JOHN BRUMMETT: This is for your own good

State Sen. Bob Ballinger of Hindsville wants to set a minimum wage in Arkansas the same way the electoral college has installed two second-place Republican presidents this century.

For that matter, it's now the same process by which Mike Maggio overruled common jurors in that nursing home case.

It's all based on a simple prevailing conservative Republican premise. It's that you can't trust official judgments formed by majorities of regular people because ... well, regular people, bless their hearts, don't know what's good for them.

Don't you understand that a partisan insider from a remote barren state chosen to be a presidential elector knows better who should be president than all those millions of actual American people living in places they don't have the good sense to leave, like California and New York and in and around Chicago?

Don't you understand that 12 jurors in Faulkner County aren't qualified to set the amount of money due a family because of negligent treatment of a loved one in a nursing home? Don't you see that a judge taking a bribe is much better-suited for an important decision like that? Don't you see that we need some "tort reform" to keep these regular people from going into those jury boxes and acting like they're in charge?

And now, by the right-wing Republican Ballinger's bill filed last week at the Capitol, you need also to understand that 68.5 percent of Arkansas voters in November were mired in cluelessness and didn't really understand what they were doing when they approved a higher minimum wage.

Surely you can grasp that they wouldn't have voted that way if they were more sophisticated in their thinking.

Ballinger's bill, SB115, is simple enough even for regular people to understand.

On that minimum wage increase the voters so overwhelmingly approved, it would exempt persons younger than 18 and employees of educational institutions, nonprofits and commercial enterprises with fewer than 50 workers.

As a publicly initiated law, the minimum wage increase could be altered only by a two-thirds majority vote of both legislative houses. Since Republicans are three-fourths of our current Legislature, there seems a reasonable chance the voters' declaration on a minimum wage will meet the same fate as the voters' declaration of a president in 2000 and 2016, not to mention the same fate as that $5.2 million jury verdict in that nursing home case that then-Judge Maggio, now of the federal pen, corrected down to $1 million.

Alas, some context about Ballinger seems appropriate.

In December it was reported that state government had filed a tax lien against him for nonpayment of a tax bill of about $1,700. He's had home mortgage payment issues over the years. He put out a statement in December that, as an attorney, he could make a lot of money but instead had chosen a life of public service and to trust that the Lord will provide.

That's not to say that Ballinger's Lord would provide a higher state minimum wage across the board as the voters decreed.

Formerly a House member, Ballinger ran for the Senate last year and took on Rep. Bryan King, a mercurial right-wing outsider populist. Ballinger had Gov. Asa Hutchinson's backing because King kept saying and doing wild things that got on Asa's nerves.

That is to make the point that we live in a state where Bob Ballinger can be the establishment moderate alternative.

King once voted against so-called tort reform. Maybe somebody needs to put in a bill saying the second-place candidate in the Ballinger-King race is the winner.

Meantime, another little bill filed by a right-wing Republican last week set off a social media firestorm.

Rep. Stephen Meeks of Greenbrier put in HB1177 to say that no employer could stick a microchip under an employee's skin without the employee's written permission.

The bill became a little less outrageous the more you learned about a trend in Sweden and an isolated instance in the United States. Employers installed microchips by which employees could pass security checks or have vending machine charges automatically taken from their accounts.

I'm not kidding here, though it surely must sound like it.

Meeks says he is merely seeking to be defensive and proactive should this practice ever reach Arkansas, and, in such an event, to protect employees from being chipped unless they want to be.

My initial take on the bill was that it was frightful. Then I thought it was silly.

Now I'm wondering if it is inadequate. Maybe it needs to be amended to ban human microchipping altogether in Arkansas, period.

After all, some of these regular people might not know any better than to agree to it.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 01/20/2019

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