass mail.
Got it? Republicans sponsored legislation to make government more cumbersome, at some expense, for something that is no benefit of voters but is a benefit to political candidates who want to stuff your mailbox with alarmist fliers. This (in concert with Secretary of State Mark Martin) from the man whose other driving goal was to cut taxes for rich people. Oh, yes, and to put more guns on college campuses. On that, I see Henderson State has added itself to the list of campuses not wishing to take advantage of his law to allow staff to pack concealed weapons Of course, if the nutters have their way in court, Arkansas no longer will have any legal restrictions on gun toting anyway.
* MORE UNFINISHED LEGISLATIVE BUSINESS: Benji Hardy at Arkansas Legislative Digest has a blog post about some unfinished business — whether the legislature will attempt a veto override on the Sen. Bryan King legislation to seize control of the election oversight machinery in Arkansas. So far, the House has shown no willingness to do this. It's bad and unnecessary legislation, as Susan Inman pointed out at some length earlier. Insufficient attention has also been given to the fact that King has admitted part of his motivation for election tinkering was to get even with a political foe in Carroll County. The legislature has few bullies to match King.
* 75 PERCENT PAY RAISE FOR LITTLE ROCK DIRECTORS: The Democrat-Gazette reported this morning that, as expected, Mayor Mark Stodola has recommended a pay raise for city directors from $12,000 to $18,000 a year. (They'll return the favor by recommending a $25,000 or so boost for him, I'd wager.) But wait, you say. Isn't $6,000 a 50 percent pay raise? Yes, but Stodola also wants to give each director $3,000 more a year in a monthly "expense" draw. Since no accounting will be required, it will be taxed. It's income, in other words. $9,000 more a year is a 75 percent raise. You got a big raise this year, didn't you? City directors put in long hours for the most part. The pay has been fixed since 1994. But they also knew the circumstances when they ran. Did any of them campaign on seeking higher pay for the jobs they hold? And then there's the Tech Park boondoggle. This is the train wreck in which we still don't know exactly how $21 million in sales tax loot provided by the city board is going to be spent. It might be a sign that some of the time they're devoting to their job could have been more intelligently spent.
* SPEAKING OF PAY RAISES, OR THE REVERSE. TEACHERS TO TAKE A HIT: This story doesn't bode well for school teachers. It's a report in Talk Business that the state insurance fund for teachers has a $60 million shortfall. Premiums will have to go up or coverage down to cover the shortfall.
Over to you ....
Should there be any Wahoos out there, I'm staying just a few yards from Rugby Road — as in the old UVA school song, "... from Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill we're gonna get drunk tonight...." I, however, will be driving.