Arkansas One Year Legislation Appropriation, Proposed Constitutional Amendment 2 (2008)

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Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 2 or the One Year Legislation Appropriation Amendment appeared as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment on the November 4, 2008 ballot in Arkansas, where it was approved.[1]

Amendment 2 provides that no legislative appropriation shall last longer than one year, and provides for the general assembly to meet in even-numbered years for 30-day budget sessions. Currently, the Arkansas Constitution provides for regular legislative sessions in odd-numbered years.

Election results

Arkansas One Year Legislation Appropriation
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 664,671 69.4%
No292,43630.6%

Specifics

The amendment restricts the budget sessions to one 15-day extension. The regular 60-day biennial sessions, which with extensions routinely run 90 days or more, could be extended by 15 days with a three-fourths majority vote in both chambers. Currently, they can be extended by a simple majority.

A Taxpayer's Perspective from the National Taxpayers Union

Constitutional Amendment No. 2 shifts Arkansas’ state budgeting from a two-year cycle to an “every year” cycle. Biennial budgeting can serve as a good check on overspending, as it allows time for appropriations in one year and oversight in the next.

Supporters

The measure was sponsored in the 2007 regular legislative session by Eric Harris (R-Springdale) and Sen. Bill Pritchard (R-Elkins).

"Even (budget forecasters) have to look back and revise their numbers. I don't know anyone in today's economy that can predict what will happen revenue-wise two years out," Harris said. "By reducing it to a one-year budget cycle, I think we will have shorter regular sessions," Harris added.

"I hope by the summer we have a committee formed and some funding for light advertising," Harris said.

Harris argued that this measure would provide a better check on the governor's power. "If the Legislature's not meeting in Little Rock, you believe you're safe," said Harris. "But nobody's checking on the executive branch.... There's not a lot of oversight."

"When we gavel out and leave town, our oversight for the most part ends," Harris said. "We can only do minor things. We can't retool an entire budget."

Harris told the Washington County Republican Women on July 23, 2008, that he believes it is important to be able to change the budget as the national economy changes. "I don’t know about you, but I don't balance my checkbook only every two years," Harris said.

The Arkansas Republican Party endorsed the measure at its state convention July 26, 2008.

Opponents

The Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation announced its opposition to the annual legislative sessions proposals on July 22, 2008. The group believes the current system, which allows the governor to call special sessions, is adequate, according to Stanley Reed, the group's president. Reed added that infrequent regular sessions are an important check and balance on government power.

Sen. Kim Hendren (R-Gravette) said he opposed the annual session proposal and said part-time lawmakers don't have time to spend making laws at the state Capitol.

"Legislators who really get after it down there can really suffer in the businesses," he said. "I believe in a part-time Legislature."

Hendren also said the decision by the governor and Department of Finance and Administration to scale back the 2008-2009 fiscal year's budget because of a slowing economy is exactly how the current system is supposed to work. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," he said.

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette opposed the measure in an editorial saying it would cost the taxpayers more, create professional politicians out of citizen-legislators, and not allow the legislators to spend as much time in their districts with their constituents.

Status

The measure was one of two constitutional amendments placed on the November 2008 ballot by the state legislature.

See also

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References