Long hours and lots of 11th-hour mischief as legislature grinds on | Arkansas Blog

Long hours and lots of 11th-hour mischief as legislature grinds on

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The legislature met into the evening last night and the rush to pass pet projects produced actions too numerous to chronicle (which is the idea in many cases):

* THE PEOPLE DON'T RULE: After failure in committee, House pressure (including committee retribution against Senate bills by House Speaker Jeremy Gillam) prompted a Senate committee to "sign out" Gillam's pet constitutional project, an amendment that would all but shut the door on popularly initiated constitutional amendments. Corporate interests prefer to control the constitutional amendment process through the legislative halls. This amendment will insure that. It goes to the full Senate today and, if approved, to the ballot.

* THE LAW THAT SHALL NOT BE ENFORCED: Speaker Gillam took the rare step of going to the floor last night in support of legislation. Important stuff it was, too. SB 496, which mustered 53 votes and now goes to the Senate, prohibits ABC agents from enforcing the law against gambling machines. In some jurisdictions, authorities are willing to ignore anti-gambling laws, but ABC agents have rained on the parade of some alcohol permit holders who've attempted to juice their profit margins with gambling machines. The stench of corruption is strong.

Rep. Dwight Tosh said it was unimaginable that the legislature was about to strip a statewide law enforcement agency of its ability to enforce a law. "If we pass this piece of legislation we are entering into dangerous, extremely dangerous, uncharted waters. What's going to be next?" Will the legislature say the State Police can no longer write a ticket for a speeding?

Speaker Gillam defended the bill. He said he'd delegated sponsor, Rep Lanny Fite, to look into complaints about ABC. He suggested the ABC had been "overzealous" and had gotten into issues they shouldn't get into. He said he'd rather ABC worry about alcohol and marijuana, a new enforcement responsibility of agency. "Slot machines never killed you. Bingo never killed you. Drugs and alcohol have." He claimed it was a manpower issue. This is disingenuous by half. It's an issue of people making big, untaxed money off illegal gambling who want to shut down law enforcement.

* THE KOCHS AT WORK: The Koch lobby group, Americans for Prosperity, scored an after-normal-hours victory last night by pushing through committee a bill opposed by most government institutions to end special elections. Elections would have to be held on May primary or November general election dates in election years and in May and November in off-years. The theory is that voting all library, city, county, school and other tax issues on occasions with bigger turnouts will produce more defeats for increased government spending. The bill goes to the House. It was some amendments that will require Senate concurrence.

These items only scratch the surface of 11th-hour devilment, but they are representative.


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