So many free meals, so little time. That’s the dilemma for legislators today.
Following are the so-called “scheduled activities” that allow legislators to eat and drink free on special interest lobbyists, despite Amendment 94’s ban of gifts to legislators. Remember that their free meals don’t offset their daily draw of per diem for “expenses” — paid even on days when they don’t meet — and that they are soon to get a 150 percent pay raise courtesy of the same constitutional amendment that backers said would end free wining and dining of legislators.
BREAKFAST: 7:30-9 a.m., Capitol Hill Building, Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District (another publicly funded lobby).
LUNCH: 11:30-1 p.m., Capitol Hill Building, Arkansas Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs.
LUNCH: 11:30 am., Association of Arkansas Counties Building, Career and Technical Student Organizations.
LUNCH: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Capitol Square Apartments, #13, Arkansas Health Care Association (nursing home lobby)
RECEPTION: 3-6 p.m., American Legion headquarters, American Legion Department of Arkansas.
COCKTAILS, ETC.: 6 p.m., Capitol Square Apartments, #13, Arkansas Health Care Association (nursing home lobby).
COCKTAILS, ETC.: 5-7 p.m., Choo Choo Room, Capitol Square Apartments, #4, by lobbyists for:
Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association
Arkansas Hospital Association
Arkansas Medical Society
Arkansas Pharmacists Association
Arkansas Podiatric Medical Association
Arkansas State Dental Association
Independent Insurance Agents of Arkansas
Arkansas Community Colleges
COCKTAILS, ETC.: 4:30-8:30 p.m., Clinton Presidential Center, Arkansas Bar Association.
The above are events for the entire House and Senate. The following are more intimate gatherings, private dining excused as “scheduled activities” of legislative committees.
JOINT ENERGY COMMITTEE DINNER: 6 p.m., Copeland’s, Balanced Energy Ar/Electric Co-ops.
SENATE AGRICULTURE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE DINNER: 6 p.m., Arthur’s Prime Steak House, AT&T.
HOUSE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION DINNER: 5:45-8 p.m., Cajun’s Wharf, Move Arkansas Forward. This is the road-builders lobby. This committee has before it a bill to divert money from general revenue to road building.
ONCE AGAIN: A standing cocktail party by two lobbyists at two Capitol Hill apartments is a “scheduled activity”? I’ve asked the Ethics Commission. Based on its overly cautious record, I doubt it will exercise much restraint on the lawmakers who provide its budget.