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Legislative session devoted to easy living for corporations

The Arkansas legislature seems to think that corporations are better people than you and me.

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Crazy for corporations

The Supreme Court has said that corporations are people just like you and me. The Arkansas legislature seems to think that corporations are better people than you and me.

Much of the current legislative session has been devoted to efforts to keep the living easy for corporations, or in some cases to make it even easier. Making life easier for them usually means making it harder for the undeserving rest of us.

A bill that would make multistate corporations pay their fair share of state income taxes, as individuals and small businesses must, didn't make it out of a House of Representatives Committee, the committee members staunch in protecting Walmart and Walgreen from bullying by Arkansas tax collectors.

Sixteen legislators have banded together in a caucus to protect natural gas drilling companies from regulation and taxation, and perhaps even from criticism, if the caucusers can figure out a way around the First Amendment.

There has never been a caucus formed to protect injured workers, so HB 1840 likely will sail smoothly through the legislative process. HB 1840 is a Chamber of Commerce bill that would undo all pro-worker decisions by courts and regulators since 1993, when the corporations won passage of a strong anti-worker bill that they now fear is being weakened by soft-hearted judges. Organized labor is resisting the new bill, but labor resisted the '93 bill, too, and was overcome. The legislators are not Johnnies-come-lately to the cause of corporate preservation.

Corporations don't live by denying benefits to injured workers alone, however. They crave tax breaks too, and legislators are eager to provide them. Bills have been introduced to grant tax exemptions for the fuels used by manufacturers, for equipment used in timber harvesting, for materials used in construction projects, and for agribusiness equipment, among others.

Conspicuously missing from the session, because it might offend corporations presumably, is legislation such as has been introduced in Vermont, a resolution calling for an amendment to the United States Constitution that would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's perverse Citizens United decision, which allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. The Court said these expenditures were a form of "free speech" for the "corporate person." Justice John Paul Stevens replied in memorable and sensible dissent, "Corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. ... [T]hey are not members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established." But Stevens was in the minority. Corporatocracy is coming unless we the people stand up to stop it, but Arkansas legislators remain firmly in their seats.

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