TIME TO PASS THE HELMET: The Highway Department is a worthy successor for the pith helmet cartoonist George Fisher once bestowed on the dam-building Corps of Engineers.

The Arkansas legislature is taking a spring break but that doesn’t mean you should stop worrying. A couple of additions to your worries from the fine print in bill filings — one grinds the poor, the other helps the rich.

AFFLICTING THE AFFLICTED: Yet another little ol‘ bill to make life harder for poor folks. Sen. Kim Hammer filed a bill today to give employers five more days, from 10 to 15, to file an objection to a claim for unemployment benefits. What’s another week for an unemployed person? He can spend his time figuring out  the DHS system for qualifying for Medicaid coverage. That will take her at least a week, if she can still find or afford an Internet connection or the gas to find a DHS office.


COMFORTING THE COMFORTABLE: Some complaints have been heard here about HB 1693 to use still more “construction management” for major highway projects. How the scheme works: A firm is chosen to deisgn a major project and then that outfit gets first crack at submitting a bid on the work. Normal bidding rules don’t apply. It’s a sweet deal — described in this warm D-G article. The Arkansas Department of Transportation insists this is more efficient and saves money.

Hey. If you can’t believe ARDOT, who can you trust? They’ve only underestimated the cost of the Big Concrete I-30 Ditch Through Little Rock by a half-BILLION dollars; misrepresented the damage it will do to Little Rock, and not taken into account the head-banging cost of new demands on connecting roadways if it gets built.


Don’t get me started on the $300 million highway tax plan the governor just rammed through a highway-lobby lubricated legislature. Poor folks will pay for the asphalt in fuel and sales tax increases while millionaires can buy honkin’ big SUVs with their income tax cuts. This plan was preceded by no meaningful study of how wisely we manage road construction in Arkansas; whether we maintain too many miles of highways; whether changes in transportation might mean changes in construction needs; whether trucks are paying a fair share of the cost of interstate destruction. No, the highway building lobby said it needed more money and it was done. In the process they jacked the registration fee on my wife’s new electric car by 700 percent. Yes, I said 700 percent. Scott Bennett apparently is a Trumpian, believing coal is coming back and we’ll be burning unlimited amounts of carbon for years to come.

But back to construction management. The bill is already out of the House. Looks like it means the highway director would be able to select a construction manager without even first seeking two proposals for THAT, as current law provides.  It would increase from three to five the number of major projects that could be done this way, up to $200 million worth. It eliminates other requirements in existing law. Critics say it’s an invitation to crony capitalism and an invitation for campaign contributions to friendly legislators. But, gee, that’s cynical. Crony capitalism in Arkansas?


I know this. We need George Fisher back so he could preside over a cartoon series in which the Army Engineers would bequeath their “Keep Busy” pith helmets to the Arkansas Department of Transportation, Concrete Gulches and Highway Lobby Marching and Chowder Society.