State Democratic Party Chair Michael John Gray had harsh words for the effort led by Republican Rep. Bob Ballinger and Sen. Trent Garner to block approval Thursday of the Arkansas Supreme Court budget for the next fiscal year.
The legislators had questions — which were answered — about court spending of $6 million in cash funds received by payment of lawyer bar dues. But it became clear from their comments at the meeting and on social media that the move was retaliation against the court for decisions the legislators (both nominally lawyers) didn’t like. The latest was the decision removing the legislatively sponsored Issue One from the ballot because it contained four separate constitutional changes when the Constitution limits amendments to a single topic. Issue One was a measure beloved by the nursing homes and other corporate interests to discourage malpractice and negligence lawsuits for the grievously injured.
“Senator Trent Garner and Representative Bob Ballinger are attempting to undermine the separation of powers. Their attack on the Arkansas Supreme Court is petty, useless, and retaliatory.
“The Supreme Court struck down Issue 1 based on the rule of law not politics. Garner and Ballinger were on the losing side of that case and have chosen to use their public offices to enact payback. This type of politics is what people are tired of in Washington and has no place in Arkansas.
“Governor Hutchinson should rope in these rogue legislators before they permanently damage our court system.”
The budget will come up again in the regular legislative session. The court system is likely to survive. So will the legislature, with lots more demagoguery to come.