Is Getting Attention More Important Than Good Policy?
State Senator Jim Hendren, a Republican, and Representative Nicole Clowney, a Democrat, have released a hate crimes bill.
Any discussion of the merits of the bill have taken a backseat to criticism of Hendren for once again bypassing his colleagues to grab the center of attention. KATV cited another state senator as being blindsided by the proposal saying:
“There had been real discussion about how to move forward in a positive way with race relations and how to approach a sensitive issue like hate crime laws,” the senator said. “However, Hendren ignores those talks and rushed forward with an extreme version of the law, completely disrespecting his fellow senators.” The senator continued: “This is about getting attention, not improving race relations in Arkansas.”[i]
The article also said:
“A Republican member of the Arkansas House said some of its members have shared a similar sentiment.”
Senator Hendren’s cosponsor, Democrat Representative Nicole Clowney, also received criticism for going along with Hendren’s rush to publicize the bill. Liberal columnist John Brummett noted some see Hendren’s bypassing of other legislators to be an affront to Senator Joyce Elliott who is a senior member of the Senate, a senior member of the Legislative Black Caucus, and a Democrat candidate for Congress.
There is nothing new about Senator Jim Hendren jumping out in front of his colleagues to grab headlines. For example, in 2015 Hendren was in such a rush to get credit for prohibiting the state from creating an Obamacare Exchange that he filed a shell bill (basically a title with no details), only to later amend the bill to do the exact opposite of what the title of his bill said and guaranteeing the state can still create an Obamacare Exchange unless all of Obamacare is stricken down by the courts.[ii]
Senator Hendren is not the first news hog to step on his colleagues and he certainly won’t be the last. Some legislators just can’t help it – they always have to be in the spotlight even if it means shoving colleagues out of the way. Other legislators become news hogs in a frantic effort to get the spotlight when they are planning a run for another office and rushing to beat their colleagues even if their colleagues began working on an issue first.
There is speculation Hendren is hoping to benefit from his uncle Asa’s (Governor Hutchinson) political campaign contribution base in order to mount a run for Governor. But looking back over the past one hundred years, no legislator has ever been able to successfully run for Governor straight out of the legislature. Add to that Hendren’s biggest hurdle will be winning a Republican primary after spending several years promoting liberal big government programs like Obamacare Medicaid expansion and cutting taxes only to impose an even higher tax burden on the state. Plus, Hendren has been spending his time trying to build his credentials with liberal Democrats instead of the Republican base. For example, in 2019 Hendren sponsored legislation to impose an additional tax on Arkansans and to use the tax to redistribute wealth to lower income citizens.[iii]
That brings us to Hendren’s latest rush past his colleagues to grab all the attention.
Hendren shot back at his legislative colleagues who made anonymous statements about him. But Hendren’s legislative colleagues know any time they they dare criticize Senator Hendren in the public, they are also taking on the Hutchinson family cartel led by Governor Asa Hutchinson. Jim is Uncle Asa’s number one tool.
Hendren responded to complaints that his bill is poorly drafted in his rush to be a news hog. He said the bill is only in its beginning stages and is subject to change. That sounds like a confirmation that he rushed the bill out to cut his colleagues out of the process and get all the credit. Otherwise why rush the bill to the media when the bill is still “in the beginning stages” and his colleagues had already begun discussion about how best to get public involvement. Oh, and by the way, Hendren was in such a rush to jump ahead of colleagues it will be more than for month before Hendren can even file the bill. According to the legislative website the pre-filing of legislation doesn’t start until November 16, 2020.[iv]