LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Annual personal financial disclosure reports submitted by Arkansas lawmakers show they accepted trips to Canada, Taiwan and Croatia last year.
State lawmakers claim the trips were largely educational in nature, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Sunday (https://bit.ly/1C03bO0 ).
Lobbyist Laurie Lee of Little Rock reported that she spent nearly $10,000 on behalf of Arkansas Parents for School Choice on expenses for an August trip to Washington, D.C., for Republican Reps. Bruce Cozart of Hot Springs, Bill Gossage of Ozark and Charlotte Douglas of Alma; and Sens. Jane English of North Little Rock and Bart Hester of Cave Springs. The purpose of the trip was to discuss “education reform.”
Lee said the five lawmakers met with officials of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a group founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2008. They say they learned about what other states are doing to improve education.
House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, reported that a California company paid for his trip to San Francisco in October to give a speech on a tax-credit program enacted in 2013 and the prospects for extending it in this year’s legislative session.
The State Legislative Leaders Foundation paid $3,941 for state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot, to attend the 2014 Transatlantic Leadership Forum in Croatia in July, Williams disclosed in his report.
The foundation holds a forum overseas once a year, and this one brought together 17 legislative leaders and 10 businessmen from the United States, according to the website of the Croatian Parliament in Zagreb.
“Trade was obviously a focus (of the trip),” Williams said. “Croatia is still an emerging country, and they are still damaged (from war). We met with their legislators, and they have got a huge agriculture industry. Everywhere I go I talk (about) rice, obviously.”
The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development paid $2,460 for Sen. Bill Sample, R-Hot Springs, to attend the “Rising State Leaders tour” in July, Sample reported in his annual report. Sample said he and seven lawmakers from other states went to several places throughout Canada to learn about economic development and the energy industry in Canada.
The Leadership Association of Taiwan paid $9,000 for then-Senate President Pro Tempore Michael Lamoureux’s expenses from July 12-20 on a government exchange to Taipei, Lamoureux reported. The Russellville Republican is now Hutchinson’s chief of staff.
Under an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution, lobbyists have been barred from providing certain gifts to state lawmakers since Nov. 5.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com
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