The Arkansas Public Policy Panel is stepping up to fight a constitutional amendment that would make it harder for citizens to pass constitutional amendments by requiring the measures to secure at least 60% of the vote.
The Public Policy Panel formed the committee Friday, pledging to educate voters about the amendment, which was referred to the ballot after overwhelming votes by the state legislature earlier this year.
If passed, the 60% threshold would not apply to other issues on the ballot this year but would apply to measures in the future.
In a touch of irony, Issue 2 only needs a simple majority to pass this year and does not need to achieve its own 60% standard to become law.
Additionally ironic is that, if Issue 2 were to pass with slightly more than 50% this year and another measure obtained 59% of the vote next year, the other measure would fail for not reaching 60% even though it would have gained nearly 10% more of the votes than Issue 2 did.
The 60% threshold would have killed several measures that are currently on the books.
Since 2010, the state has passed 17 constitutional amendments but only nine have gained more than 60% of the vote, according to Ballotpedia. Amendments that would have failed under a 60% requirement include the legalization of medical marijuana (2016), the approval of four casinos (2018), two state sales tax increases (2012 and 2020), two changes to term limits for state legislators (2014, 2020), a rule granting legislative review to state agency rules (2014) and a change to the ballot signature process (2014).
The amendment was sponsored by Rep. David Ray (R-Maumelle), a champion of conservative causes who previously worked for U.S. Senator Tom Cotton and Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin. Ray is the former state director for Americans for Prosperity, a libertarian conservative political advocacy group founded by the Koch brothers.
The Arkansas Public Policy Panel committee was formed by Bill Kopsky, Curtis Mangrum, Barry Haas and Bruce McMath, all of Little Rock. The group also listed Kymara Seals and Kwami Abdul-Bey as members, according to documents filed with Arkansas Ethics Commission.
The group stated its purpose is to “educate voters how Amendment 2 will weaken Arkansans’ right to self govern by making it harder for citizen-initiated laws to pass at the ballot box,” according to the filing.
The group did not include any financial documents in its filing.
According to Ballotpedia, 38 states require only a simple majority to pass a constitutional amendment and four states require a supermajority: Colorado (55%), Florida, (60%), Illinois (60%) and New Hampshire (66.67%). The remaining states have varying requirements that generally including a majority of votes cast on the issue, as well as a certain percentage of the total votes cast in an election.
In Arizona this year, Proposition 132 proposes requiring a 60% threshold for ballot measures that would raise taxes. A similar proposal was defeated in South Dakota in June.