Favorite

Barth: Ethics overhaul would win the vote 

regnant.jpg

A bit over a year ago in this space, I made the case that if presented the opportunity at the ballot box, Arkansas voters would ratify a significant ethics overhaul. Recent polling on the Regnat Populus initiative, which had its ballot title cleared by the attorney general last week so that petition signature gathering can begin, supports that analysis.

In a Talk Business-Hendrix College poll late last month, the key provisions of the measure — ending corporate and union donations to Arkansas campaigns, employing the "Wal-Mart rule" to prevent lobbyists from providing gifts to legislators, and a two year cooling-off period before outgoing legislators could be employed as lobbyists — gain the support of 69 percent of those surveyed with majority support across most all groups of Arkansans (the tepid support among African Americans provides an interesting exception).

It's clear that those who oppose the measure likely cannot win at the ballot box. Therefore, stopping the measure from getting on the ballot with a "decline to sign" campaign is their best shot at stopping it. The opponents of the measure are aided by Regnat Populus's incredibly late start with a July 1 deadline looming, their present lack of money for paid canvassers to collect signatures, and the fact that the primary election that serves as their best shot to gain large numbers of those signatures is one where turnout will be abysmal because the most scintillating race on most ballots is a low-key race for Supreme Court.

Some of the most engaged opposition to Regnat Populus is coming from progressive legislators who say that the measure will further disempower folks like them, especially those without personal resources necessary to be a "most-time" legislator. They argue that, in the term-limits era there is not time for legislators to become influential experts and that the best opportunities for "crash courses" are out-of-state conferences with costly travel. Their desire to be effective legislators is to be praised, but reform's costs are less than they suggest and the benefits of reform outpace them. First, if the educational group carrying out the conference is not lobbying here, its supporters could pay for the legislative travel under the measure. Moreover, there are many more legislators attending meetings sponsored by ALEC (which, we know from reports this week, is actively lobbying in Arkansas on issues like health care reform) and like groups than attending conferences on the latest research on the perils of fracking or benefits of afterschool programs. Finally, even when that travel connects legislators with other progressives from around the country, entities lobbying in Arkansas paying for it is fundamentally problematic. Even if legislators could ignore who paid for their trip when a vote important to the group comes along, it raises a perception of impropriety that harms the public trust.

The critics also underplay the considerable good that would come from the measure. Although the lobbyists who offer legislators trusted information on complex issues would maintain their legitimate role in the system, the lobbyists who rely upon steaks in the backroom of Doe's to gain votes during sessions would have that tool taken away from them. Moreover, the new rules would level the playing field for citizen activists who reach out to their legislators during the legislative process.

In addition to reducing the role of the lobbyists who rely on gifts to sway votes, the measure would — over time — create change in the types of individuals who run for the legislature. Those who are drawn to the perks of office or to the promise of a lobbying job immediately after leaving office would no longer have an interest in the post. That would be a considerable step forward for the state and for the people's interests.

We need to use technology to enhance disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures. We need to expand the Bureau of Legislative Research to provide legislators research without reliance on out-of-state trips. We need to raise legislative pay (removing per diems) to make it viable for rank and file citizens to do the job. We need to admit that the most severe term limits in the country are doing harm to our state. First, however, we need to take the step forward that Regnat Populus offers us.

Favorite

Speaking of Regnat Populus 2012

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

More by Jay Barth

  • Can the U.S. Senate live up to its potential?

    I recently wandered back to "Master of the Senate," the third volume of Robert A. Caro's massive history of Lyndon Johnson. The book, on Johnson's years in the U.S. Senate, highlights the lingering power of the Senate to meet the challenges facing the country and to stand up to existential threats facing American democratic institutions.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Church politics

    Donald Trump's historic success with white evangelical voters (with about four in five of their votes, according to exit polls, he met the high-water mark for GOP candidates in the modern era) was one of the keys to his narrow Electoral College victory.
    • Dec 15, 2016
  • Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    No state political party in the modern era has had a more abrupt fall than Arkansas's Democrats
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • More »

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • Ban the box in Little Rock

    In the latest evidence of the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement in shaping the American policy agenda, this past week has become "ban the box" week.
    • Nov 4, 2015

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Latest in Jay Barth

  • Can the U.S. Senate live up to its potential?

    I recently wandered back to "Master of the Senate," the third volume of Robert A. Caro's massive history of Lyndon Johnson. The book, on Johnson's years in the U.S. Senate, highlights the lingering power of the Senate to meet the challenges facing the country and to stand up to existential threats facing American democratic institutions.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Church politics

    Donald Trump's historic success with white evangelical voters (with about four in five of their votes, according to exit polls, he met the high-water mark for GOP candidates in the modern era) was one of the keys to his narrow Electoral College victory.
    • Dec 15, 2016
  • Arkansas Democrats' rocky road forward

    No state political party in the modern era has had a more abrupt fall than Arkansas's Democrats
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • Good one, Al. Hell hath no fury, and all that happy horse-shit. I hope Gene…

    • on January 20, 2017
  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • Make that "old hack."

    • on January 20, 2017
  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • Oh dear - It is me, E.E.W - I'll confess - but not so much…

    • on January 20, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation