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Mayday

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At one point in the legislative session, it appeared that the lawmakers would not only reject federal money to provide health care to the poor, they might fine the poor for getting sick. Better judgment prevailed at last and the legislature approved a plan for accepting federal dollars to extend health care to the underprivileged. It's complicated, but some complications were needed to overcome the opposition of those legislators whose hatred for President Obama and "Obamacare" far exceeds their concern for low-income Arkansans. The Beebe administration deserves much credit for getting the legislation through.

Except for the health-care bill, the session was a disaster, much as we expected from the first majority-Republican General Assembly since the 19th century. The lawmakers waged war on women, competing among themselves for sponsorship of the cruelest anti-abortion bill. They approved a bundle of tax cuts for corporations and the very richest individuals, while rejecting cuts that would be of more benefit to low- and middle-income Arkansans. Although history has proved them wrong repeatedly, Republicans at the state and national levels continue to argue that pampering the rich somehow creates jobs for the poor. A few may actually believe this to be true.

Also approved were bills intended to discourage voting by the elderly, the poor and minorities — groups likely to vote Democratic if allowed in the booth — and to increase Republican influence over the election process.

The legislators showed their customary allegiance to the NRA and their new-found allegiance to the Koch brothers, possibly even more pernicious than the gun group because of their wider interests.

The lights have just about gone out in Arkansas government. Add a Republican governor, and another Republican U.S. senator in Washington and total darkness will descend. Soul-trying times, indeed.

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