The $800,000 jammed through Joint Budget yesterday to ship to a Massachusetts company marketing a panic button phone app stunk on a number of levels, and not only because it turns the idea of a strictly budgetary session on its head.
It smells of special interest favor arranged by a powerful lobbyist (Mullenix Associates works for the beneficiary of this handout). It bypasses normal purchasing protocol. It got no meaningful review. It will be spent on a system with critics and past demonstrated flaws. It runs around a veto of the expenditure Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued last year.
But never mind all that. I was just reminded of this little thing:
With great fanfare in July, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced just last July that the state had joined the First Responder Network Authority and AT&T plan to deliver a wireless broadband network for public safety agencies. Said a release:
FirstNet and AT&T will build, operate and maintain a highly secure wireless broadband communications network for Arkansas’ public safety community at no cost to the State for the next 25 years. The FirstNet network will deliver innovation and create an entire system of modernized devices, apps and tools for first responders, transforming the way Arkansas’ fire, police, EMS and other public safety personnel communicate and share information.
Might this not include an app to tie schools into first responders? Just asking.
This was but another question a real legislator would be able to ask about real legislation, not a tricky little amendment intended to grant a special favor with a minimum of attention.
And did I mention after all the talk of doing something about our parole system that the legislature, while handing out this $800,000 contrary to at least the spirit of the constitution’s rules for budget sessions, it declined to spend any money on more parole officers? Community Correction clearly doesn’t have the right lobbyists.
UPDATE: Sen. Joyce Elliott, the Little Rock Democrat, bellies up to the bar and says she and members of the Black Caucus got behind this program two years ago and still believe it a worthwhile step in providing more safety in schools. She said she’d have preferred it consider in the normal process, but wanted to be sure it was known that the measure wasn’t solely a Republican gimmick. Still dubious to me.