Free eats, drinks continue for state legislators | Arkansas Blog

Free eats, drinks continue for state legislators



The free lunch/drinks/dinner calendar for state legislators remains busy today, despite Amendment 94's ban on gifts to legislators. A ruse by which multiple parties at multiple locations can be termed "scheduled activities" for the whole legislature or specific committees has allowed lobbyists to continue their old practices as if nothing happened in November.

And legislators are soon to get a 150 percent pay raise, plus the ability to serve as many as 18 years in one chamber at that higher pay, plus draw per diem that is NOT adjusted downward for all the free meals or days in which a legislator doesn't go to work at the Capitol.

This is post-Amendment 94 ethics, Arkansas-style, just as Sen. Jon Woods hoped when he layered pay, more years in office and tricky free meal language into what began as a straight ethics amendment.

By law and chamber rules all the following "scheduled activities" are open to the public as official meetings of the legislature or its committees:

BREAKFAST: 7:30-9 a.m., Diamond Beer Brewing Company, Arkansas Brewers Guild. (Really. Breakfast.)

LUNCH: Noon-1:30 p.m., Association of Counties Building, Arkansas Circuit Clerks Association. Another one of those taxpayer-financed lobbies doing some lobbying.

LUNCH: 11:30-1 p.m., Capitol Square Apartments, #13, Arkansas Health Care Association (nursing home lobby).

RECEPTION: 4-6 p.m., Capitol Square Apartments, #13, Arkansas Health Care Association (nursing home lobby). 

RECEPTION: 6-8 p.m., Capital Hotel, Arkansas Realtors Association.

RECEPTION: 5-7 p.m., Capitol Square Apartments, #4 "Choo-Choo Room."  The following lobbies provide this floating daily cocktail party:

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
Pfizer, Inc.
Arkansas Community Colleges

"RECEPTION": 6-10 p.m., Bevis Farm, North Little Rock, "Country Caucus." This is paid by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials.

Here's the lineup of committee "scheduled activities," also open by law to the public:

RECEPTION: 5-6 p.m., Association of Arkansas Counties, Arkansas Circuit Clerks Association, for Senate and House judiciary committees.

COCKTAILS: 6:30 p.m., Capital Hotel, nurse anesthetists, for the House Public Health Committee.

DINNER: 6:30 p.m., Arthur's Prime Steak House, by the House Odom Law Firm for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

DINNER: 6:30 p.m., Cajun's Wharf, by the Association of Arkansas Counties for the Senate and House City, County and Local Affairs Committee.

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