Ethics Amendment Passes Arkansas Senate

Apr 18, 2013

A proposed constitutional amendment that would, among other things, prohibit state legislators and constitutional officers from accepting gifts from lobbyists is closer to being on the 2014 ballot after passing the Senate Thursday.

Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) says HJR1009 that he sponsored with Sen. Jon Woods (R-Springdale) is very similar to a proposal the group Regnat Populous tried to get onto the ballot last year.
Credit Nathan Vandiver / KUAR

House Joint Resolution 1009 previously passed the House but failed in the Joint Committee on Constitutional Amendments Monday. It passed the same committee Thursday morning before passing the full Senate in the afternoon. The vote was 23 yeas to four nays with seven non-votes.

Rep. Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock, is a co-sponsor of joint resolution with Sen. Jon Woods, R-Springdale.

The proposal would also loosen term limits. Lawmakers are currently allowed six years in the House and 10 in the Senate. His proposal would allow lawmakers to serve the 16 years in any combination including all in one chamber.

“I know a lot of people are suspicious when you talk about letting legislators serve longer, but the truth is, the public is served when legislators have a bit more strength relative to the executive branch and the lobbying community,” Sabin said.

The proposal is supported by Regnat Populus, a group that tried to get similar reforms on the ballot last year through the petition process.

“I think this constitutional amendment provides some of the strongest ethical improvements to public service that we’ve seen in a long time and it’s coming directly from the legislature and we’re also addressing salary and term limits issues, which are controversial, but I think will help professionalize and modernize the way we conduct our government in Arkansas,” Sabin said.

The proposal would also extend the cooling off period before lawmakers can become lobbyists from one to two years.