On Election Day 2014, most voters simply didn't know the so-called Ethics Amendment would nearly triple the time these guys could stay in office, and the ballot title intentionally did not tell them. Call it being tricked, or deceived, or whatever you like. It was simply dishonest. A manifest fraud perpertrated on the voters by the politicians in the Arkansas Legislature so they could prolong their political careers.
Regardless of how one feels about term limits, whether they should be longer or shorter, or none at all, no one can sanction the dishonest method employed by the politicians. Voters deserve an honest ballot title. They didn't get one with the Ethics bill in 2014.
In "Ways to serve", a May 10, 2018 Arkansas Times column by Jay Barth, Barth has this to say about Jon Woods, the now convicted former Arkansas Senator who crafted the deceptive 2014 ballot title for the Legislature:
"My own interactions with Woods were fairly fleeting. The one I remember best centered on him bragging about his skill in drafting title for legislatively referred ballot measures that would resonate with the state's voters. Woods' particular pride and joy was the 2014 constitutional amendment that hid state officials' pay raises and term limits extensions within what was termed an "ethics" measure. As a political scientist who researches direct democracy, I was fascinated by the power of language on a ballot to determine major issues of public policy. But, I also found myself unsettled by the sense that the unprincipled Woods saw the people of the state as his playthings."
Apparently, 128 Legislators weren't bothered. Only seven (7) voted against referring it to the voters!
Here is the actual ballot title voters saw when they went into the voting booth in the fall of 2014. In the ballot title, the Legislators told voters the amendment would prohibit contributions by corporations, but expressly allows them through PACs. There is not a word about the politicians extending the time they can stay in the same office by nearly triple."
To amend the Arkansas Constitution concerning elected state officials; prohibiting members of the General Assembly and elected constitutional officers of the executive department from accepting gifts from lobbyists, and defining key terms relating to that prohibition; prohibiting members of the General Assembly from setting their own salaries and the salaries of elected constitutional officers of the executive department, justices, and judges; establishing a seven-member independent citizens commission to set salaries for members of the general assembly, elected constitutional officers of the executive department, justices, and judges; establishing the appointment process for members of the independent citizens commission, and prohibiting members of the independent citizens commission from accepting gifts from lobbyists; prohibiting certain contributions, including contributions by corporations, to candidates for public office; prohibiting a member of the General Assembly from registering as a lobbyist until two (2) years after the expiration of his or her term; and establishing term limits for members of the General Assembly.
When the Legislature refers an amendment to the voters, they craft a ballot title that is supposed to accurately reflect what's in the amendment. In effect, they're saying "here is what our amendment does."
Before 2014, we didn't have to rely on the honesty of the politicians in the Legislature because the Arkansas Attorney General reviewed the ballot titles to insure that they did indeed accurately reflect the content of the amendment.
From the Arkansas Attorney General, Leslie Rutledge: The ballot title must include an impartial summary of the proposed amendment or act that will give the voter a fair understanding of the issues presented. According to the Court, if information omitted from the ballot title is an "essential fact which would give the voter serious ground for reflection, it must be disclosed." .... The ballot title is not required to be perfect, nor is it reasonable to expect the title to cover or anticipate every possible legal argument the proposed measure might evoke. The title, however, must be "free of any misleading tendency whether by amplification, omission, or fallacy, and it must not be tinged with partisan coloring." The ballot title must be honest and impartial, and it must convey an intelligible idea of the scope and significance of a proposed change in the law.
About a year before the Legislature referred Issue 3 to the voters, they changed the law such that the Arkansas Attorney General no longer reviewed ballot titles for amendments referred by the Legislature.
Full of well publicized loopholes. Still getting lots of free lunches!
Be sure to beat up on the hated lobbyist some.
The Legislature was already prohibited from setting its own salary by virtue of the fact that their salary was set by the constitution, but hey, it looks good here and voters like it.
Guess who got to appoint the members of the commission? Yep! The very people about to get some BIG raises.
Protect us from those evil lobbyist again. The voters like that! Lobbyist don't care about these folk's salary, they want to influence legislation.
Sounds pretty good doesn't it? No more corporate money to candiates! Did you really think the politicians were going to kill that cash cow? Only "direct" corporate contributions are prohibited. Bring on the corporate PAC Money! See "Working 4 You: PACs Continue Funneling Corporate Contributions to Candidates" for a great article at KARK.com. Each easy-to-create PAC can give up to $2,700 to a candidate, and businesses can create all of the PACs they want.
No problem, just call yourself a "Consultant" and go to work right away.
Establishing term limits? Of course, we already had term limits. This language was deliberately crafted to mislead the uninformed.