With the NCSL bent on lionizing arrogance, lawlessness, and disdain for voters, perhaps the less legislators learn at their conventions, and the more they merely vacation, the better.
Summer vacation for Arkansas legislators continues. Now, 57 legislators are packing their bags for two conferences in Alaska ? one hosted by The Council of State Governments and another by The Energy Council. All junkets combined amount to taxpayer-paid vacations for well over half of the entire legislature, at a cost of about a quarter of a million dollars.
Of course, the politicians argue that their travels are well worth the cost because they learn about public policy and, thus, become better public servants. But while these supposed benefits to taxpayers are dubious at best, this rationale falls apart completely when one considers that many of those tripping on the taxpayers' tab are term-limited legislators. Yes, 15 term-limited legislators traveled to Utah and 24 more are headed to Alaska. By law, these legislators cannot return to the Legislature next session to use their vast, newly acquired knowledge. Why should Arkansans "invest" in increasing the knowledge of soon-to-be former servants?
Well, never say legislators aren't inventive. Several term-limited politicians justify their attendance saying that they might run for office again or be involved in state government in one way or another. Wait a second . . . doesn't that describe every single citizen of the state? We're all equal, of course, but politicians think they're just a little more equal than the rest of us.
House Speaker Herschel Cleveland is one term-limited legislator taking multiple vacations, thanks to the taxpayers. "I am working on this alternative fuels stuff," Cleveland points out in defense of his plans to attend The Energy Council event. "If the thing in the Middle East blows up and we don't have the fuel we need, we're going to be in trouble." Makes you rest a little easier to know this state legislator is on the job, eh?
Speaker Cleveland also notes that he did not attend conferences in Hawaii and Italy. What impeccable restraint!
Another term-limited junketeer is Rep. Larry Prater. "I want to find exactly from those [Alaska] folks what our oil reserves are," the great solon explained. Apparently, Phone Use 101 had not been workshopped at a previous conference; a phone call would have been a tad cheaper than a junket.
And if Arkansans are frustrated with their legislators' endless summer of excellent adventures, they can step up to full-blown revolutionary zeal by taking a look at yet another legislative trick, Amendment 1 on the November ballot. The measure's misleading ballot title ? written, as readers of my Common Sense e-letter would guess, by the legislators themselves ? says it will "establish term limits." But, Arkansans already have term limits. The true impact of the Legislature's amendment is to water down the state's current term limits law so that legislators can stay in office much longer ? twice as long in the House and 50 percent longer in the Senate.
Clearly, the legislators need more time to "see the world."
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