Monday, April 11, 2005

State Senators Defy Federal Courts

By Mark Moore (click "comments" below for the story).

9 Comments:

Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Last Thursday four State Senators refused to comply with a number of Federal Court decisions stretching back almost a decade. I know this sounds incredible, but it happened.

What issue do you think was so powerful that the Senators were willing to defy the courts? Was it over education? Nope, they have fallen all over themselves to say that they have 'no choice' but to comply with court rulings on education. Was it court-ordered tax increases? No, remember they were happy to comply with the courts mandate to raise your taxes against your will in the last education debate. Was it abortion? Nope. Gun rights? Nope. Maybe they decided to oppose judge Greer when he ordered that poor Schavio woman be starved to death? No, not even that.

So what issue could be so important that Democrat and Republican politicians unite as one to defy Federal Judges?

Keeping other political parties off of the ballot!

That's right. The only issue they have bucked the courts on is the court's insistence that other political parties get an equitable chance at ballot access. It is truly stirring to see both Democrats and Republicans act in one accord in the spirit of bipartisanship, which we have learned is not the same thing as nonpartisanship.

Since 1996 Federal Courts have ruled that Arkansas' ballot access laws are unconstitutional and violate the 14th Amendment rights of Arkansas citizens. The courts specifically rejected the double standard for ballot access requirements between independents and persons seeking to get new political parties on the Arkansas ballot.

The way the law now reads, Indepedents can get state-wide ballot access with only 10,000 voter signatures. The person seeking to run for say, Governor, as a party candidate would need 3% of the vote cast in the last election, which would be over 31,000 signatures in 2006.

Even if the courts directives were followed, independents would still have the advantage for smaller offices. They can get on the ballot for some offices with a mere ten signatures, where as a party always needs to get access across the whole state.

Since the current law was written in 1977, no third party has ever been able to obtain ballot access in Arkansas under the law. The Reform party did it in 1996 via a court ruling that the law was a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. The legislature changed the law a bit in 1997 so that they could claim they complied, but left intact the main barrier to access- double standards based on who you choose to associate with.

This does not apply to access for President. In an apparent effort to keep rich out-of-staters who want to run for President from suing them, the legislature decided one needs only 1,000 voter signatures to run for President, whether one is an independent or member of a party. So in Arkansas, the Constitution Party needs 1,000 signautes to run a candidate for President, but 32,000 signatures to run five or ten people for a state legislative seat!

SB1112, sponsored by Sen. Jim Holt of Springdale, would have brought Arkansas ballot access laws into compliance with the court rulings, and the U.S. Constitution. The bill was brought before the State Agencies Committee of the Senate. The members of the Committe are...

Chair: Senator Steve Faris
Vice Chair: Senator Hank Wilkins, IV
Senator Jim Argue
Senator Jack Critcher
Senator Gilbert Baker
Senator Ed Wilkinson
Senator Shane Broadway

The first time Senator Baker asked that the bill be taken off of the table so he could have some time to study it. Holt complied but then brought the bill up again last Thursday. He presented the actual text of the court rulings which said the law must be changed. The evidence was a slam dunk that the courts had mandated this for almost a decade. On any other issue where the court orders something that the people don't want the legislators tell us they have 'no choice' but to comply with the courts. In this special case though, not one Senator would even make a motion that the bill be voted on. The bill died right there.

Argue and Broadway were not present at the second hearing, at which the bill was rebuffed. Faris, as Chairman, does not make motions.

It is ironic that Jim Holt has taken so much heat for saying that the courts are out of control and must be subject to checks and balances like all branches of government. That day he was the only legislator who was trying to comply with the courts!

We emailed Senator Gilbert Baker, who seemed to do most of the objecting to the bill, the following questions about his lack of action....

* Why did you oppose this bill? Why did you decline to make a motion that it even be voted on?
* How would you respond to those who would say your actions in regard to this bill served to protect the interests of the political party that you chair, rather than protecting the rights of Arkansas' citizens?

His email reponse to these questions was as follows: " I did not make a motion for or against the bill. I do not support the bill. Thanks again.
"

Senator Baker is of course the Chairman of the State Republican Party.

I have a dog in this fight too. In the interests of full disclosure I helped craft the bill and serve as chair of a minor party, the Constitution Party (http://www.cparkansas.org) That is how I knew about this story. I sure did not read about it in the state's old print media! As much as I hate to take my fellow citizens to court, I suppose we will have to in order to get on the ballot in 2006. Let no one say that we did not give the legislature every chance to do the right thing.

9:55 AM

2:55 PM, April 11, 2005  
Anonymous 19th Generation said...

It is obvious by their actions that neither the Democrats or Republicans have the best interest of the citizens at heart.

It is also obvious that both are out to destroy middle class, taxpaying Americans.

Why?

7:27 PM, April 11, 2005  
Blogger terrymcdermott said...

It seems that the State Legislators
will often ignore major issues, like SB1112, but will waste time on bills that are just plain silly.

One good example is a bill that will ban bottle rockets. If this is all they are going to do, they need to quit wasting our money, and
go home.

8:15 PM, April 11, 2005  
Anonymous MJ said...

These Senators are very confident in their own powers, and very determined to keep it that way!

Excellent article.

3:49 PM, April 13, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The next time a legislator tries to tell you that they have 'no choice' but to comply with the courts, you remember SB1112!

7:06 PM, April 13, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to 19th Generation -

I don't know why, unless they are representing a few very rich elites that don't like to share power with a broad mass of citizens that have some discretionary income (the middle class).

Maybe if we were all up to our eyeballs in debt and working 3 jobs to keep up then they could make the rules without our interference.

Hope and Pray we wake up in time.

8:41 PM, April 15, 2005  
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