Republican legislators may decry bloated government, but some of them can’t seem to let the public teat go. Consider these developments, reported and expected:
* Michael Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Tweeted today that Rep. Trevor Drown, who lost a race for secretary of state, is going to be hired as a lobbyist for incoming Republican land commissioner Tommy Land. (Officially, he’ll be liaison to the legislature. Same thing.)
* Recently, Gov. Asa Hutchinson put defeated GOP Rep. Jeff Williams on the Department of Human Services lobbying payroll, where he’ll join former legislator Kelley Linck and former Hutchinson staffer, Betty Guhman.
* Rumors are strong that defeated Republican Rep. Charlie Collins is in line to slide in to the job now held by former Republican legislator Duncan Baird, budget administrator for the state Department of Finance and Administration. The theory is that Baird will be further elevated to replace Gail Stone, 61, who worked her last day today as head of the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System after 28 years at the agency.
Re this last: Collins didn’t respond to my question. Scott Hardin, the DFA spokesman, says no one has been hired and they have no hirings to announce at the moment.
It was clear that Stone was ousted — without warning to her she was advised her resignation was expected — to make way for a Hutchinson pick. The law had been changed recently to oust old governing board members and give control of the APERS board to Hutchinson appointees. For now, the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System isn’t wholly controlled by gubernatorial appointees and ex-officio Republican appointees, so a plan to put a former Hutchinson staffer as head of ATRS to replace George Hopkins failed at least for the time being. Many expect a law change in 2019 to enable control of that agency by Hutchinson, too.
There are many, many more legislators who just can’t quit the public life. They range from department heads like Education Commissioner Johnny Key to other agency staffers who transitioned from the legislature to fatter state jobs, with salaries that enhance public retirement benefits substantially. Many others move to lobbying jobs after a suitable time period, though they frequently work immediately as “consultants” first. None dare call it lobbying. Drown can lobby legally because the cooling-off period for legislative moths to morph into lobbyist butterflies doesn’t apply to state jobs. Thus House Speaker Jeremy Gillam’s recent move to the UCA lobbying job.
Happily, some of the greediest lawmakers have gone, or will be going, to jail or punitive confinement. Such as Jon Woods, Eddie Cooper, Micah Neal, Hank Wilkins and Jake Files, plus Jeremy Hutchinson in the maybe category.
I wish Pro Publica would come to Arkansas to do a project like the one it’s done on the “ethical swamp” in Louisiana, where it found more than a third of the legislators who’d left office since 2010 had become lobbyists, agency heads, government “influencers” or appointees to state boards.
Hard to leave that trough under the Dome.