The State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee chose three proposed constitutional amendments to refer to voters. If the legislature agrees with the committee’s decision, the three will be on the 2014 general election ballot for the people to vote on. One amendment would impose stricter ethical standards for public officials, to lessen the influence of special interest lobbyists. It would prohibit contributions to political campaigns from corporations, and it would prohibit legislators from registering as lobbyists for at least two years after they leave office. If the amendment is approved by voters, public officials would not be able to accept gifts from lobbyists. The amendment would also change term limits. Under the current term limits amendment, an individual is limited to three terms of two years each in the House of Representatives, and two terms of four years in the Senate. The amendment would allow an person to serve a total of 16 years in the General Assembly. Those 16 years could all be served in one chamber, or they could be served in a combination of both the Senate and the House. In addition, the amendment would create an independent commission to determine salaries of the legislature, judges and executive branch officials.
A second proposed amendment would tighten standards for organizations that try to place initiated acts and constitutional referendums on the ballot. Under the amendment, groups could get a 30-day extension but only if they had submitted 90 percent of the required number of signatures. However, it was rejected last week by the legislature but sent back to state agencies where it come could up again.
The third constitutional amendment would grant the legislature power to approve new rules and regulations proposed by state agencies. Currently, legislators can review but they cannot overturn new rules with which they disagree. If voters approve SJR 7, no new rules put forth by executive branch agencies would take effect unless they had been approved by legislators, who answer to the voting public.
Numerous changes to election laws have been filed this session. Act 595, to require the voters to have a photo ID, has got most of the attention Both the Senate and House have approved HB 1737 to limit the size of a voting precinct to 3,000 registered voters. The bill also requires that no later than 30 minutes after the polls close on election day, the county board of election commissioners shall report the initial count of early votes and absentee ballot votes to the Secretary of State.
The legislature voted last week to issue the $125 million in bonds for a proposed $1.1 billion Big River Steel Mill in Mississippi County The project will employ 525 workers. A bill allowing cities of over 50,000 to use cameras to catch motorists running red lights passed the House last week and is in the Senate. The legislation would allow the cities to impose a civil penalty up to $75 on those who run stoplights. The automated enforcement device cameras would photograph the license plates of motorists who ignore traffic signals. Fort Smith could be one of these cities. We are working to try and end the session this week.
If you would like to contact me please email me at Bruce.Holland@senate.ar.gov or call my office at 479-650-1884 or write me at P.O. Box 2387 Greenwood, AR. 72936.