State Capitol Week in Review
From Senator State Crowell
March 24, 2023
LITTLE ROCK – In every regular session the legislature can refer up to three proposed constitutional amendments to voters.
The measures referred during the 2023 session will be on Arkansas general election ballots of November, 2024. If a majority of voters approve, the amendments will become part of the state Constitution.
Individual lawmakers have introduced 33 proposed amendments. Of those, 20 have been filed by senators and 13 by House members. The proposals are in the form of joint resolutions. Senate Joint Resolutions 1 through 20 are proposed amendments, as are HJR 1001 through HJR 1013.
The legislature has not chosen the three amendments it will refer. The first step is for the Senate and House Committees on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs to narrow the list of proposals.
It is not mandatory for the legislature to refer any proposed amendments. Legislators could refer just one or two resolutions to next year’s ballot.
SJR 10 would establish the rights of crime victims, such as being notified in a timely manner of all public proceedings arising from the crime. For example, any time the offender is due for sentencing or a parole hearing.
The victim would have a right to full and timely restitution, and would have the right to reasonable protection from the accused and from anyone acting on behalf of the accused.
SJR 8 would establish the taxpayers’ bill of rights. It is a shell, meaning that it consists only of a title and a brief description. In addition to creating a taxpayers’ bill of rights, it would set limits on government spending.
SJR 6 would allow lawsuits against the state in state courts. Currently, there is language in the state Constitution that the state may never be sued in any of its courts. SJR 6 would allow a lawsuit alleging the state had violated the U.S. or state Constitutions, and seeking injunctive, declaratory or monetary relief.
SJR 7 would provide that the Highway Commission should be governed in the same manner as all other state agencies. In 1952 Arkansas voters approved Amendment 42, also known as the Mack-Blackwell amendment, and it grants the Highway Commission a degree of constitutional autonomy that other state agencies do not have.
SJR 3 would provide that no individual would be denied the right to conduct a transaction because of his or her personal opinions or beliefs. Transactions would include purchases and sales of goods and services, either in cash, electronically or by a method normally used by households.
SJR 14 would provide for additional methods of financing firefighting equipment. SJR 17 is also a shell. It would set ethical requirements for elected officials. SJR 13 would legalize the growing of marijuana at home. It is a shell, and would be amended to add details later.
One of the lengthiest proposals is HJR 1002, to authorize the legislature to reduce or eliminate property taxes, both real and personal.
HJR 1003 would create procedures for recalling elected officials, after they have taken office.
A House proposal would allow the General Assembly to set its own salaries. Now, an independent commission sets legislative salaries. Another House resolution would allow lottery scholarship revenue to pay for scholarships at vo-tech schools and technical institutes.