The 2017 Arkansas General Assembly
is revving up, and that means lobbyists are, too.
Next week, the state House of Representatives begins its institute of legislative proceedings to educate members — many of whom are incoming freshmen — about procedure and state government. That's all good and well, but it also creates an opportunity for industry groups to wine and dine legislators.
Beginning with a 6 p.m. cocktail reception and dinner at the Regions Bank building on Sunday evening, lobbyists will be buying the legislature three free meals a day each day next week. (Well, OK, only breakfast and lunch on Friday, since the institute sessions end at noon that day.)
This is a problem because of Amendment 94
, a 2014 ballot measure that voters approved with the intent of prohibiting lobbyists from buying legislators meals and gifts. Or rather, it should be. After the amendment was approved, the legislature then decided that certain "planned events" hosted by lobbyists are exempt from the restriction. The Ethics Commission, which enforces state ethics laws, didn't raise a fuss — and so free breakfasts, lunches and dinners for lawmakers by lobbyists became a near-daily occurrence in the 2015 session. Expect the same in 2017, unless something changes regarding enforcement.
Here's the calendar of events for the Arkansas House.
And here's a rundown of who's paying for what. All events are at the Capitol Hill Apartment Building unless otherwise stated. Exact times can be found on the House website.
Sunday, Dec. 4th
Cocktail reception and dinner at the Little Rock Club - Regions Bank Bldg., hosted by AR Manufactured Housing Association, AR Oil Marketers Association, AR Petroleum Council
and AR Cable Telecommunications Association
Monday, Dec. 5th
Breakfast, hosted by Centerpoint Energy
Lunch, hosted by Impact Management Group
Reception and dinner, hosted by Mullenix & Associates
Tuesday, Dec. 6th
Breakfast, hosted by Associated General Contractors of AR
Lunch, hosted by Stephens Investment Holdings, LLC
Dinner at the Victory Building Rm. 445, hosted by Phillips Management and Consulting Services
Wednesday, Dec. 7th
Breakfast, hosted by Independent Insurance Agents of AR
and the AR Hospital Association
Lunch, hosted by AR Telecommunications Association
Dinner at the Capital Hotel, hosted by Noble Strategies
and the Perimeter Group
Thursday, Dec. 8th
Breakfast, hosted by AR Forestry Association, AR Timber Producers Association
and the AR Forest & Paper Council
Lunch, hosted by the AR Bankers Association
Dinner at Cothams in the City, hosted by The Poultry Federation
Friday, Dec. 9th
Breakfast, hosted by AR Society of Professional Lobbyists and ARBEV
Lunch, hosted by the AR Health Care Association