No vote yet on speaker’s proposed constitutional amendment, marijuana laws approved

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 303 views 

Senators Thursday delayed acting on a proposed amendment that would ask voters to change the process for amending the Arkansas Constitution.

The proposed amendment, House Joint Resolution 1003 by Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, would make it harder for either voters or the Legislature to amend the Arkansas Constitution. Senators had questions about the measure’s many provisions and delayed voting on it as the session enters its final two days.

The Legislature can refer up to three amendments to the voters but decided at the beginning of the session to refer only two, one from the House and one from the Senate, with a third that could be considered by both houses. Under the session’s rules, the third amendment requires a two-thirds vote in both houses to be considered. If that occurs, it requires a majority vote in both houses to pass.

Legislators this year have already referred two proposed amendments to the November 2018 ballot, one to limit lawsuit awards and attorneys’ fees, and one to require voters to present a photo identification.

The resolution’s title is four pages long. Among its many provisions are:
• Legislatively proposed amendments would require a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate before being presented to the voters, and the attorney general would review the amendment and certify it at least one year before the general election;

• Amendments proposed by the Legislature or by citizen-led petitions would require a three-fifths majority in the general election to be ratified;

• Legal challenges would have to be made earlier;

• The Supreme Court would strike amendments proposed by the General Assembly only if the ballot title or popular name “constitute a manifest fraud upon the public”; and

• Amendments could not specifically bestow powers or privileges to specific individuals or private business entities.

In other business, senators voted to allow public schools to restrict students impaired as a result of medical marijuana from participating in class or school activities, just as employers are allowed to restrict such employees. House Bill 1935 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, passed 35-0. It is being returned to the House to concur in amendments.

Senators also passed a marijuana medical bill containing several provisions, including a prohibition on vending machines at dispensaries; a prohibition against a person being intoxicated by marijuana at a dispensary or cultivation facility; limiting access to dispensaries and cultivation facilities to those with a card; a requirement that packaging be child-proof; and a requirement that marijuana products not exceed ten milligrams of active tetrahydrocannabinol per portion. House Bill 1991 by Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Elm Springs, passed 34-0. It has already passed the House.

The Senate also voted for a bill allowing the Arkansas Highway Commission to increase speed limits on controlled access highways to 75 miles per hour after an engineering and traffic investigation. House Bill 2057 by Rep. DeeAnn Vaught, R-Horatio, previously had passed the Senate and the House but had to undergo another vote as a result of a technical error. It passed 34-0.

Senators also voted for a bill that would allow the sale of fireworks year-round when the seller occupies a permanent physical location. The bill would not pre-empt local ordinances. House Bill 2233 by Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, passed 29-1 and is returning to the House to concur in an amendment.

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