It is somewhat accepted conflicts of interest are ‘inevitable’ in the Arizona Legislature.
Arizona lawmakers get paid $24,000 annually. Most have full-time jobs beyond the business of sponsoring and voting on bills for four to five months out of the year.
It’s inevitable, then, that a realm of conflicts exist for these “citizen legislators.”
“You’re never going to be able to limit conflicts altogether as long as you have a part-time Legislature. That’s impossible,” Chad Campbell, a former Democratic member of the House of Representatives, told Arizona Capitol Times.
Fueled by reports Rep. Eddie Farnsworth is profiting from the sale of a public charter school, Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, wants to limit conflicts more than they’re limited now.
“We can’t have legislators voting on bills that directly impact them or their families’ finances. Period,” Brophy McGee said in a written statement on her campaign website.
Under House and Senate rules, members are considered to have a personal financial interest in any official duty that will provide a material benefit to them, their spouses or their minor children.
However, no personal financial interest exists if lawmakers are part of a “class of persons” and their legislation or other actions will affect the “total membership” of that class, which includes individuals outside the Legislature.
That class is often known as the “rule of 10.”
Arizona statute bars lawmakers from taking actions in which they have a substantial interest. But the law states that they have only a “remote interest” if they belong to a class of at least 10 people throughout the state, and their interest is no greater than other members of the class.
“The current rule is too weak,” Campbell said. “It allows people to claim there’s no conflict, even though the average person on the street, if explained the situation, would say, yes, that person definitely has conflict.”
Information from Arizona Capitol Times