The Arkansas Senate on Monday approved legislation that bans "absentee lobbying," or lobbyists paying for but not attending drinks or meals with lawmakers.

The Arkansas Senate on Monday approved legislation that bans "absentee lobbying," or lobbyists paying for but not attending drinks or meals with lawmakers.
The House, meanwhile, rejected a proposal to ban realistic toy guns days after the family of a slain West Memphis boy demanded that his name be stripped from the legislation.
Senators unanimously approved the absentee-lobbying ban, which was included in an ethics bill offered on behalf of Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. The measure also includes fines between $500 and $1,000 for lobbyists who don't register with the state within five days of beginning lobbying, and requires them to file their reports with the state online, starting in 2010.
The proposal also expands the list of state officials who must file annual financial disclosure statements to include chiefs of staff and chief deputies for constitutional officers, the House and Senate.
Sen. Ruth Whitaker, R-Cedarville, said she was concerned that the Legislature may seem like it's "attacking" lobbyists with the new restrictions.
"I don't want to hogtie lobbyists. They provide a valuable service," said Whitaker, who ended up voting for the measure.
The absentee-lobbying ban would not apply to special events, such as receptions. Another ethics proposal backed by McDaniel, to require the state's public servants to wait at least a year after their terms expire before they could become lobbyists, was rejected by a Senate panel last week.
The House voted 49-41 Monday — two votes shy of the 51 needed for approval — in favor of Rep. Fred Allen's bill that would ban the sale of toy guns that resemble real guns. Allen, D-Little rock, says toy guns often are mistaken for actual guns or are used during robberies, and shouldn't be readily available in Arkansas stores.
Allen had named his bill the DeAunta Farrow Imitation Firearms Act, after the West Memphis boy who was fatally shot by a police officer who thought he was holding a gun. But Allen agreed to remove the boy's name from the bill after complaints from the family, who dispute police accounts that say DeAunta was holding the toy weapon.
The boy was shot to death in 2007 and a civil lawsuit is pending.
"If this bill can save the life of one child, it's worth it," Allen said.
But some lawmakers questioned whether the bill's subject matter was already covered by federal guidelines — or if it would lead gunmakers to produce brightly colored weapons that look like toys.
"If we're going to outlaw toy guns that look real, then we might need to be limiting the kinds of colors that we're going to have real guns in," said Rep. Ann Clemmer, R-Benton. "Because I don't want to see a police officer hesitate because he sees a pale pink gun and thinks, 'Oh, it's just a toy,' when in fact it could be any of any number of guns available."
Allen has filed a motion to reconsider the vote on Tuesday.
In other business, the Senate rejected a proposal to repay student loans for state worker's master's degrees.
The Senate voted 8-16 on a proposal to create a repayment program that would have paid off federal student loans for some state workers who have completed or are working on their master's degrees.
The proposal by Sen. Shane Broadway, D-Bryant, would have repaid loans of up to $4,000 a year for up to five years for eligible state workers.
Broadway said the proposal and repayment program would have cost the state up to $5 million a year. Broadway said the money would come from the state's reserve of unused scholarship funds.
Under the proposal rejected Monday, the program would have ended in 2014. Broadway asked to have the vote expunged, meaning he hopes to bring the proposal back for another vote later.
The Senate approved another proposal by Broadway to expand the state's need-based grant program so more college students would be eligible for the awards. The measure, which now heads to the House, would remove the age limits for the GO! Opportunities Grant, which the state created in 2007.
Broadway said that the state had allocated $11 million for the program, but only a little over $1 million had been used in the first year. The changes are aimed at expanding the number of students who use the grant program.
The Senate also gave final approval to legislation banning smoking on the campus of any college campus that receives state funding. The measure, which passed on a 34-0 vote, requires all state-supported schools to make their campuses smoke-free by the fall of 2010.
The legislation, which has passed the House and now heads to the governor's desk, bans lighting up cigarettes, cigars and pipes of any other "combustible plant." Gov. Mike Beebe's office said he plans to sign the measure into law.
Several schools across the state, including the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, have already banned smoking on their campuses. The measure approved Monday would impose fines between $100 and $500 for violators.
Senators also unanimously approved a bill setting the dates and rules for annual legislative sessions approved by voters last year. Under the measure, which now heads to the House, fiscal sessions will be held in even-numbered years and will begin on the second Monday in February.
Also Monday, the House voted in favor of a bill by Sen. Hank Wilkins IV, D-Pine Bluff, that calls for the creation of a hotline for callers to report complaints of racial profiling.
The bill, which now heads to the governor's desk, passed the House 69-7, with 23 members not voting on it. The hotline and its complaints will be handled by the attorney general's office. Earlier Monday, the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced legislation to re-establish a state task force on racial profiling.
The measure, which now heads to the House for a vote, was amended to remove a proposal to use fines collected from drivers cited for not wearing seat belts to pay for video cameras in law enforcement vehicles.
Associated Press Writer Jill Zeman contributed to this report