A thread runs through issues heading to the ballot in Arkansas this year, absent successful court challenges — the influence of the big business lobby on the Arkansas legislature.
* Issue One: This is the proposed amendment to devalue human life, cap attorney fees and strip the Arkansas Supreme Court rule-making authority, all in the name of protecting big business from lawsuits, particularly medical malpractice and negligence cases involving children and old people. (maximum worth under amendment — $500,000). The legislature put it on the ballot at the behest of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and its fellow travelers.
* Term limits: A people-initiated, 10-year legislative term limits amendment qualified for the ballot yesterday. It’s a response to dishonesty by the legislature in a term limits-loosening amendment in 2014, the legislature’s usurpation of executive and judicial power and the evolution of a full-time, well-paid legislature including many members who have no other visible means of support. The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce said it is considering a challenge to the amendment. It likes the legislature it currently rents. Having to groom a new bunch of puppets more frequently can get expensive and newbies might even vote against the corporate lobby from time to time.
* Minimum wage: An initiated act to raise the minimum wage from $8.50 an hour to $11 by 2021 (try supporting a family of four on $17,680 a year, presuming you can find a full-time job, and then decide if this is exorbitant). The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce is already gearing up to fight this proposal. They’ll have to spend a little of the windfall profits and huge executive pay raises provided by the Republican millionaires’ tax cut.
As these issues move forward, remember that local chamber of commerce executives in Little Rock and many other cities will be joining the fight to preserve corporate power over working people with taxpayer subsidies to their pay legalized by a constitutional amendment put on the ballot by legislators at their behest in 2014.
It’s easy to guess the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce members will be voting YES on another legislatively-referred amendment to put up a barrier to poor people voting with a new voter ID requirement. The business lobby likely wants to protect the interests of those currently serving in the legislature, given their satisfaction with their work (perhaps not including a little GIF thievery now and then.)
If Oaklawn Park and Southland Park, powerful corporate players, continue to signal support for the proposed casino gambling amendment I think you can count on the chamber crowd to get behind that amendment, too, if it makes the ballot.
Sometimes I wonder why we bother with elections at all. Just ask Randy Zook over at the chamber what his boys (and most of them ARE boys AND white) want and then do it. Unless they can get some relief from the Supreme Court (which they usually do) the corporate interests will at least have to spend money on a number of fronts this year.
HYPOCRITE OF THE DAY CITATION: Repeat winner Doyle Webb, the Republican Party chair, wins another trophy for his opposition to the term limits amendment. Time was, every Republican supported the term limits amendment as a tool to oust long-time Democratic incumbents to clear the way for the GOP.