Opponents of Issue 1, the proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the Arkansas Legislature to call itself into special session, announced Thursday (Oct. 6) the formation of a legislative question committee to oppose the measure.
The legislatively-referred issue will be on the November 8 general election ballot.
“Our legislature already meets once every year, plus one or more special sessions called by the governor most years, and that’s enough to take care of the business of the people,” said Randy Zook, co-chair of Arkansans Against Issue 1 and president and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas. “Voters benefit from having a truly representative ‘citizen legislature,’ and if Issue 1 passes, making it harder for the average Arkansan to serve, we will move even closer to a full-time legislature.”
The proposed amendment would allow the General Assembly to call a special session at any time, either with two-thirds approval of members, or simply by a joint proclamation from the Speaker of the House and the Senate Pro Tempore of the Senate. Once in session to take up a special issue, they could vote to stay there and take up other matters. Right now, only the governor can call a special session and he has the constitutional authority to set the agenda.
“The bottom line is special sessions should be called in rare circumstances and not used as a political tool. Since our state’s government was reorganized in 1874, only the sitting governor can call for special sessions of the legislature and set the agenda for these sessions. It is a system that has served our state well for almost 150 years and provides a balance between the executive and legislative branches of our government,” said Stanley Hill, vice president of public affairs and government relations of Arkansas Farm Bureau.
According to the group, 36 states allow both the legislature and governor to call a special session, while only five other states allow the presiding officers of the House and Senate alone to call a session.
A poll conducted in September by Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College found that 41% of Arkansans supported Issue 1 compared to 24% who oppose and 35% undecided.