Sen. Jon Woods, who makes a nice living as a legislator without any other gainful employment except as a “consultant,” will forever be memorialized as the senator who came up with the add-ons to a laughingly mistitled ethics amendment that, today, produced a 150 percent pay raise for legislators, gave the ability for people like Woods to serve an 18-year run in the Senate and has done nothing to prevent free swill and lots of it on the tab of special interest lobbies. Wood’s favors won Republican-majority approval of the measure for the ballot where voters, perhaps thinking it really was about ethics, approved the amendment.
Now here comes Woods again with an amendment hiding behind the Motherhood and Apple Pie label of “economic development.”
You don’t have to look very closely at what this is about or why you’ll see every local chamber of commerce executive in the state buttonholing their legislator to put the thing on the November ballot in hopes of another misguided electorate.
It is meant to negate the recent court ruling that held that Little Rock and North Little Rock had unconstitutionally given taxpayer money to private chambers of commerce. Judge Mackie Pierce ruled that these were nothing more than prohibited public subsidies for work the private agencies already were doing. And it is a practice followed around the state.
Jon Woods will fix that. He’ll provide this exception to public payments to private corporations:
“to fund economic development services.”
That loophole is big enough for J.B. Hunt’s entire fleet to motor through. “Strategic advice” qualifies as economic development services under Woods’ amendment.
Tax money could again flow unrestrained to groups that lobby against unions, against universal health insurance, against just workers compensation laws, against equitable taxation, against a living wage and against just about every other progressive cause you could name.
Who pays Woods for consulting services remains an unknown. But he’d be a good pick to do economic development services for somebody.
Oh, he also sets a sky-high and impossible three-fourths vote to change this taxpayer giveaway provision.
PS — There is some emerging sentiment in the House and Senate to send no constitutional amendments to the ballot, or only cleanup amendments, such as one that says the governor doesn’t give up power when he(she) crosses the state line. What do you bet Woods’ idea will be called just a little ol’ cleanup amendment.