Asa’s all shaken up

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - John Brum­mett John Brum­mett, whose col­umn ap­pears reg­u­larly in the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette, was in­ducted into the Arkansas Writ­ers’ Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at jbrum­mett@ arkansason­ Read his @john­brum­mett Twit­ter feed.

The spe­cial leg­isla­tive ses­sion that be­gan Tues­day upon the blessed ad­journ­ment of the fis­cal ses­sion was sup­posed to be about two es­sen­tial things.

In­stead it turned out to be about Jan Mor­gan’s vic­tory in the Republi- can gu­ber­na­to­rial pre-pri­mary.

One of the es­sen­tial things—or at least straight­for­ward and ex­pected— was to au­tho­rize the state In­sur­ance De­part­ment to reg­u­late phar­macy ben­e­fits man­agers (PBMs). These en­ti­ties have sprung up in health-in­sur­ance plans be­cause middlemen who reap prof­its by pay­ing peo­ple’s med­i­cal bills now need their own middlemen. You see.

Al­legedly, these PBMs started this year pay­ing phar­ma­cists such in­suf­fi­cient re­im­burse­ments for some drugs that your friendly drug­gist is all in a lather. And you don’t want phar­ma­cists mad. They’re on ev­ery street cor­ner. They see lots of vot­ers. They dis­pense things vot­ers need. Many of them are quite ge­nial, un­til a PBM riles them.

The other sup­pos­edly es­sen­tial thing was to con­form an open-con­tainer law to fed­eral man­date, so that the state could spend $11 mil­lion in fed­eral high­way money as it wished. Big deal. We’re get­ting ready to spend that much in a Lit­tle Rock minute on an In­ter­state 30 bridge and widen­ing through the cap­i­tal city that half of the pop­u­la­tion doesn’t want.

But the big news late Mon­day when Gov. Asa Hutchin­son re­leased the agenda for the “spe­cial” ses­sion, pre­sum­ably for “ex­tra­or­di­nary” emer­gency mat­ters, was that:

Peo­ple ap­par­ently were stranded on the sides of state high­ways in their all-ter­rain ve­hi­cles wait­ing for the Leg­is­la­ture to res­cue them with a new law say­ing they may drive those con­trap­tions wher­ever they darned well please so long as the path con­nects be­tween the off-ter­rain trail and home.

Other peo­ple were sit­ting with mouse clicks at the ready to trans­fer tax-de­ducted money from their check­ing ac­counts into gov­ern­ment-ap­proved sav­ings plans for­merly only for col­lege tu­ition. The idea now is that peo­ple could get the same tax break for set­ting aside sav­ings to move their K-12 child from a pub­lic to a pri­vate school.

That’s a pri­vate school voucher de­liv­ered at the back door, just so you know. And the deal on it is that poor peo­ple couldn’t put aside enough money to en­roll their kids anew in pri­vate school. Thus, the bill seems mainly a new tax break for peo­ple with enough money to have their kids en­rolled in pri­vate school al­ready.

I don’t know why they don’t put these bills to­gether. A sin­gle mea­sure could pro­vide that you may ride your ATV on the in­ter­state high­way from home to pri­vate school, right past your pub­lic school, if your par­ents have put money in your sav­ings plan.

Oh, and I al­most for­got: Hutchin­son also pro­poses in the spe­cial ses­sion that we pro­tect that big hog farm in the Buf­falo River water­shed (and con­ceiv­ably oth­ers) from reg­u­la­tion that might change the rules by which a per­mit was granted in the first place.

The pro­posal is that, if you seek mod­i­fi­ca­tions in such a per­mit, the state may only de­cide on the mod­i­fi­ca­tions, not the mat­ters by which you were al­lowed to com­mence op­er­at­ing.

It might be in­struc­tive to note that Mor­gan, that gun-galore woman from Hot Springs who is chal­leng­ing Hutchin­son in the Repub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary be­cause she claims to be­lieve he’s a dad-blamed lib­eral, re­cently made a cam­paign stop in that hog farmer’s town. She as­sailed any state gov­ern­ment ac­tion that might threaten a man’s mak­ing an hon­est liv­ing.

That’s what I mean by say­ing she’s won the pre-pri­mary. She has the nor­mally steady Asa all shaken up.

He doesn’t want any­one say­ing he let a good right-wing no­tion go to waste when he had a chance to ad­dress it in a spe­cial ses­sion a few weeks be­fore the real pri­mary.

He’s ba­si­cally telling the sane peo­ple of the state that he went to the mat for them on their Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion, but that now it’s time for him to win the in­sane pri­mary.

I’m al­ways sur­prised that I’m sur­prised at how fright­ened politi­cians are of elec­tion op­po­si­tion.

To his credit, Hutchin­son did not pro­pose amend­ing state Rep. Char­lie Collins’ gun-galore bill to per­mit open-carry of AR-15s to Ra­zor­back foot­ball games.

That will await the ac­tual Mor­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion. Or a Hutchin­son one that gets any more scared.

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