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Legislature handling substantive gun, ethics issues

And handled them not too badly, so far.

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As always, the legislature has found time for frivolity — a new state motto, Ronald Reagan's birthday, etc. — but it has dealt with substantive issues as well. And handled them not too badly, so far.

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee killed a bill that would have allowed handguns to be carried openly. This may have been the first time ever that the Arkansas legislature rejected a bill backed by the National Rifle Association. It's possible the NRA was not devoting full muscle to the bill, aware that the recent shootings in Arizona have made this not the ideal time to weaken gun laws, but it was on record for the legislation. House Judiciary walks tall. Matt Dillon would have approved.

The legislature rebuffs the anti-abortion lobby about as seldom as the pro-gun lobby. But the House Public Health Committee has, by adoption of a hostile amendment, apparently killed a bill that was intended to keep state funds from being used for abortions under the new federal health-care law. One anti-abortion legislator was so offended he wrote a letter accusing Governor Beebe of misconduct in connection with the bill. The governor, he charged, was guilty of having tried to influence legislators on a matter of public policy. Guilty of being governor — is that grounds for impeachment?

Both houses have approved legislation for modest reform in the area of legislative ethics. The bill would prohibit legislators from serving as lobbyists until a year after their legislative term ended, and would require the lawmakers to use the most economical form of transportation when attending out-of-state meetings. Should have been stronger, but even the longest trip to a legislative conference begins with a single step.

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