Niblock Launches New Ad Against A&P Tax

Greg Niblock, the local attorney who represented the people against the city of Searcy when they were illegally denied their right to vote on the 2010 A&P tax, has launched a new radio ad against the latest A&P tax proposal. Niblock is also a candidate for Justice of the Peace in White County and pledges to fight tax increases if elected to the quorum court:

You can learn more about Greg at his website, NiblockForJP.com, or on Facebook.

The Paper Turns

A&P tax protestors from 2010, using muddy signs that were stolen and discovered on city property

There will be a story in Wednesday’s edition of the Searcy paper about the pro-A&P tax group putting their fliers in mailboxes without stamps — a violation of federal law. But that’s not the real story. The real story here is that the paper is reporting the incident.

This is a paper that, like many across the country, bends to the left. (If you need any evidence of this, see this hit piece they ran on little ole insignificant me. They even had a piece yesterday outlining how much better the current proposal is than the 2009 proposal.) They also turned a blind eye to the ethics violations of our sitting county judge and endorsed the bypass tax, if I remember correctly. So it is certainly news that they are now turning against the pro-tax crowd. Quite frankly, it’s a great indication that the tax is doomed — a claim support by the paper’s own empirical evidence.

Using their own creative scientific method of hiring college students to conduct research, the paper conducted a poll showing the A&P tax failing by 12-points. They also recently conducted a poll that showed state Rep. Mark Biviano leading his Democrat challenger Kyle Osborne (who, incidentally, supports the A&P tax) by 16 points while just days before, Biviano released an internal poll from a well-respected polling firm showing a 26-point lead. So I think it’s reasonable to assume that the tax poll may be off by several points as well, although I can’t say I am completely surprised– they have a history of screwing these things up.

As I have been telling folks for a while, before any polls were conducted, you should not be surprised if the tax is defeated handily and by a larger margin than last time — perhaps by as much as 16-18 points.

The activists on the ground (as opposed to the ones at the paper) know they’re in trouble as well: last week, Alderman Don Raney told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that Searcy needs the tax to help “disabled children” and the elderly. Besides being disgusting, these tactics are clear signs of desperation.

Don’t be surprised if you see the paper run a few more favorable A&P tax pieces between now and the election — they’ll come under a wave of pressure from the city political establishment after tomorrow’s bombshell hits. But even they know the gig is up.

Searcy Police Chief Renting Apartment With Campaign Funds

In his latest campaign expenditure report, Searcy police chief and candidate for state representative Kyle Osborne reported a $400 expense for “rent.” The address given leads to an apartment complex in Searcy.

State ethics laws regarding the use of campaign funds for explicitly personal reasons are fairly clear — it’s a no no. However, the ethics commission reserves the right to determine whether or not expenses are for “personal use” or for campaign use.

The following paragraph is included in the ethics commission’s guidelines for campaign expenditures under Section 209, “Personal Expenses – Prohibited Uses:”

(c) Mortgage, Rent and Utility Payments – This includes any payments with respect to a personal residence of the candidate or his or her family, even if a portion of the residence is used by the campaign.  It does not include (i) payments made by a candidate with respect to other buildings or offices or office space used solely for campaign purposes, such as the campaign’s headquarters, even if the candidate owns the space used, so long as the space is not the candidate’s personal residence and the campaign pays a fair market value for use of the space;

My interpretation of this law is fairly simple: campaign funds can be used for rent as long as the space is used exclusively for campaign purposes. If any part of the space is used for personal residence or purposes, campaign funds cannot be used.

I called the ethics commission and requested some clarification on these guidelines. They said  my interpretation was more or less correct and that there are some circumstances in which using campaign funds for rent could be permissible, so long as the funds were not used for personal use. The determination as to whether or not an expenditure is for “personal use” or “campaign use” is an interpretation the Arkansas Ethics Commission reserves the right to make, per Section 210.

One possible explanation for the expense listed on Osborne’s report is that the apartment is being used to house campaign workers. Osborne has hired the Markham Group (he paid them $3,800 last month) out of Little Rock to run his campaign. Perhaps he is paying for an apartment for them to sleep in and stage their campaign out of. This would be somewhat of a gray area and the ethics commission would have to make a ruling about whether or not this qualified as “personal use” or “campaign use.”

If the funds were being used for a campaign office or for official campaign purposes, we might expect to see the expenses recur on Osborne’s monthly filings — he has been campaigning and reporting campaign expenses for several months. But we do not. Unless I am missing something, this rent expense is only shown on the September report.

Read the full story at The Arkansas Project.

Rep. Tiffany Rogers Is a Double-Dipper

Service in the state legislature is a part-time job. The yearly compensation is $15,689 (although that doesn’t include per diem payments), and it’s understood that legislators will probably find other employment when the General Assembly is not in session.

But legislators must obey state law. Legislators who also hold a state government job can’t accept two different paychecks for the same work period. It’s OK to get one paycheck for Monday’s work and a second paycheck for Tuesday’s work, but if you’re getting paid from two different sources for working the same work period, it’s a problem. Similarly, if you’re a legislator who is paid to be in a non-legislative state government office doing a non-legislative state government job, but you’re actually doing legislative work or political work, it’s a problem.

Accepting payment for Job 1 while actually doing Job 2 is known informally as “double-dipping.” Legislators aren’t supposed to do it: as one of George Costanza’s antagonists once said, you’re supposed to “just take one dip and end it.” Rep. Tiffany Rogers appears to have broken this rule repeatedly.

As the Director of Continuing Education for Phillips Community College, Rep. Tiffany Rogers is paid, on average, about $40,000 a year. That yearly salary figure would ordinarily be about $10,000 higher – except that, when the legislature is in session, Rogers usually takes an unpaid personal leave of absence. There’s nothing wrong with that – someone in her position would customarily take unpaid leave so as to eliminate the double-dipping that would be caused by accepting multiple paychecks for the same work. However, public records demonstrate that Rogers has repeatedly neglected to reduce her compensation from Phillips Community College while doing legislative or political work. In fact, she appears to have taken after George Costanza on at least four occasions.

Read the full story at The Arkansas Project.

What Did We Learn in the District 46 Debate?

Last night, I witnessed the Searcy debate between incumbent Rep. Mark Biviano and his Democrat challenger Kyle Osborne. If the voters make a choice based on the candidates’ performances, Osborne is in serious trouble.

In his opening statement, Osborne began by saying he’s running for state representative because he has 30 years of law enforcement experience and “we need a little law enforcement in Little Rock.” He continued by saying he wants to go to the legislature to “serve alongside our hometown boy Mike Beebe.” You know, the Governor Beebe that’s running around the state calling for “civility” while telling Republicans to “shut their mouths” and accusing AFP of “trashing Arkansas.”

He also repeated the tired talking point that “Arkansas is 5th in education” (again, this claim has been fully debunked here at The Arkansas Project). Osborne also said he wanted to help Beebe finish eliminating the grocery tax and that, as police chief, “I’ve done everything I could to double the training budget for the city police.”

Biviano began by asking the moderator if the altitude had been properly adjusted in the room before the debate: “You’ve gotta love Al Gore,” he quipped. He then began the substantive portion of his remarks by saying he was running for reelection to give his children better opportunities. He said that,

“To be an effective legislator, you have to want to serve. We have too many rubber stamp legislators.”

As for his platform, Biviano espoused his belief in lower taxes, education reform, and a business-friendly regulatory climate. Citing the statistic that Arkansas has lost 30,000 private sector jobs in the last 5 years, he ended his remarks by saying, “It’s time for Arkansas to do better.”

Read the full story from The Arkansas Project.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures in District 46 Race

The Searcy police chief created quite a stir over the weekend after his comments in the Sunday paper.  According to the article, published by the Daily CitizenKyle Osborne called incumbent state Rep. Mark Biviano “desperate” for signing Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Osborne is challenging Biviano for his seat in this fall’s election.

“My first thought was, ‘Desperate.’ How desperate are you to get re-elected to lock yourself into something like that?”

But then we get to the crux of the matter–Osborne realizes he’s been backed into a political corner, and so he spins:

“I don’t want to lock myself into signing a pledge for a special interest group out of Washington, D.C., that has no concerns for the state of Arkansas.  Once you sign that, whatever the circumstances are, you can’t change your mind.”

Osborne said that, were he elected and were a tax increase proposed, he would meet with his constituents to see what they wanted him to do.

“If they say yes, then that’s what I’ll support.  If they say no, then I’ll oppose it.”

A layman’s translation:  “I will vote for tax increases if people tell me to.”

It occurs to me that Osborne lacks a basic understanding of governance.  Governance is not (or should not be) a game where government raises taxes every time it overspends or has a new idea for a fun project.  Governance should be about operating within a budget.

Furthermore, we do not live in a direct democracy–candidates should be elected based on their values, and their constituents should be able to trust them to act based on those values.  For example, Rep. Biviano says he is against tax increases and will oppose them.  People who vote for him know when they cast their ballot that this is the case.  Unfortunately, those who vote for Mr. Osborne are not so lucky.  They’ll have to wait and see what the legislative session brings and then hope to gain Osborne’s attention long enough to find out where he stands.

Osborne also fails to consider the possibility that the interests of “the special interest group in DC” are the same interests of the people of Arkansas–and that they are furthered by a refusal to give government more money to waste.  Osborne lives in a city and a county full of people that have repeatedly voted down unnecessary tax increases over the last several years–the same region that elected Mark Biviano in 2010, a champion of limited government. Continue reading