In 2014, the Arkansas legislature used deception to pass weaker term limits for themselves. The deception did not sit well with supporters of term limits, and they are ready to mete out some payback with a new ballot issue for stronger legislative term limits. The new term limits issue will be Issue #3 on your ballot in November.
To fool the people into voting for weaker term limits, the provision was tucked inside an issue sold as an ethics amendment. The popular name of the amendment was “The Arkansas Elected Officials Ethics, Transparency, and Financial Reform Amendment of 2014.” The popular name said nothing about weakening term limits or that the amendment would make huge salary increases possible for public officials. Because of this, opponents of the amendment called the weaker term limits a “Trojan Horse.”
The full ballot title was very long. At the very end of the lengthy ballot title it said, “Establishing Term Limits For Members Of The General Assembly.” This too was a deception because it gave the voter the impression that term limits were being passed where none existed. The truth was term limits had been passed in 1994 and the amendment was actually weakening term limits.
Who is to blame for the deception?
Most people blame the deception on former Senator Jon Woods who was a cosponsor of the legislation. He is easy to blame because he is now a felon. Democrats focus only on Woods because they don’t want to blame the lead sponsor Representative Warwick Sabin (D). Either Sabin is just as much to blame as Woods or Sabin must be the biggest dope in the legislature.
But blame isn’t limited to Sabin and Woods. There were 76 of 100 Representatives and 23 of 35 Senators recorded as voting to propose the amendment. The legislature as a whole is to blame for the deceptions.
Supporters of term limits are fighting back against the 2014 deception by filing a new term limits proposal. The Arkansas Term Limits committee submitted petitions with the signatures of 124,674 voters. Upon review 93,998 were validated, which is well above the 84,859 needed to get the issue on the ballot.
Comparing term limits
|Term Limits||Time not counted|
|Amend 73 1994||3 two-yr terms in House AND 2 four-yr terms in Senate||By Court ruling, partial terms and two-years terms in Senate didn’t count [i]|
|16 yrs in legislature||Partial terms and two-years terms in Senate don’t count|
|10 yrs in legislature (Max of 3 terms in House. Max of 2 four-yr terms in Senate||Partial terms of less than one year do not count|
Why are there some two-year terms in the Senate? Although the basic term of a Senator is four years, Senate districts are reapportioned every ten years. This means some terms are cut to two years. Also, when districts are reapportioned the Senators draw lots for a two year or four-year term so that terms are staggered. Under the current law, which does not count two-year terms, a few Senators can actually serve for up to 22 years in the Senate, even longer if the Senator began his or her service by filling a vacancy and serving a partial term. [ii]
[i] Moore v. McCuen, 317 Ark. 105