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Constitutional amendments filed in the 2021 Regular Session of the 93rd General Assembly

By Lindsey Bailey French, AAC Legal Counsel

The deadline for members of the Arkansas General Assembly to file constitutional amendments to be referred to a vote of the people was Feb. 10, 2021. The General Assembly may pass up to three of these amendments during this regular session. This article provides a brief synopsis of the constitutional amendments that were filed, 25 in the House and 18 in the Senate, some of which are companion or mirror bills, as indicated.

HJR1001/SJR10 — Rep. Fran Cavenaugh (R), Sen. Breanne Davis (R); To authorize the General Assembly to call a special session by a joint proclamation of the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

HJR1002 — Rep. David Tollett (R); To remove the requirement that a school millage appear on the ballot of an annual school election if there is no change to the current millage rate.

HJR1003 — Rep. Michelle Gray (R), Sen. James Sturch (R); To lower the minimum population threshold of a city from 5,000 to 1,000 for purposes of filing a petition to levy a tax to construct and/or maintain a library.

HJR1004 — Rep. Stephen Meeks (R); To allow the General Assembly to reduce or eliminate personal property taxes or to create exemptions for personal property taxes; to eliminate personal property taxes by 2047; to repeal the requirement that real and personal property be taxed at the same rate; to allow tax levies to provide for public libraries by local election to apply to personal property, real property, or both.

HJR1005 — Rep. David Ray (R), Sen. Bart Hester (R); To require a 60 percent approval by the General Assembly to refer a constitutional amendment for a vote of the people; To require a 60 percent approval by vote of the people to approve a constitutional amendment by referendum or initiative.

HJR1006 — Rep. Fran Cavenaugh (R); To create a petition procedure for recall of certain elected officials, including state constitutional officers, members of the General Assembly, and judicial officers. It does not apply to county, district, or township officials.

HJR1007 — Rep. Fred Love (D); To create a Citizens Commission on Minimum Wage to have sole authority over amending the minimum wage in Arkansas. The General Assembly would have no authority to amend the minimum wage.

HJR1008 — Rep DeAnn Vaught (R); To require that ballot initiatives and referendums be approved by 60 percent rather than a simple majority.

HJR1009 — Rep. Jim Dotson (R); To rename the State Highway Commission to the State Transportation Commission; to strip the commission of its autonomy and to provide increased legislative oversight over the Commission; to appoint a Secretary of Transportation rather than Director of Highways, whose duties would be prescribed by the General Assembly rather than the Commission.

HJR 1010 — Rep. Joe Cloud (R); To retroactively remove the authority of the Arkansas Racing Commission to issue a casino license in Pope County.

HJR1011 — Rep. Joe Cloud (R); To make approval of a casino license in Pope County contingent upon a local option election by submission of a petition of 10 percent of qualified electors of the county.

HJR1012 — Rep. John Payton (R); To revise the duties of certain constitutional officers (this is currently a shell bill).

HJR1013 — Rep. John Payton (R); To revise the duties of certain constitutional officers (this is currently a shell bill).

HJR1014/SJR8 — Rep. Lee Johnson (R), Sen. Missy Irvin (R); To authorize the General Assembly to set limits on punitive and noneconomic damages that may be awarded to a claimant in actions for injury to persons or property (a version of “tort reform”).

HJR1015/SJR7 — Rep. Jim Dotson (R), Sen. Bob Ballinger (R); To authorize the General Assembly, by a three-fifths vote, to prescribe rules of pleading, practice, procedure, and evidence for all courts of law; these rules would supersede any conflicting rules passed by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

HJR1016 — Rep. Jim Dotson (R); To revise the rules of pleading, practice, procedure, and evidence of the courts (this is currently a shell bill).

HJR1017 — Rep. Jim Dotson (R); To provide that certain elected officials be elected on a partisan basis (this is currently a shell bill).

HJR1018 — Rep. Robin Lundstrum, Sen. Jane English (R); To extend Arkansas lottery scholarship and grant eligibility to Arkansas citizens enrolled in technical institutes or vocational-technical colleges.

HJR1019 — Rep. Robin Lundstrum, Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R); To amend Amendment 80, providing that Supreme Court Justices and Court of Appeals, circuit, and district judges be elected on a partisan basis.

HJR1020 — Rep. Josh Miller (R); Concerning fines and restrictions on frivolous lawsuits (this is currently a shell bill).

HJR1021 — Rep. Vivian Flowers (D); To prohibit slavery or indentured servitude as punishment for a crime.

HJR1022 — Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R); To amend the powers of the General Assembly and Arkansas Supreme Court to mirror the Federal Rules Enabling Act (this is currently a shell bill).

HJR1023/SJR13 — Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R), Sen. Jason Rapert (R); To expand on Arkansas citizens’ right to keep and bear arms; to prohibit the state or a political subdivision of the state from infringing on a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms.

HRJ1024/SJR14 — Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R), Sen. Jason Rapert (R); to limit the state or local government from infringing on a citizen’s freedom of religion only when there is a compelling state interest to do so and the means implemented is the least restrictive means available; to provide a claim or defense for an Arkansas citizen whose freedom of religion is burdened by state or local government.

HJR1025 — Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R); To vest in jurors the sole authority to determine the amount of compensation awarded for, or civil penalty imposed because of, injuries to persons or property.

SJR1 — Sen. Alan Clark (R); To amend short-term financing for municipalities; to allow municipalities to utilize 10-year financing for acquisition of fire trucks.

SJR2 — Sen. Alan Clark (R); To allow the General Assembly to call a special session by submitting petitions signed by a majority of both chambers to the Governor. Business would be restricted to the purposes listed in the petition.

SJR3 — Sen. Alan Clark (R); To eliminate sovereign immunity for the State and allow the State to be sued in a circuit court like any other party.

SJR4 — Sen. Mark Johnson (R); To eliminate specific requirements for funding public schools (as determined by the Lake View School District v. Huckabee Supreme Court case); to vest sole authority for the specifics of funding public schools with the General Assembly.

SJR5 — Sen. Jason Rapert (R); To amend the manner in which primary elections are held (this is currently a shell bill).

SJR6 — Sen. Clarke Tucker (D), Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R); To require the General Assembly to establish a revised elections process for general elections, special elections, and elections for nonpartisan offices; all candidates would be listed on a single ballot regardless of party affiliation. The two candidates receiving the highest number of votes would advance to the general election.

SJR11 — Sen. Greg Leding (D), Sen. Jay Richardson (D); To create an implied warranty of habitability in Arkansas; to decriminalize failure to pay rent or failure to vacate; to prohibit certain terms and conditions from being included in rental agreements.

SJR12 — Sen. Greg Leding (D); To amend laws regarding qualifications to vote in elections (this is currently a shell bill).

SJR15 — Sen. Alan Clark (R); To require the Governor to convene the General Assembly into special session within 24 hours of declaring an emergency by executive order or proclamation.

SJR16 — Sen. Alan Clark (R); To provide that interscholastic or intramural athletic programs sponsored by a public school shall be specifically designated based on biological sex, and that teams designed for females shall not be open to biological males and vice versa.

SJR17 — Sen. Bob Ballinger (R), Rep. Justin Gonzales (R); To provide for a constitutional review of certain federal provisions prior to their implementation (this is currently a shell bill).

SJR18 — Sen. Alan Clark (R); To amend the United States Constitution to provide that the United States Supreme Court shall consist of nine Justices (this is currently a shell bill).

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