opinion by Maylon Rice
Editor’s note: Maylon Rice is a former newspaper reporter, columnist and editor at several newspapers over the past 40 years. He ran, unsuccessfully for the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2012. A native of Warren, Rice lives in Fayetteville.
Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of The City Wire.
Legislators in the most recent sessions of the General Assembly have tended to forget about the “real Mike Beebe,” the man serving as the Governor of Arkansas. Prior to ever placing his name on a ballot in White County almost 40 years ago, a younger Mike Beebe was known as a “very good lawyer.”
Translating that phrase into practical use for White County folk and future clients: He knew well how to read the law and interpret what it said.
And this past week, when Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox voided the state legislature’s photo-identification requirements for voters, we had to remember: Gov. Mike Beebe warned the Legislature – so hell-bent on passing this new law – that it was unconstitutional.
Judge Fox, while often a lightning rod for controversial cases in the state’s largest circuit, said simply that the requirements in the state’s constitution could not have additional requirements added by the legislature in order to vote.
The Governor is often weary of the wayward Legislature undertaking these emotional and often irrational issues, such as setting deadlines on the viability of fetuses, requiring photo ID for voters at the polls and tax breaks on machinery parts.
But the Legislature bowed their backs and said these are laws the people (and mostly the General Assembly themselves) wanted. They disregarded the sage advice of the Governor and revved up for a veto override if the Governor was to veto their bills. Our wise Governor, knowing what the Constitution says, advised solons the Voter ID bill would be declared unconstitutional by the courts.
The he vetoed the voter ID bill.
The Legislature, as they did three previous times, went back to their chambers indignant and outraged with the Democratic governor’s veto. And with a simple majority vote they overrode his veto.
The issue, the Legislators crowed, was correctly addressed with their new law, that is, until the matter went to court. Guess what? The legal sage of White County was indeed correct. The Voter ID bill was found unconstitutional by the courts and more importantly – according to the state’s constitution.
At last count, attorney (and former Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe – the state’s lawyer in legal matters) and current Governor, is 3-0 in court appeals of unconstitutional laws attempted by the Legislature. He vetoed three bills as unconstitutional and the courts have backed him every time. All three times these emotional Legislators overrode the veto of our state’s chief executive only to be proven wrong. Not just wrong, but constitutionally wrong.
Many of our right-wing solons, hoping to tweak state laws to assuage their conservative constituents, also seek to wrap themselves in the Constitution. Apparently many of these legislators have trouble reading those guiding documents – on the state and federal levels – which they so desperately cling to while bashing a Governor who, conveniently for them is a Democrat.
One thing is for sure. Not only can Gov. Mike Beebe read the state Constitution, he knows what it says. Which is why he is 3-0 up against those who have issues with reading comprehension.