Ballot Issues: What are you voting on?
By Josh Curtis, AAC Governmental Affairs Director
The Arkansas Constitution allows the General Assembly to propose up to three constitutional amendments for Arkansas voters to decide. In resolution form, these are vetted in the Joint House and Senate State Agencies committee. In 2017, the Senate filed 14 senate joint resolutions (SJR); the House filed 22 house joint resolutions (HJR). The joint committee, then both chambers of the legislature, approved HJR1016 and SJR8. These resolutions are on the ballot for the 2018 general election as Issues 1 and 2.
Issues 3, 4 and 5 — all proposed constitutional amendments — qualified to be on the ballot via a petition process that requires citizens to gather signatures from a minimum of 10 percent of those who cast a vote for governor in the last election.
At press time, all of these issues are being challenged in court.
The University Of Arkansas Division Of Agriculture, Research and Extension, Public Policy Center has released its 2018 voter guide, “Arkansas Ballot Issues.” The guide (found at www.uaex.edu/ballot) is the most comprehensive resource in the state for a neutral analysis of ballot issues. The following descriptions of the issues come from the guide.
“An amendment concerning civil lawsuits
and the powers of the general assembly
and Supreme Court to adopt court rules.”
This amendment proposes four changes to the Constitution.
• It would add a section regarding contingency fees to Article 7 (Judicial Department). Attorneys could not collect a contingency fee more than 1/3 of the net amount of money a client receives in a civil lawsuit, and the 92nd General Assembly would have to pass laws implementing the section, such as establishing penalties for collecting fees higher than allowed.
• There would be several changes to Section 32 (Workmen’s Compensation Laws — Actions for Personal Injuries). It would define “non-economic damages” and “punitive damages”; establish a maximum amount of money (the greater of $500,000 or three times the compensatory damages awarded) a person receives as punitive damages in a lawsuit related to injuries resulting in death, or injuries to person or property; establish a $500,000 maximum an injured person or his/her beneficiaries combined can receive as non-economic damages in a lawsuit related to injuries resulting in death, or injuries to person or property; allow legislators to increase maximum amounts for non-economic and punitive damages in the future with a 2/3 vote of each house; and require the state legislature in 2019 to create a procedure to adjust the punitive and noneconomic limits in future years for inflation or deflation.
• The proposal also would change Section 3 (Rules of Pleading, Practice, and Procedure) of Amendment 80 (Qualifications of Justice and Judges). The legislature could amend or repeal a rule of pleading, practice, or procedure established by the Supreme Court with a vote of 3/5 of each chamber. The legislature also could create a rule of pleading, practice or procedure with a vote of 3/5 of each chamber.
• The proposal would change Section 9 (Annulment of Amendment of Rules) of Amendment 80 (Qualifications of Justice and Judges) by lowering the number of votes needed by legislators from 2/3 to 3/5 to abolish or change rules established by the Supreme Court related to Court of Appeals, Circuit Courts, District Courts and “referees, masters and magistrates.”
“A constitutional amendment adding as a qualification to vote that a voter present certain valid
photographic identification when casting a ballot
in person or casting an absentee ballot.”
Issue 2 is a simple question of whether you believe a voter should show photo identification before voting. A “for” vote means you are in favor of changing the Constitution to include the presentation of photo ID as a qualification to vote in Arkansas. The state would provide voters with qualifying photographic ID cards at no charge if they do not have one that meets requirements. An “against” vote means the exact opposite.
“Arkansas term limits amendment.”
This proposal would reduce the number of terms legislators could serve and prohibit legislators from proposing constitutional amendments to change term limits for the General Assembly.
“An amendment to require four licenses to be issued for casino gaming at Casinos, one each in Crittenden (to Southland Racing Corporation), Garland (to Oaklawn Jockey Club, Inc.), Pope, and Jefferson Counties.”
A “for” vote means you are in favor of authorizing four casinos in the above-mentioned locations. Fifty-five percent of revenues would go to the state general revenue fund. The governor and legislature would decide how to spend these dollars.
“An act to increase the Arkansas minimum wage.”
This is a proposal to increase the minimum wage to $11 per hour by 2021.