Legislators can chill out with lots of free meals today, including a newly declared special group | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Legislators can chill out with lots of free meals today, including a newly declared special group

Posted By on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 at 7:09 AM

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Ice or no ice — and you may be sure the secretary of state has whisked the last drop of it away from drives and walks encircling the Capitol — the swill must go through.

Yes, free meals and drinks resume today for the legislature, despite the Amendment 94 ban on lobbyist freebies. It's under a ruse by which "scheduled activities" are declared — they may conflict, they may include no program, they may be nothing more than an open bottle of booze — to evade the risible new "ethics" amendment voters adopted in November. It also extended term limits and is about to give starving lawmakers a huge pay raise on top of per diem undiminished by free meals or days not actually at work.

Hog slops today:

BREAKFAST: 7:30 a.m.-9 a.m., Capitol Hill Bu9ilding, Arkansas Cancer Coalition.

LUNCH: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Capitol Hill Building, Arkansas Center for Health Improvement.

LUNCH: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Capitol Square Apartments, #13, Arkansas Health Care Association (nursing home lobby, Michael Morton's playpen).

LUNCH: 11:30 a.m., Association of Arkansas Counties Building, Third District Caucus legislators, hosted by Northwest Arkansas Chambers of Commerce. (I've asked the Ethics Commission and House Speaker Jeremy Gillam if someone has now decreed a congressional district caucus an official governmental body for purposes of evading the no-hog-slop rule in Amendment 94.) The exemption applies to a "specific governmental body." A district caucus has what governmental powers?

COCKTAILS: 4-6:30 p.m., Next Level Events, NWA Night Out hosted by the Northwest Arkansas Chambers of Commerce (many of the chambers are recipients of local tax dollars in the name of economic development/legislative hog slopping)

COCKTAILS: 5-7 p.m., Capitol Square Apartments, #4, CHOO CHOO ROOM. This is a lobbyist-run standing cocktail hour for clients including

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

And, of course, the special meetings of smaller groups will resume, another more particular and cozier end-run around Amendment 94.

DINNER: At last report, the location was to be determined. But Phillips Management and Consulting Services will being picking up the tab tonight for the Senate and House Insurance and Commerce Committees. Among their clients: County Judges Association of Arkansas, Arkansas Municipal Power Association, RehabNEt, Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Arkansas Heart Hospital, Arkansas Physical Therapy Association, Arkansas Veterinary Medical Association, Arkansas Association of Insurance Companies, EngagePoint, Forest Park Medical,  Teradata, QualChoice, Inspirations Day Treatment, Arkansans for Tobacco Free Alternatives.

UPDATE: The Phillips boys will be dining at Brave New Restaurant.

ALERT—ALERT—ALERT: I'm informed the weather has forced cancellation of the dinner. But be of good cheer, one dinner remains on the calendar:

DINNER: 6:30 p.m., Bravo!, Stephens Investments Holding will be feting the eight members of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee.

Don't know if Stephens Production or Southwest Energy still managed to have their Copper Grill soiree last night for the House Agriculture and Economic Development Committee. It didn't appear on the schedule I had yesterday.

Again: These are all official scheduled activities of public bodies who's meetings are required to be open by Constitution and chamber rules. If they were not official activities, lobbyists couldn't be buying the food and drinks for them, otherwise prohibited by new Amendment 94. So feel free to drop by. I'll try to get an update on those insurance committees. They won't be eating at Franke's or Subway, I'm reasonably sure.

UPDATE: Attorney David Couch reminds me of the column I wrote when Amendment 94 was "improved" by Republican legislators to add freebies, more pay and longer terms in office. That criticism narrowed an original effort to open feeding to "identifiable groups" to a specific governmental body. He believes, as I do, that a caucus of the legislature — black, white, Republican, Third District — is not a specific governmental body. No word yet from House Speaker Gillam or Ethics Commission.

UPDATE II: House Speaker Gillam says the entire House is invited to the NWA lunch, not just the Third District Caucus, as the printed calendar on the Senate webpage indicates.

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