Election News

Issue 2: Arkansas Term Limits

As Arkansas voters prepare to cast their ballots this election, they will be asked to vote on term limits for their state legislators.

Issue 2, Changing General Assembly Term Limits and Allowing Re-Election upon a Break in Service, has the popular name of the “Arkansas Term Limits Amendment.” This amendment would “remove life-time term limits for state legislators” and “prohibit future legislators from serving more than 12 years in a row. Legislators who serve the full 12 years consecutively would be allowed to hold office again once four years have passed since their last term expired,” according to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension office.

While Issue 2 does not seem to have a major impact on students—many of whom are first-time voters—Kristin Higgins, program associate at the Public Policy Center of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension office, stressed the amendment’s implications.

“Constitutional amendments affect every Arkansan in the policy they set. Amendments cannot be undone without another vote of the people … this policy impacts the people you elect to represent you at the state Capitol,” Higgins said. “You are shaping the future policy decisions with your vote and that in turn will affect the people governed by the laws of Arkansas.”

This amendment got on the ballot via a vote from the Arkansas Senate and House of Representatives, and the main sponsors were Sen. Alan Clark of Lonsdale and Rep. Jim Dotson of Bentonville, according to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension office.

Higgins explained the current life-time term limits for legislators. “When I talk about ‘life-time term limits,’ what that refers to is in Arkansas, legislators can only serve 16 years in the legislature over their lifetime. There are some exceptions to that 16-year rule, such as being appointed to fill out an empty office or the two-year term after a Census that will put someone over 16 years,” Higgins said. “Once lawmakers reach that 16 years, they can no longer run for re-election—ever. So that’s why it’s called a life-time limit. Arkansas is one of several states with life-time limits for state legislators.”

The proposed amendment would allow “a lawmaker … [to] serve a specific number of years before a sit-out period is required. There is no life-time maximum number of years they can serve if re-elected,” Higgins said.

Sen. Clark, who proposed the amendment, said in an interview with the Texarkana Gazette that he wanted to give new legislators “time to get on your feet. I think it takes you four years if you are good to get on your feet and get going. I think it takes some longer,” he said. “Of course, that’s 12 years if you are reelected.”

Reasoning for the change in forgoing lifetime term limits, Clark said, “I insisted on it, so people can send back the person they want if they really want them.”

However, some voters and activist groups view Issue 2 as a Trojan Horse. David Lindsay, from the U.S. Term Limits Group, placed a large, wooden Trojan Horse outside the Craighead County Courthouse on Oct. 24 to encourage voters to vote against Issue 2.

“Right now, they’re in there for 16 years  … If this passes, they’ll be able to do 10 years on, take two years off. Or they can do 12 and take off four. So, they can do 10 years, take off two, and come back for 12, and that’s 22 years for even the lower house,” Lindsay said in an interview with KATV ABC 7.

Regardless of how someone votes, Higgins encourages them to consider the future impact of their decision. “The impact of a constitutional amendment doesn’t end the day after election day,” Higgins said. “Look at a newspaper over a one-month period, and you will find several news articles that can be traced back to constitutional amendments, state laws or referendums people voted on in the past.”

For more information on Issue 2, including the complete text of the proposal, visit:

www.uaex.edu/business-communities/voter-education/issue2.aspx