Please don't lecture us that there's not a dime's worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats. We have only to witness the actions of the Arkansas Legislature now that Republicans are in charge.
Our governor is extremely frustrated. In prior sessions the Democrats were in complete control and Governor Beebe simply met with the Democrat leaders to determine what issues would receive their attention. Now the governor is a true outsider as his veto or threat of a veto means nothing. This is because in Arkansas a governor's veto can be overridden by a mere majority vote.
Here are a few of the bills that have already passed or are well on their way for the governor's signature:
VOTER ID – Arkansas' voters would be required to show photo identification in order to cast a ballot. Under current procedures a voter is usually asked for ID, but there is no requirement a potential voter must comply. This bill would provide the state to provide photo IDs free of charge. Such common sense provisions are still met with resistance by some complaining of voter discrimination.
GUNS FOR CAMPUSES & CHURCHES – These bills would allow the states
11 private colleges and universities to create a police force while another bill would allow churches to determine if some parishioners could be armed to protect worshipers and those using church facilities.
ABORTIONS – Two different abortion bills have been presented and debated. Recently a bill was sent to Beebe that would outlaw most abortions at or after 20 weeks of gestation. Another bill referred to as The Heartbeat bill would prohibit most abortions after about 12 weeks when a heartbeat could be determined. These bills are despised by some pro-choice advocates but they clearly reflect the feelings of a large majority of Arkansans. Unlike our liberal friends in the Northeast and West Coast most of us believe the murder of the defenseless unborn is wrong.
BIG RIVER STEEL – As of this date our state legislature is well on the way to approve bringing a one billion dollar steel mill to Osceola. Since this is a right to work state it is possible pro-union forces would attempt to block this project. Some grumbling by Joyce Elliott, a Little Rock Democrat, indicates she may protest this steel mill if minority workers are not guaranteed a share. Big River Steel has stated this would kill the deal.
INCOME TAX REFORM – Several Republican leaders are aiming to change the structure of the state's income tax rules. Several states close to Arkansas have either no income tax or rates and brackets that make sense. For decades now the maximum Arkansas income tax rate of 7 percent is reached when taxable income reaches
32 thousand dollars. That was reasonable 30 to 40 years ago when 32,000 dollars of taxable income represented a pretty decent income – not today. Democrats haven't dared to attack this antiquated schedule. They believe they must maintain the rapid growth of state government in Arkansas.
Page 2 of 2 - MEDICAID EXPANSION – One of the most contentious and important issues of this legislature session is the proposed expansion of Medicaid that would cover an additional 250,000 to 300,000 Arkansans. Governor Beebe and health care officials at the state government consider this to be a no-brainer. These state officials and Dem-Gaz columnist Brummett tell us we must "take" this government money and join the crowd to further bankrupt our federal government. Most of them will admit it's not right to add more federal debt, but they explain to us in grade school logic, "Other kids are doing it so we can't miss out."
This brings to mind an analogy of driving behind a Brinks truck. Suddenly the truck's rear door breaks open and hundred dollar bills fly everywhere. You stop your car and start gathering the money. You know this is wrong but heck, everyone else is greedily grabbing it.
With the federal government staggering under a debt soon reaching 20 trillion dollars what does our state government do when the feds must renege on their promise to pay 90 to 100 percent? Do we then go to the 250,000 recipients and say, "sorry we no longer cover you"?
Currently the leaders in the legislature have contracted for an independent study. That gives me some concern because having worked with consultants most of my life, I know there is nothing magic about their recommendations. At least we will have an opportunity to receive other input besides those state officials who are telling us how we will benefit by their department's receiving more government money. At least in theory those consultants will have no dog in the hunt.
(Jerry Jackson of Heber Springs writes his "conservative viewpoint" column each week)