Favorite

Real reform will come from people 

Just after the November election that placed Republicans in their strongest position in modern history, a flurry of discussion about enhancing Arkansas's mediocre state ethics laws ensued. Most promisingly, within days of the election, House Republican leader John Burris said his caucus planned to introduce a package of ethics bills. That would have been smart politics and good for government. But, any talk of ethics reform has faded as the focus has turned to the usual array of consequential (e.g., corrections reform) and trivial (e.g., changing the state's nickname) legislative items. A quick content search of the bills introduced in this session of the General Assembly shows that only the annual appropriations bill for the nine-employee Ethics Commission deals with governmental ethics. While ethics legislation may yet be introduced, there's clearly not the will to pass any legislation of consequence.

What might a strong ethics package to enhance public trust in the way state government does business include?

• Enliven Arkansas's quite strong disclosure provisions by requiring the use of modern search engines that would allow rank-and-file citizens to efficiently examine who gives money to candidates and how lobbyists spend their dollars.

• Elevate small donors' role in funding elections in the state by doubling the one genuinely progressive element of Arkansas's campaign finance laws—the $50 per year tax credit to offset individuals' campaign contributions to state and local candidates—and by barring giving by corporations.

• Create a public finance system for judicial races in Arkansas as Justice Robert Brown has proposed, eliminating the role of fund-raising among those who will have business before the courts. As former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has warned, "the perception that justice is for sale will undermine the rule of law that courts are supposed to uphold."

• Stop the revolving door by banning legislators from lobbying their former colleagues for two years after leaving governmental service.

• Finally, and most importantly, adopt the so-called "Wal-Mart rule." Just as our state's most important company bars employees from accepting even a cup of coffee from prospective suppliers, the same should hold for the parallel relationship between lobbyists and government officials. Even without a lunch or dinner being provided, conscientious legislators will seek out lobbyists to gain the information they need to make wise decisions on legislation. And, the fine tradition of socializing between legislators and lobbyists will continue. But, when those events end, everyone at the table should have to pay for their own food and drink. In its purest form, lobbying is an important, constitutionally-protected practice, but the people regularly wonder whether impurity enters the scene when meals and gifts are provided to public servants.

It's safe to say that none of these measures will be passed by the General Assembly. But, the ethics reforms that have made a difference in Arkansas weren't passed by a legislature; those laws that are the foundation of the ethics system in Arkansas were passed by the people after being placed on the ballot by petition.

In 1988 and 1990, a coalition of citizen groups worked with then-Governor Clinton to bring Arkansas into what was the mainstream of ethics reform; in 1996, the tax credit was added through the initiative process. Before it's too late and a public scandal has rocked the state and the public's confidence in the system, it's time for this to happen again. With all three of the measures mentioned above having passed with well over 60 percent of the vote, history strongly suggests that Arkansas's voters want a government absent of real or perceived corruption. Let's give them that chance once again.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Jay Barth

  • Gun politics

    "You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you." Despite that promise by President Trump at the National Rifle Association's annual convention in April, the days ahead are going to produce challenges for the gun rights lobby.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • A failed experiment

    Many consequential news events — from local to international — are getting lost in this era of nonstop, overlapping "breaking news" stories regarding all things Donald Trump.
    • Jun 15, 2017
  • Press slammed

    Last week, the American media got another battering, in the form of a Montana congressional candidate's brutal attack on a young reporter simply doing his job.
    • Jun 1, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Schlafly's influence

    Phyllis Schlafly, mother, attorney and longtime antifeminist, died recently. What Schlafly promoted was not novel or new. Men had been saying that men and women were not equal for years. However, anti-feminism, anti-women language had much more power coming from a woman who professed to be looking out for the good of all women and families.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Seven

    The controversy over the Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol lawn just won't go away.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Why a change of leadership at the LRSD now?

    Johnny Key's abrupt, unilateral decision to not renew Baker Kurrus' contract as superintendent strikes us as shortsighted, misguided and detrimental to the education of our children and the health of our community.
    • Apr 21, 2016

Most Shared

  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • War reporter

    Ray Moseley: Native Texan. Naturalized Arkansan. Reporter, world traveler, confidant of Queen Elizabeth II.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • Vote no on school tax

    I have never voted against a school tax in my life, but I will be voting against the debt service millage extension for the Little Rock School District.
    • May 4, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.
  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Another Jesus

    • IBS, were you there in Benghazi to personally witness all of Hillary's blunders like you…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Another Jesus

    • If God felt it necessary to replace the ten commandments, he could do it like…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Football for UA Little Rock

    • He's BSC. Students and tuition-paying parents should be VERY vocal that a football program won't…

    • on July 23, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation