Saturday, March 9, 2013

Stop Wasting Time: Arkansas State Legislature

To: The esteemed Representatives and Senators in the Arkansas State Legislature.

From: Your constituents.

Re: Certain Pending Bills.

Most of us Arkansans are good with the laws that have come to pass in the past few months. Even knowing that the pro-life bills will probably be stricken by a court challenge, especially since I doubt the Attorney General of Arkansas will actually make an effort to defend them, most of us do not view those as a waste of time. (In fact, I’d love to see some of the attorneys in this state that are actually pro-life do the defense of those laws pro bono. Maybe even a few pro-life organizations can help with the cost, so that the “we don’t want to waste state money” excuse goes away.)

However, you’re ranging too far afield. If tattoo parlors and such are not subject to the State Health Department verifying the cleanliness of the establishment, then they should be. But bothering with blocking certain procedures? Let’s not get silly, here. Additionally, why do we care? I’m for a law that makes anything beyond a simple ear-piercing an adult-only (or parental consent-required) procedure, but when we start making laws to ban this type or that, it’s nonsense. Again, if tattoo/body art procedures and establishments are less regulated than barbers, that’s another matter—put that in place. That would be revenue neutral: let the appropriate regulatory agency charge the necessary fees to recoup the cost. But let’s not waste resources sending the police after someone for performing an illegal body art procedure. It’s a luxury item, so tax it if you want to keep it controlled, but banning it? Silliness does not become the Legislature.

Further, sit down with the Governor about business regulations, taxation, and education. The reality is this: people move business opportunities away from Arkansas over all three of these issues. If we have a weak education system, larger businesses go elsewhere to find a viable workforce. I seem to recall an incident in the 1990s where Alltel expanded workforce in Georgia, even being an Arkansas company, not because of taxes but because the Central Arkansas area couldn’t support the need for 200 or so jobs that required basic math. That’s a problem.

If you cut business taxes and regulations, you won’t get new employers if they cannot get workers that spell their names and add 2+2. If you jack up taxes to improve education, you will not get more businesses because they will go elsewhere. You need to find a way forward that covers both needs. Stop being so elephant-footed and donkey-minded that you cannot work together. We’re Arkansans: we’re hog-headed but that’s another matter.

Alongside that, the biggest obstacle to business and education in this state is not taxation. It’s the corruption and cronyism inherent in the bureaucracy. Just listen for a few minutes to people who strive to open businesses or get started in an area that they are not from or that they are not the “right people.” If you know the right person in the right department of the county or of the State Government, you can get permits, permissions, or exemptions. An outsider? You’re toast. The anecdotes are everywhere, but you’re all too busy trying to become the bureaucratic power that you miss the point that having a bureaucratic power is the killer. Even if it’s you.

Your job is important, it’s stressful, and you need diversions. However, trifling matters like body art aren’t the diversions you need. If you need a day off before you get back to real budget issues, then take it. Otherwise, quit wasting time and get to the real work that needs doing.

Doug Hibbard

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