Bullying the new guy
If a legislator wants an interim study of whether water flows uphill, his colleagues will oblige him, and likely pitch in a few thousand dollars of taxpayers' money to aid the investigation. As a matter of legislative etiquette, requests for interim studies are always approved.
Or so was the case until last week, when the joint Committee on Insurance and Commerce showed Rep. Richard Carroll the discourtesy of killing his proposal to study whether home warranties should be regulated. From this unusual action, we can deduce that: (1) Powerful special interests — realtors in this case — were opposed to the study. The realtors' fearful lobbyist, former Rep. Ted Mullenix, was working the room; committee members were armed with hostile questions for Carroll, who was unprepared for such an attack. (2) The proposal had merit. The General Assembly does not treat bad ideas cavalierly, whether they be in the form of bills, resolutions or interim studies. Truly, only the good die young in this arena. (3) Legislators were displeased with the sponsor of the study. One outspoken committee member, Rep. Allen Maxwell of Monticello, said openly what others would not — that committee members seemed to be conducting a vendetta against Carroll.
A winningly naive first-termer, Representative Carroll himself has not alleged that committee members were laying for him personally. He professes to believe that it was only his proposal that riled them. (The study, incidentally, was requested by Carroll constituents who feel that home warranty companies took advantage of them. The companies presently run loose.) But Carroll represents a working-class, predominantly black district in North Little Rock, and Carroll himself is a working man, a boilermaker. He's also white standing up for blacks. There are legislators who find all these circumstances distasteful. A representative of an upscale white district never need fear such harsh treatment for his interim-study requests.
Let it be noted that the committee co-chairmen, Sen. Barbara Horn of Foreman and Rep. Eddie Hawkins of Vilonia, both insurance agents, didn't just sit on their hands while a fellow legislator was being abused. To the contrary, they joined in the abuse, both voting to kill Carroll's request. They should apologize, or resign, and the committee should reconsider Carroll's request and approve it. If the study produces an actual bill, those who believe consumers need no protection can vote against it then. A slight delay before caving in is surely not too much to ask.
An odor of insincerity
For the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to say it's protective of workers' rights is like the Ku Klux Klan announcing support for affirmative action.