By now plenty has been said elsewhere about what legislators in Little Rock think passes for ethics reform. To sum it up, the bill being proposed does next to nothing. Representative Eddie Cheatham withdrew his bill that would have forced legislators to wait two years before they could become registered lobbyists, replacing it with a shorter one year time period, a restriction legislators worked in a grandfather clause to protect themselves with. The bill also does nothing about gifts or lobbyist access to members. All in all, the bill, SB194, is weak wash. Better than nothing, but not by much. There’s plenty of shame to go around. Democrats in Little Rock have long embarrassed themselves and have missed an opportunity by not stealing this issue from Republicans. Republicans on the other hand campaigned on tough ethics reform last year and now they’re showing that I was right all along-they were just blowing smoke up our asses trying to get elected and now are part of the problem. (And with some of the downright ludicrous and frightening bills they’re trying to pass seem to be showing that the “cure” was worse than the original ailment.)
There is some good news in all this. Governor Beebe has stepped up and called for a stronger bill. Will he get it? I doubt it. Though personally, if the Governor really wants to take a stand on ethics, I’d suggest he start a campaign to put some legislation on the ballot. And if he’s not willing to do so, I can think of a certain former Lt. Gov who should consider doing so as well.