Category Archives: Legislature

The death penalty: At least change it

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

Arkansas’ attempt to execute eight inmates in 11 days has led to a lot of discussion about whether the death penalty should continue to exist, and that discussion should continue. But given that polls show a strong majority of Arkansans support it and the governor is ready to enforce it, the more immediate discussion should be about how to administer it far better than it is has this month.

As you and a lot of people in the United States and the world know, Arkansas’ plan would have set a recent record for most executions in the least amount of time. This was done because the inmates had reached an end point in the appeals process at the same time the state’s supply of one of its three death penalty drugs, midazolam, was about to expire at the end of April. The drugs are hard to obtain because the manufacturers didn’t make them to be used in executions and don’t want to sell them for that purpose, in part because it gets them in trouble with the European Union, a much more important client than Arkansas.

After legislators meet, marijuana more limited but still legal

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

It was a good legislative session for some (gun rights supporters), a bad one for others (supporters of more highway spending), and for supporters of medical marijuana, it was as good as could be expected.

The amendment passed by Arkansas voters in November could be amended with a two-thirds vote by legislators, and at least that percentage likely voted against it, as did Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration. There were ample opportunities these past three months for those lawmakers to mostly overturn the amendment overtly or subversively. But the attitude among many legislators and the governor was that regardless of what they believed about the amendment, the people voted for it, so their democratic duty was to make it work.

What’s a legislative session like? Controlled chaos

Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, testifies before a House committee about his bill allowing guns on college campuses. Often, committee meetings are standing room only.
By Steve Brawner
© 2017 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Now that the regular session lacks only a planned one-day return May 1 before adjournment, 12 legislators have written letters to their chambers asking the record to reflect they didn’t mean to vote a certain way on a particular bill, as reported in Monday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

That’s not a big deal. Over three months, the state’s 135 legislators filed 2,069 bills, 1,074 of which have become law. They recorded, between them, hundreds of thousands of votes, so a few fumbles are to be expected. None of the 12 mistakes affected the outcome of legislation.

The news does present an opportunity to describe what a legislative session looks like, which is, in two words, controlled chaos.

How technology helps you avoid paying taxes

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

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve cut your own taxes in recent years by evading them, probably unwittingly, thanks to the internet.

That would apply to you if you are buying products online these days from an out-of-state seller who doesn’t collect sales taxes, even though state law says they’re just as due as if you bought the goods from your local merchant. The local merchants certainly don’t like that, because it means the prices they charge are 8-9 percent higher through no fault of their own.