Sunday, June 26, 2016

Resigning From The Arkansas Legislature To Take A State Job – Your opinion?

by Conduit for Action: We pose a question for you to ponder. Should a member of the Arkansas General Assembly be able to resign his or her office to take a lucrative state job? Or, is the public sufficiently protected by the legislator resigning as a condition for taking the job?

In general, state law requires a legislator to resign from office before taking a state job. (See Ark. Code § 21-1-402) Resignations in order to take state jobs are becoming common place. In less than two years, three legislators have resigned to take state jobs.

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Key resigning from state Senate for UA job
– Arkansas Democrat Gazette July 30, 2014

The article tells of Senator Johnny Key (R) resigning to take a job with the University of Arkansas. This occurred during the tenure of Governor Mike Beebe (D). Key later became the Commissioner of Education under Governor Asa Hutchinson (R).

Lamoureux quits Senate to work with Hutchinson
– Arkansas Democrat Gazette Nov 11, 2014

The article tells of Senator Michael Lamoureux (R) resigning from the Senate to be the Chief of Staff for Governor Asa Hutchinson (R). Lamoureux later resigned state employment to lobby on the federal level.

Lawmaker quitting to be DHS’ 1st legislative chief
– Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 7, 2016

The most recent article informs us that Representative Kelley Linck (R) resigned to become the Department of Human Services’ first chief of legislative and governmental affairs.

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The resignation of a Senator or Representative is not without consequences.
If a special election is called to fill the vacancy, taxpayers get to pay the bill. During the vacancy the people of the district are not represented.

When Michael Lamoureux resigned to become Governor Asa Hutchinson’s chief of staff the people of Senate District 16 had no Senator for almost the entire 2015 legislative session.

With the vacancy created by the resignation of Kelley Linck there is a possibility that the people of House District 99 will not be represented should the Governor call another special session. The Governor has already called three special sessions in less than eighteen months. Even if no special sessions are called, every week several legislative committees meet and the people of the district will not have a voice in committee actions.

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Banning legislators from taking state jobs during the term for which the legislator was elected is not without some precedent.

Arkansas Constitution Art. 5, § 10 says: “No Senator or Representative shall, during the term for which he shall have been elected, be appointed or elected to any civil office under this State.”

What is a civil office? It is complicated and the case law is not clear. The ban includes changing elective offices under the state mid-term and includes a very narrow category of state jobs. Nearly all state jobs are considered to be a “mere employment” instead of a “civil office.” A civil office is one created by law, with the tenure, compensation, and duties of the position also usually fixed by law, and although the case law and opinions are unclear, typically a civil office includes factors such as taking of an oath of office, the receipt of a formal commission, and the giving of a bond. There have been a number of Attorney General Opinions on the subject and here is one example: http://ag.arkansas.gov/opinions/docs/2007-045.html .

The three recent resignations were all to accept a “mere employment” and the jobs are not considered to be a “civil office.”

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What is your opinion? Should the law be changed to prevent legislators from resigning and then taking lucrative state jobs? Or, would the state be hurt if state agencies and offices were not able to hire legislators who are willing to resign to take a state job?

Tags: Conduit for Action, Resigning, Arkansas Legislature, State Job, Your opinion, Johnny Key, Michael Lamoureux, Kelley Linck To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

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