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By Nicholas Kusnetz, Center for Public Integrity 

The Florida House of Representatives

The Florida House of Representatives

In November 2014, Arkansas voters approved a ballot measure that, among other reforms, barred the state’s elected officials from accepting lobbyists’ gifts. But that hasn’t stopped influence peddlers from continuing to provide meals to lawmakers at the luxurious Capital Hotel or in top Little Rock eateries like the Brave New Restaurant; the prohibition does not apply to “food or drink available at a planned activity to which a specific governmental body is invited,” so lobbyists can buy meals so long as they invite an entire legislative committee.

Such loopholes are a common part of statehouse culture nationwide, according to the 2015 State Integrity Investigation, a data-driven assessment of state government by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity. The comprehensive probe found that in state after state, open records laws are laced with exemptions and part-time legislators and agency officials engage in glaring conflicts of interests and cozy relationships with lobbyists.

By Nicholas Kusnetz, Center for Public Integrity tallahassee-capitol

The Republican-controlled Florida Senate unanimously passed a landmark ethics reform package on Tuesday, the first day of the legislative session, setting the stage for what could be the first major changes to the state’s ethics laws in decades.

The bills would strengthen provisions that prevent lawmakers from immediately becoming lobbyists, expand the powers of the state’s ethics commission and require that financial disclosure reports be posted online.

By Caitlin Ginley, iWatch News by The Center for Public Integrity 

Early last month, lawmakers in Iowa completed work on a new open records statute. Senate File 430 creates the Iowa Public Information Board, a nine-member commission charged with enforcing the state’s open records and meetings laws.

For good government advocates in the Hawkeye State, the new legislation was cause for celebration — sort of.