Rep. John Burris, who’s been campaigning for Sen.-elect Tom Cotton, dropped by this morning to pass along news of the next steps in his career.
Come the first of the year he’ll continue to work for Cotton on a contract basis on political issues — nurturing a Senate campaign is a never-ending job — and join political consultant Bill Vickery in the consulting business. Not lobbying in Arkansas of course. An outgoing legislator can’t do that for two years. (One year for grandfathered current legislators, I’ve been advised.)
He’ll specialize in health issues, something he earned the equivalent of a Ph.D. in while shepherding the private option version of Medicaid expansion into Arkansas law. He swears he’ll be at the Capitol rarely. He doesn’t swear he’ll never talk to his old legislative friends as they fight another battle about continuation and perhaps modification of the program. He’ll be traveling to help other states working through the same issue.
Appearances will be tricky and not always savory. Burris expects criticism (I think his courtesy call was aimed at turning my temperature down). It’s true he’s invested a significant amount of public service in the issue. It’s true his first plan was to keep at it in the legislature, but lost a race to Scott Flippo. So now he’ll move into a consulting roll. He has some other issues he’s not yet ready to divulge.
Where does the fine line between consulting and lobbying fall? We and others in a bipartisan crowd will be watching. Burris made some enemies in his own party over the years in rising to leadership roles and participating in the coup that put Davy Carter in as House speaker rather than Terry Rice. A robust majority party with competing factions will be, if nothing else, interesting to watch.
Time may yet find Burris, too, in a spot in the Asa Hutchinson administration. Medicaid is a big agency. It helps to know where to find the restrooms.