The Big Swill: Rules facilitate secret lobbyist fetes for smaller legislative groups | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Big Swill: Rules facilitate secret lobbyist fetes for smaller legislative groups

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 7:09 AM

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I reported last night on the House seeking input from lobbyists on "tweaks" to the new ethics amendment that has put some limits on lobbyist wining and dining of legislators.

The limits are even less than I knew. I've been reporting all along about the shame of declaring daily meals and cocktail hours "events" so as to qualify for an exception to Amendment 94's ban on gifts of any value to legislators.

The amendment says gifts do NOT include:

Food or drink available at a planned activity to which a specific governmental body is invited;

I knew this was trouble. A rational person might have assumed that this was to allow for serving of refreshments at educational gatherings and the like. No, it's just group slopping no more or less. Invite the whole House or Senate and you have yourself an event.

Turns out that the devious legislature has already facilitated such "planned activities" for legislative committees. It's much more useful for an insurance company to lobby members of the insurance and commerce committee. And the House is ever sensitive to the needs of lobbyists, if not the more ethically inclined public at large

See this note, distributed to professional lobbyists by their association:

The Society has been asked to pass along this information/update …

Please find the most recent update to our guidelines. We have included information that we hope will assist interested parties in hosting events for the House of Representatives.

Please also be advised that a request to host an event for a House Committee must be routed through the Chair of that committee . The Bureau of Legislative Research committee staff will be involved in coordinating those events not House staff. The committee events will not be listed on the House Events Calendar.

Please send this update to your membership and advise them to feel free to contact me with their questions and suggestions. This is a work in progress.

Roy Ragland
Chief Information Officer
Arkansas House of Representatives

I've put the rules referenced by Ragland on the jump. Key rule, as noted by Ragland: Committee events will NOT be placed on the public House calendar, as chamber-wide events are. No snoopy people like me will be able to put up daily posts about where the slop is being poured, in other words. Except that I now plan to expand my requests for information to the Bureau of Legislative Research for all committee events. The public, which thought it had banned hog slopping, at least deserves to know where they are happening, not even 90 days after a so-called "ethics" amendment was approved.

Shame at the legislature? A new day with the big Republican majority? New hogs look just like the old hogs.

And speaking of hog slopping, today's Big Swill report:

BREAKFAST: 7:30-9:30, Capitol Hill Building, AARP

HEALTH SCREENING: Noon, Capitol Rotunda, UAMS and Harding College of Pharmacy.

LUNCH: Noon, AEA building, Arkansas Kids Count Coalition.

LUNCH: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Capitol Hill building, Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

LUNCH: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Capitol Square Apts. #13, Arkansas Health Care Association.

RECEPTION: 4-6 p.m., Capitol Square Apts. #13, Arkansas Health Care Association.

RECEPTION: 4-5 p.m., Arkansas History Commission (at their office on the Caitol Mall).

RECEPTION: 5-7 p.m., , Association of Arkansas Counties building, University of Arkansas System.

RECEPTION: 5:30-7:30 p.m., Trapnall Hall, Arkansas Pharmacists Association.

The nursing home lobby (Health Care Association) would appear to have daily "planned" activities of lunch and cocktail hour at an apartment hideout. Do you really think everyone goes? Or just the legislators they expect to be carrying their bags through the legislative halls? Maybe Gilbert Baker is on hand to pass out campaign contributions.

These are activities. They are planned. But they look like a yawning loophole in Amendment 94 to me. Ethics, schmethics.

And please remember legislators are claiming per diem to cover meals on days they are at work (and many days on which they are NOT at work.)

Guidelines for House Events Calendar Requests
The Arkansas House of Representatives is striving to accommodate the needs of Arkansas’s citizens to meet with their legislators during the 90th General Assembly while following the guidelines set forth by Amendment 94. For this reason we have issued the following guidelines for event requests:
1. Requests for the House Events Calendar must be requests to invite the entire legislature or the entire House of Representatives.
2. Requests to meet with specific committees of the House of Representatives must be approved by the committee chairperson. Committee event arrangements and invitations should be coordinated with the appropriate committee staff.
3. Committee events will not be placed on the House Events Calendar.
4. Requests for events to be placed on the House Events Calendar must be made by email. For the House Events Calendar, please send request to roy.ragland@arkansashouse.org and, for the Senate Events Calendar, emails should be sent to Sabrina.lewellen@senate.ar.gov .
5. The party requesting an event is responsible for contacting both the House and Senate personnel responsible for their respective calendars.
6. Requests for changes on the calendar should also be made by email.
7. Requests pertaining to the House Events Calendar should be made at least two business days prior to the event.
8. Please include the following information in the email: host of the event, the date, the time, the location of the proposed event, a contact person, and their contact information.
9. Requests need to briefly describe the event. (e.g.: breakfast, lunch, reception, dinner, etc.)
10. No requests will be accepted for Thursday night events.
11. So that each legislator can make an informed decision about attending each event and so that each legislator may have the opportunity to prepare for each event, please identify the event host rather than the lobbyist or lobbying firm in the request.
12. Any and all invitations to events distributed in the House Chamber must be listed on the House Events Calendar.
13. Arrangements for distribution of invitations should be made through Chief Clerk Sherri Stacks. She may be contacted by telephone at 501-682-7771 or by email: sherri.stacks@arkansashouse.org .


* If you have questions or need more information, please feel free to contact Roy Ragland at 501-682-7771.
Sabrina Lewellen is the contact for information pertaining to State Senate events. The Senate’s phone number is 501-682-6107.





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