A group that supports term limits has formed a ballot question committee to fight a so-called ethics amendment referred to the 2014 ballot by the legislature.
The constitutional amendment would prohibit lobbyist gifts to lawmakers, among other ethics provisions, but it also would ease the state’s 1992 term limits law — generally three two-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate. The amendment would allow a legislator to serve 16 years, but he or she could serve it all in a single chamber and thus accrue significant power from longevity. The amendment also provides an avenue to greater pay for legislators.
The term limits group, which includes key backers of the 1992 measure, says legislators buried the term limit extension deep in the measure and cloaked it in the feel-good term ethics. That strategy was discussed here at the time. The critics note, too, the crafty ballot title. It “establishes term limits,” while actually increasing them. It also says it prohibits lawmakers from setting their pay, which is true, but it turns the duty over to a separate commission which is fully expected to recommend pay increases while immunizing lawmakers from having to vote for a pay raise for themselves.
Following is the release from term limit advocates. (For what it’s worth: I remain opposed to term limits in any form except the popular ballot. But, looking at the current crop ……)
A group of Arkansas citizens has officially formed Arkansas Term Limits, a legislative question committee with the stated purpose of defeating the anti-term limits amendment (HJR 1009) referred by the General Assembly to the Nov. 2014 ballot. The amendment seeks to weaken term limits from six years to sixteen in the House and eight years to sixteen in the Senate. The committee will be chaired by Tim Jacob, a Little Rock painter and small businessman.
Although he rarely gets involved in politics, Jacob participated in the grassroots campaign to pass term limits in Arkansas in 1992, and led the successful effort to defend them from politicians’ attack in 2004.
In those two cases, the ballot language was clear and citizens could make an informed decision. They did, passing term limits with 60 percent of the vote and defending them with 70 percent. This time, legislators knew they had to be sneakier to override the will of the people.
They have hidden the longer term limits deep inside of a 22-page “ethics,” amendment, and intentionally kept the words “term limits” out of its title. The bill summary even purports to be “establishing term limits,” which deceives Arkansans who aren’t aware that the state already has them.
“We are asking that this tricky anti-term limits amendment be taken out of the so-called Ethics amendment,” Jacob said. “It’s unethical to hide the lengthening of political terms in a so called ethics amendment. It’s unethical to trick the voters.”
Serving on the committee with Jacob are Skip Cook of Maumelle, a businessman who helped lead the 1992 campaign; and Bob Porto of Little Rock, a former President of the Homebuilders Association of Little Rock and the Pulaski County Tea Party. Porto’s grassroots activism has been featured in USA Today and on the CNN show AC360.
“Politicians tell us that they love us and hate us,” Porto said. “They love us because, without term limits, they would never have a chance to get elected. They hate us because they are termed out. Now politicians want to limit access to seats and go back to blocking out citizens from getting elected. Let’s not allow the lobbyists control our government. Keep it in the hands of good citizens where we have a voice and the elected are accountable to the people – not to lobbyists.”
The group has already stepped out into the social media sphere, with a Save AR Term Limits Facebook page and mobile app, as well as the Twitter handle @ARTermLimits.