Sen. Williams On Amendments, Tort Reform & Veto Overrides

by Roby Brock ( 2 views 

With its second override of a gubernatorial veto, the Arkansas Senate used its majority status to push closer to law a second measure to limit abortions.

Today, the Senate voted 20-14 to override Gov. Mike Beebe’s (D) veto of SB 134, the “fetal heartbeat” bill spearheaded by Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway).

Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) said Senators are standing by their convictions and research.

“I think there’s been an honest look as to whether it’s constitutional or not, and I think there’s a feeling that it is,” said Williams, who serves as Senate Majority Leader.

When asked if there is any deep contemplation or discussion that occurs before a potential override of a veto, Williams says it’s just business.

“It’s not necessarily personal. At the end of the day, the Governor overrode us with his veto. So I’m not sure in this case who fires the shot, and it’s not really important,” Williams said in a Talk Business Arkansas webcast/podcast interview.

Williams chairs the Senate State Agencies Committee, which will refer potential constitutional amendments for a general election vote in 2014. He says that all of the Senate measures will have three opportunities to pitch their merits before a final vote. He’s planned three special orders of business in the coming weeks to consider those plans.

Some are “shell” bills, meaning they have not been flushed out with much detail. Williams said several of them will likely remain that way.

“I don’t expect all of them to run that have been filed,” he said.

His name is on four proposed constitutional amendments, including two dealing with tort reform.

One tort reform proposal is a shell bill that he is keeping as a backup. The other measure, SJR 6, would give the General Assembly authority to enact laws “regulating the compensation or damages that may be awarded by courts and administrative agencies, including without limitation punitive damages.”

In essence, it would allow the legislature to affect damage awards by courts.

Williams says the provision guards against “an activist judiciary.” When asked if it allows for an “activist legislative branch,” Williams said no.

“That’s just a level of oversight. When you’re talking about substantive law, that should house here in the capitol, not in the Supreme Court.”

He noted that before Amendment 80 was passed in 2000, the legislature had this control.

Williams also said that he felt there was momentum building for an ethics reform measure to be referred. Lawmakers are considering a proposal that would curtail campaign contributions, restructure legislative pay increases, eliminating lobbying gifts, and expand term limits.

You can watch his full interview below or listen to a mp3 here.