Cotton the populist

Sen. Tom Cotton
By Steve Brawner
© 2017 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Sen. Tom Cotton made a name for himself because of his combat service, support for the military, opposition to the Iran deal, and fierce criticism of President Obama. These days, he’s talking a lot about a top issue in the 2016 presidential campaign – immigration, and not just the illegal kind.

Cotton has expressed support for the president’s border wall with Mexico and for his refugee policies, while also raising the ante by introducing the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act.

Cotton’s RAISE Act would reduce the number of legal immigrants admitted into the country from more than 1 million in 2015 to a little more than 500,000 by the act’s 10th year. It would do so by eliminating preferences for some adult family members, eliminating a lottery system that is supposed to increase the diversity of immigrants but which Cotton says really doesn’t, and limiting the number of refugees to 50,000 per year.

Tort reform: Shades of gray

By Steve Brawner
© 2017 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Arkansas legislators sometimes cast difficult votes on shades-of-gray issues where values conflict and where it comes down to which side they think is more right or less wrong. In November 2018, so will voters.

That’s because the biggest race on the ballot won’t involve candidates. Instead, it’s looking like the biggest issue will be a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit how much juries can award in a lawsuit. It’s going to be a heck of a fight. In fact, it already is.

Every two years, legislators are allowed under the Constitution to refer three amendments to the voters, but this time they plan to limit it to two, one each from the House and the Senate. Thirty-one amendments were proposed between both chambers, but it’s been clear for a while that the Senate would focus on a tort reform measure. Senate Joint Resolution 8, sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, has 14 co-sponsors in the 35-member Senate and 53 co-sponsors in the 100-member House. It is backed, strongly, by a coalition of powerful business groups under the umbrella of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.

All politics is now national

By Steve Brawner
© 2017 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

“All politics is local,” the late U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill used to say, but that’s no longer the case. Now, all politics is national.

That’s according to Dr. Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University political science professor who spoke at the Clinton School of Public Service Thursday.

Abramowtiz said straight ticket voting, where voters choose candidates from the same party in all races, reached its highest level in 2012 in the 60 years that it’s been studied, and preliminary research shows 2016 no doubt followed that trend. That’s increasingly true whether voters are strong partisans, weak partisans, or independents who lean toward one party or the other. Most of those last folks are just “closet partisans” who won’t admit to themselves or to others that they are really a Republican or Democrat.

Follow the money

Rep. Jana Della Rosa, R-Rogers, argues for House Bill 1427 in committee.
By Steve Brawner
© 2017 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

There’s a scene in “All the President’s Men,” the movie about the Washington Post reporters who dogged the Nixon White House until the president resigned over Watergate. Reporter Bob Woodward, played by Robert Redford, meets in a darkened garage with his background source, “Deep Throat,” played by Hal Holbrook, and says the story is stuck. “Follow the money. … Just follow the money,” Holbrook’s character tells him.

It’s as true today as it was then. It’s my experience covering the State Capitol that most elected officials at the state level are decent folks, and when they compromise, it’s more often out of strategic necessity than a failure of character. Still, if you want to know the whole story in politics, you always have to follow the money.