opinion by Maylon Rice
Editor’s note: Maylon Rice has 40 years of experience working as a newspaper reporter, columnist and editor at several Arkansas newspapers. He ran, unsuccessfully for the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2012. A native of Warren, Rice lives in Fayetteville.
Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of The City Wire.
Two savvy state Senators from far flung Arkansas cities have come together with a really good idea.
Before we spring the idea on you Mr. and Mrs. Voting Public, we want to encourage this bipartisan duo of Sen. Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis, and Jimmy Hickey Jr., R-Texarkana, to expand their announced scope and the starting point of this wonderfully radical idea.
While Senators Ingram and Hickey (and many of their contemporaries) want to fiddle with the 1874 Arkansas Constitution by abolishing the office of Lt. Governor, let’s examine and assess for the viability of ALL the state’s Constitutional offices. Are all these elective offices really needed for the necessity and viability of state government in the 21st Century? What could it hurt to reduce that number? Absolutely nothing.
This new idea from the forward thinking Senatorial duo of Ingram and Hickey, would eliminate the Mike Huckabee-type ascension to the corner office at the State Capitol and then a decade’s long claim to that office. But that is likely to be a good idea with a majority of Arkansans. After we all witnessed two of the most embarrassing resignations over last two years of former Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Darr and Democratic State Treasurer Martha Shoffner. Both were forced from office for misdeeds. We heard time and time again how un-necessary these statewide offices are in today’s modern era. We heard from Arkansans questioning the necessity of some of the other seven Constitutional offices – i.e. Land Commissioner, State Auditor – as not being necessary to be elected.
All of the seven Constitutional offices are being contested this election cycle. Most of the voters in Arkansas cannot name five of the seven candidates seeking those offices from either major party. Toss in an occasional Green Party or Libertarian candidate into that mix and it’s total name recognition chaos.
Any move will require the approval of voters through a new constitutional amendment. Ingram and Hickey plan to co-sponsor a Senate Joint Resolution, which if adopted by the legislature would refer to the November 2016, general election ballot a proposed constitutional amendment abolishing the office of lieutenant governor as of Jan. 1, 2019. Should that meet with voter approval, there would be no statewide election for the office in 2018. The winner of this year’s contested election for lieutenant governor still would be able to serve out the full four-year term to which he is elected in November. The office is now vacant due to the resignation of former Lt. Gov. Mark Darr.
“The office is a vestige of the early 19th century, before telephones were common and before computer technology was ever dreamed of,” Ingram said in this story. “Under the Arkansas constitution the lieutenant governor’s only duty is to preside over the Senate and to serve as acting governor when the governor is out of state or unable to discharge the powers of the office.”
So why fiddle with history. How about saving money?
“A conservative estimate is that approval of this amendment would save Arkansas taxpayers about $450,000 a year,” Hickey said.
We again implore the dynamic duo of Ingram and Hickey to consider reform of the state’s seven Constitutional offices. We have to wonder how much more tax money could be saved with no state Auditor, Land Commissioner or Treasurer on the state elected payroll?
The offices of state Auditor, Land Commissioner and even state Treasurer could be appointments. Such a move would save more tax money and reduce silly partisan clamoring for extended positions on the state payroll.
Think this over gentlemen. Now is the time to be bold and brave.