Friday, January 30, 2015

Governor Asa Hutchinson Announces Nine Appointments

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson today announced the following appointments:

David Nelson, Magnolia, to the Southern Arkansas University Board of Trustees. Appointment expires January 14, 2020. Replaces James Freeman.

Jay Brain, Rogers, to the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics Commission. Appointment expires November 9, 2019. Replaces Marion Burton.

Chris Weiser, Magnolia, reappointment to the Oil and Gas Commission. Appointment expires February 20, 2021.

James Freeman, Texarkana, appointment to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. Appointment expires January 14, 2019. Replaces Stephen Edwards.

Stan Green, Fayetteville, appointment to Arkansas Development Finance Authority. Appointment expires January 14, 2019. Replaces William Cone.

Sarah Capp, Ozark, Special Associate Justice to Arkansas Supreme Court.

James Arnold II, Fort Smith, Special Associate Justice to Arkansas Supreme Court.

Warren Dupwe, Jonesboro, Special Associate Justice to Arkansas Supreme Court.

Steve Goode, Vilonia, Director of Arkansas Tobacco Control

Tags: Gov. Hutchinson, nine appointments, Arkansas To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Hill Supports An End To Human Trafficking, Protect Victims and Punish the Perpetrators

Says ‘we must do more to combat the alarming growth of this appalling criminal enterprise’

Washington – Congressman French Hill (AR-2) released the following statement after the House approved 12 bills to combat human trafficking in the United States:

As many as 300,000 children in the United States are at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking. We must do more to combat the alarming growth of this appalling criminal enterprise, and I am pleased that the House has passed these bipartisan bills to end human trafficking, protect victims, and punish the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.”

This week, the House passed 12 bills to combat human trafficking with overwhelming bipartisan support:

1. The Human Trafficking Prioritization Act (H.R. 514)

2. International Megan’s Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking (H.R. 515)

3. Human Trafficking Prevention Act (H.R. 357)

4. Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Victims of Youth Trafficking Act (H.R. 468)

5. Strengthening Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act (H.R. 469)

6. To Improve the Response to Victims of Child Sex Trafficking (H.R. 246)

7. Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act (H.R. 285)

8. Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (H.R. 181)

9. Stop Exploitation through Trafficking Act (H.R. 159)

10. Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act (H.R. 350)

11. Human Trafficking Detection Act (H.R. 460)

12. Trafficking Awareness Training for Health Care Act (H.R. 398)

Tags: U.S. House, Representative, French Hill, AR-2, End, Human Trafficking, protect victums, punish perpetrators To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Boozman Applauds Senate-Passage of Keystone XL Pipeline Bill

WASHINGTON – Senator John Boozman (R-AR) today issued the following statement after the Senate passed legislation to create jobs by moving the Keystone XL Pipeline project forward.

“The Keystone pipeline is the type of job creating infrastructure project that America needs. It will create well-paying jobs for skilled laborers and will do so at no expense to the taxpayers. Once built, the pipeline will help maintain lower fuel prices, which is good for all Arkansans -- at the gas pump, at the store and for job creation,” Boozman said. “The Keystone pipeline has been greenlighted in study after study. We’ve had a multiple debates on it in this body alone, including the lengthy spirited debate that led to passage of this bill. And yet the President is still looking for ways to stop it. The support is here in Congress. More importantly the support is there with the American people. I encourage the President to join with us to get this project moving, instead of being the one to hold it back.”
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Editor's Note: By a 62-to-36 vote, Republicans and nine Democrats passed S.1, the bill to authorize construction of the 840 mile Keystone XL pipeline which Obama has vowed to veto.

Tags: U.S. senate, John Boozman, Senate, passes, Keystone XL Pipeline billINSERT TAGS To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Arkansas Delegation Requests Loan Repayment Extension for Farmers Impacted by Turner Grain

WASHINGTON – The Arkansas Congressional delegation today requested Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack extend the loan repayment date for farmers impacted by the collapse of Turner Grain until bankruptcy proceedings are completed.

Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) extended loan repayment dates for farmers impacted by the collapse of Turner Grain last fall. The repayment extension is set to expire for farmers during the week of February 1, 2015.

“Given that losses may be as high as $50 million, the situation has the potential to be devastating to Arkansas, where one out of every six jobs is tied to agriculture. For these reasons, we respectfully request that the Farm Service Agency (FSA) extend the CCC loan repayment date for those farmers awaiting payment from Turner Grain until bankruptcy proceedings are completed,” the lawmakers wrote.

Turner Grain defaulted on its contracts to farmers last August. In October, the company filed for bankruptcy.

Read the letter in its entirety here.

Tags: Arkansas Congressional delegation, requested, Sec of Agriculture, extend loan repayment, Turner Grain, bankruptcy,  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Win for Taxpayers

by David Ray, Dirirector, AFP - Arkansas: We've got some great news to share with you. Yesterday, Governor Asa Hutchinson said that there would be no money in his budget for General Improvement Funding - Arkansas's version of earmarks. This is a huge win for taxpayers!

In years past, the Governor would allow the legislature to dole out "leftover" money to pet projects back in their home districts. Some of that money would be spent on good projects, but much of it would be wasted on all kinds of pork spending.

We applaud Governor Hutchinson's decision not to include General Improvement Funds funding in his budget. This decision will ensure that money that would otherwise go to earmark-like pet projects will now be required to go through the budget process.

This is a win for Arkansas taxpayers.

Tags: AFP, Americans for Prosperity, Arkansas, David Ray, Governor Asa Hutchinson,  no more funding, Arkansas Improvement Funding, earmarks,  To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Boozman Named Chairman of Senate Agriculture Subcommittee

Arkansas Senator will oversee Subcommittee on Commodities, Markets, Trade and Risk Management

WASHINGTON – Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) named U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) the Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Commodities, Markets, Trade and Risk Management for the 114th Congress.

“This subcommittee’s work is important to the wellbeing of our agricultural economy. I am honored that Chairman Roberts and my colleagues on the committee have entrusted me with this responsibility,” Boozman said.

“I am pleased Senator Boozman can continue his leadership on behalf of Arkansas’ farmers and ranchers on the Committee,” Roberts said. “As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Commodities, Risk Management and Trade, I am confident Senator Boozman will fight to ensure the federal government is doing all it can to ensure producers succeed.”

The subcommittee has jurisdiction over following issue areas: the production of agricultural crops, commodities and products; farm and ranch income protection and assistance, including safety net programs and farm credit; commodity price support programs; insurance and risk protection; fresh water food production; agricultural trade; foreign market development; and futures, options and derivatives.

“As we move to reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, help implement the new Farm Bill and push for free and fair trade agreements for American producers, this subcommittee will ensure the needs of the agricultural community are put first,” Boozman said. “Farmers, ranchers, and other end users did not cause the financial crisis, but unfortunately, they’re getting caught up in regulations that are aimed at large financial institutions. Farmers shouldn’t be unfairly subjected to the same regulations as speculators on Wall Street.”

Tags: Arkansas, U.S. Senator, John Boozman, Chairman, Senate Agriculture Subcommittee, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Hill: Increasing U.S. Natural Gas Exports ‘Benefits Consumers and Our National Security’

Legislation will ‘assist our allies and boost Arkansas’s economy’
Washington – Congressman French Hill (AR-2) released the following statement today after the House passed the LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act (H.R. 351) by a bipartisan vote of 277 – 133:

“Today we took another step towards eliminating needless U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) delays to approving essential liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects. Increasing U.S. LNG exports will benefit our allies by adding a new, reliable source of energy to the global market and boost Arkansas’s economy through job creation, especially in engineering, manufacturing, and construction. It is time for America to lead the world in energy production and exports. I will continue to support legislation that boosts our goal of North American energy independence and benefits consumers and our national security interests.

H.R. 351 will help expedite the approval of U.S. LNG export projects by placing a 30-day deadline on DOE to issue a final decision on applications following the conclusion of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental review of the LNG facilities. Reports have shown that exporting natural gas will create over 18,000 jobs in Arkansas and contribute over $3 billion to Arkansas’s economy.

Tags: French Hill, U.S. Representative, AR-2, increasing exports, U.S. natural Gas To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Governor Asa Hutchinson’s Budget Highlights & Promises Kept

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson’s balanced budget for 2015-2017 biennium returns $100 million to middle-class Arkansans while providing funding for new priorities, existing programs, and essential state services.

In addition, the balanced budget keeps campaign promises made by the governor on education, public safety, taxes and economic development while finding new savings and efficiencies in state government.

PROMISES KEPT
Governor Hutchinson's balanced budget:
         Meets the adequacy requirements for funding K-12 public schools. (The governor will work with legislators to assess additional needs for state pre-K programs. This is in addition to a four-year, $60-million federal grant the state has earmarked for pre-K.)
         Provides incentive for schools to offer computer-science courses by creating a $5 million Computer Science Initiative Grants program with general improvement funding.
         Increases funding by $1 million for Drug Treatment Courts, including Veterans' treatment drug courts, and $300,000 for successful prisoner re-entry programs.
         Directs an additional $11.4 million to county jails to reimburse them for housing state prisoners. (The budget also raises the reimbursement rate from $28 to $30.)
         Fulfills the commitment to maintain Higher Education spending.
         Provides a cost-of-living adjustment for state employees.
         Cuts middle-class income taxes, returning some $100 million to 500,000 Arkansans.
         Maintains a balanced budget.

NEW EFFICIENCIES
Governor Hutchinson's balanced budget:
         Reduces the budgets of most state agencies by 1 percent in FY 2016.
         Secures an additional $5 million in ongoing general revenue by redirecting one-half of the special revenue assessment (9 mils) on natural gas production.
         Redirects $2 million from the Tobacco Settlement Funds to Medicaid.
         Transitions the Office of Health Information Technology to a self-funded model by FY 2017 as provided for in the law, resulting in eventual savings of $2.2 million.

Tags: Governor Asa Hutchinson, budget highlights, promises kept To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Governor Asa Hutchinson Appoints Five to Boards & Commissions

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson today announced the following appointments to State boards and commissions:

William “Dubs” Byers, Gould, to the Board of Corrections. Appointment expires December 31, 2021. Replaces Janis Walmsley.

Fritz Kronberger, Russellville, to the Arkansas Tech University Board of Trustees. Appointment expires January 14, 2020. Replaces Tom Kennedy.

Ken Shollmier, Little Rock, to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. Appointment expires January 14, 2019. Replaces Eddie Drilling.

Steve Smith, Springdale, to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Appointment expires January 14, 2021. Replaces Jeff Mitchell.


Shayla Copas, Little Rock, to the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion Commission. Appointment expires at the Will of the Governor. Replaces Richard Levi.

Tags: Irkansas, Commissions, boards, appointments, Governor, Asa Hutchinson To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tom Cotton Discusses His Senate Agenda

Interview with Senator Tom Cotton by KATV Channel 7":

Tags: Tom Cotton, KATV Channel 7, interview, discusses, his Senate agenda, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

New GOP Senators Make Economic Case for Keystone

by James Arkin, Real Clear Politics: Job creation has been one of the chief arguments for building the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in recent debates in the new Congress. But a group of Republican Senate newcomers on Thursday made an economic case for Keystone beyond just its role in job creation.

Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Steve Daines of Montana, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Thom Tillis of North Carolina all spoke fervently in favor of the politically contentious pipeline at an event hosted by RealClearPolitics at the Newseum in downtown Washington Thursday.

“Long term, the pipeline works and it’s necessary,” Rounds said. “The pipeline is a more efficient way to deliver, and I believe a safer way to deliver, oil from those locations in our continent, Canada and North Dakota and Montana, down into specific refineries that were designed to take heavy crude.”

The Keystone pipeline has been caught in political crosshairs for six years, with Republicans in Congress anxious for it to be built while the Obama administration has threatened to veto any pipeline legislation that crosses the president's desk. The House passed a bill approving its construction earlier this month, but the Senate has been caught up in a long process of voting on amendments to the bill.

Two senators from states along the proposed Keystone XL path, Daines of Montana and Rounds of South Dakota, argued at the event that the pipeline would help their states’ local economies.

There’s strong disagreement across the aisles about how many jobs the pipeline would create. Republicans say building Keystone would add more than 40,000 new jobs, but Democrats argue the majority would be temporary. Democrats say the pipeline would lead to fewer than 50 permanent new jobs.

Rounds said that South Dakotans are eager to see the pipeline built because oil is being moved by train there, which is slowing down the transportation of grains to markets. He said it “comes directly out of our farmers’ and ranchers’ pockets.”

Daines said $80 million in tax revenues from the pipeline would directly benefit poor counties in eastern Montana. He also said the electricity provided for the pipeline would help to lower electric prices for those in the surrounding area.

“There’s a missed opportunity for the president to connect the dots in the Keystone pipeline and the middle class,” he said. “There’s a lot of folks fighting month to month to make ends meet and those are the folks that live near where that pipeline will go through.”

A number of senators cautioned that while oil prices are currently low, that’s unlikely to be a long-term trend. Oil prices tend to fluctuate, they said, and the pipeline decision shouldn’t be determined simply because prices are currently on the low end of the spectrum.

Because oil is a global commodity, Cotton said that increased production from U.S. allies is a benefit as well. He said he was “surprised” by arguments from the administration against Keystone because it’s a Canadian company and mostly Canadian oil.

“Canada’s an ally. We should want to help Canada because they help us,” Cotton said. “The president always likes to act like congressmen and senators are so parochial and nearsighted, that the president should be ascending and thinking about national interests, and he would be the last leader that would say, ‘Oh it’s just a Canadian company,’ as opposed to being the first one to say Canada’s an ally and any time we can help them and also help ourselves … that we should do that.”

Tillis said most of the public supports building the pipeline, and that that support would only increase if people knew more of the facts. He argued that if private companies want to take on the financial risk of the pipeline, government shouldn’t stand in the way.

“If the energy prices go down to a point to where they’re not going to fulfill the capacity of the pipeline, that’s a risk that a private company is willing to make,” Tillis said. “They’re willing to put $8 billion on the line, create 40,000 jobs. And for people to say well, it’s not ready yet, I trust the private sector to make those sorts of decisions, and TransCanada is prepared to make it.”

Tags: Inew GOP Senators, economic case, Keystone, Real Clear Politics, Tom Cotton, Arkansas To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Rep. Womack Week In Review: SOTU Response | Legislation | No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion

by Rep, Steve Womack, AR-3: On Tuesday, President Obama gave his annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. In it, the President delivered a laundry list of ideas. However, many of his ideas have already been addressed by House Republicans. I was hopeful that President Obama would recognize the will of the American people and the message they sent in November, but in the State of the Union rerun, he blatantly disregarded both. Furthermore, the ‘growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production’ President Obama talked about have not happened because of him, but in spite of him and his repeated calls for higher taxes, more spending, and bigger government – policies that have been squarely rejected by the American people and stand in the way of what hardworking taxpayers need more than anything: jobs. What part of ‘jobs’ does he not understand?

I recorded a video response to the SOTU for my Facebook followers. Watch it here!

On Wednesday, the House passed H.R. 161, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, by a vote of 253-169. (See  Roll Call #41) H.R. 1900 expedites the federal review process for applications for natural gas pipeline certificates by imposing deadlines on involved agencies. Specifically, the bill amends the Natural Gas Act to require that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approve or deny a pipeline certificate within twelve months of receiving the complete application.

On Thursday – the forty-second anniversary of Roe v. Wade – the House bipartisanly passed >H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, by a vote of 242-179. (See Roll Call #45 H.R. 7 codifies policies enacted for more than thirty years on a case-by-case basis in Appropriations legislation that bar the use of federal funds for abortions. Additionally, the bill eliminates tax credits and subsidies for Obamacare health plans that include elective abortion coverage. Like all of the Arkansans in Washington who yesterday joined tens of thousands from across the country to participate in the March for Life, I was proud to do my part in protecting life and the most vulnerable among us – the unborn. H.R. 7 advocates for life by ensuring that those who morally object to abortion are not financing it with their tax dollars. I believe making permanent this provision, which a majority of Americans support, is well overdue, and I applaud its passage and will continue to support policies that protect life and human dignity.

Tags: Rep. Steve Womack, representative, Arkansas, District 3, U.S. House, Week in Review, SOTU Response, Legislation, No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Arkansas Delegation Requests Extension for Public Comment Period on Plains & Eastern Clean Line Transmission Project

WASHINGTON –Arkansas’s Congressional delegation today requested an extension for the public comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Plains & Eastern Clean Line Transmission Project.

In a letter sent to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, the delegation requests more time for constituents to share their views and/or concerns, noting that the comment period was announced during the holiday season.

“We understand the importance of infrastructure projects, including properly-sited transmission lines, but we also believe that potentially-impacted landowners and citizens must be treated fairly and they must have every opportunity to eliminate or minimize impacts before projects are considered. In short, private property rights must be protected.  Accordingly, we request that you provide at least a 60-day extension of the comment period for the Draft EIS and Section 106 process on the Plains & Eastern Clean Line Transmission Project,” the letter states.

The letter was signed by both of Arkansas’s U.S. Senators, John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), as well as neighboring Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). All four Arkansas Congressmen—Rick Crawford (AR-01), French Hill (AR-02), Steve Womack (AR-03) and Bruce Westerman (AR-04)—also signed the letter.


Tags: Arkansas, Public Comment Period, Plains & Eastern Clean Line Transmission Project, U.S. Congress, Arkansas Delegation, Senate, press release To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Members of Arkansas Delegation Push for Level Playing Field for Arkansas Rice

WASHINGTON –U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) along with Congressmen Rick Crawford (AR-01) and Bruce Westerman (AR-04) joined colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to encourage Iraq to purchase more American produced rice.

The letter asks for diplomatic assistance to improve trade relations with the Iraqi Grain Board (IGB) because of the decreased purchases of American produced rice. In recent years, the IGB has bought rice from other nations over lower cost American rice. The letter asserts that the IGB has not indicated that American rice is deficient in quality, grade or price.

Arkansas leads the nation in rice production. Rice is the top agricultural export for the Natural State. Nationwide, rice production generates approximately $34 billion in economic activity annually, creating thousands of jobs in rural America.

“We recognize Iraq’s prerogative to make these types of decisions, but it serves no purpose to discriminate against competitively-priced U.S. rice in favor of rice produced elsewhere.  As an example, on November 6, 2014, the Iraqi Grain Board announced its intent to purchase 170,000 metric tons (mt) of rice. The IGB purchased 80,000 mt from Thailand, 60,000 from Uruguay, and 30,000 from Brazil. No rice was purchased from the United States, despite offers of U.S. rice that were of similar quality but nearly $24 per mt below the prices from competitors from Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Iraqi authorities have provided no explanation for this type of decision,” the letter states.


The IGB is expected to begin accepting bids on a new tender to buy 30,000 metric tons of rice soon.

The letter was also signed by Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), David Purdue (R-Ga.), David Vitter (R-La.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

Members of the House of Representatives signing the letter include Ralph Abraham (R-La.), Brian Babin (R-Texas), Charles Boustany (R-La.), Mike Conaway (R-Texas), Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), John Fleming (R-La.), Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.), Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), Ted Poe (R-Texas), Austin Scott (R-Ga.), Jason Smith (R-Mo.), Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), David Valadao (R-Calif.) and Randy Weber (R-Texas).

Tags: Arkansas, Arkansas Rice, Rice, U.S. Congress, Arkansas Delegation, Senate, press release To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

Friday, January 23, 2015

AG Opinion: Arkansas Legislature Controls Its Own Ethics Rulemaking

House Health Committee by Family Council: We have written before about Issue 3, which voters passed last November. Among other things, Issue 3 extended term limits for Arkansas’ legislators and put new ethics guidelines in the Arkansas Constitution.

One ballot proposal that did not garner very much attention, however, was Issue 1, which voters also passed last November.

Issue 1 made rules and regulations promulgated by state agencies subject to legislative review and approval.
On the surface, Issue 1 and Issue 3 seem to have very little to do with each other. One prescribes new ethics laws and extends term limits for legislators; the other increases accountability between the Arkansas Legislature and the state agencies operating under the Executive Branch of government.

Before leaving office this week, however, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued an opinion that connected Issue 1 and Issue 3: Together, Issue 1 and Issue 3 give the Arkansas Legislature a lot of authority over the ethics guidelines Issue 3 put in the Arkansas Constitution.

In a Nutshell
In a nutshell, here is what has happened:
  1. Besides extending term limits, Issue 3 outlined ethics guidelines for things like gifts to lawmakers from lobbyists.
  2. Issue 3 directed the Arkansas Ethics Commission to make rules implementing those ethics guidelines.
  3. Issue 1 gave the Arkansas Legislature authority over rules and regulations implemented by state agencies like the Arkansas Ethics Commission.
  4. This means the legislature controls the new ethics rules put out by the Arkansas Ethics Commission under Issue 3.
  5. Issue 3 also gives the Arkansas Legislature the power to change the ethics guidelines in the Arkansas Constitution with a 2/3 vote of the Arkansas House and Senate; no approval from voters is required.
In other words, Issue 3 directs the Arkansas Ethics Commission to implement new ethics guidelines, but Issue 1 gives the Arkansas Legislature authority over anything the Ethics Commission tries to implement.

Unpacking Issue 3
Issue 3 was a constitutional amendment passed by the People of Arkansas last fall. We have written before about how the measure extended term limits for lawmakers. It also affects things like gifts to lawmakers by registered lobbyists and meals purchased for state legislators.

It’s a constitutional amendment, so how could the Arkansas Legislature have any authority over Issue 3? After all, the Arkansas Constitution controls the legislature; the legislature does not control the constitution.

The key seems to lie with the following language that pops up throughout the amendment: “[T]he General Assembly shall provide by law for this section to be under the jurisdiction of the Arkansas Ethics Commission, including without limitation authorization of the following actions by the Arkansas Ethics Commission:

(A) Promulgating reasonable rules to implement and administer this section as necessary;…”
In other words, Issue 3 outlines new ethics regulations, but it’s up to the Arkansas Ethics Commission to establish practical rules and regulations implementing those ethics regulations.

That alone gives the legislature some authority over the ethics rules, but that’s not all.

Issue 3 Also Lets the Arkansas Legislature Amend the Constitution
Something the Attorney General’s office notes is that Issue 3 also gives the Arkansas Legislature the power to change the ethics guidelines in the Arkansas Constitution with a 2/3 vote. That’s huge, because up until this point all changes to the Arkansas Constitution had to be approved by voters.

In Arkansas, voters have almost always had the final say on what goes into the Arkansas Constitution. Issue 3 contained language that, according to Attorney General McDaniel, gives the Arkansas Legislature the power to change the ethics provisions in the Arkansas Constitution with a 2/3 vote.

Letting the Arkansas Legislature unilaterally amend portions of the Arkansas Constitution a significant change.

Unpacking Issue 1
So Issue 3 makes the Arkansas Ethics Commission responsible for implementing ethics rules, but Issue 1 gives the Arkansas Legislature authority over rules and regulations established by agencies and commissions like the Ethics Commission.
That means that the new ethics rules adopted by the Ethics Commission as part of Issue 3 are subject to legislative approval.

In his opinion on Issue 1 and Issue 3, Attorney General McDaniel writes,“[T]he people, whether wisely or not, have invested the General Assembly with significant potential control over the Ethics Commission’s rulemaking authority. Should it elect to exercise such control in this instance, the General Assembly of course will remain constrained by an obligation disinterestedly to promote implementation of the Amendment 94 [Issue 3] ethical strictures. As noted above, however, the General Assembly remains free to amend the substance of those strictures by supermajority vote.”
In other words, the people may have passed Issue 3 to put new ethics regulations in place, but the Arkansas Legislature has the final say on what those ethics regulations will look like.

So to Recap:
  1. Issue 3 outlined ethics guidelines for things like gifts to lawmakers from lobbyists.
  2. Issue 3 directed the Arkansas Ethics Commission to make rules implementing those ethics guidelines.
  3. Issue 1 gave the Arkansas Legislature authority over any rules established by the Arkansas Ethics Commission–meaning the legislators control how the ethics rules are implemented.
  4. And Issue 3 gives the Arkansas Legislature the power to change the ethics guidelines in the Arkansas Constitution with a 2/3 vote of the Arkansas House and Senate; no approval from voters is required.
The purpose of ethics laws like Issue 3 is to hold our lawmakers accountable. Giving lawmakers so much authority over the ethics laws would seem to undermine Issue 3’s intended purpose.

Read Attorney General McDaniel’s entire opinion on Issue 3 here.

Tags: Family Council, Arkansas, AG Opinion, Legislature, Ethics, Ethics Rulemaking To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.