Legislature 2015 under new 'ethics amendment': More pay, per diem for no-shows and still plenty of free grub | Arkansas Blog

Legislature 2015 under new 'ethics amendment': More pay, per diem for no-shows and still plenty of free grub

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If I'd been Sen. Keith Ingram's speech writer in his statement opposing a pay raise for legislators made possible by Amendment 94, I couldn't have resisted throwing in other niceties of the new amendment in addition to a 150 percent pay increase. Such as: Longer time in office to accrue more power and perks with an easing of term limits. Also, despite language that seems to bar lobbyist spending on legislators, it has continued unabated, perhaps even at a greater level by a ruse — so far unreviewed by the Ethics Commission — in which a dinner or cocktail party is termed a "scheduled activity" and exempt from the gift ban.

Here's the freebie report for today:

BREAKFAST: 7:30-9 a.m., Capitol H/ill Building, UAMS Area Health Education Centers Regional Programs.

LUNCH: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Capitol Hill Building, Arkansas chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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

The agenda is light because the Senate won't meet Friday and the House isn't currently scheduled to convene. Only one committee meeting is on the schedule at the moment. So many legislators won't be in town Friday at all and likely will head home this evening. Even if they don't come to town Friday, they will continue to be paid per diem for "expenses" under a continuing abusive practice that hasn't been remedied, either, by Amendment 94.

As official scheduled activities of the General Assembly, all these entertainments should be open to the public. The Constitution says so.

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