Category Archives: Legislature

State’s top Democrat: Stop ‘screaming about Trump’

Rep. Michael John Gray, D-Augusta, says Arkansas Democrats must focus on core issues such as health care, poverty and roads.
By Steve Brawner
© 2017 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Michael John Gray can trace his family’s farming heritage in Woodruff County to the year after the Civil War ended. This being Arkansas, it’s a fair assumption that all those generations before him were Democrats. But then, the rest of the state back then was, too.

Gray, D-Augusta, finds himself part of a vanishing breed in the Legislature – rural, white Democrats, which describes somewhere between eight and a dozen of the 135 legislators, depending on how you define “rural.” It wasn’t long ago that it described virtually the entire Legislature, but now Democrats mostly represent the state’s urban areas and those with high minority populations. Overall, Democrats compose only 24 of the 100 members in the House of Representatives and only nine of the 35 senators.

Health care and the 10 Commandments: Two monumental stories

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

Sometimes news stories are important, and sometimes they are mostly just eye-catching. It’s important for news providers to offer both if they want to stay in business. It’s important for news consumers to understand which is which, and when a story is both, and why.

This week was a good illustration.

On Tuesday, something important but not particularly eye-catching happened. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (see, I’ve bored you already) announced that the Senate health care bill doesn’t have enough support to come to the floor, so he’s delaying action.

Health care is perhaps the country’s most vexing domestic issue. The system has been on an unsustainable path for decades. What Congress decides to do about it is literally a life and death matter.

Extra cash for highways?

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

Arkansas does not have Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, but it does have the Ozarks and the Ouachitas. It does not have Elvis’ Graceland home, but it does have the birthplace of Johnny Cash. Unlike Tennessee, it does not have $2 billion to play with, but, like Tennessee, could it also find hundreds of millions of dollars for highways?

The question is asked after the Arkansas Highway Commission voted June 7 to pursue a ballot initiative for 2018 to raise up to $400 million a year for road construction.

That was step one of about a thousand. Forgive this run-on sentence, but the Commission and supporters such as the Arkansas Good Roads Foundation would have to decide on a specific proposal, obtain the attorney general’s approval, raise money to collect 67,887 voter signatures, raise money to defend against the inevitable last-minute legal challenge, raise money for the campaign, and then win the campaign.

Lawyers vs. legislators

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

It could be argued that two of the three most important votes this year in Arkansas state politics occurred Feb. 16 and Feb. 27, and the third will occur this Friday.

The first two votes are when the Arkansas Senate and Arkansas House advanced a proposed constitutional amendment limiting lawsuit awards. We voters will decide its fate in the November 2018 elections.

The third will be in Hot Springs June 16, when the Arkansas Bar Association’s House of Delegates votes on whether to pursue a dueling proposal barring such lawsuit limits that also would appear on the November 2018 ballot.