Senate supports no waiting period for lobbying - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Senate supports no waiting period for lobbying

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Posted: Thursday, February 18, 2010 6:34 pm | Updated: 3:33 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

State senators voted Thursday to let themselves take jobs as lobbyists the moment they quit or don't get re-elected.

State senators voted Thursday to let themselves take jobs as lobbyists the moment they quit or don't get re-elected.

The voice vote came after a plea by Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, to his colleagues to restore what he said is their right to make a living after their time in the Legislature. He said there's nothing inherently unethical about that.

But Sen. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix, who was a legislator when the restriction was approved nearly two decades ago, said that misses the point.

"It is not the ethical people for whom we make rules," she said. "It is those who perhaps choose to follow other paths of behavior."

The restrictions were enacted as part of a series of new restrictions on lobbyists after the AzScam scandal.

An undercover agent, posing as a lobbyist for interests pursuing legalized casino gambling in Arizona, gave out thousands of dollars in both campaign contributions and bribes to lawmakers willing to support the plan.

Seven legislators were indicted. Six reached plea deals; a seventh was convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery and filing false campaign statements.

McCune Davis said one problem with what Harper is proposing is that it opens the door to companies and special interests discussing future lobbying prospects with lawmakers while they are still in office - and still in a position to influence legislation. She said that "wouldn't be evident until well beyond the time that the individual leaves office."

Harper, elected to the Senate in 2002, said there is no similar restriction on legislative staffers, people he said may have more influence and be more knowledgeable than lawmakers themselves. He said legislators need to look at the practical effect of the existing law.

"Obviously, there are many members in this body and in the House that are not running for office again," he said. "And I don't see why your economic liberty should be any more limited than a senior staffer."

And Harper said while there might have been a reason for the limit in the 1990, "it had its day."

Sen. Ken Cheuvront, D-Phoenix, said this bill won't help the public perception of lawmakers.

"Many people, whether rightly or wrongly, look at politicians as being self-serving," he said. "I think, unfortunately, that this bill might make them say, 'I told you so.'"

But Rep. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, said the restriction is unnecessary.

"If you are a person serving down here that strives to have integrity, strives to be fair, strives to be honest, works hard, that those characteristics are going to carry over," she said. "I don't see that making a person wait a year is going to change the perception of the public that that person is now making six figures a year later."

Aside from the one-year ban on lobbying, other post AzScam reforms include registration of lobbyists, limits on how much lobbyists can spend in gifts for lawmakers and prohibitions on legislators taking campaign funds from lobbyists while they are in session. All remain in place.

Harper said he's not pushing the measure for his own benefit, saying he intends to run for the House -- assuming voters go along.

SB1262 needs a final roll-call vote before going to the House.

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