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Little bitty words -- often just three letters of the alphabet -- have a big impact on the state Legislators and the Arkansas General Assembly.

Just think about it.

A real political firestorm can flare up in the mundane legislative process with just a casual mention of these tiny words.

What are these words?

Well, itty bitty terms, especially:

• Tax.

• Sex.

• Sin.

• Pot.

• Gun.

• And, of course, God.


Six little words, each has the potential to divide our state.

As the 92nd General Assembly has just ended with political dialogue ramping up for the re-election season, these itty-bitty words are, unfortunately, often whispered up and down the marbled halls of the State Capitol.

And back home, legislators will tell you, these are the most misunderstood words that can (a) be whispered in discussions, (b) written in bills or (c) loudly verbalized in debate over proposed, pending or even approved legislation.

This past year, the three-letter buzz words overwhelmingly were "gun(s)," and "tax(es)."

But just wait.

Those other words: "Sex," "Sin" and God," will make it into the legislative discussions and debates as election season nears in 2020.

These words always do.

Currently, Arkansans suffer from sensory overload over the words "Medicaid" and "shortfall." The constant mention of this multi-million dollar "Medicaid shortfall" is in conjunction with the hint of a "tax" word. Adding to this topic there is the need for more three-letter words, such as "Act" or a "Law" to correct this shortfall.

"Bill," is an important four-letter word. It is the process vehicle by which an "Act" or "Law" is created. In layman's terms: You can't get to a legislative "Act" to become a "Law" unless the legislative process starts with a "bill."

Filing a "bill" calling for a "tax" to support the needs of the state creates fear and anger -- almost immediately from some legislators.

Don't we have enough taxes?, they ask. Some have signed pledges against any new taxes.

Conversely, if a "bill" is filed to grant a "tax" exemption or the removal of an existing "tax" -- little, if any opposition, ordinarily, arises.

The question lawmakers ask, and one which rarely draws any media or public attention is this:

Do we have enough "tax(es)" that we can eliminate this "tax" without impacting the revenue needed to fund the state? Those who have signed the no-tax pledge never fail to support these measures.

One exception, filed early in this session, is a "tax" increase on timberland.

Forest landowners, say, at least through a forest industry spokesman, there is no opposition to raising this "tax" rate from 15 cents per acre to 20 cents per acre on forest or timberland.

Only if there is a shortfall in revenue do legislators look to a vehicle for more revenue called a "sin tax." This "specialized tax" is often placed on such items as cigarettes, beer, whisky or non-essentials.

For many legislators, sin "tax(es)" are easy to sell back home -- especially when those not wanting their overall "tax(es)" increased can simply avoid the sin "tax(able)" items.

These taxes are not easy to pass, however. Sin tax items have strong lobby interests.

Arkansas has been spared such divisive bills as publicly posting the 10 Commandments in classrooms; or barring prayer, moments of silence, or Bible readings.

Prohibition of such measures is not by law, but usually by legal rulings by the federal courts.

Very few bills mention "sex" -- except in criminal statutes.

Almost no bills mention "God," outright.

But when legislators insert the Almighty or a term of a deity into a bill or the debate thereof -- look out.

We all know the impact of the word "pot."

It's sales of medical pot began this past week. Big money for a three letter word.

Itty bitty words pack a big political punch.

A version of this column appeared back in 2013.


-- Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 05/22/2019

Print Headline: Little bitty words are a 'BIG' deal

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