The Senate completed action on HJR 1005, to require 60 percent approval by voters for ballot initiatives. Sen. Bart Hester, carrying the measure, in response to questions from Sen. Jim Hendren and Joyce Elliott claimed that the 60 percent requirement applies only to constitutional amendment not to initiated acts. I predict this will be a point of contention because the amendment has been routinely described as applying to initiated acts.
Here’s why I think Hester is, if not wrong, certain to see a challenge of the interpretation: The proposal says 60 percent votes are required for ballot “initiatives” proposed under the Arkansas Constitution, Article 5, Section 1. That section clearly refers to both initiated acts and amendments as well as referendums, or measures sent by the legislature to voters. The proposed amendment DOES allow a 50 percent vote to defeat a referendum.
UPDATE: Hester was informed of his error and asked for a revote of the proposed amendment, with the acknowledgment it DOES require a 60 percent vote for initiated acts. It still won easy approval, 23-6.
Minutes after the Senate approved the House amendment, the House approved SJR 10, the Senate’s top choice for a constitutional amendment, this one to allow the legislature to call a special session and set the agenda, a power now reserved to the governor.
The legislature may submit up to three amendments every general election. With two amendments chosen, the Senate was moving to finish action this afternoon on Sen. Jason Rapert’s SJR 14, proclaimed a “religious freedom” amendment. It could go to the House Monday.