Catching up on Wednesday action: Rep. Josh Miller, the Medicaid recipient who opposed Medicaid for others, won an overwhelming “do not pass” vote Wednesday morning in the House State Agencies committee on HB 1008.
Bills typically go up or down on “do pass” votes. Do not pass recommendations are almost unheard of. They are the death penalty to legislation.
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And what was HB 1008?
It was by Rep. Clarke Tucker of Little Rock. It would have increased the criminal penalty for legislators who use campaign money for personal expenses. One former legislator, Sen. Paul Bookout, went to federal prison for doing this, but it required a federal wire fraud charge for tens of thousands in personal expenses from money accrued in uncontested elections.
Tucker’s bill explicitly allowed candidates to employ their spouse and kids with campaign money. It explicitly allowed loans at certain times. It allowed candidates to rent themselves space in their own buildings. It allowed exceptions for campaign meals. It allowed personal expenditures from campaign carryover money.
The bill would have continued the violation as a misdemeanor up to $500 worth of personal spending. Then it would have become a felony, up to Class B for $25,000 or more.
Personal campaign spending is prohibited by ethics rules, but the penalties are insignificant. The threat of a misdemeanor violation didn’t deter Bookout (nor once Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, who resigned after his personal spending of campaign and state money was revealed.)
The slap on the wrist prevails. DO NOT PASS, Josh Miller said.