Legislature has many freebie options today | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Legislature has many freebie options today

Posted By on Tue, Feb 10, 2015 at 7:26 AM


Tuesday, a busy legislative day with major committee meetings, is prime time for lobbyists.

Lots of freebies available today, despite Amendment 94's ban on giveaways to legislators. A semi-truck has been driven through a deviously designed loophole for "scheduled activities." These now include a daily Choo Choo Room at a Capitol Hill apartment hideaway, no other sponsorship listed, though one could reasonably conclude that railroad lobbyists are continuing their long practice of slopping legislative hogs at a floating party. I've inquired.

There are so many events that the notion these events are truly designed in every case for universal legislative attendance is doubtful. I suspect the right sort of people attend the rolling cocktail parties and buffets nursing home interests, for example.

Today's events:

BREAKFAST: 7-8 a.m., Capitol Hill Building, Mid-America Lumberman's Association.

LUNCH: Noon-1 p.m., Capitol Hill Building, Arkansas Advanced Energy Association.

LUNCH: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., AEA Building, Citizens First Congress.

LUNCH: 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Capitol Square Apartments, #13, Arkansas Health Care Association (nursing homes)

LUNCH: Noon, Capitol Cafeteria, American Association of University Women.

RECEPTION: 4:30-6:30 p.m., Next Level Events, Arkansas Farm Bureau.

RECEPTION 5-7 p.m., Capitol Square Apartments, #4, "Choo-Choo Room"

RECEPTION: 3-4:30 p.m., honoring Speaker Gillam and Senate President Dismang, Association of Arkansas Counties Building, Searcy Regional Chamber of Commerce, ASU Beebe, White County Medical Center, Entergy, Regions Bank, Arkansas Community Colleges. 

More intimate lobbying opportunities are possible after the sun goes down when select committees have "scheduled activities:" — meaning drinks and fine dining supplied by lobbyists for a special interest-targeted audience. Tonight

DINNER: 6 p.m., Copper Grill, House Education Committee to be fed and watered by AT&T. (Internet services for schools, anyone?)

DINNER: 6 p.m., 1620 Savoy, Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee to be fed and watered by Bi-Partisan Strategies. Former legislator-turned-lobbyist Marvin Parks might talk to the committee that proposes constitutional amendments about the interests of his client, The American Tort Reform Association.

DINNER: 6:30 p.m., Brave New Restaurant, House Insurance and Commerce Committee to be fed and watered by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield

Since these are official meetings of public bodies in a "scheduled activity," I'd encourage members of the public with an interest in insurance, education or tort reform to attend. I don't think you can count on a free meal unless you are a legislator, but surely no lobbyist would be so rude as to deny admission to the public to a scheduled meeting of an official body of the state of Arkansas.

UPDATE  An answer was provided by a House spokesman to the identity of the Choo-Choo Room, which has a "schjeduled activity" with the legislature three nights week in a Capitol Hill apartment hideaway. The hosts of this floating cocktail party (did voters know the "scheduled activity" exemption was going to simply continue the same old swill-downs?)

Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association
Arkansas Hospital Association
Arkansas Medical Society
Arkansas Pharmacists Association
Arkansas Podiatric Medical Association
Arkansas State Dental Association
Independent Insurance Agents of Arkansas
Pfizer, Inc.
Arkansas Community Colleges

These are, for the most part, clients of the Little Rock law firm of Mitchell, Blackstock, Ivers, Sneddon & Marshall.  Lead partner Mike Mitchell's father was a lobbyist of yore, who worked for railroads and his hospitality room was known in the long-ago days as the Choo Choo Room. The tradition lives on.

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