by Max Brantley
No surprise. The Arkansas Supreme Court today upheld the amendment-packing maneuver that rolled three disparate constitutional amendments into one for the 2010 ballot, where voters approved them. The measures lifted the interest limit on consumer lending; changed a bond interest limit and allowed borrowing for energy efficiency projects. A taxpayers' lawsuit challenged the combo amendment as impermissible under previous court rulings that limit different subjects in popularly referred ballot measures.
The court said it would allow different proposals by the legislature as long as they were "reasonably germane" to each other and the general purpose of the amendment. The court found that all elements related to economic development and debt.
Here's the opinion. It also commented that it wasn't a "manifest fraud" for the ballot title to say the amendment merely "established" an interest limit when the actual purpose was to raise that limit. The title is just for identification, not to explain every facet of an amendment, the court said. There was no "open and obvious fraud." (Just some subtle, chamber of commerce-perfected messaging chicanery intended to mislead the voter if at all possible.)
Good ol' straight-talking Justice Donald Corbin dissented. He wrote:
I think it is crystal clear that the legislature engaged in the prohibited practice of logrolling when it included section 3, which increases the maximum rate of interest that may be charged on loans and contracts, in what has now been codified as amendment 89 to the Arkansas Constitution. In so doing, the legislature violated the requirement of article 19, section 22, that it not submit more than three amendments at the same time, as well as the requirement that amendments “be so submitted as to enable the electors to vote on each amendment separately.
ALSO AT THE COURT TODAY:
* STAYS OF EXECUTION: The court stayed three scheduled executions and asked for status reports on the cases of Jason Farrell McGehee, Bruce Ward and Marcel Wayne Williams.