Republicans took over both chambers of the Arkansas Legislature, last November, and now have control for the first time since Reconstruction — that’s the century before the century before this century.
Not long after their installation ceremony, the Republican majority — apparently eager to make new reforms — introduced Senate Bill 821, creating a new state program to regulate people circulating initiative petitions. Arkansas activists, the Advance Arkansas Institute and Citizens in Charge were effective in getting legislators to dramatically pare back and remove several harmful and unconstitutional provisions of SB 821, but the legislation designed “to make the referendum process prohibitively difficult in Arkansas,” still passed.
Even more underhanded was passage of House Joint Resolution 1009, “The Arkansas Elected Officials Ethics, Transparency and Financial Reform Act of 2014.” It’s a doozy:
- With claims of preventing legislators from giving themselves a pay raise, the measure actually removes the current constitutional requirement that voters approve any pay increase and creates a commission of citizens (appointed by legislators and other politicians) to give those same politicians a pay raise.
- While claiming to enact a gift ban and other ethics reforms, the measure actually provides, Arkansas Times’ Max Brantley wrote, “constitutional protection extended to special interest banquets and travel junkets for legislators.”
- Completely unannounced by the title, the measure also changes the state’s term limits by allowing legislators to hang around for 16 years in the House or the Senate.
Still, I look on the bright side. The people of Arkansas, having meet their new boss, will petition and vote and sue to protect their rights.
Plus, yesterday, the legislature adjourned. It’s safe again in Arkansas.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.