by Max Brantley
The Speaker has asked for and received tentative approval to appoint all committees taking into account his knowledge and appreciation of what he thinks our strengths, qualities, interests and initiatives with respect to legislation are. While he has presumed majority approval, I suggest that it is undemocratic, unwise and contrary to the best interests of the citizens of the State to allow the Speaker or anyone for that matter to have absolute control of who serves when, where and under what circumstances. That authority maybe abused without any recourse. Moreover, it may prevent each of us from being effective advocates for the interests on which we ran and were elected. Beyond that, it allows the Speaker to give favor and reward to some and punish others without recourse. No one person should have that authority. That authority is with the voters. The seniority system has worked well for decades. It has not benefited segments or individuals within the body except to the extent that we know for certain what the rules are. We cannot know what is in Speaker Gilliam's mind. This is not personal toward him but that authority should not be vested in anyone including the Governor of the State of Arkansas.
Image the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the US Congress determining who should be appointed to the committees thereof. It is possible that state interests may go unaddressed so that, for example, farming interests could be subverted by Speaker appointments from Industrial states are vice versa.
The people elected us to have a voice. That voice is to be heard in committees where most of the work of the Legislature takes place. We did not elect Speaker Gilliam as a czar. To allow this role makes that possible and more so likely.
I respectfully ask that each of you give serious consideration to the ramifications of his initiatives, determine whether his choice of where each of us would best serve and then reject his role in the appointment process except for committee chairpersons.