Waning-hour weirdness

A state representative once said he well-understood the weirdness that can occur in the "weaning hours" of a legislative session.

It might be nice if legislators set aside time to wean themselves of bad legislation, bad habits or even--as in our current predicament--a bad governor. But the gentleman pretty clearly meant to say "waning hours."

There was that time when legislators stayed in session past dark to conclude a session during which Bill Clinton had been rebuffed on his proposal to repeal several tax exemptions for lobbyist-protected businesses.

By continuing to meet into the evening, legislators made themselves susceptible to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. She finished her day's work at the Rose Law Firm and came to the Capitol to hang out with her husband.

When Hillary heard that some House members appeared to have been drinking down on the second floor, and that there had arisen some measure of procedural messiness, she--being the no-nonsense way she was--said, hey, let's bring back up those failed tax-exemption bills.

Bill said all right because that's what he always said to Hillary, seeing no viable choice.

Then, when alarmed lobbyists explained to happy-houring House members what appeared to be happening right before their bleary eyes ... well, the poultry-owned legislators, particularly, started running around as if their heads had been cut off.

A poultry-owned legislator actually charged toward a governor's floor representative as if to fight, but maybe only because he was trying to regain his balance.

Hillary's big play eventually failed, but not without significant entertainment.

Last week legislators rushed to meet scheduled adjournment. They'd run out of ideas to abuse transgender people.

Quietly, a one-page proposed law got dropped in. It was to move Damascus.

It was not the one in the Bible. It was the little one north of Conway where they'd once had the speed trap and Coffee Dan's diner. It's near that missile that blew up in its silo that time.

All in the world that the little bill proposed to do was move a piece of the Van Buren-Faulkner county line, which tiny Damascus straddles, to make Damascus entirely part of Van Buren County, which, as it happens, has been wet for liquor sales since a vote in 2020. Faulkner has stayed dry under its strong Church Lady window-dressing.

The purpose seems largely to have been to oblige one fellow, a lobbyist, or "consultant"--Steve Goode, formerly part of Asa Hutchinson's cabinet as head of Alcohol, Tobacco, Medical Marijuana, Racing, Gaming and Casinos, which is quite a bit.

Goode has long owned and operated a grocery store in Clinton that had begun selling alcohol upon Van Buren County's wetness. He also had opened a second store in a vacant facility in Damascus happening to be on the Faulkner side about 150 yards south of booze-ville.

It turns out, sources say, that Faulkner County is a booming booze market.

Goode beheld with frustration the commerce that his Faulkner-side Damascus supermarket was not getting as motorists headed past his supermarket north over the county line to a convenience store with refrigerated six-packs.

All he did was get a two-paragraph bill drawn to loop the county line southward to wrap around his store.

He asked his state senator, Missy Irvin, to put the bill in, but she apparently had more sense.

Rep. Stephen Meeks of Greenbrier--actually, he always seemed to have good sense himself and to be a staunch Church Lady type. But he put the bill in under his sponsoring name Tuesday afternoon.

He told a reporter Wednesday afternoon that he wasn't going to run the bill because it had occurred to him that the affected people in Faulkner-side Damascus needed time to have input on ... you know ... what county they live in.

Meeks also said he had never been a supporter of alcohol--which I fully believe--and had not known alcohol was the point, or a purpose, of the legislation he had filed.

He said he had thought it was about efficiency of public services for the dozens of people living in the affected area. He said Goode had explained that people didn't know which county to call on a safety issue and that maybe they'd know if you switched them around.

He perhaps was aware that Goode had discussed the matter with the Damascus town council. He was not aware until a couple of Damascus people got in touch with him Wednesday that, yes, there had been a discussion, but nothing concrete had come of it, and this bill was kind of a blindside thing.

Anyway, all this will work out if Faulkner County will simply vote itself wet like it already is in Conway restaurants and the cabinets and refrigerators of many fine homes belonging to people last seen on the road to Damascus.

The Van Buren County part.

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.

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