LITTLE ROCK — With no debate, the House on Monday approved a proposed constitutional amendment that, if referred to the November 2018 ballot and approved by voters, would make it harder to pass constitutional amendments.
The chamber voted 79-10 to approve House Joint Resolution 1003 by House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia. The measure goes to the Senate.
“What we’re trying to do is create a more stable constitution, one that’s not easily changed,” Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, said while presenting the bill for Gillam on the House floor.
The measure would:
• Require that a proposed constitutional amendment receive at least 60 percent of the votes cast in an election for approval instead of a simple majority.
• Require at least a two-thirds vote in both chambers for a proposed constitutional amendment to be referred to the ballot, instead of a simple majority.
• Increase from 15 to 25 the minimum number of counties from which petitions must be submitted for a citizen-initiated proposed constitutional amendment.
• Require that signatures in support of a citizen-initiated proposed constitutional amendment be submitted at least 180 days before election day instead of four months before.
• Create a process for the Legislature to refer up to three proposed laws to the ballot during a regular session in an odd-numbered year. The Legislature already has the ability to refer up to three constitutional amendments to the ballot in a regular session.
• Require that a challenge to the ballot title of a proposed constitutional amendment be filed no later than 60 days after the filing of signatures in support of the measure.
• Require that a challenge to the signatures submitted in support of a proposed constitutional amendment be made no later 30 days after the secretary of state certifies the signatures.
• Require that the ballot title of a legislatively referred proposed constitutional amendment be intelligent, honest and impartial. If the attorney general says in an opinion that a ballot title is not sufficient, the title would go back to lawmakers to make changes.
• Prohibit a constitutional amendment from granting rights or privileges to an individual or corporation specified by name.
The Legislature can refer up to three proposed constitutional amendments to the ballot every two years. So far this session, lawmakers have referred two: One to require voters to show photo identification at the polls, and one to limit damages and attorneys’ fees in civil lawsuits and give the Legislature power to repeal, amend and create court rules.