Saturday, November 01, 2008

EDITORIAL >>When you vote Tuesday

It used to be that when the ballot was riddled with complicated or abstract initiatives the natural impulse of Arkansas voters was to vote “no” on everything so that you could be sure that you were helping to get rid of the bad ones.

Let us stipulate that it is always better to educate yourself on even the most trivial ballot issues than to vote reflexively against everything, but this year it would be an excusable exercise just to vote “no” down the line, against all three constitutional amendments, the single initiated act and the single act referred to the voters by the legislature. You would not be doing the least bit harm if you contributed to the defeat of every ballot issue.

Proposed Amendment 1, which would clean up some obsolete and offensive language in the Constitution dealing with elections, is all right. It would give the legislature some power to fix the qualifications of election officials. If it is ratified, no harm will be done to the body politic. If it fails, we are no worse off either. We have actually recommended its adoption and we stand by it. But it is not one of the consuming issues of our time. Yes, weakly.

Proposed Amendment 2 deserves defeat. It would require the legislature to begin to meet in regular session every year rather than every two years and limit every appropriation to a single year. Biennial budgeting still works well and contributes to frugality. Bringing lawmakers back to Little Rock every year will be costly and an invitation to mischief. It will be the beginning of a full-time professional legislature. Arkansas is light years away from needing that measure of attention. No.

Proposed Amendment 3 is the lottery amendment. It is the first relatively clean proposition to institute a state-run lottery in Arkansas (although it conceivably could open the door to casinos), and polls have always shown that most people would like to have one. The net proceeds would go to college scholarships, which gives some cover to those who need a moral premise to support a government-run numbers game.

Whatever its benefits, we think a lottery is bad government and a particularly regressive way to pay for any government activity, even a worthy one like promoting college education. For many who will buy tickets, it is a pastime and innocent leisure entertainment, but lotteries also are a tax on the neediest and weakest of us — those who will spend inordinately from their meager incomes in hopes of striking it rich and ending all their troubles. It reverses government’s role from being a tribune of its neediest citizens to their exploiter. No.

Initiated Act 1 would make it measurably harder for elected judges and child-welfare workers to find stable and caring homes for neglected and abused children by enforcing a permanent and universal ban on putting children into adoptive or foster homes where the adults do not have a marriage certificate. Judges, pediatricians, social workers and ministers have come out against the proposal and we think their advice is sound. No.

Referred Question No. 1 would authorize the state Natural Resources Commission to sink the state $300 million into debt to pay for various irrigation projects for rice farmers and others and other water projects. The mortgage would be repaid off the top of the state general fund, which is your income and sales taxes. The water and irrigation bonds would have first call on the state’s revenues for many years. Something tells us that this is not the time to create such an obligation, even if it were for the best of purposes. This one is not. No.

As for the general-election political races, we reprise our previous endorsements:
For Pulaski Circuit Judge: Cathi Compton. She has the edge in the breadth of her experience.

For Pulaski County Judge: Floyd G. “Buddy” Villines. Villines is a smart and capable man, although his blunders and miscalculations along with those of the quorum court the past three years mystify us. We still think he is superior to his opportunistic opponent. A tepid yes for another term for the judge.