Paul Jacob

Call OSHA. Quick! We desperately need the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to take a look at the incredibly dangerous flooring in the Arkansas State Capitol.

This federal agency could determine why the state’s legislators are slipping or stumbling or tripping (that’s it!) so badly that legislative provisions they never, ever intended to enact are flying out of their briefcases or folders (or you-know-what) to land inexplicably into law.

Laws they pass without having read. Of course.

In last year’s legislative session — the first with both chambers of the state’s General Assembly controlled by Republicans since the century before the last century — Arkansas solons proposed three constitutional amendments for placement on the November 2014 ballot.

One of those amendments would make it even more difficult for citizens to petition an initiative or referendum onto the statewide ballot, making legislators more powerful and citizens less so. Ominous. But, worse yet, one of the other two passed — by overwhelming margins — was an “ethics” amendment.

Now, wait . . . ethics are good, right? Why “worse yet”?

Because the so-called ethics amendment, which dubs itself “The Arkansas Elected Officials Ethics, Transparency, and Financial Reform Act,” isn’t very ethical. Or transparent.

A more accurate title would be the Anti-Term Limits Measure of 2014.

Snuck into the amendment, and not addressed in the short title of the legislation at all, is a gutting of the term limits law enacted by voters. Legislators have proposed a 16-year term limit. Seriously. (Though, quietly.) The voters enacted six-year House limits, not the 16 years proposed now by legislators. The voters limit state senators to two four-year terms, while legislators are trying to double their ride on the gravy train.

A number of legislators now claim they didn’t know the term limits provision was in the legislation. Others explain that their ‘aye’ vote was cast mistakenly on their behalf after they had left the building. One can believe them or not, but the one undeniable fact is that the legislature did place this constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Admittedly, the longer title of the phony ethics/anti-term limits amendment does indeed mention term limits, but in an extremely deceptive way, stating the measure is “establishing term limits for members of the General Assembly.” Since term limits are already the law, a new amendment would hardly “establish” them. Instead, it weakens those voter-enacted term limits to the point of absurdity.

No need to mention that.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.