Monday, April 15, 2013

UPDATE: Ethics amendment defeated

Posted By on Mon, Apr 15, 2013 at 4:30 PM

The line's open. Cleaning up:

* AN ETHICS WRINKLE — AND THEN A DEFEAT: As legislators struggled with whether to put an ethics/legislative pay/term limits dilution amendment on the ballot, others were watching closely. Such as Paul Jacob, an Arkansas native and national leader of the term limits movement. He filed a proposed initiative today for attorney general review and said he'd move forward with an initiative drive if the legislature put the currently proposed amendment on the ballot. It loosens term limits too much, he said. His inititiative would repeat the current limit of three two-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate, but shorten it to a cumulative 10 years. His initiative also would require voter approval of any pay raises, rather than turning the matter over to a commission whose members are majority appointed by the legislature.

Jacob needn't have bothered. Events eliminated the need for his initiative.

The problem came not from the term limits side, but from the greasiest of the lobbying community, which counts on bottom fishing for easy vote pickings at free lunches and after-hours drinkfests.

Sponsors made a calculated risk to improve the measure in response to detailed criticism from a Common Cause representative and the good deed was punished. As I wrote earlier, they worked through the weekend to strengthen the amendment to improve some ethics provisions. They knew that bringing it back before the Senate committee, which had been ready to approve the first proposal, was a risk.

The good deed was punished.

At a joint session of the House and Senate committees that recommend up to three amendments for the ballot, the House committee approved the measure, but the Senate side — in thrall to the unhappy lobbyists - voted it down after being on board last week. It's dead for now.

Maybe this amendment wasn't so bad after all, given the opposition. It certainly had been improved measurably since I first wrote about it.

There is this glimmer of hope: A Regnat Populus worker says this means the initiative drive will restart, without any baggage except lobby opposition to the stronger ethics proposals in what will be an initiated act.

There was this other small piece of decent news out of the same committee meeting: SJR 16 to make the initiative process harder also failed in committee.

* HIGH COTTON: The Club for Growth's representative in Arkansas's Fourth Congressional District is raising the kind of money you'd expect from a D.C. consulting club candidate on the far-right end of the spectrum. Tom Cotton says he raised $525,000 in the first quarter of this year and has that plus available for 2014. I doubt much of it came from Waldo, Board Camp, Standard Umpstead and other points in the po' 4th District.

* LITTLE ROCK POLICE OFFICER FIRED: The LRPD announced today that Natasha Sims, a patrol officer in the Southwest division, had been fired for violation of several departmental rules. Those rules included working more than 16 hours in a 24-hour period; assuming responsibility for an off-duty joby by assigning other officers; leaving work without permission, and answering questions untruthfully during an investigation. Here's the termination letter. She has 30 days to appeal.

* PIPELINE REPORTING A PULITZER WINNER: How about this? One of the winners of a Pulitzer Prize in journalism this year was the website InsideClimate News, an organization I'd cited yesterday for its digging into local and federal records that unearthed some differences in public statements and official record on the ExxonMobil pipeline break at Mayflower. Here's the website's page on the Mayflower disaster. Its latest reporting focuses on the high pressure present in pipeliens, though the Pegasus pipeline that ruptured in Mayflower was apparently operating below maximum pressure, a cause of some concern.

InsideClimate News reporters Elizabeth McGowan, Lisa Song and David Hasemyer are the winners of this year's Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.

The trio took top honors in the category for their work on "The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You've Never Heard Of," a project that began with a seven-month investigation into the million-gallon spill of Canadian tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River in 2010. It broadened into an examination of national pipeline safety issues, and how unprepared the nation is for the impending flood of imports of a more corrosive and more dangerous form of oil


Sound familiar?

And speaking of the ExxonMobil pipeline break: Central Arkansas Water has sent a very official letter from its attorney to the oil company restating the resolution approved last week asking for a range of short-term and immediate actions related to the pipeline, ultimately moving it out of the watershed of Lake Maumelle, the main water supply for the region.

ALSO: Here's the daily report from Exxon that the air and water is clean and that soon all will be as if nothing happened.

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