Attorney General OKs wording for Constitutional Amendment on county official terms

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 164 views 

A plan to extend the terms for all county officials from two to four years is one step closer to being on the 2016 general election ballot. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Monday (Nov. 30) approved wording in the proposed amendment.

In the opinion requested by David Dinwiddie of Pine Bluff, Rutledge approved the wording of a proposed constitutional amendment on the issue.

Under the proposal, the amendment would call for the “changing the term of office for County Judge, Justice of the Peace, County Sheriff, County Collector, County Treasurer, County Assessor, Circuit Clerk, County Clerk, County Coroner, County Surveyor, and Constable from the current two (2) years to four (4) years; commencing with any such official sworn in after December 31, 2016.”

Rutledge said in the opinion that the request met constitutional muster and could be decided by voters.

“In my view, the purpose of your proposed measure is sufficiently stated in the popular name and ballot title as revised to satisfy this office’s mandate under Ark. Code Ann. § 7-9-107. Pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 7-9-108, instructions to canvassers and signers must precede every petition, informing them of the privileges granted by the Arkansas Constitution and of the associated penalties for violations. Enclosed herewith are instructions that should be incorporated in your petition prior to circulation,” Rutledge said.

In the opinion, Rutledge spelled out what a proposal should include not to mention what her office is required to do under state law.

“At the outset, I wish to make clear to you that the decision to certify or reject a popular name and ballot title is in no way a reflection of my view of the merits of a particular proposal. I am not authorized to, and do not, consider the merits of the measure when making my determination to certify or reject a popular name and ballot title.”

“The Attorney General is required, pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 7-9-107, to certify the popular name and ballot title of all proposed initiative and referendum acts or amendments before the petitions are circulated for signature. The law provides that the Attorney General may, if practicable, substitute and certify a more suitable and correct popular name and ballot title. Or, if the proposed popular name and ballot title are sufficiently misleading, the Attorney General may reject the entire petition,” Rutledge said.

The proposal Monday was the third such recent proposal to be discussed. A similar proposal – SJR 5 – sponsored by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, died in a Senate committee when the legislature adjourned in April.

Another bill, HJR 1027, sponsored by Rep. Jack Ladyman, R-Jonesboro, would include only countywide officials and was approved by Gov. Asa Hutchinson for the 2016 ballot. The bill from Ladyman will also be on the Nov. 2016 ballot.

As for the Dinwiddie proposal, supporters must get 84,859 signatures from at least 15 counties by Aug. 25, 2016, according to the Secretary of State’s office.