The week is over and the line is open early. Some final notes:
* LOVE STORY AT HARVARD — ARKANSAS CONGRESSMAN STYLE: Tom Cotton’s time as a columnist in college days at Harvard has already produced many a link. He had some wacky ideas back then and, sad to say, a number haven’t changed much. But here’s a change of pace for this Feb. 14: Cotton ruminates on the search for real love in the Ivy League. People were “hooking up” and they had “relationships,” but they did not have love, he said.
Love makes life worth living, he wrote in 1997, but is not easily attained. At last. A subject with which to agree with Tom Cotton. The piece’s conclusion suggests romantic times were a little rocky for the collegiate Cotton.
Most of the articles we run about love end with some upbeat, go-get-’em suggestion, a new plan to invigorate Harvard social life. I, unfortunately, have no such suggestion. The problem is much larger than Harvard and much deeper than most realize. Indeed, I do not know if love is salvageable for us. Surely many of us will mature and eventually marry, maybe even to someone we love; but many of us will not, and even more will do so unsuccessfully. No, love is going downhill and picking up speed, and I do not have a solution. I only hope it slows for me.
His recently announced engagement to a young woman — as yet publicly unidentified — suggests an upturn in affairs of the Cotton heart. We wish for him continued good luck there, if not at the polls.
* WHAT RULES APPLY AT THE LEGISLATURE? More to come on this soon, I hope. But I had a long conversation today with veteran Statehouse reporter Ernest Dumas, who’s been digging into the archives on the Futrell amendment that most presume sets a hard and fast 75 percent vote requirement on all spending bills, save education. His research has included talks with people who were players in the one modern-day decision that is seen as upholding that constitutional rule. The history on this is far more complicated than what you think you know (even you, Nate Bell). The Futrell amendment did not override an earlier constitutional provision that requires funding of necessary expenses of government. Futrell himself invoked necessary expenses as being sacrosanct in his inaugural address when he said he would add the spending amendment. What is a necessary expense deserving of a simple majority vote? In one case heard by the Supreme Court, it was new legislative furnishings. New furniture is a necessary expense, but health care — already a well-established function of government for decades under Medicaid — is not? I understand that the Tea Party thinks it is not.
This would be but a historical oddity to mull unless and until the Senate Nine defeats authorization of the private option and thus kills the entire DHS budget from nursing homes to children’s insurance to Medicaid. Then legislative leaders like Michael Lamoureux and Davy Carter might want to consider doing as legislative leaders did once before and declare passage of the legislation by simple majority as a necessary expense of government. A real Supreme Court could hear the certain court challenge this time because it would not concern their paycheck. They disqualifed on an earlier case and a group of appointees issued a confused and split decision on the question because the general appropriation bill, which includes Supreme Court pay, was at issue.
People on both sides of this issue should wish for a court solution to the perverse 75 percent vote rule, a standard applied only in Arkansas and no other state. There are some Republicans today, if not the Tea Party contingent, that understand history doesn’t end with the private option vote. A future minority blockade might not be so palatable. And once this process has begun, it won’t be stopped.
Is there a popular groundswell for the 75 vote rule? Only among a tiny minority. Regnat Populus.
SPEAKING OF THE PRIVATE OPTION: The Citizens First Congress is urging its members to lobby legislators to vote for the private option but oppose the “poison pill” amendments by Nate Bell and others to prevent publicity about the program and to deprive poor people of transportation help to see doctors. It said, about the Nate Bell secrecy amendment:
The cynical amendment (the full text version can be read here) would ban all state spending on outreach and education for the Health Insurance Marketplace.
In other words, the state will not be able to educate or inform residents about the multimillion-dollar successful program to provide health insurance to people who need it. These educational, outreach and enrollment facilitation efforts are already paid for by federal dollars, but the amendment would prohibit the state from utilizing them.
* FORMER EMPLOYEE OF ARKANSAS SHERIFFS CHARGED WITH THEFT: Thanks to Mara Leveritt for an alert on a theft arrest that I haven’t seen noted elsewhere. She reports a former employee of the Arkansas Sheriffs Association, Caroline “Mandy” Penney, was arrested Jan. 29 by North Little Rock police as a suspect in the theft of more than $10,000 of association money. The police report said Ronnie Baldwin, executive director of the association, had reported that Penney had taken money from ad sales in the association magazine and deposited them in two accounts, one for the association one for a Wife’s Scholarship fund. One of the wives noted suspicious activity in the latter fund and notified Baldwin, who called in the police. She’s free on a $10,000 bond with a hearing in North Little Rock District Court set for March 19.