Arkansas legislators violated the Constitution by giving business interests almost unfettered authority to appoint a controlling majority of the State Plant Board, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chip Welch ruled Tuesday.
This is the second time in about a year that a court has invalidated the way nine of the herbicide-regulating board’s 17 voting members are selected by trade groups. The Arkansas Supreme Court threw out the process last year, finding that the 104-year-old system illegally gave away state regulatory powers to private interests.
Lawmakers had reworked the procedure with Act 361 of 2021 but Welch, acting on a lawsuit brought by some farmers and farm industry advocates, found those changes were not significant enough to make the process legal. Welch’s ruling also invalidates the selection of those nine members, but he stayed his ruling pending an appeal to the high court.
Up until last year, eight trade groups directly chose the board majority. Under the retooled system, those groups each submitted two candidates for the governor to choose to install on the board. The selected candidates also had to be confirmed by the state Senate.