LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Arkansas legislature has 33 proposed amendments to the state constitution.
By state law, up to three of the proposals would go before voters if passed by the legislature but must be submitted by Feb. 8. The three passed by the legislature would appear on the general election ballot.
Of the 33 proposed amendments, 13 of the amendments have been proposed in the house as House Joint Resolutions (HJR) and 20 have been proposed in the senate as Senate Joint Resolutions (SJR).
Several are in the shell format, where the nuts and bolts of the legislation remain to be negotiated.
They fall into the categories of affecting taxes, voting, government operations, government salaries and changes to state laws.
HJR1002 would ultimately reduce and eliminate any state property tax by Jan. 1, 2050. Cities and counties could still pass millage for libraries or capital improvements.
HJR1004 calls for an “Arkansas Taxpayer Protection Amendment.” The proposal is still in shell form, with details to be negotiated as it moves through the legislative process. HJR1005 is roughly the same as HJR1004 in calling for an “Arkansas Taxpayer Bill of Rights.” It is also in shell form at this time.
SJR8 is a shell also calling for the Arkansas Taxpayer Bill of Rights, akin to HJR1005.
HJR1007 adds a half-percent tax on the sale of digital goods. This is designed to offset the $375 Homestead Property Tax Credit passed by voters in November 2000, according to the proposal’s language.
HJR1010 is titled a “Constitutional Amendment Concerning Boards and Commissions Governing State Institutions” but remains as a shell only.
HJR1011 would require two-thirds of voters for a constitutional amendment to pass. It also changes the legislative per-session limit to two amendments instead of the current three.
HJR1003 creates a recall procedure for any office from the governor through district and circuit court judges and prosecuting attorneys. A simple majority of voters would be able to recall an officeholder.
HJR1009 would have all court judges in the state elected on a partisan basis. This is the only proposal on the list that has been voted out of committee.
SJR2 allows voters to recall state officers akin to HJR 1003. Voters can remove an elected official from the governor through prosecuting attorneys by a simple majority.
SJR4 puts an end to partisan elections and primaries. The top two vote-getting candidates in a primary move to the general election ballot. This would not apply to municipal and local office races.
SJR19 looks toward changing the requirements of voters toward initiated acts and constitutional amendments. As a shell, its terms have not been established.
SJR20 proposes changing the manner of judicial elections in the state; it is also a shell.
HJR1001 would repeal the Independent Citizens Commission, which sets salaries for the general assembly, elected constitutional officers, supreme court justices and prosecuting attorneys. It would shift salary-setting to the state legislature, including legislator pay.
SJR1 creates a nine-member apportionment commission to designate state senate and house districts after each federal census.
SJR7 is still in shell form but is proposed to change the Arkansas Highway Commission governance to the same model as all other state agencies. This would end Arkansas Constitution Amendment 42 of November 1952, which governs highway commission appointments.
SJR9 is also a shell, only stating the desire “to amend the Arkansas Constitution concerning boards and commissions governing state institutions.”
SJR11 would create a five-member board of pardons that could grant pardons in parallel with the governor. One could apply to the governor, or the board, for a pardon, but not both.
SJR15, by its title, calls for an amendment “Concerning the Membership of the State Highway Commission.” Still in shell form, the details remain to be worked out.
SJR16 is also a shell, but by title is akin to HJR1001 to at least amend the powers of the state Independent Citizens Commission. As a shell, details after that remain to be negotiated.
SJR17 would create ethics requirements for legislators but is another proposal in shell form, so details remain to be developed.
SJR18 would, if passed, end the office of Lieutenant Governor in Arkansas. It is also in a shell form.
HJR1006 would allow Arkansas Scholarship Lottery proceeds to be used for vocational-technical school and technical institute enrollment.
HJR1008 would create a mandate for “reproductive freedom” in the Arkansas Constitution. It allows the state to, using the proposal’s language, “regulate abortion care.”
HJR1013 creates an outright prohibition of slavery in the state. Currently, slavery is allowed in Arkansas as punishment for a crime.
SJR3 would give any Arkansas citizen the right to not to be denied a transaction due to their beliefs, “without limitations his or her religious beliefs.”
SJR5 would allow water departments to create a customer assistance program.
SJR6 gives any Arkansas resident the power to sue the state in court if they feel the state has violated either the state or federal constitution.
SJR10 proposes the creation of crime victim’s rights legislation. Called “Marsy’s Law,” it is named after Marsy Nicholas, whose parents were instrumental in California passing the victim’s bill of rights legislation in 2008 after her murder. Several states have passed Marsy’s Law legislation.
SJR12 is for the proposed establishment of state renter’s rights, including assuring the habitability of a rented property. From the proposal’s language, Arkansas is the only state without renters’ rights legislation.
SJR13 is a shell proposing “Arkansas residents of a certain age” to be able to use and grow marijuana. As a shell, no details have yet been placed within the bill.
SJR14 is also a shell, proposing changes to the constitution for short-term funding for financing fire equipment.
Historically, the debate over proposed constitutional amendments does not occur until late in the session.