Oh, it would be a shame if lobbyists couldn’t slop legislative hogs in the 2021 session on account of COVID-19.
A memo from the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce indicates the usual round of parties on the calendar the business lobby oversees is not currently in the cards.
“Planned activities” are the fiction devised by the legislature and approved by the toothless Ethics Commission as a means of keeping the steaks and cabernet coming.
As I’ve written before, the so-called ethics amendment that Jon Woods and Co. passed was a Trojan horse for longer terms, higher pay and ample loopholes on wining and dining. Invite everyone on a committee or in a legislative chamber or cook up some excuse to honor a legislative leader and the party is good to go, even if you know the only people REALLY expected to attend are select members who get the secret signal. And the public is most decidedly NOT welcome. The ethics scofflaws also reportedly have found some workarounds on private dining and drinking at select locales.
One lobbyist predicts the new normal: “Intimate dinners with key leaders. The old Packet House [the private club founded by, among others, the felonious Jeremy Hutchinson] will be busy.”
Another potential workaround: That lawsuit by which a group of legislators hopes to strike down Health Department rules promulgated under the governor’s health emergency powers. Perhaps that group should demonstrate peacefully. Form a No-Mask Caucus and find lobbyists willing to invite all to attend a fancy dinner, preferably in a poorly ventilated room with low ceilings.