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Political decline

Northwest Arkansas used to send pretty fair legislators to the Capitol: Now they send Justin Harrises and Charles Collinses.


Northwest Arkansas used to send pretty fair legislators to the Capitol. Serious slippage has set in; now they send Justin Harrises and Charles Collinses.

Representative Harris, R-West Fork, is sponsoring a bill to discourage any legislator from exposing the misconduct of a colleague. Harris has been so exposed, of course, and may well be exposed again, depending on how long he serves. Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, a throwback to the old days, asked the Department of Human Services about children attending Harris's pre-school operation. DHS replied that about a dozen children who lacked documentation of American citizenship were attending Harris's pre-school, which receives both state and federal grants. When the DHS info appeared in blogs and the news media, Harris was embarrassed. While accepting both public money and undocumented students at his own school, he's also sponsoring a bill that would prohibit state colleges and universities from allowing illegal aliens to pay in-state tuition, considerably cheaper than out-of-state tuition.

So Harris introduced HB 1602. It would require that any custodian of public records notify a legislator whenever another legislator asks for records pertaining to the first one, giving the offender time to threaten the whistle-blower, and destroy evidence. Getting the goods on errant legislators deserves encouragement, not interference. People need to know what Justin Harris is up to. House and Senate leaders might even want to consider the establishment of cash rewards for members who uncover bad apples in their midst. Certainly they should stop HB 1602.

Representative Collins, R-Fayetteville, is the sponsor of HB 1479, which would allow faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns on state college and university campuses. Collins purports to believe that more guns will result in less shooting. Hardly. The more people who are carrying guns at a particular location, the more likely it is that a gun will be fired there. Police officers and representatives of colleges and universities opposed HB 1479 before the House Education Committee. The bill failed to get a favorable recommendation, which is good, but it failed by only three votes, which is scary. And it can be brought up again.

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