Is age 70 too old to judge, case closed?

golden balanceBy Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Is a 69-year-old perfectly acceptable to serve as a judge, but a 70-year-old too old? That’s sort of how the state of Arkansas looks at it.

Under a law passed in 1965, judges who reach age 70 would lose their retirement benefits permanently if they are re-elected, though their paycheck contributions through the years would be returned to them. Not surprisingly, no Arkansas judge has ever given up those benefits to keep serving.

Several judges who are about that age recently sued, saying the law effectively adds an age requirement to the Arkansas Constitution.

They lost. In a 5-2 decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled June 23 that an age limit for receiving retirement benefits is not the same as an age limit for serving. “If it is possible to construe a statute as constitutional, we must do so,” wrote Justice Courtney Goodson in her majority opinion.

Fiddling around, ignoring problems

Uncle Sam hangs on for webBy Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

You know the story about Nero fiddling while Rome burned? It didn’t actually happen, but it illustrates a point about leaders crazily ignoring a problem.

These days, no illustration is needed. The government’s largest programs, Social Security and Medicare, are not burning up, but their problems are being ignored.

On Wednesday, the Social Security trustees and Medicare trustees each released their annual reports.

Social Security’s trustees wrote that the trust fund that supposedly finances the program – but actually has been raided to pay for other programs and then filled with IOUs – will be empty by 2034. That’s when today’s 49-year-olds (I’m 47) reach the normal retirement age. When that happens, benefits for all recipients, including 85-year-olds, theoretically would be cut 21 percent.

Part of state’s deer population wasting away

By Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

One of the biggest stories in Arkansas this year involves four legs – and I’m not talking about the two apiece used by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

I’m talking about those used by deer, a growing number of whom have a deadly, incurable neurologic disease that spreads easily.

Chronic wasting disease is caused not by viruses or bacteria but by a protein called prions that attack a deer’s brain, sort of like mad cow disease. Prions are spread through contact with an infected deer’s urine, feces, saliva, blood or carcass. They’re not living, so they can’t be killed, and they last a long time on the forest floor.

Governor a Trump supporter, not surrogate

Gov. Asa Hutchinson
Gov. Asa Hutchinson
By Steve Brawner
© 2016 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday was in “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do” mode, and seemed comfortable with it.

The day before, he and five other Republican governors had a private meeting with their party’s presumptive nominee in Trump Tower.

Donald Trump is not Hutchinson’s ideal choice. He endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Earlier this year, he told National Public Radio, “I do not see (Trump’s) discussion of issues as serious. The words are frightening – how you’re going to build a wall, how you’re going to have Mexico pay for it. What does this mean?” When Trump said a judge should step down from a lawsuit against Trump University partly because his parents are from Mexico, Hutchinson issued a statement saying, “Criticizing and trying to disqualify a judge because of the judge’s ethnic heritage is antithetical to everything that is true and good about America.”