As promised, I have begun tackling the new Arkansas General Assembly bills as they are being filed. In a slight deviation, I have found myself with a new partner-in-parsing, a companion-in-clarification, a…okay, so I found Luke. Given the inordinate amount of time we spend together and our background in picking at proposed bills, we decided to partner up to read, summarize, and provide some feedback on state legislation.
First up this week are the proposed Arkansas Senate bills filed thus far. The header for each bill is hyperlinked to the draft bill to save some time for anyone who doesn’t take joy in figuring out the Arkansas State Assembly website.
And without further ado, here are our weekly contenders:
SB 2 is from a group of legislators you will get to know well throughout this series. We have deemed them our “PAC group”- the legislation they propose largely deals with campaign financing, lobbyists, and election transparency. For SB 2, PAC group penned it with an aim to limit when candidates can accept campaign contributions. The bill proposes prohibiting candidates from taking campaign contributions more than two years before an election or before the expiration of the immediately preceding general election. However, SB 2 does not prohibit the solicitation of acceptance of contributions to resolve previous campaign debt.
B: Makes sense, especially given a large portion of terms of office in the state are two years.
L: While it makes sense to me, I wonder about the constitutionality given the Citizen’s United ruling. Someone more versed in campaign finance law might be better able to parse out exactly how this works, but for the time being I’m content to say that I like it.
SB 3 prohibits elected public officials from registering as lobbyists.
L: Yeah, I can’t exactly figure why an elected official would need to be registered as a lobbyist, other than for nefarious reasons. Why isn’t this already law again?
B: SB 3 is a one-page, one section, to-the-point bill that makes a lot of sense and you are DYING to know who and why someone would oppose it.
Short and to the point, SB 4 would amend Arkansas Code Title 7, Chapter 6, Sub Chapter 2. If SB 4 passes, campaign finance reports would be available on the Arkansas Secretary of State’s website within 24 hours of filing. This amendment would not apply to school district, township, municipal, or county offices.
B: This is one of those bills that we love- transparency with no need for additional funding.
SPOILER: You will be seeing this bill again in the House.
L: YES. Transparency good, not transparency bad. It was my understanding that the courts generally leaned away from favoring diclosure in terms of political donations, but I may be remembering incorrectly. Either way, this is a battle worth fighting for.
SB 5 also takes on PACs (can you tell it is post-election year?). This bill would prevent an Arkansas Constitutional office holder from forming more than one approved political action committee. A holder of a constitutional office is defined as: Governor; Lieutenant Governor; Secretary of State; Treasurer of State; Auditor of State; Attorney General; Commissioner of State Lands; Member of the General Assembly; Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; Justice of the Supreme Court; Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals; Judge of the Court of Appeals; Circuit court judge; District court judge; Prosecuting attorney; and Member of the independent citizens commission for the purpose of setting salaries of elected constitutional officers of the executive department, members of the General Assembly, justices, and judges under Arkansas Constitution, Article 19, § 31. If someone qualifies as one of the aforementioned positions, they can either dissolve the PAC or resign from the PAC.
L: I feel less inclined to like this bill than Brittany does. While I support limitations on collusion between PACs and Constitutional Office holders, and any are better than none, this bill lends an air of permissiveness toward Constitutional Office holders who are directly connected to PACs as resident agents or office holders. Additionally, the convenient exception for a single additional PAC formed by a “legislative caucus committee” gives me the heebee jeebees. But I could be overly paranoid on the subject.
B: These are essentially the same authors of SB 4 and, much like my Student Congress environmental degradation bills, they have latched on to a pet project. While I don’t object limiting the number of PACs a representative can lead, I am curious if the authors have numbers or data on how many members of the assembly or the other offices have multiple PACS to their name. But for now, as with the House bills, I give them a “Yea”.
SB 6 addresses Peterson v. Judges of Jefferson County Circuit Court and Pierson v. Ray. SB 6 seeks to create an exception to a grant of judicial immunity by allowing individuals to file a claim in circuit court against a judge who delivered a verdict swayed by bribery. As this is a new exception, the entirety of the bill is new language that is not found in state code. It outlines a statute of limitations of 3 years and the remedies that the claimant is entitled to should the claim be verified.
B: After I got to the end of the bill, I found I had a lot of questions for the author that were not going to be satisfied at the moment. In terms of filing a claim, would similar procedures be following in any judiciary investigation? Are there instances of other states adopting similar legislation and, if so, did the state find the adoption of this legislation to be well utilized? Or is this just one of those bills that, despite having a good intention, get written for the sake of being written and would fade into obscurity after a single round of debate? But overall, kudos for a bill that has to include the definition of “bribery” and “person”.
L: I don’t have many thoughts on this one beyond what Brittany has written. Frankly the bill seems a bit thin for tackling something as potentially dangerous as judicial immunity. My only other complaint is that a statute of limitations of three years is miniscule compared to the damage a poor judicial ruling could have on someone’s life.
Essentially a bill of clarification, SB 7 outlines a nuanced definition of “gifts” that constitutional officials are barred from accepting – in this case, no loans either.
L: Politics makes everything strange. This does seem a little goofy given that a small loan from Asa Hutchinson III (yes that is his son’s actual name) to his father would technically be prohibited under this law. Even still, I’m inclined to see this bill as a valuable addition to anti-corruption legislation.
B: I had to watch a 3-hour video when I interned in D.C. on what senators and staff were permitted and not permitted to take. Just round up the Assembly and Co. and have a movie night that ends with a roll call vote to adopt this bill.
And there you have it, your first round of what to expect in the Arkansas Senate this legislative session!
Please, feel free to share, comment, or contact us to discuss anything you would like nuanced or with any question you might have regarding how to find out more information on the Arkansas General Assembly. We will have a rousing round of House Bills published in a couple of days. But until then: stay motivated and stay informed!
-Brit and Luke