Our View: Taking another run at term limits

The people of Arkansas, and in particular the voters, should not be led to believe by political proponents of a constitutional amendment passed in 2014 that extends the term limits of elected officials that their efforts weren’t self-serving. While we repeatedly pointed out the confusion with the wording of the amendment and its title back then when naive voters approved it, and in doing so extended the terms of lawmakers to 16 years in the House, Senate or both. Before Amendment 94 was passed, state lawmakers had been limited to serving six years in the House and eight years in the Senate. Some senators had been able to serve 10 years if they drew a two-year term after winning in the election after once-per-decade redistricting. It was pointed out at the time that politicians didn’t create Amendment 94 for the will of the people but rather what was best for them. The ballot title read: “An amendment regulating contributions to candidates for state or local office, barring gifts from lobbyists to certain state officials, providing for setting salaries of certain state officials, and setting term limits for members of the General Assembly. Anyone with common sense can see how many voters would automatically think Amendment 94 was designed to clamp down on politicians receiving contributions and gifts. And, furthermore, it can easily be said that the last portion of the title that said, “setting term limits for members of the General Assembly,” is vague and ambiguous. The controversial amendment has sparked a movement to again change term limits so that lawmakers serving as state representatives would be restricted to six years while senators limited to eight years. Furthermore, proponents of a proposed constitutional amendment they plan to have on the upcoming November ballot would prohibit the Legislature from pulling this stunt in the future. Restore Term Limits organizers must collect 84,859 valid signatures of registered voters on petitions to quality its proposal for the Nov. 8 general election ballot. July 8 is the deadline to turn in the petitions with the secretary of state’s office. State Rep. Warwick Sebin, D-Little Rock, who proposed what became Amendment 904 with state Sen. Jon Woods, R-Springdale, said he didn’t believe the ballot title wasn’t misleading, adding, it was simply part of the compromise to get his ethics provisions passed. Oh, come on now, we should all know better to really belief that line. Woods said last year the reason why the term limits qualified to be part of the overall ethics package was because politicians were trying to balance positions being elected by the people so they can be on a level playing field with the lobbyists and the bureaucrats. And, we’re suppose to believe that also? Let’s hope Restore Term Limits supporters are able to get their amendment on the ballot, and let’s hope voters are smart enough to not to make the same mistake they made in passing Amendment 94 in 2014.

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