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Here, regnat politicians

by John Brummett | March 15, 2023 at 4:39 a.m.

State Rep. David Ray of Maumelle filed seven bills Friday in a major offensive for politicians against the people. He should package them as "power to the politicians, right on."

If I didn't know better--and, come to think of it, I don't--I'd say it seems as though Ray likes politicians, at least fellow Republican ones when in overwhelming control, more than he likes regular people.

He was the author of the proposed constitutional amendment last year by which future proposed constitutional amendments couldn't be passed by simple majorities, but only by 60 percent majorities. As a former state Republican Party hired hand, Ray seemed to be championing GOP interest with the proposal.

His fellow Republican legislators embraced the referral to the people, who said heck no although they didn't seem to blame Ray or Republican legislators for proposing it. They elected even more Republican legislators.

The voters of Arkansas have long been contradictory. Even now as they've gone one-party Republican, they approve ballot issues that Republicans haven't liked--to start a lottery, open casinos, hike up the minimum wage and approve medicinal marijuana.

Ray, particularly, seems to have just about had it with this business of people making laws directly instead of minding their own business and letting the state legislators handle such things.

One of his seven bills would pester people who get paid to come up to you with a petition for a constitutional amendment or initiated act and seek your signature. It would require these people to get a license, which the politicians would grant only after the would-be canvassers completed a training course the politicians would design.

The bill's stated reasoning is that paid professional canvassers have invaded our lawmaking. It's that the percentage of signatures rejected as invalid upon official review by the politicians has been high.

So, what's the problem?

Here's the thing: Too many Arkansas people are not registered to vote, which Republicans tend to prefer. A great many are poor and transient. But a lot of them, given the opportunity, will sign up for marijuana or casinos or higher wages. By the bill's own statement, the politicians are doing a good job throwing out those signatures.

The real idea of training and licensure is to hamstring the canvasser industry so that fewer canvassers will exist and regular people won't get the chance to sign at the county fair or grocery-store parking lot in support of things they like.

The other six bills? As a package, they seem to amount to a Republican Politicians' Bill of Privileges.

Here's what they'd do: Incumbents and candidates would no longer be forbidden from parking their vehicles at the Capitol with large campaign signs on them; political action committees could double their maximum contribution limit; permission to use campaign funds for contributions to other candidates would be liberalized, as would the right of politicians to dole out campaign surplus funds to political and other nonprofit organizations; candidates could use campaign funds for more personal expenses; and political action committees could exist in perpetuity without having to re-up annually.

If I didn't know any better--and, come to think of it, I don't--I'd say that the one-party bosses of Arkansas are a little greedy for power.

They want more money and more latitude to share money within their fraternity.

You'd think the hapless minority party might be able to make something of such arrogance and avarice. But mostly it's busy playing losing defense in the culture war.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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