Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Ten Worst Bills that Became Law in the 2015 Regular Session

The Worst Legislation of 2015

In years past we have had a list of "Worst Legislators" to go with our list of "Ten  Best Legislators." This year we are going to change it up some on the "Worst" side. So many legislators were so disappointing that it probably would not be fair to the readers or the legislators to narrow it down to the worst ten legislators.

Instead, we decided to list the ten worst bills that became law in the regular session. That way instead of making it personal and saying "X is a terrible legislator" we can say "here is a bill that most of the legislators voted for, see if you agree with us that this is a bad bill..."  This will also allow readers to look at the votes. I think some of you will be surprised at the bills that "your" legislator voted for. (Note: The special session had its own terrible bills and deserves separate coverage.)

Members of the panel were particularly down on bills which were misleading in nature. This is a natural consequence of the tiresome series of deceptions which members of the legislature have perpetrated in recent years, such as the claims that the "Private Option" was "not Medicaid Expansion" and "the furthest thing from Obamacare", as well as Referred Amendment 3 from 2014. That last one described itself as an "Ethics Reform" bill which would "Establish Term Limits" when in fact it greatly weakened existing term limits laws and left mile-wide loop-holes for the unethical behavior it purported to stop to continue. The bottom line is, while they can fool some of the people most of the time, we are not fooled and are increasingly repulsed by the dishonesty.

The Ten Worst Bills that Became Law in the 2015 Regular Session

1. SB 967 Senator Jon Woods (R) Springdale and Rep. Warwick Sabin (D) Little Rock

This bill makes it essentially impossible for the ethics commission to catch anyone taking bribes, since if they do get caught, the new law says if they just give the money back within 30 days the Ethics Commission is powerless to sanction them. Yes, its that bad.

How did your legislator vote on this bill?
House    Senate

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2. SB 96:  Senator Jim Hendren (R) Gravette and Rep. Joe Farrar (R) Austin.

The fake bill to "end the Private Option" and reverse Medicaid Expansion under Obamacare in Arkansas. It was sold as a way to end Medicaid expansion, but Conduit for Action summed this bill up as "Medicaid Expansion Continues." The "Private Option" was built on temporary waivers from the Obama Administration that would route the Medicaid expansion money through an extra set of private hands. Those waivers were always set to expire at the end of 2016 so "ending" the PO when it was set to end anyway was meaningless.  The bill then pretends to obligate a future legislature to end the underlying Medicaid expansion- which is of course also meaningless because the acts of a previous legislature don't bind future legislatures.

The rest of the bill, the heart of it really, establishes a panel picked by those who saddled us with the "Private" Option in the first place to find a way to tweak and re-brand it so that the same basic Obamacare program lives on with another name. The "Private" Option has been discredited, but even if it had not been the fact is that neither the state nor the federal government has the money to sustain this program. The panel was incensed at the continued deception used to try and keep alive a bad idea that must fail anyway once our credit runs out.

How did your legislator vote on this bill?
House  Senate

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3. HB 1402 Matthew Shepherd (R) El Dorado.

Exempts capital gains of over 10 million dollars from capital gains taxes. It is just not right. It's not right that when your mom and dad sell their home to downsize for retirement that they have to pay a higher rate on state capital gains taxes than Walton billionaires do when they harvest a $100,000,000 dollar gain on stocks or property. I have heard the argument made that the big boys can make the moves to evade the tax if we don't give them a lower rate. It is still wrong.

The right answer is to give everyone a lower rate so that its not worth the trouble to evade them and your mom and dad have more for retirement. But to really reduce taxes it is necessary to reduce government spending, and few in the legislature seem willing to do that anymore. This bill means that once you get through all of the shell games, the real reduction in taxes in the Hutchinson tax program goes to those who obtain capital gains well in excess of ten million dollars. The income tax cut passed this session, which may or may not actually happen starting next fiscal year, is largely funded by increases in capital gains tax rates on that same group of people (middle and upper middle class). It is a disgraceful tax policy which confirms every negative stereotype about the Republican Party.

How did your legislator vote on this bill?
House  Senate

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4. SB 810 Senator Joyce Elliot (D) Little Rock and Rep. Mary Broadway (D) Paragould –

DHS must to investigate calls of “educational neglect” from an anonymous hotline even if they have not gone through due process. The issue of children being taken from their homes and families being harassed by DHS for not living a life that meets all the conditions on a government check list is an explosive one. Even if the children are not taken, just getting a visit from DHS and being subjected to their demands and inspections can be disruptive, and even damaging for a family. That's why it should only be done when there is probable cause of real harm occurring. Due process is supposed to be among the government recognized rights anyway, but government is increasingly reneging on its agreement with The People. This bill is another example of that.

All the legislators who claimed to be "conservative" should have known better than to vote for a bill sponsored by Elliot. I am not saying that she can't have a good idea, just that when Elliot is the sponsor of a bill it already has two strikes against it, the third pitch is on the way, and the batter forgot to bring their bat.

How did your legislator vote on these bills?

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5. SB 975  Senator Jeremy Hutchinson (R) Little Rock and Rep. Bob Ballinger (R) Hindsville

The “religious freedom” bill that overall goes backwards on “religious freedom”, to the extent it does anything, and mirrored a federal measure so worthless that even Obama supported. Even more disgusting was the speed with which the Governor and the Legislature hopped to it when Wal-Mart called. They did not want the originally proposed "religious freedom" bill which contained a provision which might have actually protected religions freedom. The Governor and the legislature then fell all over themselves pulling the original bill and substituting this facade. For the long version of the story see this. Jeremy Hutchinson later admitted he sponsored the bill because of “cowardice.”  It was actually brave of him to admit it, but it was still a fake bill and we are furious with fake, and the way it went down.

How did your legislator vote on this bill?
House  Senate

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6. SB 101  Sponsored by ‘Joint Budget Committee''( How is that for evasion of responsibility?).

This was the bill which funded the "Private" Option- i.e. Obamacare in Arkansas. What makes it particularly galling is that only 25% of either chamber could have stopped this bill because appropriations bills require a 3/4th majority. Surely the state founders put such a measure in our constitution for exactly such an occasion as this- to block a massive spending bill opposed by most of the voters but supported by powerful lobbies. Blocking it would have forced the rest of them back to the table to negotiate a compromise, or maybe even do what most of them ran on- ending Obamacare in Arkansas. Of course that is not a tactic which should be used by a party interested in growing government, and that's both of them now so the tactic goes unused.

How did your legislator vote on this bill?

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7. SB 343  Another one by Governor Hutchinson's nephew, Senator Jim Hendren (R) Gravette

The fake bill to “eliminate” the Obamacare Exchange which took the steam out of the strong bill to do so. It allowed politicians to claim they voted against finishing setting up an Obamacare Exchange while actually voting for a bill which would allow the opposite. Don't be fooled by the double-talk, Mary Bentley's bill on the subject was the real "End the Exchange" bill, this was a fake one to provide cover while the kept it going. Details here.

How did your legislator vote on this bill?

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8. SB 681 Senator Alan Clark (R) Lonsdale

The bill weakens requirements for Education Commissioner so political appointee and Common Core supporter Johnny Key could get the job.  Why is Key so indispensable that the law had to be changed to accommodate his lack of qualifications? I don't know, but he is on the wrong side of two major heads of the same Education Hydra- Workforce Education and Common Core.

How did your legislator vote on this bill?

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9. SB 891 Senator Jane English (R) Little Rock

Work Force education is Socialism. It is a Planned Economy with respect to labor inputs, and it will misallocate resources just like planned economies always do (detailed rant here). It is not being sold as that, because even though planned economies always fail, they do succeed in redirecting resources to those closest to the central planners. Beyond that though, this bill reminds us of Senator English directing the path of her bribe money.  Maybe it is her nerve in directing the spending of this money so soon after she took an open bribe, in the form of money for this program, to change her vote on the PO that bothers me.

How did your legislators vote on this bill?
House Senate

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10. SB 956 Senator David Sanders (R) Little Rock, again.

The bill had some changes that made it less repulsive, but that was not Sander's idea! He called it "The Health Care Transparency Act”. In Sanders-speak, “transparency” means the government sets up an Orwellian health data collection system so they can know more about you, not you knowing more about them. This is not the public's real need for transparency in medical care. The need for transparency in medical care is for consumers to be able to easily get pricing information from medical providers before treatment so they can comparison shop based on price like they do with any other product. Of course, that is pointless under the socialized medicine plan even the Republicans seem to be pushing us all toward.

How did your legislators vote on this bill? 

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Wildcard: One we suspect belongs on the list but do not yet know how to rate-

HB 1665 by Charlie Collins (R) Fayetteville. If what we fear is right, this bill will result in a substantial increase in utility rates for homeowners and small business in order to finance a rate cut for the largest corporate users and pay larger dividends to stock holders who were already doing OK relative to the low rates on bonds and CDs (which is a comparable investment to utilities). Or maybe it won't do much of anything. Time will tell.

How did your legislators vote on this bill?
Senate: Unanimous
House

The worst bill which failed to become law:

Panelists were asked to select bad bills that actually became law- with one wildcard. Our panelists were allowed to pick one bill to put on the "worst" list that did not become law. The hands-down winner of that one was HB 1006 from the regular session. This bill actually passed the house (see vote) but was stopped in a Senate Committee in large part due to the legislator who was #1 on our "Ten Best Legislators" list- Senator Bryan King of Green Forest.

Why was the bill rated so awful? It would take half an hour to begin to describe it all, and if you have that half an hour, here it is in detail. The bill was a particularly bad way to bring about what is, with our present Congress, a particularly bad idea- an Article V convention to propose amendments to the federal constitution.

 I know some people are keen on an Article V Convention to propose amendments. I and the rest of the panel are strongly opposed to giving today's ruling class, and that would be who would be running the thing, a chance to re-write the constitution. If the problem is that they are ignoring the Constitution that we have, then amending it can't be the answer.

Still, not all proposals to amend the constitution are the same. This one was the worst of the bunch and plenty of people who are open to an Article V convention could find a lot not to like about this particular approach to it. Again, listen here for details, but the gist of it is, the plan for a compact is unworkable without the approval of Congress anyway, and the so-called "balanced budget amendment" would not be a catalyst for a balanced budget so much as it would be a catalyst for a change in the tax code to something highly favorable to global corporations at the expense of what is left of the American middle class. Its a tax change bill posing as a balanced budget bill.

I know that many folks out there are favorable to what they call a "fair tax", but even if they back the policy honest people should be against packing into an amendment to the constitution that claims it is about balancing the budget, not changing the tax code. In addition, the so-called "Fair Tax" is not all its cracked up to be (hear this for details) and the version in the amendment was one of the worst forms of so-called "fair tax". It was a retail sales tax that would have allowed corporations that have been outsourcing production from decades to bring all of their stored-up foreign profits home without paying a penny of tax on it while crushing Americans on fixed incomes or with limited ability to increase their income.

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Conclusion:

I have no idea what brings these legislators, who seem so normal and even pleasant in person, to vote for all of this terribly immoral legislation, and then to hold it up to be something other than what it is. They don't seem like villains, yet they act like them. I am reminded (in a very small way, the bills were bad but there is no comparing the two in terms of degree of evil) of the shock writer Hannah Arendt experienced watching the Adolph Eichmann trial.  I am not comparing the legislators to Eichmann, but rather my reaction to Arendt's on witnessing a person who seems urbane and "OK" embracing something very wrong. Eichmann embraced the genocide which he helped carry out. When she went to his trial she expected to see a monster. But he appeared to be a normal, sane human being who simply chose to embrace evil. Seeing this terrified her even more than seeing the monster she expected, because it showed how even people we might think of as civilized and normal can chose to follow the darkest of paths.

What to do? The human evil part has no cure other than repentance. We have to pray for revival, one that is not just a "church thing" but one which renews one soul at a time our whole sick culture. For the broken system part, our view is that the system is so rotten that it is time to bypass the national party system altogether and revert to self-government. Most Americans have no idea what that means any more, even though it is our heritage and our birthright. That means replacing most of these legislators, those who close their hearts to repentance, with independents that we recruit and support through local citizens groups which you form for that purpose.


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