LITTLE ROCK — Two proposed constitutional amendments already endorsed once by the legislative Joint Committee on Constitutional Amendments were rejected Monday after their sponsors proposed changes.
House Joint Resolution 1009 by Rep. Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock, which was endorsed by the joint committee April 5 and approved by the House on April 9, was before the Senate last week when the sponsor agreed to add amendments.
The measure would ban corporate and union gifts to political campaigns, ban most gifts to public officials and allow legislators to serve up to 16 years. It also would increase the minimum period between when a legislator leaves office and is allow to become a lobbyist from one year to two years and would create a citizens’ commission to set the salaries of legislators, constitutional officers and judges.
Among the amendments presented Monday to the joint committee was one that would prohibit members of the salaries commission from receiving gifts.
Speaking against the proposal during the meeting was Tim Jacob, who helped spearhead a successful drive for term limits in 1992.
The proposal, which needed five votes by the Senate members of the joint committee, received four.
Afterward, Sabin said he was disappointed with the vote, but felt his decision to return the proposal to the committee for amendment was the right one.
“Our intentions were the right ones,” he said. “We were trying to make the amendment the best it could be … we took a risk, and it’s dead right now.”
Sabin said the changes proposed by Scott Trotter, a Little Rock lawyer and former director of Common Cause in Arkansas, were “good observations and we wanted to address the points he made to address the amendment.”
“Those all would have made the amendment better law,” he said.
Sen. Jon Woods, R-Springdale, a co-sponsor of the proposed amendment, said two senators who supported the measure were unable to attend the joint meeting.
“We thought we had the vote,” he said.
The proposal had received support from 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.
David Couch, an attorney for Regnat Populus, said after the committee meeting Monday that his group will continue collecting signatures toward qualifying its proposal for the 2014 general election ballot.
The name and ballot title for Regnat Populus’ proposal was recently certified by the state attorney general’s office.
Couch noted that the Regnat Populus proposal is stricter than the one rejected Monday by the joint committee.
The group’s proposal would ban all gifts to legislators in addition to prohibit corporations and labor unions from making political contributions and establishing a two-year “cooling-off” period between when a lawmaker leaves office and is permitted to start lobbying.
Also rejected by the joint committee was Senate Joint Resolution 16 by Sen. Bill Sample, R-Hot Springs. The measure was endorsed by senators on the committee, but received just nine of the 11 votes needed from House members.
The measure would have required a group collecting signatures in support of a ballot initiative to submit a number of valid signatures equal to 90 percent of the total number of signatures required to place the measure on the ballot in order to qualify for extra time to make up the deficiency.
The proposal was rejected by the Senate last week and rejected by the joint committee after Sample amended it to lower the percentage to 75 percent.
Just one proposed constitutional amendment has passed the Senate — SJR 7 by Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, which would require legislative consent for state agencies to put new rules into effect. It is pending before the House. If approved, it would be the only proposed constitutional amendment referred by the Legislature to the 2014 general election ballot.
The Legislature can refer three proposed constitutional amendments to voters during each regular session, or four if one changes salaries, but no such proposal was filed this year.