Amendments for 2022 Ballot Under Discussion
Discussion has started on 43 proposals filed at the state legislature for the 2022 ballot.
Members of the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee in the House reviewed seven of the 25 proposals before them. Under session rules, the House can refer one constitutional amendment to voters. The Senate can also refer one, and then the two chambers can jointly refer a third proposal.
Committee members in the House have listened to sponsors present their ideas, but they did not vote. The Senate's committee is expected to start meeting soon as well to narrow down their 18 proposals.
Presentations, along with an opportunity for public comment, are expected to continue Monday but probably not much longer than that, said Rep. Dwight Tosh, who chairs the House committee.
He told members Wednesday legislative staff has attempted to contact other sponsors but haven't heard back from many of them. But by today, the March 15 agenda now includes the remaining 11 proposals.
PERSONAL PROPERTY TAX
One committee member on Wednesday said he favored HJR1004, a proposal to eliminate the personal property tax in Arkansas by 2047, as one of his top three issues.
Sponsor Rep. Stephen Meeks said personal property taxes are one of the most disruptive taxes to collect and they have had a negative impact on businesses wanting to locate in Arkansas because counties apply the tax to their equipment and inventory.
Cars, trucks, boats, recreational vehicles and mobile homes are also taxed as personal property. The tax helps fund public schools as well as county and city government operations. Meeks said the legislature would have to make up the taxes lost to schools and that the time to phase out the taxes would give local governments several years to account for the losses in their budgets. Those details would have to be discussed later, Meeks said.
Only one proposal attracted public comment during the two days of discussion. HJR1015 would allow the legislature to override court rules, practices and procedures set by the Arkansas Supreme Court. Legislators would also have the ability to set them through legislation passed by a three-fifths vote.
Rep. Jim Dotson said the amendment would provide checks and balances between the two branches of government.
This proposal may sound familiar - it's one part of a 2018 ballot issue the Arkansas Supreme Court struck from the ballot. Justices said Issue 1 of 2018 had too many unrelated parts and violated a single-subject rule legislators must follow.
A law school professor and the president of the Arkansas Bar Association spoke against the bill. Members also received a letter from the Arkansas Family Council opposing the measure. Testimony centered around some of the same reasons people opposed Issue 1 - a concern about separation of powers between legislators and the court system.
Other Bills Discussed in the House Committee This Past Week
HJR1002 - A Constitutional Amendment To Provide that an Annual Ad Valorem Tax for the Maintenance and Operation of Schools and the Retirement of Indebtedness Shall Not Appear on the Annual School Election Ballot if the Proposed Rate of Tax is the Same as the Rate of Tax Approved at the Last Annual School Election at Which a Rate of Tax Levy Appeared on the Ballot
HJR1003 - A Constitutional Amendment Providing for the Maintenance and Operation of Libraries, Capital Improvements to Libraries, and the Construction of Libraries
HJR1001 - A Constitutional Amendment to Allow the General Assembly to Convene Itself in Extraordinary Session Upon the Joint Proclamation of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate
HJR1006 - A Constitutional Amendment to Create a Procedure for the Recall of Persons Elected to the Offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State,
Treasurer of State, Auditor of State, Commissioner of State Lands, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice of the Supreme Court, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, Judge of the Court of Appeals, Circuit Judge, or District Judge
HJR1009 - A Constitutional Amendment Concerning the State Highway Commission and Amending the Name, Membership, Powers, and Duties of the State Highway Commission
Arkansas' 1874 Constitution currently has 102 amendments, the latest which were approved by voters in November 2020 changing the state's term limit laws and approving a permanent 0.5% sales tax for roadwork and maintenance across the state.