So much for ethics reform now | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

So much for ethics reform now

Posted By on Tue, Nov 9, 2010 at 4:53 PM

I was pleased, and indicated as much, to get this note this morning from House Republican leader John Burris about the minority party's interest in good government. It said in part:

We are in the process of sorting through some ethics proposal. We have some small stuff (travel reimbursment, double-dipping, cool-off period, etc). We can pass all that, but I know we need more.

Here is what I want.

A constitutional amendment referred to the people for a vote that does the following:

1) Adopts the Wal-Mart rule for lobbying

2) Reforms legislative salaries. Very roughly, I'm thinking basically double the salary, keep a limited office reimbursement, and pay mileage for all Legislators to come to committee. No per diem.

I think Burris intended to write me on background, not for quote, though he didn't say so. It apparently got the discussion going. Ron Breeding of KUAR has just posted a followup story that says this:

One idea being tossed around is the so-called Walmart rule. The Bentonville-based retailer, the world's largest, won't allow its employees to accept any gifts from suppliers, not even a cup of coffee. Represenative John Burris of Harrison says he's not sure what form his ethics proposal would take, but he can't support the Wal-Mart rule for lobbyists and state lawmakers. Burris says legislators are working a full-time job for part-time pay ($15,000 yearly) so it would be hard to take away from them the free lunches they've come to expect. One idea, Burris says, would be to tie implementation of the Walmart rule to an increase in pay for lawmakers.

Full interview with Burris at the link. I had suggested that legislators as a sign of good faith adopt a no-gift rule now and THEN ask voters for a pay raise. I didn't really expect to see much support for that good government. I give Burris credit for being frank about how much legislators count on the freebies, though it tends to confirm the worst suspicions about, essentially, how cheap and easy it is to buy the good will of an Arkansas legislator.

End the damn free lunch.

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