by Max Brantley
Psst. Hey, you. Incoming legislator. Want to get in front of a natonal parade? Ride a popular bandwagon? Here are some ideas, courtesy of an article today in Roll Call (subscriber only) by Lou Jacobson.
Lobby scandals and public officials who like perks too much were part of the reason for the big turnover in Congress. This has state-level-relevant application. Jacobson reports:
Montana voters approved legislationi requiring a two-year waiting period before legislators and state officials can become lobbyists. Heck, in Arkansas, we have people who effectively work as lobbyists while holding seats in the legislature.
In South Dakota, strict penalties were set on the use of state-owned airplanes for personal use. That means, you, governor. And your wife, too.
Colorado enacted the two-year revolving door ban, but also put a $50 annual limit on monetary or in-kind gifts to public officials and prohibits lobbyists from offering gifts to politicians or their immediate families. (Wining and dining constitute gifts under the new law, as they should. This also makes it impossible for lobbyists to pay for inaugural festivities.)
Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee also passed ethics reform packages. (In Tennessee, it was more lobbyist disclosure and a BAN on campaign contributions by lobbyists. North Carolina also curbed lobbyist gifts and contributions.)
In Montana, the reform was led by Brian Schweitzer, the newly elected Democratic governor, who said in response to lobbyist complaints that it will be difficult to work with the legislature, “Cry me a river.”
Must Arkansas always be last on good-government measures? Perhaps the incoming governor, Mike Beebe, can put to rest any concern raised by his hiring of one of the state's most powerful lobbyists as his chief of staff by leading the way for ethics reform here, as Warwick suggested a few weeks ago.