A special session on insurance; and maybe ethics, too | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A special session on insurance; and maybe ethics, too

Posted By on Sat, Sep 21, 2013 at 7:50 AM

click to enlarge GOV. BEEBE: Might he issue a call to tighten ethics laws?
  • GOV. BEEBE: Might he issue a call to tighten ethics laws?
Prospects continue to improve for a special session to address teacher health insurance sticker shock. Gov. Mike Beebe insists on a long-term consensus fix, however, and the short-term is more easily addressed (with available surplus) than the long-term.

Here's a headsup on something else: Momentum is building — bipartisan momentum — to have Beebe add official ethics to the call of the special session. I'm led to understand he's willing — again if what's proposed amounts to a legislative consensus.

I confess a little mystification at the sudden interest in ethical matters, my pet hobby horse — welcome though it is.

The Bookout matter has sharpened attention to campaign filings in general. Many have cause for nervousness. Think of Lt. Gov. Mark Darr's misspending and misreporting. Is he really alone in spending small amounts, not required to be itemized, on personal expenses? Also, it has to have been uncomfortable to read the continued examination of the wholesale violation of rule and spirit of ethics laws by Republicans in 2012 through sham "ticketed events" to transfer campaign cash from one candidate to another so as to maximize clout of the special interests. There's more unseemly stuff in evidence: Misuse of carryover money. Slush funds for unopposed and term-limited candidates. Use of campaign money to pay the rare tiny fine assessed by the Ethics Commission. Abuse of contribution limits by multiple contributions from the same person — Jim Lindsey for example — using multiple corporate identities. The continued hog-slopping of lawmakers on junkets, at dinners, in the bars.

Maybe legislators really want to demonstrate an interest in good government to shore up public confidence. Maybe there's a darker agenda I'm not yet seeing. Too early to say. But it's certainly a topic worth further discussion. Stay tuned.

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