Today's Issue 3 wrinkle: Which amendment trumps | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Today's Issue 3 wrinkle: Which amendment trumps

Posted By on Thu, Dec 11, 2014 at 1:16 PM

A mounting list of questions remain to be answered about implementation of Issue 3, the constitutional amendment that opens the door to pay increases and longer service by legislators, but also imposes some new ethics restrictions that the lobbyists are already dodging nimbly. Here's another:

Remember Issue 1? It also was approved by voters Nov. 4, 

It says no administrative rules adopted by a state agency shall take effect until reviewed and approved by a legislative committee.

Issue 3, in setting news rules on campaign contributions and prohibiting gifts to legislators by lobbyists and those who employ them, expressly puts these matters under the Arkansas Ethics Commission, "including without limitation authorization"of  Ethics Commission rules to administer the law, issue opinions and investigate. The amendment allows the General Assembly to change these provisions by a full vote, but it makes no mention of legislative review.

Will new Ethics Commission rules be subject to legislative review? I'd argue no. I'd argue that the subsequent numbering of Issue 3 trumps Issue 1 insofar as legislative review of these rules are concerned. This could be important. By utter chance, this amendment gives broad, almost legislative-style discretion, to the Ethics Commission to enforce, for example, gift rules in a common-sense and definitive way, without leaving loopholes for the greedy to exploit.

We can hope that it would proceed in this fashion. Skepticism is not unreasonable, given the lessons of history.

UPDATE: David Couch, who worked on Issue 3, comments:

Generalia Specialibus Non Derogant

The specific prevails over the general.

Issue 3 wins. 

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