Hopes for a new year

By Steve Brawner

© 2018 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Christmas is over, so it’s too late to make a wish list. But now arrives the new year, a time of hope and renewal. So here are my hopes for some of Arkansas’ leading public figures.

– Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Legislature. I hope the upcoming fiscal session, which starts in February, is brief and boring, as it’s generally supposed to be.

– U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford. I hope eastern Arkansas’ congressman sees success with his continuing efforts to open up Cuban markets to Arkansas products. Doing so also opens up that country to democratic and free market ideas.

– U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman. I hope the Senate passes his Resilient Federal Forests Act. The California wildfires have demonstrated that current federal policies are not protecting our forests. Westerman, Congress’ only forester, has tried for several years to pass a fix. The House approved the bill Nov. 1.

– U.S. Rep. Steve Womack. I hope that if Northwest Arkansas’ congressman becomes chairman of the House Budget Committee, that he brings a calculator to the meetings and that his primary concern is reducing the federal budget deficit. Some are saying $1 trillion could be added to the $20.5 trillion national debt this year.

– The state’s entire congressional delegation. See above. They’ve voted to cut taxes. Now I hope they’ll turn their attention to responsible spending cuts. However, Congress is determined to increase military funding, and then there’s the promised border wall and the massive rebuilding efforts needed in response to the hurricanes and wildfires. They could cut other spending, but nobody likes doing that in an election year.

So probably “hope” is too strong a word. Maybe “hope” should be reserved for congressional action regarding the 800,000 young people brought to America illegally as children by their families. This is their country, regardless of what their paperwork says. President Trump has given Congress until March 5 to give them some kind of status legislatively. That’s two months from now.

– Rep. Michael John Gray, D-Augusta, Democratic Party of Arkansas chairman. I hope Arkansas Democrats are more competitive than they have been in the past few election cycles. I’m not a Democrat, but Arkansas already tried one-party domination for 150 years. A healthy multi-party system would be good for everyone, including the Republicans. There is such a thing as having too big of a majority.

– Libertarian Party of Arkansas. Did you notice I wrote “multi-party” and not “two-party” system in the last paragraph? I hope the Libertarians’ candidate for governor, currently only Mark West, wins at least 3 percent of the vote next year. If that happens, the party won’t have to collect 10,000 signatures to get on the ballot in 2020 and can concentrate its meager resources on its small government message.

– Johnny Key, Arkansas education commissioner. I hope Key loses a major responsibility and a big headache this year. Key said last year that the state may be able to release the Little Rock School District from state control in 2018. That status has made Key the district’s de facto school board, a job he would prefer to not have, and made him a lightning rod attracting attention and criticism. It’s best for everyone if the district regains local control.

– Chad Morris, University of Arkansas head football coach, and Hunter Yurachek, athletic director. I hope next season is better than this season, because the fan base is restless and frustrated and will not wait until the fifth season to revolt this time.

Finally, I hope you have a blessed 2018, and that you focus on those blessings instead of whatever happens in Washington or Little Rock. “Happy new year” covers 365 days – not just one. So I hope you have a happy year, even when it’s no longer new.

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