Top of the morning. These items pop up:
* VISIT TO MAYFLOWER CAN BE HAZARDOUS: On the jump (also here on Facebook), I invite you to read an account by Rod Bryan of Little Rock of his visit to the Mayflower neighborhood inundated by thousands of barrels of Canadian tar sand crude after the ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline ruptured. Bryan is a musician, political gadfly, former political candidate and a fellow who’s had run-ins with authorities before. I think it’s merely factual to say he can be irritating. Nonetheless, his account of an encounter with the local cops rings true. Don’t know if the officers he encountered were in public or Exxon’s private employ at the time. It’s a reminder that the hiring out of local officers as private watchdogs can create the appearance of conflict about whom public servants might represent.
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BTW: Another lawsuit was filed yesterday over the ExxonMobil spill, this one by people with contractual easements for the pipeline across their property.
* FINAL HOUR FUNNY BUSINESS: Approval of Obamacare for Arkansas ended the legislative session for all important intents and purposes? Think again. The lobby never sleeps. There’s a full lineup of committee meetings to rush out jammed-up bills, some of them perhaps to get fresh attention thanks precisely for final votes on the Medicaid expansion. Examples:
* REVENUE AND TAXATION: Tax cuts, heavily pitched to help the wealthy and big business, will pour out of House committee this morning like Canadian crude from an Exxon pipeline.
* CURTAILING THE PETITION POWER AND THE DEMOCRATIC VOTE: This bad legislation will slime out of committee this morning, along with the Sen. Bryan King package to make Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin an election law vigilante to go along with complementary bills aimed at suppressing Democratic votes and taking partisan control of the state election oversight apparatus.
* TARGETING THE ARKANSAS CONSTITUTION: This is big because it’s about the state’s organic law. The joint committee that can refer up to three constitutional amendments to voters has so far only successfully moved one — a bad one to give the legislature still more power over executive agencies through absolute control of executive agency rules. This morning, a couple of measures are back on the agenda. One is Rep. Warwick Sabin’s proposal to put some ethics proposals in the Constitution, but to also provide a means to raise legislators’ pay and to ease term limits so that members can serve 16 straight years in a single chamber of the legislature. The other proposal up for another run is a measure to severely limit the petition process by requiring submission of 90 percent accurate signatures at the deadline to qualify for an extension to cure shortfalls caused by signatures that can’t be verified. The constitutional measure will override strong constitutional protections for petitions. It has opposition from left and right-wings, but the business community — particularly Oaklawn and Southland casinos and the gas industry — want this to shut down grassroots petitioning.
It ain’t over until it’s over.
* MUST READ: Gabby Giffords writes in the New York Times about the gun lobby’s control of Congress.
Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo — desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation — to go on.
* TEARING MARK PRYOR A NEW ONE: Speaking of guns …. Sarah Posner blasts Sen. Mark Pryor for being an alleged person of faith who lay down with the gun lobby yesterday to defeat a broader background bill.
Five years ago, Pryor was trotted out by Democratic activists as a great supporter of what was then a new effort: a political action committee named for a Bible verse, specifically Matthew 25. You know, the the one about caring for the least of these? Because with the families of the slaughtered children at Newtown on hand, Pryor voted to protect his own hide, so his constituents who fall for NRA lies won’t drive him out of office.
Just in case I’ve never made this clear before, legislation shouldn’t be based on the Bible. But if you’re going to co-chair the National Prayer Breakfast, and give a big speech about how pious and wonderful you and your praying Congressional colleagues are, you can’t also run around acting like a bought and paid for coward without people reaching for their Bibles to search for where you might have found the scriptural basis for your self-serving gutlessness.
“We just need to start acting better, and Jesus gives us the place to start,” was a gem from Pryor’s 2012 Prayer Breakfast speech.
As Pryor himself has said, you don’t need to pass an IQ test to serve in the United States Senate:
I don’t want to hear anymore about “people of faith” want this or want that as a liberal corrective to the religious right. How about people of reason, and people of actual compassion, not some phony religiously-inflected pabulum?