Two proposed constitutional amendments clear Senate


LITTLE ROCK — Two proposed constitutional amendments that were rejected by the Joint Committee on Constitutional Amendments on Monday were approved Thursday by that committee and later cleared the full Senate.

Senate Joint Resolution 16 by Sen. Bill Sample, R-Hot Springs, passed the Senate 29-4. House Joint Resolution 1009 by Rep. Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock, passed the Senate by 23-4. Both now go to the House.

SJR 16 would raise the threshold that a group collecting signatures in support of a ballot initiative must meet to qualify for a “cure” period to correct deficiencies. HJR 1009 includes proposals on ethics, term limits and elected officials’ salaries.

The Joint Committee on Constitutional Amendments previously endorsed both proposals, but it rejected both Monday when the sponsors proposed changes. The committee reversed itself Thursday with little discussion and without hearing any testimony during a 20-minute meeting.

Under the amended version of SJR 16, a group collecting signatures for a ballot initiative would have to submit a number of valid signatures equal to 75 percent of the total number of signatures required in order to qualify for extra time to correct deficiencies. The bill originally set the threshold at 90 percent.

HJR 1009 contained a number of technical changes. 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 allowed 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.

If approved by the House — HJR 1009 needs only House concurrence in a Senate amendment — the proposals will be placed on the November 2014 general election ballot.

A third proposed constitutional amendment, SJR 7 by Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, has already been cleared for the ballot by the House and Senate. If approved by voters, the measure would amend the constitution to allow the Legislature to require by law that state agencies submit all proposed rules to legislative review before they take effect and would not allow the rules to take effect until legislators have reviewed and approved them.

Reporter Rob Moritz contributed to this report.