Ethics reform proposed as constitutional amendment

LITTLE ROCK — An ethics reform proposal that also would extend legislative term limits and create a panel to consider pay raises for legislators and constitutional officers was filed Wednesday.

House Joint Resolution 1009 was among proposed constitutional amendments filed on the last day to introduce ballot measures offered for referral to the 2014 general election ballot.

HJR 1009 by Rep. Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock, drew the support of Regnat Populus, a ballot question group that tried last year to get an ethics reform proposal on the November ballot but could not gather the required number of signatures.

“We’re working on trying to achieve much of the same goals,” Sabin said Wednesday.

While final details of Sabin’s measure have yet to be worked out, he said it do five things, three of which were in the Regnat Populus proposal:

• Ban gifts to legislators.

• Prohibit corporations and labor unions from making political contributions.

• Establish a two-year “cooling off” period between when a lawmaker leaves office and is permitted to start lobbying. The Legislature approved a one-year ban in 2011.

Sabin said he and Sen. John Woods, R-Springdale, plan to add two more provisions to the measure, including extending term limits for legislators to a total of 16 years, which could be divided between the House and Senate, and the creation of a panel that would decide whether Arkansas’ constitutional officers and legislators should receive raises.

Woods said seven other states have created commissions that determine salaries for legislators and constitutional officers.

Paul Spencer, chairman of Regnat Populus, said the group supports HJR 1009 but will continue to gather signatures in an effort to get its proposal on the 2014 general election ballot. The name and ballot title was recently certified by the state attorney general’s office, a prerequisite for canvassing in the state.

The Legislature can refer up to three constitutional amendments to the ballot. If HJR 1009 is among the proposals chosen this session for referral in 2014, Spencer said his group would stop gathering signatures and help campaign for the proposal.