A joint meeting of Senators and Representatives on Friday (April 5) referred only one proposed constitutional amendment for a potential 2014 vote – a measure that would alter ethics rules for lawmakers, dictate pay for elected officials and extend term limits.

HJR 1009, co-sponsored by Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) and Sen. Jon Woods (R-Springdale), combined elements of a citizen-led initiative for ethics reform being pushed by a group known as Regnat Populus.

On Friday, a Joint State Agencies Committee referred the proposal as a possible constitutional amendment for voters to consider in the 2014 general election.

The measure, which is titled “The Arkansas Elected Officials Ethics, Transparency, and Financial Reform Amendment of 2014,” would:

  • Restrict campaign contributions from corporations and unions
  • Create a two-year cooling-off period for former legislators to become lobbyists
  • Ban gifts from lobbyists, but allows for limited exceptions at public functions and meetings
  • Create a citizens commission to set pay for the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government
  • Extends term limits for legislators to a total of 16 years of service

Currently, state legislators can serve three terms (6 years) in the House of Representatives and two terms (8 years) in the State Senate.

Lawmakers in both chambers must still vote to approve referral of the proposed amendment to voters.

The Joint State Agencies Committee was expected to refer a proposed amendment affecting tort reform, but warring factions – business interests and trial lawyers – have been unable to compromise on key issues, thus splitting the committee and its chances for referral.

Sources on all sides say negotiations are continuing, but no consensus seems to be emerging.

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