Summary of three measures referred by the state legislature
Depending on the outcome of multiple legal challenges now being considered by the state Supreme Court, as many as six proposed constitutional amendments and one proposed initiated act may be on the Nov. 8 general election ballot in Arkansas.
Four of the proposals are being challenged by advocacy groups that oppose them. However, three of the measures were referred by the legislature and there are no legal questions about their placement on the ballot. Here is a summary of those three:
Issue 1 is a proposed amendment to extend the terms of county officials from two to four years. If approved by voters, beginning with the 2018 elections these county officials will have four-year terms: County judge, sheriff, circuit clerk, county clerk, assessor, coroner, treasurer, county surveyor and collector of taxes.
People elected to those offices in November will serve two-year terms. People elected in 2018 will serve four-year terms.
Under Article 5, section 9 of the current Constitution, you cannot serve in the legislature or any other office of trust if you’ve been convicted of embezzlement of public money, bribery, forgery or other “infamous crime.” There has been some confusion over the meaning of “infamous crime,” and Issue 1 would clarify it to include any felony, as well as abuse of office, tampering or any misdemeanor in which the defendant was found to have committed deceit or fraud, made a false statement or interfered with the election process.
In recent years there have been several instances of challenging a candidate’s eligibility because of past convictions.
Issue 2 is a proposed amendment to allow the governor to retain his or her powers and duties when absent from the state. The lieutenant governor would assume the position of governor only if the governor were removed from office, died or became unable to discharge his or her duties.
Issue 3 is a far-reaching economic development amendment. It would establish a uniform definition of economic development projects, out of what now are disparate definitions of economic development, economic development infrastructure and economic development services in Article 12 Section 5, Amendment 82, and Amendment 62 of the current Constitution.
The change would allow cities and counties to use the bonding capacity of Amendment 62 for economic development projects. The list of definitions of eligible projects is lengthy and comprehensive.
Issue 3 also would also remove the 5 percent cap on super project general obligation bonds issued under Amendment 82, such as those the state issued to recruit the Big River Steel Mill in Blytheville. The cap is now about $250 million. The amendment would allow the legislature to determine whether more incentives should be offered to industries wanting to locate superprojects in Arkansas.
Finally, Issue 3 would clarify that cities and counties may appropriate revenue generated by existing economic development sales taxes. Currently, those expenditures are legally suspect because a Pulaski County judge enjoined Little Rock and North Little Rock from making payments to local chambers of commerce.
The ruling was based on Article 12, section 5 of the Constitution, which says no county or city shall become a stockholder in any company or corporation. Nor shall it appropriate money to any corporation, the article says. Currently, 20 cities and 5 counties pay local chambers of commerce.
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