On the front page of today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is a story from The New York Times about bitcoin operations popping up across Arkansas, the problems they're causing and the fact that Arkansas residents have little recourse thanks to the dupes in our Legislature.
That story helps illuminate the biggest problem facing our state right now -- a Legislature that's willing to pass bills designed by out-of-state organizations with little regard to their effect on Arkansans, along with a state government that's now filled with out-of-state MAGA carpetbaggers who have no stake in Arkansas or its future.
The New York Times story points out that the Arkansas Data Centers Act, which was approved last spring, offers bitcoin miners legal protections even if Arkansans don't want them here.
According to the story: "Passed just eight days after it was introduced, the law was written in part by the Satoshi Action Fund, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Mississippi whose co-founder worked in the Trump administration rolling back Obama-era climate policies."
Arkansas became the first state in the country to pass the bill last April. I'm not surprised. In the worst legislative session of my lifetime, legislators swallowed whole bills that were written by special interest groups. Questions were rarely asked about what these bills would mean for Arkansas. That would have taken some thinking and some work.
Even Gov. Sarah Sanders' much-touted education reform act was a template from out-of-state groups that push vouchers across the country. There was almost no input from Arkansas teachers and administrators. And a majority of legislators didn't care.
The madness of 2023 is now coming home to roost, including this bitcoin crisis that's receiving national attention due to such legislative stupidity.
Arry Yu, executive director of the U.S. Blockchain Coalition, told the Times that Arkansas residents were "taken advantage of. We need to take a humble approach, work with the communities; don't hijack their journeys and their lives. And if they move slowly, too slow for you, too bad."
And that's an industry group talking! That's how bad this bill is.
The Times noted: "Concerns about the Arkansas mines have expanded beyond the initial noise complaints to include their connections to Chinese nationals. The operations are connected to a larger influx of Chinese ownership across the United States, some of which has drawn national security scrutiny.
"A web of shell companies connects the Arkansas operators to a multibillion-dollar business partially owned by the Chinese government, according to public records obtained by residents opposed to the operations. In November, the Arkansas attorney general's office opened an investigation into them for potentially violating a state law banning businesses controlled by Chinese nationals from owning land."
Of course the lawmaker who carried the bill for the Trump-worshiping organization -- state Rep. Rick McClure of Malvern -- refused to respond to requests for comments from the Times. Our legislators don't like having to explain themselves to Arkansas taxpayers.
With so much happening in Arkansas -- the coming lithium boom in southwest Arkansas, the defense industry boom in the Camden area, the steel boom in northeast Arkansas, the logistics and distribution boom in central Arkansas, the new fighter mission in Fort Smith, the continued growth of northwest Arkansas -- we're on the verge of an economic golden era.
But it could all come undone due to the poor quality of legislators, a governor who doesn't care much about governing Arkansas and a state government being run by carpetbaggers who aren't from here, won't stay here and don't really care much about what it will look like here a decade from now.
Examples, you say. We've got 'em:
-- Joe Profiri, the MAGA man Sanders brought in to run the corrections system. Carpetbagger. And yet Sanders now insists on paying him more than $200,000 a year to work in the governor's office after he was rightly fired by the state Board of Corrections for saying he would willingly violate the Arkansas Constitution.
-- Jacob Oliva, the man Sanders had shipped in to put on a far-right stamp on public education in the state. Carpetbagger. Did he ever move his family from Florida to Arkansas?
-- Gretchen Conger, Sanders' chief of staff. Carpetbagger.
-- Alexa Henning, Sanders' mouthpiece. Carpetbagger. We will grant that Henning stays busy since Sanders, with her lack of interest in all things Arkansas, generally declines to speak to in-state reporters. She prefers dog-and-pony shows such as the one Sunday in Eagle Pass, Texas, that might get her on Fox News.
The sad thing is that there are highly qualified Arkansans out there in areas like education and corrections who would love to serve their state. These are people with a vested interest in this place; people who want Arkansas to be a quality place for their children and grandchildren to live.
We can't do much about the Sanders administration in 2024, though the fact that the governor has the highest negative ratings of any Arkansas governor since the modern polling era began should tell the Traveling Trumpettes something.
We can, however, start thinning out the legislative dupes this year. Several incumbents have primary opponents next month, and even more have opponents in November.
Arkansas voters, of course, brought this on themselves by electing these legislators and governor. Your votes have consequences. Now, even The New York Times is starting to notice some of those consequences in Arkansas.