With the 2017 session of the General Assembly nearly complete, it's time to breathe a sigh of relief. That means Arkansans didn't reach the point of watching their lawmakers debate a bill to prevent transgender holders of concealed-carry permits who are covered by the Medicare expansion from toting their firearms into the wrong bathrooms of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Don't worry. I'm sure the folks at the American Legislative Exchange Council have already started their research into model legislation to do just that.
Hmm, can that be added to the state Capitol monument as the 11th commandment? Stay tuned.
We did see just about every other kind of bill, including a series of attacks on the public's rightful expectation for open government as protected by the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. The act came under attack so many times this session by Republican lawmakers the official state emblem could be a paper shredder. Based on some of the proposed changes, the state's motto could easily have been changed from Regnant Populus (The people rule) to Regnant Redacto. The only reason it wasn't is because it sounded too much like a spell from Harry Potter. Can't have that kind of demonic activity going on in the Natural State. Get thee behind me, Professor Snape.
It's unfortunate the University of Arkansas pressed for legal cover to shield more information from the public. Leaders there want Arkansans to believe the college is about imparting knowledge, but it appears they're pretty darned interested in being Hogs about it. The Buffalo River isn't the only place in danger of being polluted by a confining operation.
State lawmakers and Gov. Asa Hutchinson did manage to give us voter identification, a new mandate to show a photo identification card at our polling places before we get an opportunity to cast our ballots. If the session had gone on much longer, I wouldn't have been surprised to see a bill exempting each county's list of polling places from public release. After all, how can "they" vote if they don't know where the polling places are?
Another for the ALEC to-do list.
Thanks to the voters of our state, medical marijuana is coming to a dispensary near you. Despite the measure's passage by a vote of the people, some lawmakers were high on the idea of putting up barriers to the spread of pot. Clint Penzo, a freshman Republican state representative from Springdale, was able to convince his colleagues that dispensaries must retain a "pharmacist consultant" and sell equipment for "vaping" marijuana instead of smoking it but be barred from selling pipes, water pipers, bongs, chillums, rolling papers, roach clips and potato chips.
OK, that last item might have just been a typo on the copy of the bill I got.
Hutchinson got several of his measures to streamline state government passed, including the one that transfers the commission overseeing War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock to the Department of Parks and Tourism. There's no truth to rumors the state will move the stadium to Devil's Den State Park. It would never fit through the Bobby Hopper Tunnel.
Lawmakers, as noted earlier, previously approved a monument to the Ten Commandments on the state Capitol grounds. Apparently, a lot of legislators are fans of Charlton Heston, who now goes by the name Charlie Collins, who spake with authority on methods to deter those crazies who might attack a college campus. He filed a bill to let professors on college campuses carry handguns but by the time the measure became law, it had been plied with amendments until it became a Golden Gun around which the people celebrated. Heston, er, Collins may not have delivered his people to the Second Amendment Promised Land, but he got about as close as anyone could without a column of firepower leading the way.
Lastly, Arkansas apparently avoided North Carolina's tumult over the so-called "bathroom bill," which was an attempt to make sure transgender people are barred from using a public restroom in conflict with the gender identified on their birth certificates. Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, a Republican from Pocahontas (pronounced poke-yur-nose-in-it), wasn't able to get her potty parameter measure out of committee. She formally withdrew it and it will go to interim study.
So, between this session and the one two years from now, if you spot someone in a public restroom who seems a little too attentive to the other users of the facility, don't freak out. He's from the government, and he's there to help.
Commentary on 04/03/2017
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