House unanimously behind ethics bills

The Arkansas House of Representatives unanimously passed on Tuesday a pair of ethics bills proposed by legislative leaders in the wake of a federal corruption investigation that has ensnared several former lawmakers.

Senate Bill 249 by Senate President Pro Tempore Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs, would increase the maximum ethics-violation fine from $2,000 to $3,500. Current law allows the Ethics Commission to assess fines of $50 to $2,000; issue public letters of caution, reprimands and warnings for ethics violations; or both.

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

Senate Bill 256 by Senate Minority Leader Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis, would bar elected state officials from registering as lobbyists in Arkansas or "in any other jurisdiction" after the person is elected, until they leave office.

The measures are part of an ethics package of six bills proposed by Senate and House leaders after the guilty pleas and convictions of five former lawmakers for federal crimes in the past 2½ years.

-- Hunter Field