Inside the Arkansas Legislature (Kobo eBook)
From October 15, 1978, until January 20, 2004, I worked for the Arkansas General Assembly, a.k.a. the Arkansas legislature. Thats more than a quarter century on the public payroll. The legislature is made up of a hundred representatives in the House and thirty-five senators in the Senate. A big part of my job as Senate chief of staff was public relationsdaily attempts to put a positive spin on the men and women who held these very public positions. My duties included speech writing, supervising a large staff, traveling the country, and even driving legislators home after they had stayed too long at local watering holes and honky-tonks. I even had to tell one preacher/legislator not to be hanging out with well-known prostitutes, and that certainly was not a pleasant assignmentfor me, I mean, not the preacher. This book is a look-back at those twenty-five-plus years. Some experiences were uproariously funny, while others were devastatingly sad and distressing. I became the Arkansas Senates first chief of staff in 1985 and stayed in this post about twenty years. My previous six years were spent in the House, where I held two positions. These pages will reflect some of what I went through in my work and will present stories about the men and women who sat in those big leather chairs in the marbled chambers. Some of them wielded enormous power, and some went away to prison for abusing that power. And the issue of term limits and how their enactment in the mid-90s changed Arkansas politics will also be a topic of discussion. I had to stand my ground when things got heated, and I always remained truthful even when the various factions pulled and tugged at me. I worked with some enormously talented individuals, including President Bill Clinton. He dropped by the office to tell us good-bye as he left his home state to take over a much bigger job in Washington, DC. It was a day to remember, like so many others there in Arkansass most imposing, century-old building. The enactment of term limits dramatically changed Arkansas history and stripped the legislature of much of its power and influence. Before terms were scaled back by angry voters, legislators in Arkansas served decades and controlled the government purse strings. There was little doubt that powerful legislators ruled the roost, and everyonegovernors, employees, and lobbyistshad to kowtow to their every need or else pay a huge price. The Democratic Party stayed in power for a very long time until term limits sent veteran legislators packing and set the stage for a Republican Party takeover of the legislature and the states constitutional offices. I witnessed the old system up close and personally and was proud and honored to be an integral part of it, and I stayed long enough to see how the new term-limited neophytes took to their publically financed playground. One of the veteran senators became governorhis name, Mike Beebe. He served twenty years in the Senate, and he was the person responsible for my taking the chief of staff job. He later served two four-year terms as governor, and over the years, he encouraged me to put this book together because he said, no one will remember how the Arkansas legislature worked or even existed prior to term limits unless some of the stories and some of the colorful history are preserved by an insider who actually worked at the place where power lived for so long. Some days at my plush office were a breeze, but others made me long for my job back at the newspaper office. Now retired, I look back on my career with great satisfaction, and Im glad that for a while, at least, I was, what one of my lobbyist pals called, the straw that stirred the drink.