ETHICS: Rep. Will Bond added a good amendment today to the bill to require a one-year wait before a legislator could become a lobbyist. In the form it reached the House, the bill wouldn’t take effect for four years. Bond amended it to make it apply to all current members at the end of their current terms. Good amendment and it’s now a good bill. It goes back to House committee. Its future could collide with Speaker Benny Petrus reported desire to have an ethics package of some sort of his own, not to mention Senate opposition to cutting off a future instant gravy train for current members, particularly those in their last term.
PORK: The unpleasant news is that the House passed, 78-20, Son of Hogzilla, the patently unconstitutional effort to get around court rulings on pork barrel appropriations through a commission appointed by legislative leaders to dole out the same money for the same local projects.
Gov. Mike Beebe has doubts about the constitutionality of this measure (not to mention the wisdom, presumably). An opinion is expected soon from Attorney General McDaniel. The rumor goes that Speaker Petrus is busy lining up commitments to a veto override vote if necessary. Fortunately, Petrus has no power to override a court decision on this grab of power and money.
UPDATE: Dustin McDaniel has issued his opinion. It’s a long one. Bottom line: He thinks it might be constitutional, depending on the degreee of autonomy given the commission in passing out money. Legislative appointment of the members alone does not make the law defective, he said. I admit it’s always been my presumption that legislators wouldn’t create this commission if they didn’t know with a certainty that they’d get the money spent the way they wanted it spent. No autonomy, in other words. McDaniel said he did not believe the law unconstitutionally delegated authority to an administrative agency.
UPDATE II: Brummett’s blog reports the opinion, points out some issues and suggests a better way.
SCARLET LETTERS: Donna Hutchinson’s naughty bits legislation is still the top hallway talker, but some words are also going around about Rep. Pam Adcock’s bill to require amend the law requiring an ignition interlock device for people who’ve been convicted of three DWIs. That’s a reasonable safety precaution. But she’d also require such drivers to be issed shocking pink license plates, with numbers beginning with DWI.