Ethics/Government TransparencyRead

Are some associations, like the Arkansas Municipal League, so powerful that you as a taxpayer must pay for state employees to do their legal work?

This is the question Arkansans should be asking their state legislators and BLR (Bureau of Legislative Research), the service agency paid by Arkansas taxpayers to draft legislation for their legislators.

*Original Youtube video was taken down

Shared in a meeting held by the FOIA Task Force on February 12, 2021, the Municipal League attorney, John Wilkerson, said (when asked if they went through a Representative to get the bill drafted by BLR), “No, we just go to BLR sometimes and get bill drafts ready.” He also went on to say, “You don’t have to have a legislator to draft a bill.”

Mr. Wilkerson was referring to having BLR, a state funded service agency, draft bills for the Municipal League, a registered lobbyist for cities and towns.

Why are Arkansas taxpayers paying for the legal work of lobbyist like the Arkansas Municipal League who are lobbying your representatives for more of your tax dollars?

According to the Municipal League’s attorney, John Wilkerson, this is a regular occurrence. Apparently BLR is being contacted by associations such as Arkansas Association of Counties and Municipal League, having them draft the bills these lobbyists want to propose during the legislative session. They are doing this on the taxpayers’ dime and without an elected official’s oversight or recommendation.

If this is considered standard protocol for these lobbyist groups, should not the private citizens of Arkansas also be given carte blanche in directing BLR to draft legislation they would like to see passed? (Maybe the Municipal League figures, “Oh, what difference does it make? The taxpayer is already paying us to lobby for higher taxes…. why not just by-pass the people and their representative completely?” But that is a discussion for another day.)

But ask, why are lobbyist taking this special privilege, using taxpayer dollars to pay for legal work ultimately meant to get more tax dollars from the people—while skirting legislative oversight? And why are they getting away with it?

To these organizations the legislators appear to be nothing more than simple carrier pigeons for special interest groups. These lobbyists completely usurp the legislators’ oversight in the drafting process, making these bills a special interest endeavor in all stages of their development. Finally, the lobbyists have cut out the middleman–the people and their representative!

Legislators: Did you know that powerful lobbyist associations are directing your overworked and busy BLR staff to draft legislation without your approval and without your oversight?

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