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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