The legislature's hostile takeover of the Arkansas Constitution | Arkansas Blog

The legislature's hostile takeover of the Arkansas Constitution

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The Arkansas legislature is remaking the Arkansas Constitution into something it can love.

Yesterday, it again passed and sent to the governor a Voter ID law very similar to one struck down previously by the Arkansas Supreme Court. It has some cosmetic changes, but it amounts to the same unconstitutional new requirement for voting as before. The difference is a big change in Supreme Court membership since that ruling. The legislature — with good recent experience to go by — believes the Supreme Court will be more accommodating to legislative preferences in the future.

That may be so. And a constitutional amendment to make Voter ID the foundation law of Arkansas also will be on the ballot in 2018. Count on this all the same: A lawsuit challenging the Voter ID bill will be filed. With luck, it might at least delay the vote suppression tactic beyond the 2018 election. I'd guess this Supreme Court will move with great alacrity on Voter ID challenge, with the speed coming in part from justices who dragged out the same-sex marriage case until it was moot.

On a larger matter, a House committee gave approval Monday to a proposed constitutional amendment from the workshop of House Speaker Jeremy Gillam. It spells nothing less than the effective end of initiated constitutional amendments from the people. Gillan's gloss is that the measure also makes it harder (an inconsequential bit) for the legislature to propose and pass amendments, with a two-thirds vote of the chambers for referral and a 60 percent vote of the people. But that's nothing like the problems an initiated amendment will face (and separate pending legislation would put punishing costs on popular amendments as well.)

The legislature likes things where they've got them. They've passed an ethics amendment that lengthened terms, raised pay and presented no bar at all to lobbyist wining and dining, plus includes a Mulligan rule on ethics violations (no foul for corrections when caught). They have taken almost supreme control of government, with an amendment giving them override of executive authority and a coming "tort reform" amendment that will both stop injured people from going to court and transfer the Supreme Court's rule-making authority to, who else?, the legislature.

If course the legislature wants to make it harder to amend the Constitution. They like it now just where they have it.


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