Audio – Senator Keith Ingram Reporting News From 91st General Assembly
March 8th, 2018 • News

March 8, 2018

  • Since I was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2008, a lot has changed in state government and in the legislature. Although much has changed for the better, some of the new trends are cause for concern. Specifically, there has been an increase in the number of elected officials who are professional politicians. There is no polite way to put it.
  • Arkansas has traditionally had a part-time, citizen legislature. It met in regular session every two years, for about three months. When sessions were over, lawmakers went home to their businesses, their farms, their insurance companies and their law offices. Many legislators were former teachers or school administrators. Many were self-employed business owners. They raised cattle and poultry, or they ran a factory.
  • We still have quite a few citizen legislators who have real-world experience, but these days we also have quite a few whose only occupation is the legislature. If serving in the legislature is your sole source of income, you are much less likely to make courageous votes on difficult issues. You’ll do what you have to in order to get re-elected.
  • Part of the problem is that we now have a session every year. Fiscal sessions started out with good intentions, but experience has shown that they are not necessary. For example, we’re about to complete the 2018 fiscal session and as soon as it’s over, we’ll immediately go into special session to take up some difficult issues about reimbursements to local pharmacies. Why couldn’t we take up the pharmacy issue during the fiscal session? The governor and his allies in the legislature were concerned that if we took up a controversial issue, it would distract from our work on fiscal matters.
  • In other words, they expect the legislature to simply rubber stamp the governor’s budget proposal during fiscal sessions. If important and difficult issues are going to be put off until we meet in special session, then why not just go back to the way it used to be, and save the taxpayers money?
  • Last year I co-sponsored a measure to repeal fiscal sessions, and my co-sponsor from across the aisle is about to become the Senate’s new President Pro Tem. If we’re able to put the idea on the ballot, I’m sure that Arkansas voters will choose to repeal fiscal sessions.
      Click to Listen - Audio Recording from March 8, 2018