BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE NATE BELL –
This week I’m wrapping up short explanations of the 3 issues referred to the November ballot by the 89th General Assembly. Issue 3 would impact legislative term limits, pay for elected officials, corporate contributions to candidates, and gifts from lobbyists.
As you may remember, the Regnant Populus group failed to get enough signatures in the 2012 election cycle to get a proposed amendment on the ballot. Their amendment would have banned lobbyists from giving gifts in any amount to a legislator. It also would have increased the cooling off period for members to register as a lobbyist from 1 year to 2 years and would have banned all corporate contributions.
Issue 3 is the result of discussions between legislators and the Regnant Populus group.
The measure prohibits corporate campaign contributions, limits gifts from lobbyists to travel expenses for educational conferences & meals that are available to the general public and extends the ban on lobbying from one to two years.
The measure addresses pay for elected officials by creating an independent citizens commission of 7 individuals who do not work in the public sector. Those individuals will review and adjust, if necessary, the salaries for the Governor, all Constitutional Officers, Supreme Court Justices, District and Circuit Court Judges, and members of the General Assembly.
Issue 3 adjusts term limits to allow individuals to serve a total of 16 years in the legislature in either chamber. For example, a member could serve 16 in the House or 16 in the Senate, or 10 years in the House and 6 in the Senate. The lifetime maximum for legislative service would change from the current 14 years with a possibility of 16 years to a firm 16 regardless of whether served in the House or Senate.
Currently, members serve up to 3 two year terms in the House, and 2 four year terms in the Senate. In many cases, redistricting allows for a Senator to serve up to 12 years in the Senate.
Issue 3 is a complex proposal. I voted for its referral to voters because I believe the important issues it addresses need careful consideration. We currently have about 40% turnover in the House. No private business could function well with 40% turnover and managing a $5 billion dollar budget and more than 70,000 FTE employees requires a reasonable level of expertise and experience. The cooling off period before members can begin lobbying of the legislature also needs to be extended. There are cynical people who will claim referring this issue to the voters is self-serving. I can’t speak for others but if re-elected this November I’ll be leaving elected office in 2016 regardless of voter’s decision on Issue 3. I’ve enjoyed public service but after 6 years of 60 hour weeks for a less than $16K salary it will be time for me to devote more time to my private sector work and get my income back to pre-legislature levels if I’m ever going to be able to retire.
As with the other 2 amendments I’ve presented in recent weeks, this is where you, the voter, will decide what is in the best interest of our state.
For a copy of Issue 3 go to:http://www.sos.arkansas.gov/elections/Documents/Initiatives%20and%20Referenda/HJR1009.pdf