Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has delivered an opinion on whether counting begins anew on legislative service under term limits with passage in 2014 of Issue 3, now Amendment 94.
All years served after passage of Amendment 73, the term limits amendment of 1993, count toward the limit on legislative service.
Thus, legislators who already have served 16 years in the legislature can’t come back and start a new clock ticking under Amendment 94, which modified term limits to allow 16 years of consecutive service in either the House or Senate. Before, legislators were limited to six years in the House and eight in the Senate, though the quirk of adjusting Senate terms every 10 years after reapportionment gave some additional years. The new 16-year limit also can be grown in that manner depending on the draw of Senate terms.
McDaniel’s opinion said the two-year Senate terms drawn by some after apportionment don’t count toward limits, nor do partial terms.
McDaniel’s opinion comports with the understanding the drafters of the amendment had. The issue was stirred up when Randy Zook, head of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, said unnamed lawyers had told him they believed counting would begin anew under the new amendment.
An attorney general’s opinion isn’t binding. It would take a lawsuit and Supreme Court ruling to finally settle the question.