After extended debate, the House Education Committee today defeated Sen. Breanne DavisSB 452 to prevent using public money on education lobbying associations.

Short version, Davis (R-Russellville) particularly doesn’t like money that goes from school districts to pay dues to the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators and the Arkansas School Boards Association, powerful lobby groups at the Capitol. Why spend public money, she said, when “two-thirds” of Arkansas students “can’t read.” She got some pushback on that assertion.

The lobby groups have been successful on a number of occasions this session in curbing legislation. Davis sees them as foes of legislation good for children. Others see them as champions. The organizations see themselves more as advocates, than lobbyists, particularly in the case of the School Boards Association. It represents unpaid, elected board members who have other jobs in keeping up with hundreds of bills affecting education. Davis wanted to limit expenditures on both “direct” and “indirect” lobbying, the latter an undefined prohibition that many said would be problematic.

Davis dodged a question about the number of other state agencies — higher education, the executive branch and many more — use public money to pay lobbyists. She’s only concerned with education, she said.

Rep. Mickey Gates (R-Hot Springs), the accused tax cheat, and Rep. Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle) were leading supporters of Davis’ bill on the committee. The bill failed on a roll call vote.

PS: Davis asked, but didn’t get an answer, from Richard Abernathy, director of the AAEA, about his salary. According to a 2017 tax return, he received $252,920 in salary and other compensation.