The Governor, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Senate President and Speaker of the House released the names of their appointees to a citizens committee that will set legislative, executive officeholders and judicial salaries.
As part of Amendment 3, approved by voters in November, an Independent Citizens Commission will now determine salaries for elected state officials.
The new law enacts a ban on gifts, meals, and trips to legislators by lobbyists except in limited circumstances and would also ban corporations from making contributions to Arkansas state candidates. In addition, it would extend term limits to allow legislators to serve up to 16 years and would create a commission to evaluate whether government officials’ salaries should be increased.
Prior to voter approval of the law, gift or expense to a legislator by a lobbyist must be disclosed if the dollar amount exceeds $50. There was no limit on the amount of money that can be spent by a lobbyist, but it must be fully disclosed on reporting forms to the state.
Also prior to the law, Legislators were allowed to serve six years (three terms) in the Arkansas House and two terms (eight years) in the Arkansas State Senate. The new law allows for a maximum of 16 years to be served by a legislator regardless of which chamber.
The seven-member commission is appointed by all three branches of government.
In a joint press release, the appointees were named. They include:
Barbara Graves, Little Rock, retired businesswoman.
Larry Ross, Sherwood, President of Ross Consulting, L.L.C.
Stuart Hill, Searcy, Vice President and Treasurer of White County Medical Center.
Brenda James, Little Rock, Math Coach in the Little Rock School District.
Mitch Berry, Little Rock, Attorney at Dyke & Winzerling, P.L.C.
Stephen Tipton, Cabot, Regional Vice President of Centennial Bank.
Chief Justice’s Appointee:
Chuck Banks, Little Rock, Senior Partner at Banks Law Firm, P.L.L.C.
These appointments will expire Nov. 5, 2018.
The citizens’ commission will meet quickly to begin its work, according to requirements of the new law.
At a press conference late Wednesday morning, Gov. Mike Beebe discussed his expectations – or lack thereof – on the new commission’s charge.
“I have no expectations on that issue,” Beebe said. “I think they go in objectively to look at the situation. Look, I never griped about salaries. I knew what the salary was when I ran. And if I wasn’t happy with that, I shouldn’t have run.”
“Now having said that, looking toward the future to make sure you’ve got good folks to run for all these things [offices], they ought to look at all of that, you ought to be competitive. But salary ought not to be your number one reason for running for public office. If it is, you’ve got the wrong folks running,” Beebe added.