The Joint Budget Committee signed off on a list of budget requests for the next fiscal year this morning, with one exception, that of the Arkansas Supreme Court. If you guess that the reason was retaliation, you are a good guesser.
Rep. Stephen Meeks put it this way.
Today is the last meeting of Budget Hearings. We are covering Constitutional Offices.
The appropriations for the Supreme Court failed because they didn't provide information on last years expenses in one area. Thus we couldn't gauge the appropriateness of their request.#arleg
— Rep. Stephen Meeks (@RepStephenMeeks) November 15, 2018
Sen. Trent Garner, the unguided missile of meanness from South Arkansas, put it more bluntly. He’s pissed that they took Issue One off the ballot and, separation of powers be damned, he’s going to punish them for it.
Today, we took steps to hold our Supreme Court accountable by holding their budget. The court had over six million dollars that lacked oversight. The power of the purse is an important tool for maintaining checks and balances of our government. #arpx #arleg #ARNews #ARSenate https://t.co/v6RDltaEPk
— Trent Garner For Senate (@Garner4Senate) November 15, 2018
Issue One was the unconstitutional log roller of an amendment aimed at shutting down lawsuits against nursing homes, hospitals
I’m trying to round up the specific request and a roll call vote. It’s been promised later in the day.
This shows that you either give the legislature all they want or suffer the consequences. The Supreme Court obligingly invalidated a term limits amendment that legislators opposed. It rapidly punished Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen in an extraordinary hurry up proceeding after Griffen angered Garner and others with a decision on execution drugs. It has bowed to legislative desires in many other ways, as well (voter ID to name one recent instance.) But it wouldn’t go along on Issue One, first because that’s what the Constitution required and second because the amendment transferred rulemaking authority from the Supreme Court to the legislature. Today, legislators took steps to make them pay for this impertinence.
UPDATE: I don’t have the roll calls yet (they were divided into Senate and House votes and faltered in every case because of lack of agreement in the chamber memberships on Joint Budget) but the dispute arose over a $6 million cash fund. Some legislators wanted more information on the spending. The Supreme Court provided some. Some members wanted more time. Some wanted to cut the money entirely. Some wanted to approve the bill with the amount included, but flagged for later discussion, a typical practice. Consensus couldn’t be reached. The issue will come back in the regular session in January. The budget is for the year beginning next July, so there’s no immediate urgency. What the episode does illustrate is continuing tension between legislature and court and some disagreement on just how equal the branches are.