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October 21, 2018
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Arkansas ethics panel recommends lobbyist disclosure rule

By The Associated Press
This article was originally published October 10, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. Updated October 11, 2018 at 12:00 p.m.

LITTLE ROCK (AP) — The Arkansas Senate Ethics Committee has a recommended a rule change that would require state senators who are attorneys or consultants to disclose lobbyist relationships and related income.

The rule change recommended Monday comes after several lawmakers were convicted of or pleaded guilty to federal crimes, including a case involving a lobbyist, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Senators would be required to file a financial disclosure statement with the Secretary of the Senate by Jan. 31 of each year for the preceding calendar year.

The rule change would apply to attorneys and consultants in the Senate who are retained by registered lobbyists or by entities employing registered lobbyists. The rule also would apply to senators who participate in profit-sharing or cost-sharing agreements with their law or consulting firms, when those firms are retained by lobbyists or entities employing them.

Democratic state Sen. Will Bond, an attorney, said he was concerned about disclosing specific amounts of income.

"I don't think anybody wants their exact amount they are paying their lawyer or whoever disclosed," Bond said. "I don't think that helps the public to know exactly the amount paid to a (law firm) partner who never served in the Legislature and doesn't currently serve in the Legislature."

The rule change recommended by the committee would require disclosing the income in broad ranges, not specific amounts. Senators would disclose the income in five categories: at least $1,000 to less than $12,500; $12,500 to less than $50,000; $50,000 to less than $100,000; $100,000 to less than $250,000; and $250,000 or more.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang said the rule change "strikes at the heart of what I think we see as issues and what has been seen as issues over the last several years."

"If you are willing to be employed by a lobbyist and sit as a member of the Legislature, then it should not offend you to have to disclose that and the amount of money that you made from that lobbyist or the firm that employed the lobbyist," Dismang said.

The rule would need the full Senate's approval.

CORRECTION

This article has been edited to reflect the following correction: The Associated Press erroneously reported that state Sen. Will Bond opposed the change. Bond didn't oppose the change, but he said he was concerned about requiring the disclosure of specific amounts of income.

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