Ark. AG rejects ballot title of proposed amendment on term limits, ethics

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Apr 30, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Legal Newsline) -- Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has rejected the ballot title of a proposed constitutional amendment that would require state lawmakers to wait so many years after leaving office to register as a lobbyist, among other things.

In an opinion released Monday, McDaniel said he was forced to reject the title by Tim Jacob of Little Rock because of various "ambiguities."

Jacob had requested the attorney general's certification, which is required before petitions can be circulated for signatures.

The following is the ballot title Jacob submitted to McDaniel for approval:

An amendment to the Arkansas Constitution requiring former legislators to wait four years after leaving office before they can register as a lobbyist, banning gifts to elected state officials from lobbyists or any person employing a lobbyist, establishing a 10-year limit on total service in the General Assembly and re-approving limits of three two-year terms in the House of Representatives and two four-year terms in the Senate, requiring any pay increase for legislators to be apprved [sic] by voters and prohibiting members of the General Assembly from accruing any pension benefits for a term commenced after the effective date of this measure.

The attorney general also rejected Jacob's popular name: An Amendment Regarding Ethics, Establishing Stricter Legislative Term Limits, Requiring Public Votes to Increase Legislative Compensation and Ending Pension Benefits for Legislative Service.

"Having analyzed your proposed amendment, as well as your proposed popular name and ballot title under the above precepts, it is my conclusion that I must reject your proposed popular name and ballot title due to ambiguities in the text of your proposed measure, as well as a failure to summarize how your measure would change current law," McDaniel wrote in his nine-page opinion.

"A number of additions or changes to your ballot title are, in my view, necessary in order to more fully and correctly summarize your proposal. I cannot, however, at this time, fairly or completely summarize the effect of your proposed measure to the electorate in a popular name or ballot title without the resolution of the ambiguities. I am therefore unable to substitute and certify a more suitable and correct popular name and ballot title pursuant to A.C.A. ยง 7-9-107(b)."

Read the attorney general's full opinion here.

He continued, "Your proposal's adoption would change current law in numerous and significant ways. However, the proposed ballot title evidences little or no effort to summarize how the proposal would change current law, and it is therefore inherently misleading."

The amendment, proposed for next year's ballot, would establish a 10-year limit for service in the state Legislature.

Currently, representatives are allowed to serve three two-year terms. Senators are permitted to serve two four-year terms.

The proposed amendment also would prohibit lawmakers from becoming lobbyists until four years after their terms expired.

Right now, lawmakers only have to wait one year.

McDaniel, who said Jacob could resubmit the ballot title and name after making the necessary changes, also noted in his opinion that he has no authority to consider the merits of the proposed amendment.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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