House Speaker Davy Carter has sent a memo to House members reminding them that Arkansas has a new ethics law embedded in the Arkansas Constitution that, among other things, prevents them from accepting anything of value from lobbyists. Voters approved it yesterday as Issue 3 on the ballot.
The immediate key provision, which I reminded a tableful of politicos at the Capital Hotel bar about today at lunch, means no more wining and dining by lobbyists. No spliting and stacking of bills to turn the previously porous entertainment rules into swillathons. Now, meals and drinks can’t be accepted as gifts except at “planned” events to which governmental bodies or the whole legislature were invted. I fear the lobbyists are already looking for loopholes on this — the big throwdowns for speaker and Senate president will be just the beginning. But lunch at the Capital or Doe’s on your friendly lobbyist attendant is now a no-no. And no paying off of campaign debts with corporate contributions either, guys and gals.
Carter’s memo follows:
Yesterday, HJR 1009 of 2013 (submitted on the ballot as Issue 3) was adopted by Arkansas voters. Please be aware that this new amendment becomes effective today (November 5, 2014). Thus, this new amendment to the Arkansas Constitution contains several ethics provisions which immediately impact certain elected officials, including members of the General Assembly. I wanted to make you aware of certain new prohibitions under the amendment. These are summaries of the respective provisions – if you would like additional information, please review the specific language of HJR 1009 or contact Graham Sloan with the Arkansas Ethics Commission at 1‑800‑422-7773.
(1) Campaign Contributions
· Under HJR 1009, a candidate for public office or a person acting on the candidate’s behalf is prohibited from accepted a campaign contribution from other than:
o An individual:
o A defined political party;
o A county political party committee;
o A legislative caucus committee; or
o An approved political action committee.
· Entities other than those listed above are likewise prohibited from making a campaign contribution.
· A violation of this section is a Class A misdemeanor.
(2) Gifts from Lobbyists
Under HJR 1009, members of the General Assembly shall not knowingly or willingly solicit or accept a gift from a lobbyist, a person acting on behalf of a lobbyist, or a person employing or contracting with a lobbyist.
o Person” includes a business, individual, union, association, firm, committee, club, or other organization or group of persons.
The term “gift” is defined more narrowly than current ethics laws — the term means any payment, entertainment, advance, services, or anything of value unless consideration of equal or greater value is given.
o Informational material such as books, reports, pamphlets, calendars, or periodicals informing a person elected or appointed to an office of his or her official duties;
o Gifts that are not used and which, within thirty (30) days after receipt, are returned to the donor;
o Gifts from the spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister, parent-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, nephew, niece, aunt, uncle, or first cousin of a person elected or appointed to a constitutional office, unless the family member is acting on behalf of a person otherwise prohibited from making the gift;
o Anything of value that is readily available to the general public at no cost;
o Food or drink available at a planned activity to which a specific governmental body (committee or legislative body) is invited;
o Payments by regional or national organizations for travel to regional or national conferences at which the State of Arkansas is requested to be represented by a person or persons elected or appointed to a constitutional office;
o Campaign contributions; and
o Any devise or inheritance.
· A violation of this section is a Class B misdemeanor.
(3) Lobbyist Registration
Under HJR 1009, all persons elected or reelected to the General Assembly on or after November 4, 2014 may not register as a lobbyist until two (2) years after the expiration of the term of office to which he or she was elected.
A violation of this section is a Class D felony.
If you have any questions, please call Gabe Holmstrom at 501-682-7771.