by Max Brantley
If you can't trust the American Legislative Exchange Council, who can you trust, particularly when the subject is what's good for business?
ALEC is the Koch- and big business-funded lobby that cranks out cookie cutter state legislation to advance the interests of big business. It functions as an ideological bureau of legislative research for Arkansas Republican lawmakers.
ALEC produces rankings of the states on economic performance and outlook.
Here's the latest report on Arkansas. We're fair-to-middling. Ranked at 22 on performance, an improvement from 25 a year ago. The Republican majority legislature didn't do all it could do, unfortunately, to prepare Arkanas for the future. After having a top quartile ranking (11 to 13) in economic outlook for the last five years under Democratic control, Arkansas plummeted to 24 this year based on 15 variables. Drawbacks include too many public employees and too big a sales tax burden by ALEC's standards, not to mention an income tax system that lacks progressivity and has too high a top marginal rate (the chart doesn't reflect a small coming cut in the top rate.)
Texas is No. 1 in performance and No. 12 in outlook.
So what's the point? Check out one of the key variables in the comparisons — State Liability System Survey. This is "tort litigation treatment, judicial impartiality, etc." If you follow this issue, you know that Texas is viewed as a wasteland for trial lawyers. Republicans have taken over the bench there and the legislature has done all it can to make it hard to sue corporations for damages in Texas. To hear the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce tell it, runaway judges and juries in Arkansas are a threat to economic survival. Thus it may try to amend the Constitution to be more like Texas and also to campaign to stock the appellate bench in Arkansas with business-friendlier judges.
So how do Arkansas and Texas compare on this vital tort ranking? It's a dead heat. Both states score 35 with ALEC.
As good (or bad) as Texas? What's not to like? Who needs an amendment?