Arkansas voters approve fundamental changes
Arkansas voters approved fundamental changes in how state government operates when they voted in favor of three constitutional amendments on the November 4 ballot.
Issue One changes the process for issuing new state agency rules and regulations. No new rule or regulation shall take effect until it has been approved by the appropriate legislative committee. Previously, during the interim between sessions legislators would review new rules but they had no constitutional authority to block a rule if they disagreed with it. Now they do.
Previously, if lawmakers wanted to stop the implementation of a proposed rule they had to wait until the next legislative session to enact a law. Now, they will be able to delay or deny a new rule in the interim between sessions.
Voter approval of the amendment shifts the balance of power between executive and legislative branches, and is expected to strengthen legislative oversight of state agencies in the executive branch. This will make state government more accountable to voters because legislators are elected and agency heads are not.
Issue Two changes a step in the process under which citizens’ groups, organizations and businesses place initiatives and proposed amendments on the general election ballot. They still must submit petitions with signatures of registered voters by the deadline, which is four months before the election. That is always in early July.
To place a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot requires signatures equaling 10 percent of the number of votes cast in the most recent election for governor. For an initiated act, it is 8 percent.
The minimum signature requirements do not change under Issue 2, but there will not be an automatic 30-day extension for groups to continue gathering signatures if they fall short on the deadline. In the future, because of voter approval of Issue 2, at least 75 percent of the signatures on their original petitions must be valid in order for sponsors to get a 30-day extension.
Issue Three will make several significant changes. It tightens ethics laws by prohibiting elected officials from accepting gifts or anything of value from a lobbyist. Elected officials will be able to accept informational material such as pamphlets, periodicals and books. If a lobbyist wants to provide a meal to legislators, it can only be at a “planned event to which a specific governmental body is invited.”
Members of the legislature may not become lobbyists for at least two years after the expiration of the term to which they were elected.
An independent commission will be appointed to set salaries of legislators, constitutional officers and judges. Term limits for legislators will be extended to at least 16 years. An individual can serve in a combination of both the Senate and House to reach 16 years.
Voters rejected a fourth proposed amendment that would have allowed sales of alcoholic beverages in all 75 counties of Arkansas. It was on the ballot as Issue Four.
Arkansas voters approved a proposed initiated act, on the ballot as Issue Five, to gradually raise the state minimum wage from $6.25 to $8.50 an hour. It will go up to $7.50 an hour at the beginning of the year, then $8 an hour on January 1, 2016 and $8.50 an hour on January 1, 2017.