Sabin Says Passed Ballot Item One Of Most Significant Ethics Reforms In The Country

Nov 6, 2014

State Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock)
Credit Nathan Vandiver / KUAR

From KUAR News in Little Rock I’m Jacob Kauffman. Democratic State Representative Warwick Sabin is on the line, thanks for joining us.

Sabin: You’re welcome.

Jacob Kauffman: You were unopposed for your state House seat in Little Rock, but you had plenty at stake election night. You were instrumental in crafting the ethics reform component of Issue 3. The outgoing House Speaker sent out a memo making it clear the changes to the law, the state Constitution, go into effect immediately. First, can you tell us about how this affects gifts from lobbyists?

Sabin: Well, it actually bans all gifts from lobbyists to elected officials which means that starting today (Wednesday) no one can accept anything of value from a lobbyist. That goes from a meal, to an event ticket, to a cup of coffee. That will tremendously change the culture of how business is conducted at the State Capitol. The hope is that it will create a situation where the legislation that’s passed is free of influence from big money interests.

Kauffman: Did you run into anyone on election night that was getting that last lobbyist steak dinner? 

Sabin: Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t think I was anywhere where that was taking place but perhaps somebody was having a last cocktail.

Kauffman: Alright and how does the passage of Issue 3 effect registering as a lobbyist, particularly for legislators?

Sabin: Legislators who currently had to wait one year before they could register as a lobbyist after they left office now will have to wait two years. So that period has doubled and that’s significant because sometimes there’s the appearance that some legislators maybe carry legislation or take care of business with the expectation that there’s a job for them when they leave office. With a two year waiting period or cooling off period between being a legislator and a lobbyist I think that occurrence will be mitigated.

Kauffman: This new ethics law also makes some significant changes to corporate campaign contributions. Could you walk us through some of those rules?

Sabin: The measure will basically ban all contributions to political candidates and that includes labor unions and obviously any business or any corporate entity really. So in the case where we saw just in the last year or so, one person who owned multiple corporations would make multiple contributions from those corporations to one candidate. Obviously that won’t be able to take place. The only contributions that will be accepted are from individuals, from political parties, caucuses, and political action committees. It really changes the culture of how those campaigns are funded but it's really also one of the most significant ethics reforms that's been passed anywhere in the country. You can say that about all three of the ethics reforms.

Kauffman: Issue 3 was certainly a multi-faceted package. We won’t delve into the term-limits or salary provisions today, at this particular interview. State Representative Warwick Sabin, a Democrat from Little Rock, thank you for speaking with us.

Sabin: Thank you Jacob, thanks for your time.

Kauffman: I’m Jacob Kauffman, this is KUAR News.