A ‘Push-The-Button’ State Legislature

by Jason Tolbert ([email protected]) 21 views 

In my Stephens Media column this week, I focus on the recurring theme from Arkansas Democrats asking voters to focus on the popular Gov. Beebe instead of the unpopular President Obama.

The latest message was delivered by a tag team of Beebe and Sen. Pryor at their state convention last weekend when they argued for the need to elect a Democratic majority in the state legislature as part of Team Beebe.

Beebe and Pryor seem to be saying legislators should be team players intent on advancing the ball down the field for the home team. It is a mentality that a lot of Democratic legislators quietly embrace.

The theme is enhanced by suggesting that an effect of term limits is that the legislative branch is simply overmatched in experience and knowledge of the inner-working of state government compared to the executive branch, where many leaders of the state bureaucracy have worked for decades.

It seems that many legislators, particularly Democrats, are content to push a button and vote with the party rather than spend the time to understand the issue. Often they deeply care about one particular issue or focus heavily on securing funding for projects that affect their home district and are content to allow the governor’s overall budget and agenda to go unquestioned.

But this new pesky crop of Republicans elected to a robust minority in 2010 doesn’t understand the concept of not rocking the boat.

They show up at budget hearings and ask a whole host of questions about state government spending, which results in all sorts of embarrassing news, such as the financial woes of the state Forestry Commission. They actually dare to vote against appropriation bills on budgets if they still have questions on the details.

They act as if it is their job to question, to understand and to propose alternative solutions. The nerve!

You can read the whole thing over on the Arkansas News website.

I point out that if the Republicans do take a majority, which appears likely, Beebe will be in a similar situation as Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee who had to work with an opposition party legislature.  Ironically, Huckabee found an interesting behind-the-scenes compromiser in then-State Sen. Mike Beebe.


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