Saturday, February 05, 2005

Spend Your Own Money! Part Deux

by Mark West
http://home.earthlink.net/~marknkriswest/

Every good debate begins with a pressing and though provoking question. Arkansas’ question of the hour: Who should pay for a power grab by the two major political parties in Arkansas, the people or the parties?

Early in the first session of 2005 for the Arkansas Congress, Representative Jeremy Hutchinson (R – Little Rock) proposed House Bill 1006. HB1006 would require that political parties select their presidential candidate by the first Saturday in February. The political parties would have been allowed to select by what means they would make the choice, whether by caucus or primary. Another open end to the bill would have left the decision to finance the caucus or primary up to the local election officials and political parties rather than making a statewide mandate. Sounded good, but was held up in the Democrat-run committee of the Democrat-controlled House.

Enter Senator Tracy Steele (D – North Little Rock) proposed Senate Bill 235. SB235 would require that political parties select their presidential candidate on the first Tuesday in February at the “state’s” (read “people’s”) expense. Choice is usurped in this piece of legislation. Sounded bad, but has been approved in the Democrat-run committee of the Democrat-controlled Senate.

When Hutchinson realized that HB1006 would be held up in committee, he conceded that it was probably being held up because of who would get credit for it. Now that a Democrat has proposed a similar bill, it is getting footing in the Senate. Political credit is at the heart of many decisions in this state and this country. Just like President Bush’s proposal for Social Security, which is just a scaled back version President Clinton’s late nineties proposal, is being stalled for political reasons as well. Why is it so difficult for something good be done just for the sake of doing something good?

Recent elections have seen Arkansans display less influence on the Presidential primaries due to being one of the last states to select candidates in May. In 2004, General Wesley Clark (D – Arkansas) was in and out of the Presidential race before Arkansans ever got to cast a vote on the issue. HB1006 and SB235 seek to address the issue by having a special primary or caucus in early February in Presidential election years. Such a spot would follow only Iowa and New Hampshire and should create more Arkansan political sway. It would be good for Arkansas to have this extra influence.

Laying the bills side be side we, by the process of elimination, can determine what the real issue that is holding this process up. HB1006 proposes a caucus or primary prior to the first Saturday in February whereas SB235 proposes a primary on the first Tuesday in February. I don’t believe the actual day issue is the hold up. Either date would be plenty early in February to get a jump on the other states. HB1006 leaves the payment option open whereas SB235 demands that the state pay for the extra primary. Here’s the problem! Hutchinson believes that payment for the extra event should be decided locally while Steele believes that payment for the extra event should be the responsibility of the “state” (again, read “people”). Who should pay for it?


Should Arkansans pay for a special primary or caucus for the two major political parties? Would it be better that the parties themselves pay for this power grab? I’m personally in favor of an earlier caucus or primary but believe that payment of such should be the responsibility of the political parties, not the citizens. Considering that only around one-third of registered voters belong to the two parties, leaving about two-thirds of registered voters as “independents,” the two parties should pay for their own special event or at least work with local election officials to decide how it should be paid for. It is morally wrong to require Arkansans to pay for something that would benefit the special interests of party officials rather than the entire state.

I’m sure that the move would bring in some extra revenue for some parts of the state, but what about the rest of us who are left “sharing” the bill but not the benefits? I guess we should be happy to sacrifice for the common good so that we can be a part of the process. I guess my suggestion still stands as it did before. Political parties should sacrifice for their own good and foot the bill for the extra event. Why is it that politicians are quick to call upon the people to pay for their extras rather than pay for their own? Spend you own money!

4 Comments:

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