A group wanting to restore stricter term limits for state legislators on Thursday submitted a constitutional amendment ballot proposal to Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.
Speakers at a news conference conducted by Arkansas Term Limits expressed concern about the term limit increases passed in Issue 3, now Amendment 94 to the Arkansas Constitution, in 2014. The amendment meant legislators can serve up to 16 years, up from 10 years previously.
Arkansas Term Limits presented the proposed ballot title for the amendment, "Arkansas Term Limits of 2016." Rutledge has to approve the ballot title before the group can gather about 82,000 signatures from registered voters to get the amendment on the 2016 general election ballot.
The proposed amendment would restore the 10-year term limits.
Tim Jacobs, co-chairman of Arkansas Term Limits, said this ballot proposal would not have the "deception" of Issue 3 and that he's confident the group will be able to collect the required signatures to get the amendment on the 2016 ballot.
"It's important to know this issue crosses all party and demographic lines," Jacobs said. "It's supported by people in the state. On the ballot it will say term limits and will describe to the voters of the state exactly what it does."
Patricia Mays, a Monticello resident, said at the news conference that Issue 3 confused voters because it also rolled in provisions about legislative ethics.
"People voted for Issue 3 thinking that it was an ethics amendment and actually there were some ethic provisions buried in a 22-page bill, along with a few lines to destroy term limits," Mays said. "We need to take back our government and let the legislators know they work for us, we are the bosses."
Paul Spencer, leader of citizens group Regnat Populus, said he spearheaded Issue 3 originally to create a "meaningful ethics law" by reining in gifts and meals legislators could accept from lobbyists.
"We gave the legislature a little latitude, and they abused that," Spencer said. "[Legislators] are going to have to be held accountable, though."
If Rutledge approves the ballot title, the group will have until July 2016 to get the required signatures for the amendment to appear on the November ballot.