Taking a Constitutional

What hap­pens when a blog­ger, colum­nist or occa­sional writer daw­dles is the the topic either gets away, gets old or gets stolen. Hats off to col­league John Brummett.

As of Nov. 2, Arkansas has three fresh amend­ments to the Arkansas Con­sti­tu­tion. That will make the 88th Amend­ment, 89th Amend­ment and 90th Amendment.

I am bound by com­pany rules not to make polit­i­cal endorse­ments, but since these have been voted on, it’s too late for endorse­ments. But it’s never too late to whine.

What will be the 90th Amend­ment widens the size of com­pa­nies the state can woo with finan­cial and other incen­tives. Arkansas needs new busi­nesses for the jobs and sta­bil­ity they pro­vide. Many states also attempt to bribe cor­po­ra­tions with cheap loans or flex­i­bil­ity in zon­ing. Bribe? Well, yes. It’s wrong, but Arkansas can’t afford not to play the game. This is the only new amend­ment I supported.

The 89th Amend­ment will give the state Leg­is­la­ture author­ity to adjust loan rates, which until now had been tightly bound by the ol’ state con­sti­tu­tion. I’m no author­ity but recall my (Repub­li­can) dad say­ing Arkansas’ rigid rate con­trol may have toned down boom years, to where spec­u­la­tors and devel­op­ers made less profit, but it also con­trolled infla­tion and reces­sion prob­lems for reg­u­lar peo­ple, com­pared to other states. As such, banks and investors have tried to demol­ish the usury pro­vi­sion for decades, and in 2010 they finally made it. My prob­lem is that this amend­ment gives the Leg­is­la­ture the author­ity, and the econ­o­mists among them (if any) per­haps may not be as per­sua­sive as lobbyists.

The 88th Amend­ment gives Arkansans the right to hunt and fish. You may recall the Sec­ond Amend­ment to the United States Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides for a mili­tia and rights to arms, may cover the same ground, and stream, and is under no threat. And the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion super­sedes any state’s. This is the one ripe for mock­ing. The pos­si­bil­i­ties for satire are end­less. Brum­mett found more of them than I could have. No one ever will mis­take me for a good ol’ boy, but I bet Brum­mett passes when he needs to.

I’ll state what Brum­mett implies. Does a largely sym­bolic amend­ment do any­thing but take up space, or quickly get for­got­ten? The state con­sti­tu­tion stands at nearly 200 pages. Do can­di­dates for state attor­ney gen­eral need to pass a lit­mus test of mem­o­riz­ing all 87 now 90 amend­ments, to say noth­ing of the body of the text itself? Do high school stu­dents in Arkansas need to be tested on it? They are required to have a semes­ter of state his­tory. (Teach­ers to be licensed in Arkansas must com­plete a three-hour course in it.)

At some point, if we’re lucky, the 88th Amend­ment guar­an­tee­ing the right to “har­vest” wildlife will be the sub­ject of a law­suit, because sym­bol or not, it now is the law and will need leg­isla­tive and judi­cial detail­ing. That’s how law works. Hey, there’s another amend­ment: The right to detail — wax and soup up one’s own vehi­cle in one’s own yard. Arkansans who need amend­ments for the obvi­ous do not walk, do not take con­sti­tu­tion­als, as it were.

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