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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Ballot issues are bad news

by John Brummett | October 5, 2022 at 5:00 a.m.

One of those fine state-and-local columnists in the stable of the Sunday Perspective section wrote most recently about the proposed constitutional amendments you'll encounter on the ballot in November.

Gwen Faulkenberry got it just right in terms of explanations and recommendations on the three legislatively referred proposals.

I'm not prepared to say just yet, but will be soon, on Issue 4. That's the citizen-initiated legalization of the sale and use of recreational marijuana.

It's going to come down to approving of the concept--which is to legalize and regulate and reap tax revenue from weed--but wondering if it's worth it to wait for a better specific proposal. I'll share my developing view in time; meanwhile, we can all turn on the television and hear a full advertising argument. There is a lot of self-interested money for Issue 4, and a lesser but sufficient amount from the aghast and against.

But I thought I'd risk duplication and write today about the three legislatively referred proposals in case some of you are midweek readers only or don't read the full Perspective section with the fidelity you apply to this page. You should apply equal and full fidelity, of course, but there are only so many hours on Sundays after church and before football.

Let's cut to it, to the extent that the seventh paragraph is cutting to it:

• Issue 1 is no good, though many of you may think it is for the reason I know it isn't. It further weakens the constitutional authority of an already too-weak governor. The governor's veto, for example, can be overridden by a simple majority vote, meaning it's worthless.

This would authorize the Legislature to call itself into special session by two-thirds vote of each body. Now the governor has at least some leverage in that only he--or she--may call an extraordinary session between regular sessions, then list the items to be considered without exception unless the legislators vote to add items. This is a proposal of big-government conservatives to disturb the balance of power in the legislative branch's favor, and it is offensive to a limited-government moderate such as myself.

Let's say we had another covid pandemic. The governor could declare an emergency and authorize certain commerce restrictions for a limited time to contain the spread and keep hospitals from imploding. With Issue 1, the Legislature could call itself into session and pass the Right to a Haircut Act, the Send the Kids to School Anyway Act, the Chicken-Fried Steak at the Diner for Lunch Protection Act and the Get That Silly Mask Off Your Face Act.

• Issue 2 is no good, and every one of you ought to agree. It limits your power and elevates both the power of elected politicians and the power of a 40.1 percent public minority.

It ought to be enough that minorities can elect the president and seat the U.S. Senate majority. Issue 2 would provide that a majority vote of the people in a general election would no longer pass an amendment, but that 60 percent would be required. Legislators have had it with people having no sense except in voting for them and the glorious Trump, and certainly not in approving gambling, marijuana, a higher minimum wage and Lord knows what else if we don't stifle them.

• Issue 3 grants free religion because you presumably don't have any. Well, not really. It says you can have your free religion extra-protected in Arkansas by personal exemption from a law that offends your religion even as the law applies to everyone else.

I'll tell you one thing--I will be offended on a personal religious basis, and every other basis, when a Governor Sanders and the Legislature implement statewide unregulated school choice. It attacks my very religious belief that equal public education underpinned this great nation and must be preserved and improved, not reduced to business-like competition with winners and losers. But I do not need--and should not be granted--any special protection from a constitutional amendment on that.

We need fewer laws. Let's all vote next month to give Arkansas at least three fewer than it might have had.

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

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