The Senate today completed action on a constitutional amendment aimed at severely limiting the ability to put popular initiatives on the election ballot.

It passed 25-10, with nine Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Jonathan Dismang voting no.

It was a joke to hear Sen. Mat Pitsch (R-Fort Smith), speaking essentially for the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, claim this amendment is needed to protect the people and the Constitution from special interests. As you know by now, for example, the people overwhelmingly approved a minimum wage increase that reached the ballot by initiative. The Chamber of Commerce hates it and doesn’t want that to happen again.  The legislature even tried to undo the measure approved in November, but some normal chamber stooges were reluctant to move that quickly to show their true colors and contributed to defeat the effort.

Sen. Will Bond noted that the amendment makes signature requirements from counties far tougher (minimum signature threshholds in 45 counties, rather than 15) and leaves the ballot open only to those with large pocketbooks. Pitsch claimed the petition remained available.

The Constitution has been amended far more often by measures placed on the ballot by the legislature. The legislature still may propose three every two years. They invariably serve the wishes of the corporate lobby.

HJR 1008 goes on the ballot with a half-cent sales tax increase to pay highway contractors and a dishonest term limits amendment that preserves and even extends the number of years current legislators may serve.