Latest ethics proposal rejected by AG


LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on Monday rejected the name and ballot title of a proposed constitutional amendment to impose new ethics reforms on state legislators.

The proposal by Tim Jacob of Little Rock, who spearheaded a successful drive for term limits in 1992, would shorten term limits to 10 years, ban gifts from lobbyists to elected state officials, require ex-legislators to wait at least four years after leaving office before becoming lobbyists, end pension benefits for legislators and require any legislative pay increases to be put to a vote of the people.

In his opinion Monday rejecting the name and ballot title, McDaniel said there were ambiguities in the text and and that Jacob had failed to summarize how the measure would change current law.

McDaniel also said that no state currently has a “cooling-off” period for ex-legislators wanting to become lobbyists that is longer than two years. Arkansas currently has a one-year cooling-off period.

“I feel obliged to apprise you of the possibility that the four-year ban under your proposed amendment might be struck by a court as an unconstitutional restriction on free speech,” McDaniel said in the opinion.

Jacob said Monday, “I’m sure it’s not going to stand the way it is. We’ll make some adjustments and then come back with something.”

The Legislature has referred to the November 2014 general election ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban corporate and union gifts to political campaigns, ban most gifts to public officials, allow legislators to serve up to 16 years, increase the cooling-off period to two years and create a citizens’ commission to set the salaries of legislators, constitutional officers and judges.

McDaniel has certified another ethics proposal submitted by the citizens’ group Regnat Populus, but the group has decided to support the legislatively referred proposal instead of collecting signatures for its own measure.

Jacob said he filed his own ethics proposal because he “thought that this might be a better one.” He declined to say specifically what objections he had to the Legislature’s proposal, saying he had not read it in its final version.