Soon after the General Election in November the Arkansas Senate and the House of Representatives will each hold organizational and training sessions for new legislators.
What is the primary lesson they will learn from this training? ANSWER: The importance of being buddies with big money lobbyists.
When new legislators go to their orientation meetings they will have several days of events with big lobbyists with free food and booze. Three free meals and cocktails in a day – isn’t that swell?
If your new legislator hasn’t already been trained by big money lobbyists through campaign donations, he or she will get lots of training at lobbyist events. This is where candidates are retrained, learning the importance of “pragmatism” over “principles and promises.”
Campaign donations and free food and drink are just the beginning of the training legislators receive from lobbyists during their terms of office.
Campaign donations and special events by the big money lobbyists help build relations the lobbyists need to pass or defeat legislation and to get government grants for their clients. Over time these relationships between lobbyists and legislators can become extra special. You can see these special relations in action:
- When a House committee defeated SB175 of 2017 to require Medicaid providers to disclose business dealings with legislators and other public officials.
- When the Senate stopped SB726 of 2017 to prohibit legislator-attorneys from using their positions to represent their big clients in the legislature.
- When there is a guilty plea filed by former Senator Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV for taking money from a lobbyist and when lobbyists are indicted.
Perhaps you have wondered why state government looks so much the same whether it is a Republican majority or a Democrat majority. ANSWER: It is always the same lobbyist majority!
It is no accident that when the legislature proposed an Amendment to the Arkansas Constitution to prohibit lobbyist gifts that they included an exception for free food and drinks at lobbyist events. To end the exception requires a Constitutional Amendment by the people, a law change by the legislature by 2/3rds vote, or the adoption of a simple rule change in either house to impose a new ethics standard for their members.
Trying to limit the control of lobbyists may seem like water on stone. But water does erode stone and, if you keep up the pressure, reform can be made! What the lobbyists and their public official friends want is for you to get discouraged and quit caring. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
To help you get an idea of what legislators will learn this year in their “training,” let’s look back at the calendar of events for the 2016 House training session held December 4-9.
2016- House Legislative Institute
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 ARand the AR Hospital Association
- Lunch, hosted by AR Telecommunications Association
- Dinner at the Capital Hotel, hosted by Noble Strategiesand 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
Note: The House and Senate websites only allow you to view a few days of upcoming “events.” This list above appeared in an article by the left-wing Arkansas Times. Here are links to their articles on the House and Senate orientations in 2016.