No constitutional amendments for the 2016 ballot? | Arkansas Blog

Friday, March 20, 2015

No constitutional amendments for the 2016 ballot?

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2015 at 7:16 AM

Various legislative leaders indicated yesterday that no constitutional amendments will be put on the 2016 ballot by this year's legislature. Differences between the House and Senate indicate no consensus can be reached, they said.

My comment: I'll believe it when the legislature adjourns without an amendment for the ballot.

Last-minute shuffles and awkward rewrites are familiar business in the legislature on constitutional amendments. How can we forget 2013, when a moribund "ethics" proposal got dressed by Sen. Jon Woods with a few little ol' additions that zoomed it onto the ballot and then right into the Arkansas Constitution.

Today, thanks to that amendment, legislators are celebrating a 150 percent pay increase and the ability to stay in office up to 18 years in one chamber and are continuing to dine lavishly on free food and drink.

And a PS: When you hear a legislator say this isn't much of a pay increase because they are giving up an office expense account, what they mean is that they didn't have any expenses to speak of and they were drawing that money as an untaxed pay supplement before.

They also don't tell you that they draw "per diem" — by law intended as a tax-free expense reimbursement — even for days they don't go to the Capitol and thus have no expenses

It ain't over until it's over on the amendments.

I'd particularly watch Legislative Paymaster Jon Woods, with his little ol' non-controversial "economic development" amendment. It's just some technical stuff on bonds, not controversial at all. Oh, wait, there is a little ol' section  intended  to override Judge Mackie Pierce's ruling that cities have been unconstitutionally giving taxpayer money to local chambers of commerce.

If the predictions of no amendments hold true, it would be a rare good outcome for this session. The proposals on file range from trivia to devastatingly bad public policy.

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