Rep. Ann Clemmer, R-Benton, one of the House co-sponsors of the legislature’s ethics reform bill, offered a few comments to Talk Business the day after companion bills were introduced.
SB 194 and HB 1284 would make more uniform reimbursement rates for out-of-state travel and require future state lawmakers to wait one year before registering as lobbyists. The two bills are "mirror" bills, meaning they reflect the same language.
SB 194 was approved by the Senate State Agencies Committee on Tuesday and could be taken up by the full Senate as early as Thursday. The House Rules Committee approved HB 1284 today.
Clemmer, who has championed revisions to the legislature’s travel reimbursement policy said, "I’m not so naive to think that this makes a big difference in state budgets, but I think it’s a real big step in the right direction for legislators to show the rest of the state that we can limit ourselves."
The second-term representative also dismissed claims that the legislation doesn’t do more or go far enough, such as adding a "Wal-Mart" rule to forbid any lobbyist gifts of any dollar amount.
Clemmer contends that the framework for a clearer policy was difficult to achieve. Some legislators who do not want to attend any lobby-sponsored events as a matter of principle miss out on important policy discussions, she said, because they don’t want to be lumped in on expense reports.
She also stressed that the two changes being made in the new bills are positive steps in the right direction and could lay the groundwork for more reform in the years to come.
"Considering that I don’t think there’s ever been a cooling off period ever in Arkansas’ history, to get a year, I think that’s a pretty big stride. And the same thing with limiting members’ travel reimbursements," Clemmer said. "I don’t know what more we need to do on travel and it may be that we go to a two-year cooling period at some point in time."
You can listen to more of her comments in the video below.