Thursday, October 23, 2014

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – When Arkansas voters go to the polls, they will receive lengthy ballots that include four proposed constitutional amendments.
            Three of the proposed amendments were referred by the legislature during last year’s regular session. They would change current laws on ethics, ballot issues, term limits and the procedures for implementing rules and regulations.
The fourth was placed on the ballot by a group that gathered signatures on petitions and submitted them to the Secretary of State. It would allow sales of alcoholic beverages anywhere in Arkansas.  Currently 37 of the state’s 75 counties are dry, although some of the dry counties have private clubs.  Also, there may be dry areas within wet counties.
The proposed alcohol amendment is Issue Number Four, and its popular name is the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Amendment.
The popular name of Issue Number One is an amendment empowering the General Assembly to provide for legislative committee review and approval of state agencies’ administrative rules.  If approved by voters, it would require state agencies to get approval from legislative committees before new rules and regulations could take effect. Now, legislators can review rules.
Issue Number Two is called an amendment allowing more time to gather signatures on a state-wide initiative or referendum petition only if the petition as originally filed contained at least 75 percent of the valid signatures required. 
Issue Two would prevent instances such as occurred in 2012, when groups submitted proposals to raise taxes and were allowed additional time to gather signatures, even though the original petitions were rife with forged and fraudulent signatures.
The popular name of Issue Number Three is an amendment regulating contributions to candidates for state or local office, barring gifts from lobbyists to certain state officials, providing for setting salaries of certain state officials, and setting term limits for members of the General Assembly
Issue Three would prohibit elected officials from accepting gifts from lobbyists, and it would prohibit retiring legislators from becoming lobbyists for two years after the date of their retirement. It would allow legislators to serve 16 years in either the House or the Senate or a combination of service in both chambers.
The current term limits amendment in the Arkansas Constitution allows legislators to serve a maximum of six years in the House and from eight to 12 years in the Senate.  Most Senate terms are four years, but every ten years they possibly serve a two-year term after redistricting changes the geography of districts to make their populations equal. A two-year term is not counted against a senator’s term limits.
Issue Three also would create an independent commission to set salaries for elected officials, including constitutional officers, legislators and judges.
A fifth issue will appear on ballots, to gradually raise the state minimum wage from $6.25 to $8.50 an hour. It is not a proposed constitutional amendment but a proposed initiated act, which means it would change Arkansas’ legal code but not the constitution.
The state Supreme Court was still deciding a legal challenge of the minimum wage issue.  If opponents win their challenge, votes will not be counted.

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