Constitutional amendment proposals swell from 7 to 33 as deadline passes

by Ronak Patel ([email protected]) 2,487 views 

The number of proposed constitutional amendments for voter consideration in 2024 has grown from seven to 33 as the deadline for filing measures closed Wednesday (Feb. 8).

Chairmen of the House and Senate committees that handle the process for selection said there isn’t a current timeline for when hearings for these resolutions will take place. The legislature can refer up to three of the 33 proposed constitutional amendments to voters for the general election ballot.

Earlier filings included measures to recall elected officials, change the process for redrawing legislative and Congressional districts, and create a jungle primary process.

Many of the newly filed resolutions are “shell” resolutions, meaning they have titles but little language clarifying their purpose or intent. Lawmakers who file shell bills will often amend them later in the process.

The newly filed resolutions include:

HJR1006, which has Republicans and Democrats sponsoring it, would amend the Arkansas Constitution to adjust how lottery money can be used to fund scholarships. The proposal would allow lottery funds to be used to provide scholarships and grants for vocational and technical institutes. If passed on the 2024 ballot, this change would take effect in 2025.

HJR1004, which was filed by Rep. David Ray, R-Maumelle, would add the “Arkansas Taxpayer Protection Amendment” to the Constitution.

HJR1013 by Rep. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, has proposed adding an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution to repeal the exception to the prohibition of slavery and involuntary servitude. According to the bill, the Arkansas Constitution allows slavery as a punishment for crime. The bill states if a prisoner is working they should be compensated with money or “good time” to help gain reentry into society.

SJR20, proposed by Sen. Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville, would amend the Arkansas Constitution to make changes to how judicial elections are conducted. There are no details on the bill about specific ways the elections would be changed.

Sen. Dotson also filed SJR7, which would amend the Constitution to make sure the State Highway Commission will be governed like all other state agencies.

SJR19, which was filed by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, to make an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution to change the requirements for referring issues to voters through the ballot. There are no details in the bill on the specifics.

SJR18 would make an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution to get rid of the lieutenant governor’s office. The main role of the lieutenant governor is to step in for the governor if she is unable to hold the office anymore. Currently, former Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, R-Ark., holds the position. The proposed amendment was filed by King.

King also filed SJR17, which would add an amendment concerning the ethics requirements for certain elected offices. There are no specifics on what the amendment would do.

SJR16 is another King resolution that would affect the powers and duties of the Independent Citizens Commission. There are no specifics on what the amendment would do.

SJR15, also filed by King, would create an amendment in the state Constitution concerning the State Highway Commission. There are no specifics on what the amendment would do.

Sen. King filed SJR11, which would create an amendment in the constitution to create the Board of Pardons.

SJR14, by Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, would allow additional options for financing fire equipment. There are no specifics on what the amendment would do.

Sen. Joshua Bryant, R-Rogers, filed SJR13 to propose making an amendment to the laws regarding home growing and use of marijuana. There are no specifics on what the amendment would do.

HJR1012 proposes an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution to allow the legislature to enact laws that exempt property from taxation. The measure was filed by Rep. Scott Richardson, R-Rogers.

Sen. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, filed SJR12, which would create an amendment to establish protections for tenants in the state. According to the bill, Arkansas is the only state in the nation without an implied warranty of habitability.

HJR1011, which is filed by Rep. Aaron Pilkington, R-Knoxville, would create an amendment that concerns the amount of constitutional amendments that the legislature can refer to voters.

Sen. David Wallace, R-Leachville, filed SJR10, which would amend the constitution to provide rights for victims of criminal offenses or delinquent acts.

SJR9 by Sen. Ben Gilmore, R-Crossett, would amend the state Constitution to make changes to boards and commissions. It is similar to HJR1010, which was filed by Rep. Jimmy Gazaway, R-Paragould. They are both shell resolutions.

Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Elm Springs, filed HJR1009, which would amend the constitution to make the elections for Supreme Court justices, Court of Appeals judges, circuit judges and district judges partisan.

SJR8, which was filed by Rep. Wayne Long, R-District 39, would create an amendment in the state Constitution to limit government spending.

SJR5, which was filed by Sen. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, would amend the Constitution to authorize county, city, town or municipal corporations to fund and administer a water system customer assistance program.

SJR6 by Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, permits the state of Arkansas to be sued as a defendant in state court to enforce constitutional rights. This measure attempts to alter an earlier Arkansas Supreme Court decision that determined the state could not be sued.

Rep. Lanny Fite, R-Benton, filed HJR1007 to amend the Arkansas Constitution to create an excise tax to reimburse counties for the revenue they lose from the Homestead Property Tax Credit.

HJR5 by Rep. Wayne Long, R-Bradford, would create an Arkansas Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

HJR8, a proposal from Rep. Deborah Ferguson, D-West Memphis, would be known as the Arkansas Healthcare Amendment. It says it is the policy of the State of Arkansas that every individual has a fundamental right to reproductive freedom, which entails the right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy. It would allow for abortions.