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OPINION: 'Lame Duck' Asa ill-prepared for 'pesky' legislature

Governor’s budgetrankles a few, butsame path as usual by Maylon Rice | November 18, 2020 at 5:20 a.m.

Gov. Asa Hutchison, it would seem, is trying to resist adjusting to his new role as a "lame duck" governor of Arkansas.

In the final two years of his service as governor of Arkansas, per term limits, even with the constant battles against a surging covid-19 virus, Asa Hutchinson is sticking with his now worn, rumpled and tattered script for governing -- toss the budget out there first.

Everything anyone else wants will follow -- once the budget is passed.

This past week, true to his proscribed format, the governor quickly tossed out his budget. And true to form, some in the legislature didn't particularly care for the proposed budget.

The complaining seemed to be a little louder and a little shriller than usual as we get set to start, in January, the 93rd Arkansas General Assembly down in Little Rock.

Most of the loudness and shrillness comes from the Governor's own political party. Perhaps it is a "General Election hangover" or "partisan disappointments" as residue from Nov. 3.

Or this pushback may be due to the final days of Asa Hutchinson as the occupant of the Arkansas Governor's Mansion.

Whatever causation, the legislature whining and being shrill about not having advance notice of the proposed Governor's budget is not new.

Nor is it a pretty sight for us all to see again and again.

And neither is Asa Hutchinson's usual pronouncement of a new budget just days after the General Election and subsequent reorganization of both the state House of Representatives or the State Senate.

The state budget comes from the governor and the legislature needs to fit any bills and programs it wants within these fiscal parameters, or so says Asa.

In Arkansas, as Gov. Hutchinson will quickly point out to solons, the budget "must be balanced." And even more quickly, he will say, "and there are some items, mandated by law and the state constitution, that 'you must fund' in the budget.

Suddenly a tight scrum breaks out for any surplus or loose change appearing from the budget as if it was dropped from the governor's conference room table onto the floor for solons to tussle over.

One NW Arkansas legislator, who asked to remain anonymous, simply said: "I'm an Asa fan, but his biggest failing, in my opinion, is that he does not communicate with the Legislature. Nine-out-of-10 times we (the legislators) learn things at the same time as the public does."

The staff of the governor, time and time again, has been cited by legislators, lobbyists and even leading citizens of the state as being closed-mouthed, secretive and less than forthcoming on details when questioned.

The best example of a governor staffer being condescending and outright rude to the legislature is Michael Preston, the Secretary of Commerce and Arkansas Economic Development. His public disdain for the legislature is legendary and often is so counter-productive to his mandated role in state government.

But as a "Lame Duck," Gov. Hutchinson needs to really take a closer look at his tenure and make sure in these final two years, his legacy remains on a very good track as 'vital and progressive' and he can preserve that record.

I'll admit as one of Gov. Hutchinson's long-time critics on the campaign trail, he's not a real soft and fuzzy guy -- even prior to the covid-19 outbreak.

He could show a little more compassion towards the legislature -- especially to some of the veterans of the state House and state Senate who have helped "carry the water" for his programs.

Arkansas would not like for all Asa Hutchison has done in his previous 6 years as governor -- to be defined by some squabbling during his final two years by the legislature.

Perhaps a little cooler, calmer and more solon-focus can be the direction into this session and will indeed, cement his legacy and the best of what Arkansas needs from the new legislative session.

Just saying let's all take a deep breath, the 93rd General Assembly starts soon -- warts and all.

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


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