You heard it here first. There WILL be legislatively referred constitutional amendments on the ballot this year.
I wrote several weeks ago of my skepticism of legislative leadership claims that none would be referred to the ballot. I pointed particularly at a huge piece of corporate welfare by Sen. Jon Woods, which I wrote about more than a month ago. It’s the most significant of the three amendments now headed to final passage for a vote in November 16.
* CORPORATE WELFARE: Woods SJR 16 would “encourage job creation.” Who could oppose that? Well, perhaps me. It takes the cap off the amount of bonds that the state can issue to provide corporate welfare money to lure industries. It allows local governments to float such bonds. And, as I predicted it would do, it overrides a recent court case that declared local governments have for years been unconstitutionally giving tax dollars to local chambers of commerce in the name of economic development. The local payments are nothing more than taxpayer subsides of political lobbies that would be doing the same work on the fees of the corporations they served, rather than taxpayers often ill-served by the corporate agenda. It took the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce until the final hours of the great “religious freedom” debate to finally issue a tepid statement of opposition. This while it effectively controls a $20 million taxpayer slush fund aimed at luring high-tech jobs to a state that believes and practices discrimination. But the bonding issue is a big deal. Bonds are debt. This could increase the state debt load substantially. The governor wanted this. The chambers of commerce really wanted this. Jon Woods serves them well.
* LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: SJR3 would allow the governor to retain his (or her) power when he leaves the state. It would not fall to the lieutenant governor or whoever else is next in line. This makes perfect sense in the day of the telephone. It also makes the lieutenant governor’s office even more worthless than it already was. A better amendment would have abolished the office.
* COUNTY OFFICIALS: This is one of this overstuffed amendments. It gives four-year terms to most county officials, eliminates the need for a formal election when a position is uncontested and spell out what constitutes an “infamous crime” for purposes of disqualify someone from holding public office. Several candidates have been ruled off the ballot in recent years for past theft and other non-violent crimes.
Here’s the new rule on disqualification:
(a) No person hereafter convicted of embezzlement of public money, bribery, forgery, or other infamous crime, shall be is eligible to the 2General Assembly or capable of holding any office of trust or profit in this state.
(b) As used in this section, “infamous crime” means:
(1) A felony offense;
(2) Abuse of office as defined under Arkansas law;
(3) Tampering as defined under Arkansas law; or
(4) A misdemeanor offense in which the finder of fact was required to find, or the defendant to admit, an act of deceit, fraud, or 1 false statement, including without limitation a misdemeanor offense related 2 to the election process.
PS — Jon Woods was the genius who grafted longer term limits, a legislative pay raise and tricky language that allowed continued lobbyist freebies on a 2013-referred amendment on “ethics.” Note that he is also the author of a law that is already amending that “ethics” amendment, notably with measures that allows a legislator caught taking an illegal gift or filing an inaccurate campaign report to pay the gift back and correct the inaccurate report without being investigated or found guilty of an ethics violations. His amendments also enshrine in law protection for lobbyist hog-slopping of legislators and payments for junkets and entertainment at such junkets.