Legislator floats ethics legislation | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Legislator floats ethics legislation

Posted By on Wed, Oct 9, 2013 at 7:02 AM

WARWICK SABIN: Floats ethics ideas.
  • WARWICK SABIN: Floats ethics ideas.
I've reported previously on interest from both Republican and Democratic legislators in strengthening public ethics laws, perhaps even in a special session on teachers insurance or the fiscal session if a consensus could be reached.

Big if. House Speaker Davy Carter yesterday more or less ruled out adding ethics to a special session on insurance. A two-thirds vote would be necessary to add it to the fiscal session agenda. The bigger problem is resistance to ethics reform. Few will speak up publicly against the ideas, but lobbyists and many legislators want to retain many of the practices targeted by reformers.

Rep. Warwick Sabin of Little Rock yesterday circulated a list of draft legislation to House members as a way of starting a discussion. He listed bills that

* Prohibit the use of campaign funds to purchase tickets to fundraising campaign events for other candidates.

* Require that if more than one corporation is owned by the same majority owner, the corporations are treated as a single person for the purpose of limitations on contributions to campaigns.

* Require the Arkansas Ethics Commission review the financial records submitted to it and investigate the possible violations they find.

* Reduce the minimum amount required for reporting expenditures from $100 to $50 for most reporting entities.

* Require the Secretary of State's office to create a website that presents certain financial record information in a searchable format and allows candidates and filing entities to file that information directly on the website. Also brings all filing entities under the same rules regarding how to file.

* Increase the criminal penalties for campaign finance violations based on value and repeat offenses and creates a grace period for correcting potential offenses.

* Codifiy the rules regarding carryover funds. [How codify them as to amount and use is the BIG question here.]

* Create and use the grace period provision in [one of the other proposals] as a method of preventing a disciplinary hearing and additional fines, rather than as a criminal defense.

* Bring all of the political entities that have to file financial records under the same rules under current law.

* Require quarterly reports be filed by any person holding carryover funds regardless of the amount in the account and specifies due dates and the information to be included within the reports.

* Make a lobbyist with unpaid and delinquent fines ineligible to re-register as a lobbyist.

The carryover money is a festering boil. Better reporting won't fix it. Strict limits on the use — better yet elimination of it — are needed. Here's another idea unmentioned: Why not pass by statute the end of lobbyist spending on legislators' entertainment and trips? It's in a proposed constitutional amendment — overloaded with favors to legislators in the form of pay raise and extended term potential. This would be a demonstration of good faith for that coming vote.

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