PROBLEM SOLVED: Special session business included legislation to give more freedom to ATV drivers to operate on state highways.
The Arkansas legislature
will slouch toward home today and look back at what?
* A first-in-the-nation effort to regulate pharmacy benefit managers
. Do you trust
the Republican legislature in Arkansas to be on the cutting edge of wise health policy? Forgive my skepticism.
* New legislation that, at a minimum, limits the ability of the public to protest poorly operated hog farms
and other livestock operations. If the legislation really does nothing but "reassure" farmers, as a sponsor insisted, did we really need it at all? I predict it will eventually be invoked in the matter of Buffalo River watershed factory hog farming.
* Protection for lending contracts that strip consumers of jury trials
. This was prompted by a single — ONE — lawsuit
that didn't go the way a bank liked. It was originally written to be a backdoor tort reform bill for every type of contract under the sun. The best assurance I can get from good legislators is that this bill is now not as bad as it started and, well, if there are problems they can be corrected in 2019. Free beer tomorrow.
* We amended our open container alcohol law
to comply with federal rules so as to free up some highway money. OK, we are a little late to the game in taking steps to reduce alcohol-influenced highway carnage. Better late than never, even if it took a carrot of federal dollars to get it done. PS: Rules could have been suspended to handle this in the regular fiscal session that ended Monday.
* We approved a back-door school voucher bill
. Yes, any legislation that transfers general tax revenue to private schools — as this bill will do to the tune of $5.2 million or more a year — is effectively a voucher bill. It was dishonestly depicted by the governor and every other supporter as a mere reflection of federal law. It is not. The feds give no tax deduction for contributions to 529 savings plans as this will do for Arkansas taxpayers. But even this isnt
the big problem. Walton-paid lobbyists are already beating the drums for even more taxpayer support of private schools. One of them is arguing that the state Constitution's provision of a state-maintained system of adequate public schools does not prohibit sending taxpayer money to the private school of a parent's choice. The voucher train is coming. This little bill was just the oncoming whistle.
* With Senate approval today, ATV operators will no longer be subject
to a three-mile limit of driving on highways or public streets to get from one off-road adventure to another. The drivers will be able to declare what is the best way for them to move from place to place on vehicles not designed for highway travel. If the best way for an ATV driver to get from Felsenthal to a trail near Bentonville is 300 miles of U.S. highway driving, well, that's for them to decide.
Does ANY of this sound like an emergency? Are Arkansas citizens better off after several hundred thousand dollars worth of palaver and per diem?