Yesterday, as previously reported, the raw milk bill (HB 1536) was defeated by the House Ag Committee. But before the bill was defeated on a roll call vote, it was ruled passed on a voice vote by Vice Chair Rep. Nate Steel. What happened?
Rep. Bob Ballinger, a freshman, conservative legislator from Hindsville, requested a roll call vote and it was seconded. But Rep. Ballinger has already proven himself to be a friend of liberty in the Arkansas House. Why did he request a roll call vote and leave the bill vulnerable to defeat? In a brief interview with The Arkansas Project, Ballinger said it was simply a mistake:
The bill passed on a voice vote and I thought I heard the chair rule that the nays had it. What I thought was to help the bill I called for a roll call. I was mistaken and the roll call vote did not have enough votes to pass the bill. I made a big mistake, when I thought I was helping my friend Rep. Alexander and a good bill. According to Rep. Alexander, he is bringing the bill back to be heard again.
In regards to his support for the pro-liberty policy, Rep. Ballinger was unequivocal:
I do support the bill because I do not think the state should be prohibiting individuals from making food choices for themselves and family, especially in a situation where there is little evidence of a substantial health risk to the public.
Undoubtedly, some pundit or legislator is going to have a cow and blame this mistake on “term limits.” “If we didn’t have term limits,” they’ll say, “these types of rookie mistakes wouldn’t happen.” I think that’s pretty much hogwash. Rep. Ballinger is an intelligent man who made an honest mistake — not because he’s a rookie legislator, but because legislators (who closely resemble the human species) are fallible. But unlike a lot of legislators, Rep. Ballinger has the courage and humility to admit his mistake.
If the incident proves anything, it’s that the current system of voting in committee is ridiculous and needs reform. Voice voting is an opaque and ineffective way of legislating. While the bill’s failure (for now) is unfortunate, at least now the people of Arkansas can know which legislators think they should control what we eat and are cuddled up to the udders of Big Dairy (view the roll call tally here). And that’s a good thing.
For more on the importance of reforming committee voting, check out Advance Arkansas Institute’s Action Plan, starting on page 77.
We’ll keep providing a diary of dairy news as the session continues.