Ethics from the Arkansas Senate? Not today | Arkansas Blog

Monday, March 27, 2017

Ethics from the Arkansas Senate? Not today

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 4:24 PM

Sen. Linda Collins-Smith (R-Pocahontas) made a run at imposing a stronger ethics requirement on the legislature, but she fell short. Her bill got a 20-6 favorable vote in the Senate, but as amendment to an initated act, an ethics reform measusre of 1988, she need 24 votes.

Legislators are theoretically prohibited from "lobbying" their colleagues — that his being hired to serve as legislative lobbyists for a special interest. But, through what she called a "loophole," legislators are able to appear as lawyers or "consultants" for clients. She proposed to ban that for legislators who are lawyers and consultants in appearing before the legislature or its committees and task forces. They could appear before agencies, but would have to make disclosures about clients.

Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, a lawyer who has represented clients in committee hearings, objected to the bill. He notes that he files a notice in the Senate record when he represents a client. How often do "consultants" do this? Good question. To the best of my knowledge, for example, Sen. Jon Woods, who described himself as a consultant, made no disclosures if money he allegedly took from Ecclesia College as a kickback from state money he helped guide to the Christian college in Springdale. He hasn't disclosed consulting clients, nor have several other legislators who claim income from "consulting" businesses.

Hutchinson argued, effectively, that sufficient disclosure rules already apply and no law is sufficient to make corrupt people act properly. He also argued that lawyers were targeted unfairly. Any legislator can work a way to get lucrative business as a pretext for legislative help. Which is a fair point.

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