Legislative moonlighting can present conflicts, but it's all smiles for Stephen Meeks | Arkansas Blog

Friday, December 29, 2017

Legislative moonlighting can present conflicts, but it's all smiles for Stephen Meeks

Posted By on Fri, Dec 29, 2017 at 7:49 AM

click to enlarge A WELCOME SIGHT: Rep. Stephen Meeks gets a good reception for his work outside of the legislature. - TWITTER
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  • A WELCOME SIGHT: Rep. Stephen Meeks gets a good reception for his work outside of the legislature.
The Center for Public Integrity has analyzed the outside employment of the nation's state legislators and, unsurprisingly, found many conflicts of interest.

The Center analyzed disclosure reports from 6,933 lawmakers in the 47 states that required them to pinpoint lawmakers’ income or employment. The review found numerous examples of state lawmakers around the country who have introduced and supported legislation that directly and indirectly helped their own businesses, their employers or their personal finances.
We write about these from time to time in Arkansas. They are numerous, from a lawyer pressing furniture sales legislation for a furniture sales company to a water treatment business executive writing legislation on water treatment businesses to a phone company lawyer writing legislation that provided income to his phone company client.

As luck has it, the Center chose to make the anecdotal lead of its story about an Arkansas legislator, Rep. Stephen Meeks, but his is a friendly portrayal that we've mentioned before.

On weeknights and weekends, Rep. Stephen Meeks rides in his Toyota Corolla with official state representative license plates to serve his Arkansas constituents.

But instead of handing out lawn signs and voter registration forms, he brings them pizza.

Meeks, a Republican representing a “slice” of Central Arkansas, is one of the longest serving members of the House of Representatives and a part-time pizza delivery man.

“The main difference of going door to door as a politician and a pizza delivery guy is that when the pizza guy shows up everyone is always excited,” Meeks said.

Like Meeks, state legislators around the country often have other jobs — and sometimes more than one — that they’ll be juggling with their official duties when many legislative sessions start in the next few weeks. In an investigation published earlier this month, the Center for Public Integrity and The Associated Press found that at least 76 percent of state lawmakers holding office in 2015 reported outside income or employment.
The article notes that Arkansas legislators, who make at least around $40,000, but generally much more counting per diem payments, are paid more than some others who seek outside work, but Meeks said it's still not enough for a family with kids.

Meeks, 47, said he worked as a computer technician for a small company in his hometown of Conway before he was elected in 2010. Meeks said they struggled financially through his first term, so, after winning his first re-election, he began delivering pizza.

“I was looking for something that gave me flexibility so I could serve my constituents and this job allows me to do that,” he said.

When Meeks goes door to door delivering pizza to his constituents, he gets more than just monetary tips for his timely service. He gets a rare glimpse into people’s lives and how his legislative votes affect the community he serves.

“I can tell if it’s a single mother scraping together dimes and quarters to give her children a special treat,” Meeks said. “This job helps keep me grounded and it keeps me from losing my perspective of the average person.”
The article found many others working in jobs far removed from legislative hals — a UPS driver, a mail carrier, a hula dancer in Hawaii, an alligator hunter, a flight attendant.

Legislators are supposed to disclose outside income. The Center has compiled all those public documents in one place and you can search for your legislator's record easily here.

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