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Money for nothing

by John Brummett | February 4, 2014 at 2:44 a.m.

Even if we had a lieutenant governor, which we now don’t, there’d be nothing for him to do.

That helps explain why the Legislature will pass a bill in the fiscal session next week to keep the newly arising vacancy unfilled. That’s until the general election pointlessly produces a new lieutenant governor starting next year.

Even if we had a lieutenant governor, which we now don’t, he would need no staff.

He’d require only voicemail.

The governor’s office could leave a message that the real governor would be out of state. In that case the lieutenant governor would formally ascend, anachronistically and nominally and laughably, to the acting governorship.

That’s in adherence to an antique constitutional provision dating to horseback days when there was no smartphone in the governor’s saddlebag.

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You’d think that a fiscally conservative state such as ours would not have been wasting more than $200,000 a year in salaries for four-count ’em, four-staff positions for the newly former lieutenant governor.

I refer to the disgraced Tea Party Republican and mislabeled fiscal conservative, Mark Darr. He resigned effective Saturday because he got found out charging personal stuff to his campaign and his trivial office.

So now get a load of this: With Darr now resigned, and with the Legislature intending to make a special law not to replace him, the Republican legislative leadership intends to keep in place those four staff members.

Once there was the bridge to nowhere.

Now we have the staff for no one.

Auditors found that Darr misspent more than $9,000. So now Republicans intend to misspend more than $200,000.

This is about nothing more than Republican legislators using your money to take care of Republican hangers-on. Literal hangers-on.

Sen. Michael Lamoureux, the Senate president pro tem of Russellville who now is acting governor if Mike Beebe crosses the border, says those four people didn’t do anything wrong and shouldn’t be fired.

I’m not talking about their being fired. Their jobs simply no longer exist. There is no lieutenant governor for whom to provide administrative assistance.

That is not to say an ethical lieutenant governor actually in office would require any administrative assistance.

Those four people had nothing to do before. They have less to do now.

Lamoureux, who happens to be doing heroic work lately trying to save the private option, told this newspaper that he doesn’t know what those staff members do. But he said they must keep doing it.

As for the employees doing nothing wrong:There were a lot of people who hadn’t done anything wrong who were on the staff of the Arkansas Gazette when it closed. But they had to go home. They were not paid to show up at their stations for a nonexistent newspaper.

That’s not a perfect analogy. Those newspaper staff members actually had to produce something prior to the demise of their workplace.

Lamoureux also told this newspaper that only one person-me-had told him those four employees ought to be let go.

Perhaps I have silent allies. Perhaps there is a silent majority.

Lamoureux points out that we’re in the middle of a fiscal year and that the existing appropriation for this staff exists until June 30.

He wonders: Would I presume to tell four innocent people not to show up to their duly appropriated positions?

Let me think: Uh … Yes.

I’d actually expect the employees to have the good grace not to show up.

And I’d certainly not re-up in the coming fiscal session the appropriation for the lieutenant governor’s office beginning July 1.

Next year I’d let the newly elected lieutenant governor seek a supplemental appropriation only for the cost of voicemail. Or maybe I’d spring for the whole smartphone.

So now comes state Rep. Greg Leding of Fayetteville, minority Democratic leader of the House, to tell me that he does not support keeping those four employees “in their current situation.”

That sounds like he might want to prop them up in some other situation.

What I figure to happen is that the Senate, relying on the lieutenant governor’s silly formal status as presiding officer of that body, will find work-or, more accurately, create unnecessary positions-for these four Republican hangers-on.

I’m thinking the four employees could be assigned to Sen. Jason Rapert of Conway to assist him in the impeachment of President Barack Obama.

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John Brummett’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his blog at brummett.arkansasonline.com, or his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial, Pages 15 on 02/04/2014

Print Headline: Money for nothing

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