Thanks to Michael Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for providing confirmation from the mouths of legislative sponsors that the Arkansas Farm Bureau and Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and their legislative enablers are opposed to the state motto, Regnat Populus.
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The last thing these powerful lobbies want is rule by the people, rather than corporate interests.
They think it a failure of their system that popular medical marijuana, casino and minimum wage initiatives reached the ballot and were approved by voters. Can’t have that.
Remarks by Sen. Mathew Pitsch and Rep. DeAnn Vaught came at a Farm Bureau meeting where they extolled a legislatively proposed constitutional amendment to make it nearly impossible for popular ballot initiatives to qualify. They disingenuously suggested the Constitution is too often marred by popular initiatives when the fact is that most proposals come from the legislature — 35 of 42 since 1980.
Laughable, too, is the notion that ballot initiatives are somehow the work of left-wingers.
At the policy meeting, Pitsch said, “In Arkansas, the outside world looks at us as an easy market, and what they have done is they have figured out that you can go to about two spots in our state, where there is big populations, predominantly one type of ideology.
“If you collect signatures there, you can change and literally govern — and I am going to call it what it is — to the left when our state has predominantly gone middle to the slightly middle right. And when you look at it, it is things like casinos, marijuana, higher minimum wage, things that the liberal-type entities want to get across our country,” he said.
“But we are such an easy mark with our constitution to be changed that they come here first because you only have to go to a very small percentage of our state to gather signatures and market in that small part of the state,” Pitsch said. “The rest of the state really isn’t marketed to at all about their citizen-led initiatives.”
The actual voting puts the lie to Pitsch’s propaganda. It showed broad approval — urban and rural, black and white, red and blue territory — for all these measures. What is not broadly approved is the self-interested agenda of the corporate and agriculture lobbies, which is punishing to working people and individual rights and protective of their profits.
If only appealing to a couple of population centers was sufficient to carry the day in Arkansas. Donald Trump wouldn’t have easily carried Arkansas, to name one. Tom Cotton wouldn’t be in the U.S. Senate.
Pitsch at least told the truth about where this idea came from.
“So the state Chamber [of Commerce] — the Farm Bureau worked with us on developing this — said, ‘We have to protect the constitution,'” said Pitsch, who is the Senate sponsor of the proposed constitutional amendment.
Protect themselves is more like it.
This amendment needs to be defeated. As does the legislature’s “term limits” amendment, aimed at preserving lengthy terms for those currently serving as an attempt to thwart a popular initiative that would shorten the time the Farm Bureau and state Chamber representatives can serve.
The Arkansas Blog wrote about this initiative several times, with alarm.
PS: About those left-wingers that Pitsch and Vaught fear.
In Sebastian County, Pitsch’s home, 68.4 percent of his supposed middle-to-right voters approved the minimum wage measure. In Vaught’s home in Sevier County, the left-wingers only turned out with 63.5 percent in favor of the minimum wage increase. Medical marijuana in 2016? 56.8 percent said yes in Sebastian. In Sevier, however, 56 percent opposed it.
PPS: Pitsch carried the bill that Senate President Jim Hendren is now using to attempt to get out of a lawsuit over his use of unpaid labor at his plastics company. It’s part of a minimum wage-rollback bill that also arose from the business lobby. Several others failed, but this one to cover unpaid work arrangements snuck through.