The New York Times reports today on how legislatures around the country (Arkansas was mentioned) have pushed back against ballot initiatives aimed at stronger ethics laws.
The focus is on South Dakota, where a voter initiative to, among others, restrict lobbyist wining and dining was promptly overridden by the legislature. TNow voters have put another ethics proposal on the ballot.
If only Arkansas would do the same.
We’ve written before — and before and before and before — about the risible “ethics” amendment approved by Arkansas voters in 2014. It was supposed to end free feeds. It didn’t. The legislature found a way around it. They found a way around camp-following lobbyists with credit cards at out-of-state conventions. They found a way to keep junkets coming. They found a way to throw regal balls every year for the House and Senate potentates. They found a way to keep corporate dollars flowing to campaigns. They found a way to extend term limits. They found a way to be forgiven for ethics violations when reported. They’ve continued meaningless punishment for the rare ethics violations that are found. The Senate has put forward supposed “ethics reform” — only after multiple federal indictments — that doesn’t allow outside complaints or independent review.
Oh, and if you want to start a citizen-initiated ballot initiative to do something about it, the corporate-controlled legislature has thrown up many obstacles to petition drives.
Regnat populus? Regnat lobbyist is more like it in Arkansas.
The Times article notes a rise in efforts by voters to overcome legislative preferences. It’s not just ethics.
The trend comes at a time when a gap is widening between what the public wants and what politicians are willing to do, analysts say. Aiming to shape public policy directly, voters in some states have legalized marijuana, raised income taxes, expanded Medicaid and imposed term limits — positions that their lawmakers had opposed or simply avoided. In turn, elected officials have asserted that their moves to undo voter initiatives are a necessary corrective.
See Arkansas. The legislature is sure the people want, in addition to loose ethics laws, low wages, limited access to the courts for corporate negligence, vote suppression, criminalization of marijuana, lobbyist wining and dining, tax cuts for the wealthy, diminished public schools, unfettered gun use and lots more. I’m not so sure the people agree. But they don’t have much say.