by Max Brantley
Here's how it looks like it will go: Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford will, properly, recommend Planned Parenthood's proposal to hire seven workers to "navigate" people through the process of getting health coverage. The organization promises that none of the money will go to the abortion services that are among its wide range of health services. The contract will be submitted to the a Republican-controlled legislative "review" committee. The committee will express disapproval because legislators want to put Planned Parenthood out of business over abortion. Gov. Mike Beebe will bow to the unconstitutional wishes of the committee majority and instruct Bradford not to attempt to go forward with the contract.
Will Planned Parenthood file a can't-lose lawsuit over this clear case of viewpoint discrimination? Perhaps not, in trade for the fact that the legislative review panel didn't veto a small HIV-education grant that passed through Friday. (PS: Survival of that grant is less significant than it might appear. It would have been extraordinary for an interim committee to overturn action of the regular legislature, which beat an effort to strip that contract from Planned Parenthood in a House committee.)
Camp followers of the Republican bullies who have set out to deprive Planned Parenthood of equal citizenship rights will argue that this is the proper course. Otherwise, they'll say, offended Republicans might undo the Obamacare plan to the detriment of tens of thousands of Arkansas citizens. The sycophants of Rep. John Burris and Sen. David Sanders, who are now in charge of state government, say it would be Planned Parenthood's fault if Republicans reneged on health care expansion.
"You made me shoot you," is not a valid defense to a homicide charge.
So this particular skirmish may be done. But the larger issue isn't. It's about nothing less than the future of three-branch government.
With surrender, Gov. Mike Beebe hastens the demolition of the executive branch of government. That was already the case in the session, given how easy it is to sustain a veto override under the Arkansas Constitution. But now, every executive action can be thwarted by threat-wielding bullies in interim committee action.
The legislature, by the way, has plans in the works to complete the end of executive power in law as well as practice with a proposed constitutional amendment that turns the existing review process into an actual legislative approval process. In theory, review currently means just that — review — though it functions as approval.
If the amendment is adopted, the governor will become a bit player, a custodian. His agencies will operate wholly at the pleasure of the legislature. Planned Parenthood and any other person, group or business held unacceptable to Burris, Sanders, Rapert and Co. will not be allowed to do business with the state. Sooner or later, lawsuits will be filed and lost by the state over such discrimination.
One wonders what the bullies have in mind for the judicial branch.