Thursday, April 21, 2016

What Just Happened Here (Obamacare Funding Vote)?

The Magnificent Seven

Almost all appropriation items in Arkansas outside of a few categories require a 3/4ths majority in each house of the legislature to pass. That is in the state constitution. This should have the effect of making sure the state only spends money on things for which there is broad public support. Unfortunately, it doesn't work in practice. There may be 35 Senators, but they represent only two political parties. If the leadership of both of them want something, they can normally find a way to herd enough Senators together to do it even if an idea is extremely controversial with taxpayers. 
Medicaid expansion under Obamacare is very controversial. If it were put to a referendum on the November ballot, there is a good chance it would be voted down, and it is highly probably that it would be voted down in Senate Districts represented by Republicans. But legislators don't just represent their constituents, they also represent one of two parties (and the Governor runs one of those). This fact has basically short-circuited a process which was supposed to insure than the state does not spend tax dollars on most things unless they have broad public support. That is one reason why I think we should start sending independents and/or people from new grassroots parties to the state legislature, but I digress.
Ten Senators had stood their ground and refused to pass a budget which included Obamacare Medicaid expansion in it, which in this state is now called "Arkansas Works".  It was previously called "The Private Option." If people are so sold on it, one wonders why they have to keep changing what they call it? Senators were under tremendous pressure from both sides. If Governor Hutchinson wanted D.C. to send him some more money to pass out, he had to find a way to split two of the ten off and get them to vote for the appropriation.
Rumors had been circulating that not all of the ten were solid opponents of the plan. The idea was that some of them were just making a show for the folks back home. If there was some symbolic gesture they could use to flip their vote, they would.

That may have been the impetus behind the Governor's plan, which sounded too convoluted to be a plausible "House of Cards" script. By combining a bill which funded Medicaid Expansion with an amendment which ended funding of Medicaid Expansion, a couple of Senators looking for a way out could vote for the bill, arguing that the bill "defunded" the program. This was even though the Governor said in advance he intended to line-item veto the part that revoked the funding and thus leave the bill with the funding intact.

The two Senators who accepted that deal were Bart Hester and Blake Johnson. The rest did not. In one way or another they refused to fund it, whether by voting "no" or "present". You see their names above, in red and yellow. Bledsoe, Clark, Collins-Smith, Flippo, King, Rice, Stubblefield. I call them "The Magnificent Seven".  In Missy Irvin's case, she went to a funeral instead of showing up to vote so count her as a sort of "no" as well.

By flipping their vote for something that was such an obvious gimmick, Hester and Johnson put themselves in an awkward position. Sure, voting for it is bad, but putting on a big show and then flipping over such an obvious token gesture is even worse. It would have been better to have come out in favor of the bill all along than to make a big show of being against it and then abandon your position in exchange for the barest of fig leaves.

Hester made a statement to explain why he went for the deal, saying that he just could not keep voting "no" because he did not want all of Medicaid to go unfunded. But President Pro Tem Dismang had already said he was ready to separate out the "Arkansas Works" money from the rest of the DHS budget. If so, they could have had a "clean" vote on the funding of Arkansas Works without holding the rest of the people on Medicaid hostage. A lot of us see the folks on traditional Medicaid as becoming the victims of Obamacare/Arkansas Works anyway as funding for that program crowds out the Medicaid funding for them.

Hester also explained his switch by saying in effect he voted for a bill that defunded Medicaid Expansion and if the Governor comes along later and makes it into a bill which funds it instead then that's on the Governor, not him.

Look, legislators have tough jobs. I know that. They are voted into office to make some hard calls. Still, I think his statement is, by itself, an abdication of his responsibility as a legislator. The legislature is supposed to decide what is funded and what is not. That is not really what this bill does. The language in this bill was written, if what the Governor is doing is really legal, so that Medicaid Expansion can either be funded, or not funded as the Governor may decide. Sure the legislature could technically over-ride his veto with a majority, but the whole intent in the Arkansas Constitution is that a super-majority is required to appropriate state money. The legislative super-majority requirement for an appropriation is being skirted by this measure. That power was put into the Constitution to give legislators the ability to make some hard decisions, to hold out and stop spending they thought was wrong.  In this case that power, and the buck, is being passed to the Governor.

Now, there is a big caveat to all of this, for both Johnson and Hester. You see I don't think what the Governor and the legislature just did is legal, for reasons outlined here. Yes, they changed the language some, probably because they were worried about just the kind of thing I wrote about in the link, but the changes they made don't alter the fundamentals. Not that you can't count on judges to rule according to the text of the law or the constitution anymore, but they are supposed to and they have been know to do so. If it is taken to court, the Governor's action may be ruled unconstitutional. If the judges rule on the text of the state constitution it very likely will be ruled so.

What I am saying is that maybe Hester and Johnson have given the Governor enough rope to hang his Medicaid Expansion scheme. Did they mean to? I don't know, but we will see if they are at the forefront of the legal fight to show that what he did is a violation of Separation of Powers. A court ruling saying so will cast even more dubious actions at the feet of a program which already has a history of plenty. It will set things up even more for real victory on the issue in the next fiscal session. If they do it will go a long way toward showing that they were not just trying to score points or mollify some powerful supporters with a show of a fight. Instead, they are willing to fight when a fight is called for, they just had a slightly disagreement on tactics.

Look, each year that goes by the more of a burden this program is going to be, not just from the perspective of a taxpayer, or someone on traditional Medicaid getting their program cut, but even from the perspective of the state.  The state's share goes up each year. Insurers are leaving the state. Premiums are set to increase significantly in 2017. The feds will one day tire of the state taxing their Medicaid money and demand we end the practice. Each year that goes by will show more and more that The Magnificent Seven had it right, and the rest of them had it wrong. I know we have seen a lot of defeats, mostly of stubbornly clinging to old habits. Example: people insist on relying on the Republican party to vet their candidates instead of bypassing it and getting candidates of their own choosing directly onto the general election ballot. But on this one, we can win. We are on the right side of history, and fiscal reality. So we should keep doing what we are doing, only smarter.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Boozman Voted to Fund Obamcare When the Chips Were Down

Frank Gilbert is coming after John Boozman, pointing out that the Senator voted to fund Obamacare when his vote was critically needed to fund it- one of 19 Republican Senators who crossed over to do so. A lot of grassroots voters are extremely feed up with legislators, on both the state and local levels, who claim they are against Obamacare but then vote to fund it at critical times.

The complete press release about "Both Ways Boozman" is here.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Six Percent Trust the Media

According to a recent poll I found in the media, but they would have no reason to lie about that. I believe that represents about the percentage of people who either work in the media or have a close family member who does so.

Remember Moore's media Maxim: The establishment media does not exist to inform the public. The establishment media exists to protect the establishment.

And a corollary: Any nation with banks "Too big to fail" will have a corporate media "too connected to tell you the truth."

Are You SURE About that Governor?

So the Governor seems to think he is in a House of Cards episode where he can get around the 3/4th majority required to approve appropriations by a made-for-Hollywood convoluted scheme. First step is adding an amendment that kills funding for Obamacare's Medicaid expansion into the bill that approved it. That should peel off a couple of the ten Senatorial holdouts and the bill would be approved. Then his plan is to line-item veto the amendment taking out the funding, reanimating the funding that the amendment said was killed. Then his veto is not over-ridden and the bill becomes law, with the reanimated funding.

That is more like a Walking Dead episode, but still, try to focus here. By this plan, according to the actors playing the lawyers in whatever episode he imagines himself in, he can legally fund Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. He calls this Obamacare expansion by the misleading name of "Arkansas Works" possibly because that is what Kevin Spacey would do.

When asked last week if he was sure this use of his line-item veto power was constitutional, the Governor took the trouble to issue a strongly worded statement saying how completely confident he was that the scheme was constitutional. Here is one of his statements:

"I have vetted it and feel totally comfortable with it," he said. "The constitutional language is clear. I have a history of all the exercises [of the line-item veto]. I've talked to legal counsel. I don't think there's any question about it." Hutchinson said he has also walked through the strategy with the Bureau of Legislative Review. "I don't think there's any room for doubt there," he said.

I added the bold print, but that is an actual quote from the Governor. I have a little question here for our studio audience. When have you ever heard Gov. Asa Hutchinson speak in such absolute and definite terms about anything? Me neither. He is normally vague and squishy. So what does it mean when he is makes a definitive statement like this?

I think it means he is starting to realize that the truth is the opposite of what he says here. He is not comfortable he can pull it off. The constitutional language is not clear, at least not in his favor. There is a question about it. There is room for doubt there. He has made a huge mistake and has to find another way out.

Here is the section of the state constitution in question:

Article six, section 17

The Governor shall have power to disapprove any item or items of any bill making appropriation of money, embracing distinct items; and the part or parts of the bill approved shall be the law, and the item or items of appropriations disapproved shall be void, unless repassed according to the rules and limitations prescribed for the passage of other bills over the executive veto.”

So the question ought to be if the section allows the Governor to line item veto any item in a bill making appropriations, or only any appropriation line item in any bill making appropriations? I think its the latter. The Founders never imagined un-appropriation language being added to an appropriation bill and then being line item-vetoed so that the canceled appropriation is re-animated. If confirmed this will be a new Executive Power in Arkansas, never before wielded.

Look, if you read only the blue sentence fragment above and stop reading there, then the Governor's position makes sense. But if you keep reading the red part it indicates to me that the Governor is not granted power by this section to line-item veto a non-appropriation item from an appropriation bill, only the appropriation items. How do I know this? Read the part in red where it specifies that the items of appropriations disapproved shall be void. The part in blue allows for two possible meanings, but the part in red clarifies their intent.

The Governor was meant to have line item veto power over the appropriations in appropriations bills. How can they write that amendment so that when it says "kill an appropriation" it is still an item that makes an appropriation? I ask that because that is the only kind of item that I see the Governor actually being authorized to line item veto in this section.

I believe the Governor has messed up big and he knows it. His House of Cards plan is not the way out for him. So I look for someone to offer another way out, perhaps in secret agreement with the Governor. That is different from legitimate attempts to compromise. Senator Alan Clark offered a legitimate attempt to compromise with a proposal to end new enrollments in the program while not cutting off those on it now until they leave due to some change in status.

Of course the other side is not interested in that kind of compromise. They are interested in SB 96 style-compromise. That is, the appearance of compromise which ends in them getting everything they wanted and you getting nothing. If that doesn't happen I would just as soon let the Governor have his way and then take him to court over it. If they care about the text (and prior AG opinions) the courts will rule against him.

******* UPDATE, CLARK and HESTER seem to be working on the same plan, one that may be very different from any of this. Details tomorrow, we hear, *******************

I noticed Senator Bart Hester offered a proposal on the heels of Clark. I would like to see the details, but so far I am dubious. From what I have heard, it looks like the SB 96 of the special session. I hope I am wrong but here is why I write that: It would "cap" enrollment but allow new people to enroll as old ones drop off- thus resulting in no cut to the program and maybe even more growth depending on where the cap is. It would also kick the can on funding but that is not the same thing as defunding. In the end we would have to fight the same battle all over again.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Arkansas Legislative Maneuvering Too Bizarre for House of Cards Script

In an effort to grab as much of the next generation's money as Obama is willing to give them, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and company resorted to convoluted legislative machinations that I think would be rejected as a "House of Cards" script for being too shady to be considered believable by the audience.

His problem? It takes a 3/4ths majority to pass appropriation bills. That means nine senators can stop an appropriation, if they are willing to take the hits. As of this week, ten were willing and voted down the appropriation for "Arkansas Works" the new name for the Private Option which was the old name for Medicaid Expansion in Arkansas. As an aside, have you ever noticed that honest folks marketing quality products don't have to change the name of what they are selling every few years?

The Governor came up with a plan to get around that obstacle. According to State Representative David Meeks and since confirmed by others, here was the Governor's plan:

1) It fails in the Senate today and gets sent back to Joint Budget.
2) Joint Budget adds special language that kills Arkansas Works.
3) Goes back to the Senate and passes.
4) Comes to the House and passes.
5) Goes to the Governor who then line-item vetoes the language killing Arkansas Works.
6) Veto is not overridden and Arkansas Works is implemented.

So they were going add in an amendment which says "never mind what we said earlier in the bill, Arkansas Works is not funded." That would peel off a couple of the holdouts, which is all he needs to get his 3/4ths majority. Then the plan was to line-item veto the amendment (which he can do on appropriations bills) leaving us with the original language the Senators objected to, but since the veto would not be over-ridden, Arkansas Works would wind up funded.

His complicated plan was hurriedly implemented with little notice to anyone, including the Democrats. That is why it hit a speed bump at step two. The Joint Budget committee failed to approve the amendment killing Arkansas Works. Some Democrats did not want to vote for an amendment to kill the program, even if it was part of a ruse to wind up with the program.

Many of us would consider Sen. Joyce Elliot an advocate for downright moral degeneracy. Well, she did not vote for the Governor's convoluted scheme yesterday basically because she was ethically troubled by how disingenuous it was. Joyce Elliot had too much integrity to be comfortable with Governor Asa Hutchinson's tricksy scheme. Think about that for a minute.

He is going to get another try next Tuesday and I believe he can get the votes to get it out of committee. I also think he will induce two of the ten to vote for the amended bill on the basis that it "kills Arkansas works" even though they know that language will be a dead letter.

Let me be clear: It reminds me of the battle over SB 96 last time. This bill "kills" Arkansas Works like SB 96 "killed" the "Private Option." That is going to be the likely practical effect even though this move might not even be constitutional. The key issue is whether one considers an amendment to cancel an appropriation of money as an appropriation of money. I don't think it is. Cancelling my subscription is not the same thing as subscribing. Here is the section of the state constitution in question:
Article six, section 17
“The Governor shall have power to disapprove any item or items of any bill making appropriation of money, embracing distinct items; and the part or parts of the bill approved shall be the law, and the item or items of appropriations disapproved shall be void, unless repassed according to the rules and limitations prescribed for the passage of other bills over the executive veto.”

So the question ought to be if the section allows the Governor to line item veto any item in a bill making appropriations, or only any appropriation line item in any bill making appropriations? I think its the latter. The Founders never imagined un-appropriation language being added to an appropriation bill and then being line item-vetoed so that the canceled appropriation is re-animated. If confirmed this will be a new Executive Power in Arkansas, never before wielded.

Look, if you read only the blue sentence fragment above and stop reading there, then the Governor's position makes sense. But if you keep reading the red part it indicates to me that the Governor is not granted power by this section to line-item veto a non-appropriation item from an appropriation bill, only the appropriation items. How do I know this? Read the part in red where it specifies that the items of appropriations disapproved shall be void. The part in blue allows for two possible meanings, but the part in red clarifies their intent. The Governor was meant to have line item veto power over the appropriations in appropriations bills. How can they write that amendment so that when it says "kill an appropriation" it is still an item that makes an appropriation? I ask that because that is the only kind of items that I see the Governor actually being authorized to line item veto in this section.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Enslaving the Next Generation in the Nicest Possible Way and for the Noblest of Motives

There is very often a gap between what people think they are doing and the real consequences of their actions. We kid ourselves about the effect that our actions have on the lives of others. That is why the Prophet Jeremiah, under Divine inspiration, wrote "The heart is deceitful above all things, who can know it?" God answered that He is the One who knows the heart of man. Which is to say, we can't be trusted to be objective when evaluating the morality of our own actions. We require an outside reference point for that, and there is only one such moral reference point which is truly objective- God Himself.

That brings us to our little controversy in the State Senate recently. When proponents of Medicaid Expansion (under the disingenuous name "Arkansas Works") started questioning the Christian values of those who refused to support the plan, Senator Terry Rice responded by saying, "We are enslaving future generations, our children and grandchildren — to debt that we are irresponsibly putting on their credit card. That to me is ... unbiblical."

While proponents of the plan don't mind insinuating that those opposed to the spending are unchristian, they bristle at the suggestion that they might be themselves. Senator Stephanie Flowers took exception to Senator Rice's statement. She said "I would never vote for a bill that enslaved anybody," and further, "I don't think that's what we're doing when we're providing health care for the poorest Americans. I have a serious problem with that kind of statement. Humanity dictates that we ought to give people an opportunity to have a healthy lifestyle. That's not enslavement. I'm willing to have my son, and any grandchild, help somebody out when they're sick."

Senator Flowers seems like a nice person. I can just tell that she is. I don't question her Christian values. But I do question her objectivity to evaluate her own actions. And I do her no insult when I say that because as I pointed out at the start of this article we all tend to have trouble doing that. Senator Terry Rice is exactly correct when he says that they are making debt slaves of the next generation. And we are doing it to lavish government benefits on ourselves now.

The national debt right now is over $59,000 per citizen. This means that each new child born in America starts off with that much debt hanging over their heads, stifling the economy in which they must live and work. And each and every day over $2 billion dollars of debt is added to the national total as government relentlessly spends more of the next generation's money. The FEDS propose to pay for 90% of the expense of expanding Medicaid, but let's be frank. they are paying for most of it with the next generation's money.

If someone handed you a $59,0000 bill for items that you had no say in, would you be OK with it? What happens when that bill gets to $100,000, or $200,000? These are debts of a size that most people cannot work their way out of. "Debt slavery" at some point becomes the perfect term to describe where today's politicians are taking tomorrow's children with their non-stop generational looting.

Senator Flowers tells herself that she is "providing health care for the poorest Americans". In truth she is not providing anything except access to the next generation's pockets. They are the ones that will be providing whatever health care is given, whether they can afford it or not and whether they consent to provide it or not. Nor is she doing it for "the poorest Americans" as if it is OK for me to steal from your children if you have more than I do. For one thing, the very poorest were already covered under existing Medicaid, along with the disabled. Their funds are now being threatened by this new program. Its called breaking the safety-net due to over loading.

For another thing, those are not the poorest Americans. The poorest Americans are the next generation who come into this world with nothing. No money, no assets, no skills, no education, no jobs. All they have is the $59,000 and growing debt that we have burdened them with in our eagerness to tell ourselves what good people we are for "providing" this or that through government debt.

She continues "humanity dictates that we ought to give people an opportunity to have a healthy lifestyle." Once again, she is not giving anyone anything except access to the next generation's earnings. They are obligated to spend untold hours of their life working to pay for the things she decides that others ought to have at their expense. And they have no say in the matter. How anyone can deny that this is very much like slavery is a testimony to the truth of scripture concerning the deceitfulness of the human heart.

If she feels that we ought to give anyone anything, then she should arrange to pay for it, all of it, through increasing taxes or cutting less worthy spending. At least those of us here and now can vote against her or donate to her opponent if we feel like she wants government to pay for too much. The next generation has no vote to defend itself from the predatory looting of today's politicians whose disgraceful conduct is made worse by their efforts to cover it in religious platitudes and call it holy. It is a swine offered at the alter.

She does offer up her own offspring when she says "I'm willing to have my son, and any grandchild, help somebody out when they're sick." So am I. But I want it to be their choice, not mine. I am the steward of my child's life, not the owner. I am to provide for and train them up only for a brief time before they become their own stewards. It is not up to me to dictate to my children or grand children how many hours they must work each day to re-pay the debt which I used to benefit strangers. They must make their own decisions about who to help out and how much. I hope I train them up so that they are able to do so early and willing to do so generously. This is the right and true way we should be willing to have our children and grandchildren help out the sick people. The sick of this generation are our burden, not theirs.

But if she will not listen to me, perhaps she will listen to a prominent Democrat: Thomas Jefferson. He wrote "spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale."  Now one might be willing to dismiss Jefferson because he was a slave-owner. What one should see instead is that even though he was willing to own other human beings, he was not willing to make debt slaves of the next generation. By all accounts, as slave owners go and by the standards of the times, he was good to his slaves. How good are we being to our own slaves? That is, the debt slaves we are creating by this wanton deficit spending so that we can feel good about ourselves?

Friday, April 08, 2016

For a Time Such as This, The Vote on Funding Obamacare Medicaid in Arkansas

In the Book of Esther in the Bible, the Jews in captivity in Persia were facing a deadly crisis. Esther was a Jewess who was the wife of the Persian King. He did not know her nationality. Her job was to please the king and otherwise stay out of his way. Her uncle Mordecai asked her to intercede with the King for her people. She was hesitant to risk the King's ire by doing so. Her Uncle rebuked her in saying that if things went south she better not count on being safe in the palace and that perhaps she was placed by God in the position that she was in "for a time such as this." Reluctantly, she agreed after asking her uncle to have her people fast and pray for her. Eventually she sucked it up and confronted the King as to the bad intentions of his closest and most trusted adviser, Haman. She won the King over and the King wound up having Haman hung before he could implement his evil plan to pillage the Jews and hang Mordeai.

That is an account which may have special relevance right now to some heroic legislators who are in a tough situation. The state legislature voted to renew Medicaid Expansion under Obamacare* yesterday under the new name of "Arkansas Works". The House Vote is here. It passed the Senate 25-10. Here are the ten "no" votes:

Clark, Collins-Smith, Bledsoe, Flippo, Hester, Irvin, Blake Johnson, King, Rice, Stubblefield.

Opponents had some reason to hope that they could stop the bill in committee. For several cycles now the people of Arkansas have been electing folks to the legislature who claimed they were against Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. Some of them, like John Cooper of Jonesboro, was simply lying to get elected and flipped at the first available opportunity. Others only flipped when they saw the Republican Governor wanted to keep the program and decided that pleasing the head of their political party was of more value to them than doing what they told the folks back home they would do when they ran. But some of the most dedicated opponents had worked themselves into position to stop the bill in committee by finagling spots on the Public Health Committee in the Senate. This was the committee through which all Medicaid Expansion bills had passed since the inception of the program.

Their mistake was thinking that the Democrats and Establishment Republicans would have any respect for precedent, them or their work, the rules, or basically anything other than their own will- which is to spend every dollar they can get out of Washington no matter what. President Pro Tem of the Senate Johnathan Dismang simply ignored all that and assigned the bill to the Insurance Committee rather than the Public Health Committee. The former was stacked with those in favor of expanding Medicaid under Obamacare. Meanwhile Lt. Governor Tim Griffin, the man who the Constitution of Arkansas says is supposed to be the actual President of the Senate (and thus deciding which committee should hear the bill) remained still and quiet (EDIT: People I respect have told me I am being unfair and too hard on the Lt. Governor for that statement. I have been sent some info which my crushing schedule will not allow me to look at for a while which it is claimed will show that the LTGOV could never help in a situation like this. So for now, please take my sentence above with at least one grain of salt).

Look the whole of the senate can still bring a bill out that a committee has rejected with a 2/3rds majority, and the Senate passed the bill with a 71% majority so it is very likely they could have brought the bill out despite the committee voting it down. I understand that. It would have taken two senators who voted for it yesterday to decide they were not so much for it as to over-ride the committee process and I seriously doubt that would have happened. (EDIT: I am also told that a majority vote can challenge a bill committee assignment.) But the point is if precedent matters, if the rules are stable (and precedent ought to be respected instead of us trying to follow moving goal posts all over the field) then opponents of the bill should have gotten a chance to try. Unfortunately we in our apathy have allowed ourselves to become ruled by a class of people for whom the "rules" are only tactics to get you to do what they want, but which they do not consider binding on them at all. Both of us, them and us, should repent of our moral failings.

This brings us to the next phase. The constitution requires a 3/4ths majority approval of both houses of the legislature in order to appropriate money to pay for the programs the legislature passes. This was deliberately inserted into our constitution in order to make sure that taxpayer money is not spent unless there is a broad consensus that the program in question is something that the state of Arkansas should be spending money on.

The state has long understood this to be the case. Click here for an example of how this issue came up in Arkansas history. I tell you that if ever there was a circumstance when a minority of legislators need to use this provision of the constitution to stop a spending bill then its on this one. If they don't use their constitutional power now then you might as well strip that provision out of the document, because its useless when people lack the courage to use the tools given in the constitution to stop government over-reach.

When you consider that legislators have been misleading people for years, that the people keep sending politicians to the legislature on the understanding that they oppose this program but then many of them wind up supporting it instead.... When you consider that the program is highly controversial and does not have the consensus of the public that this is something we should be spending money on; when you consider that those who favor this program have resorted to crass and underhanded tactics to get it passed to this point (including secret bribes, open bribes, and voting on the same bill over and over until it passes); when you consider that the money to pay for this plan does not exist and it is unsustainable outside of looting the next generation, then it is clear that it is right and proper to use whatever constitutional tool is legal to kill this program which by all rights should never have made it this far.

I strongly suspect that if the legislators stood their ground and refused to fund the program that the Governor and his legislators (not the legislators who represent the people in their districts I say, but rather those in his service) will ignore the constitution and find some devious means of advancing the bill anyway. That's on them, and it sets the stage for a court room showdown over the thing, as well as further exposes them to the public as oath breakers.

The shame in this is not that only nine senators or 26 representatives can block a large appropriation, the shame is that the political class has forced this thing on us for years and only nine or ten senators have enough respect for the people they are supposed to be representing to stop it. Now the Governor and his legislators have lumped a whole lot of spending on the appropriation bill that funds Obamacare. They think to accuse the legislators who refuse to approve the spending of "holding the Department of Human Services Hostage". Let me be clear. It is Asa Hutchinson and cronies who would be holding this state hostage because it is they who made the decision to lump this spending in with the appropriation for the whole department. They could have just as easily made it a separate "clean" appropriation. If this goes on long enough and the winds turn against them that is what they are going to wind up doing anyway.

It would not be a case of a minority of legislators blocking the will of the majority of the people. It would be a case of a minority of legislators protecting the will of the majority of people from a political system which is ignoring them One determined to impose more debt on their children regardless of what they want.

You might say that the Democrats would retaliate by blocking something "we" want. Who is "we"? Not me. Not the people I know. There is nothing I want from state government so badly that I am willing to consign my children to debt slavery to get it. Blocking funding is a loser tactic for THEM, not US. THEY want things from government beyond justice, we don't. One awkward bit is that THEY includes the big-government Republicans who also want to use government to loot, just for the benefit of a somewhat different group of people. The honest legislators at some point are going to have to separate themselves from these thieves unless they wish to be counted among them. That is the choice. I don't say this as if it will be my doing. I merely foretell.

But let us suppose THEY is a committed group of Democrats (which it largely will be) who retaliate by defunding something the Republicans want. Republicans either want things that most people want, or the THEYs in the GOP want something that a special interest wants. THEY can only cut off something that either a special interest wants, or the general public wants. If the former, then good. Let them consume one another, if the latter, then their position is untenable. What gives you moral authority to stand strong is that the voters have repeatedly spoken and they don't want the PO, they don't want Obamacare, and the system is trying to run over them and impose it anyway. The retaliators would not have that moral high ground to stand on



* The question is "Should the rest of us, and the next generation, be sent the bills to pay for health insurance for the 8% of the population who are able-bodied adults who are below the federal poverty level but not the poorest of the poor?" That is really the question at stake in the Medicaid expansion vote. Those under 17% of the Federal poverty level were already covered under Medicaid. Children were covered under Medicaind (ARKids). The disabled were covered. The so-called "Arkansas Works" plan (like the so-called "Private Option" and every other Obamacare Medicaid Expansion program regardless of what it is called) would lay taxes on the rest of us, along with borrowing a large amount of money from the next generation in federal deficit spending, to pay for the insurance of this group.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Boozman Voted for Bill that Enables Power Line To Snatch Arkansan's Land

The so-called "Clean Line" is a planned string of giant electrical towers that will run from Crawford County all the way across the state to Mississippi County (suspiciously close to where the "Big River Steel" state-sponsored manufacturing facility is setting up). Here is an interactive map of the proposed route. The lines will take electricity generated by windmills in Texas and Oklahoma and deliver it to points east.

Landowners in the twelve affected counties are concerned. Especially since the people behind the power line have just gotten federal authority to use eminent domain to take right of way on which to place their giant, sometimes dangerous, and always ugly towers. That means they can take the land for a price decided in court even if the landowner does not want to sell. Originally the folks pushing this line sought state authority for eminent domain, but were refused. The granting of eminent domain was given by the Federal Department of Energy under the authority of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This is the first time the authority given to the Department of Energy under that act has been used to grant eminent domain power to a private company.

When a project steps on that many toes, politicians step up and promise to help. Even the usually still and quiet John Boozman is making some noise on this one, and trying to get out in front as a champion of the oppressed landowners.  In this case, as in so many others, politicians try to take credit for their attempts to solve problems which they themselves helped create. That's right, as a Congressman John Boozman voted for the very legislation that Talk Business says has enabled the power grab. That would be the aforementioned "Energy Policy Act of 2005". Boozman voted for the bill whose actual implementation he now shows such indignation over. Here is the link showing his vote on the bill.

Not that Talk Business is calling him out on it. Nope. They are doing what the Establishment Media always does- protect the establishment of which Senator Boozman is certainly a member. That's why you have to find out about it from a guy who blogs as a hobby. Its why bloggers are the real media now.

No, Talk Business spent a good deal of space assuring its readers that Boozman and Congressman Steve Womack were fighting this dreaded abuse of power without mentioning that Boozman was one of those who authorized the law that made it possible. The Talk Business article repeated their trumpeting that they were "pushing"  for the "Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Access to Land (APPROVAL) Act (S. 485/H.R. 3062)". This act would require the approval of a state's Governor before the DOE could grant eminent domain for electrical lines under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Yea, they are "pushing" to make it right!

Here is a link tracking the progress of that bill. No action has been taken on the bill since October of last year! Talk Business is telling you that Boozman and Womack are "pushing" the bill. Let me ask you, if your boss asked you about a project that was important to him and you emphasized that you were "pushing" it, but then he later found out that no action had been taken on it since October of the previous year would your boss be satisfied? No. Then neither should you be satisfied with Boozman and Womack if you care about this issue. Especially Boozman.

Boozman is opposed by me-too Democrat Connor Eldrige (the Democrats in the Arkansas delegation voted for the Energy Policy Act of 2005 by a 3-2 margin) and Libertarian Frank Gilbert. In your heart, you know that there is only one of those three who might stand up for individual property rights in the face of big business demands for special favors. The only question left is if you have had enough so that you are finally ready to vote for them?