Today’s the final day for filing bills for this legislative session. I’ll be keeping track of the show, which had a sneak preview with a week-ending house of horrors last week.
But noted at the top of the list today is a little ol’ shell bill by Rep. Lanny Fite to “clarify certain provisions of 22 Arkansas Constitution, Article 19, § 30, concerning gifts from lobbyists.”
Every piece of clarification done previously to Jon Woods’ Memorial Unethical Amendment has been in favor of punching more holes in it. So keep watch on the meat subsequently put on the bones of this one. Another run at free foreign junkets would be a decent bet.
I notice, too, a shell bill pertaining to penalties for having an open container of alcohol.
Legalizing open containers of booze in the legislative galleries would be a useful analgesic. I’ve also advocated open carry there, too, but that’s where the gun-loving General Assembly draws the line.
* BATHROOMS: This is Sen. Greg Standridge’s scrubbed-up effort to make transgender people use school restrooms that match their birth gender, no matter who they might be today. It’s a bill to release school officials from any liability for enforcing state Board of Education policies that “comply” with state OR federal law. So all you need is Arkansas Supreme Court approval of an unconstituitional state rule against transgender people and you’re good to discriminate. With the current anti-LGBT Supreme Court, odds are good that the scenario will be possible.
* SPECIAL ELECTIONS: People who often rely on special elections for tax questions — think school districts and libraries and, sometimes, cities and counties — are on the lookout for a bill today to end special elections. The theory is that when more people vote, taxes are more likely to be defeated because special elections tend to draw people most engaged with the subject on the ballot. All I’ll say about that is this: Anybody who votes for this bill and then encourages voters in the Little Rock School District to turn out at a special May election to vote to give a half-billion in additional taxes to Johnny Key is a blithering hypocritical dick. This was filed as a shell bill, but I’m told it mostly will outlaw all special elections. Later in the day, the bill was fleshed out. It requires special elections on preferential primary or general election days in years in which those elections occur. Otherwise, special elections must be on the Tuesday after the first Monday in May or November. All school elections also are moved to the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, a general election day in election years.
* THE GRETA GARBO ACT: Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson has a shell bill that could speak for the whole dang shooting match:
AN ACT TO PRESERVE THE RIGHT TO BE LEFT ALONE;
Who knows what this means, but hear, hear!
* LAWYERS? WHO NEEDS ‘EM: Sen. Bryan King has filed a perennial Republican favorite, a proposal to close one of the state’s two law schools.
* BLOODSUCKERS. This bill is another legislative attempt to provide a protective cloak for usurious loans by the payday lending industry, run out of Arkansas by Dustin McDaniel and waved back in by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. Sponsor of the bloodsuckers’ relief act? None other than a couple of the meanest most spiteful members of the legislature, Sen. Bart Hester and Rep. Michelle Gray. Putative Christians, they are, but they invite the money changers INTO the temple.
* “I JUST CAN’T QUIT YOU, MARSE ROBERT”: Rep. Jana Della Rosa has a twist on the legislation earlier introduced to end the King-Lee holiday and teach about Martin Luther King Jr. in school. Where the original resolution would have pushed Robert E. Lee into the status of a gubernatorial proclamation day without a holiday in October, Della Rosa would combine a proclamation day for Daisy Bates with the King holiday in January and have Robert E. Lee as a co-honoree with George Washington on that holiday in February. That will be a non-starter with many in the legislature, though perhaps not with the Lost Cause Brigade. But to honor a founding father and someone who quit the country in the same holiday? That ain’t no compromise.
* SCREW THE VOTERS: I don’t know how else to characterize the growing number of efforts to damage the voter-approved medical marijuana amendment. Rep. Robin Lundstrum has a batch today, including a shell bill to prohibit smoking of marijuana anywhere in Arkansas.
* SHELL GAME: Shell bills are thick on the ground today, with flesh yet to come. But when Rep. Jim Dotson of Waltonville files a bill pertaining to authorization of charter schools, watch out.
* IT’S NOT ALL LOONY TUNES: There are some serious bills, including a number dealing with children and family services.
* SEPARATION OF POWERS: Hmmm. Why does Rep. David Meeks have a shell bill concerning the administrative office of the courts? One Senate bill already has been filed eliminating the need for a law degree for the person hired to be executive director (a circumstance that just happens to fit the interim director named after J.D. Gingerich left the office). Chief Justice John Dan Kemp said the change would facilitate a nationwide search. But rumblings continue, officially unconfirmed, of a division on the Supreme Court of whether administrative powers should rest solely, as they have historically, with the chief justice or be the prerogative of a majority vote of the seven justices. There’s been some talk the legislature might interceded in this issue. It has already demonstrated less than high regard for the court by the rules takeover in the proposal damage suit constitutional amendment.
* THE FRANK WHITE MEMORIAL MONKEY BILL: Where’s George Fisher when we need him? Rep. Mary Bentley has introduced a bill to allow teaching of creationism in “science” classes.