LITTLE ROCK — A national term limits organization wants Arkansas legislators to remove a measure to extend legislative terms in the state from the 2014 general election ballot.
U.S. Term Limits said Tuesday it had sent letters to all members of the state Legislature asking them to undo the decision to send House Joint Resolution 1009 to voters in next year’s election.
Voters in 1992 approved Amendment 73, which U.S. Term Limits supported, limiting legislators to three two-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate — for a maximum total of 14 years. Among other things, HJR 1009 would modify term limits to allow lawmakers to spend up to 16 years in the Legislature, with no limits on how their years of service are divided between chambers.
“I can’t find any polls suggesting that the people of Arkansas want legislators upping their own term limits from six to 16 years in one seat,” USTL President Philip Blumel said in a release. “This is really just something the politicians have cooked up for themselves.”
The group said it sent two sets of letters to Arkansas lawmakers — one thanking the 16 senators and House members who voted against the bill and and another calling on the 118 members who voted for it to change their minds.
U.S. Term Limits also singled out what it called four “pledge breakers” — current legislators who it said pledged before the election never to lengthen Arkansas’ term limits, then voted for the proposed amendment. The group named Reps. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, and Randy Alexander, R-Springdale, and Sens. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, and Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch.
Ballinger said he did not recall signing a term-limits pledge. He disputed that the measure would extend term limits.
“It’s disappointing that they see it that way,” Ballinger said. “That bill … actually isn’t an extension of terms, it allows flexibility in how you serve those terms.”
He also noted that HJR 1009 would do a variety of other things, including providing some reforms to campaign finance law.
Stubblefield said he did not remember voting for such a measure and that he would favor bringing it back.
“I was under the impression that we already had (the right to serve) 16 years — 10 years in the Senate and six years in the House,” the senator said. “If I did (vote for HJR 1009) it was misrepresented. I never would have voted for 16 years in one chamber.”
Neither Amendment 73 nor HJR 1009 counts the two-year term some senators draw for the election immediately after reapportionment following the U.S. Census every 10 years, or unexpired terms filled in a special election.
Alexander and Sanders did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday.
A spokesman for Secretary of State Mark Martin said the office knew of no precedent for removing a legislatively referred initiative from the ballot.
U.S. Term Limits said that in 2005 the Florida legislature stripped a measure to extend term limits from the ballot amid a public outcry.
If Arkansas legislators can remove a measure from the ballot, they would have the opportunity to consider doing so in next year’s fiscal session, if at least two-thirds of the members in each chamber vote to take up a non-appropriation bill.