The Arkansas legislature is seldom so brash as to do what's right first shot out of the box. Legislative progress is measured in dribs and drabs.
What would be right would be to prohibit people from driving and talking on the phone at the same time. Instead, the legislature is debating two bills that would ban the use of hand-held phones in school zones, SB 154 and HB 1049. The superior bill, SB 154, would also ban the use of hand-held phones by drivers in a highway work zone while a worker is present. We recall that during the last big highway improvement project, several years ago, impatient and garrulous motorists picked off about one road worker a week on I-40 between Little Rock and Memphis.
That phones are hand-held is not really the problem. Inattention is the problem. Many studies have shown that drivers are as distracted by hands-free phones as by the hand-held jobs, and that with either kind of phone, a chatty driver's skills degenerate to the level of a drunken driver's.
Still, there is always a case for half a loaf. The legislature took a little action on talking and texting by certain drivers in the last legislative session. They can sidle a bit nearer highway safety by approving the bills now before them. This is real pro-life legislation.
Honors for one
n Racists can rally around a Ronald Reagan — and did when he was alive — but not around the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln. The modern Republican Party in the South is built on this understanding. Predictably then, Arkansas Republicans sponsored a legislative resolution praising Reagan and declaring Feb. 6, 2011, his 100th birthday, as "Ronald Reagan Day." Diffident Democrats went along. (Some of the Democratic legislators reportedly said privately that they'd voted for Reagan themselves. We can well believe it.)
There was no companion resolution on Lincoln, who also has a birthday this month, a birthday that is a legal holiday in many states, though not in Arkansas, where we celebrate Robert E. Lee's birthday instead. Lincoln is arguably the greatest president, and unquestionably the greatest Republican president. Reagan used TV well, Lincoln wrote noble and eloquent messages that inspired the people of his day and are recited with awe still.
While the legislature was celebrating Ronald Reagan, the chairman of the Jackson County Republican Party was resigning rather than give up his membership in a conservative group that calls itself "pro-white." Devoted Reaganauts, we'll wager, and not at all keen on A. Lincoln.