Capitol corruption determined by culture

By Steve Brawner, © 2018 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs, spent his 10-minute address Monday talking about one issue: legislative corruption.

The Air Force colonel and ex-F-15 fighter pilot made his remarks on the opening day of the 2019 legislative session after being sworn in as Arkansas Senate president pro tempore.

Three days earlier, his former colleague, ex-Sen. Gilbert Baker, R-Conway, became the seventh ex-legislator charged with wrongdoing. Five of the others have been convicted, and two are in prison. The sixth, former Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, Hendren’s cousin, has been indicted. Continue reading Capitol corruption determined by culture

Would you rather rank your choices on the ballot?

By Steve Brawner, © 2018 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

A lot can happen in two years, but in November 2020 Arkansans could vote on reforming the act of voting itself.

That will be the case if ranked choice voting supporters can craft a proposal, get it past the attorney general, raise money, collect signatures, and survive the usual court challenges.

Otherwise known as “instant runoffs,” ranked choice voting lets voters rank candidates in order of preference, rather than simply checking the box next to one. Arkansas already uses this system for overseas ballots. Continue reading Would you rather rank your choices on the ballot?

These legislators will make things interesting

By Steve Brawner, © 2018 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Legislators from across Arkansas will gather at the Capitol next week to begin three months of controlled chaos that thankfully occur only once every two years.

Some of the 135 lawmakers will be particularly interesting to watch.

Before listing them, for any left-out legislator who happens to read this column, notice I wrote “some” and “interesting.” Sometimes important work doesn’t create headlines. Sometimes, you’re doing something I just don’t know about yet. And sometimes it’s just not your year.

In no particular order, starting with the Senate … Continue reading These legislators will make things interesting

Should schools be required to teach about real news?

Julie Mayberry
Rep. Julie Mayberry, R-Hensley, has pre-filed a bill that would require Arkansas high schools to offer journalism as an elective.

By Steve Brawner, © 2018 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Society needs people who can produce real news, so should Arkansas high schools be required to offer a class teaching those skills?

Rep. Julie Mayberry, R-Hensley, says yes, which is why her House Bill 1015 would require high schools to offer journalism as an elective. That’s the way it was until July 2018, when the Arkansas Board of Education voted to instead allow school districts the option of providing the class.

Mayberry believes that was a mistake for several reasons. Journalism has always been a critical check and balance on the government. In fact, she said, it’s so important that the Founding Fathers listed freedom of the press in the very First Amendment. She as a legislator relies on the newspaper to inform her about meetings she can’t attend. Continue reading Should schools be required to teach about real news?