Constitutional amendments will be discussed by the legislature’s state agencies committees today and competing proposals for changes to law governing damage lawsuits (“tort reform”) are at the top of the agenda.
* ETHICS: A constitutional amendment that combines ethics reform (ban on lobbyist gifts, two-year cooling off period for becoming a lobbyist, ban on corporate contributions) with measures that would allow increased pay for legislators and an extension of term limits to 16 years of service, was recommended by the committee for a popular vote.
* TORTS: I’m told no Senate amendment proposals were heard today, so no decision yet on which, if either proposal, on tort reform will make the ballot.
Awaiting word on what other two amendments will be favored.
From earlier today:
The Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association has thrown support of plaintiffs’ lawyers behind an amendment with new restrictions on damage lawsuits to stave off a far more restrictive proposal in SJR 5 by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and allied business interests.
Today, Matthew Hass, the executive director of the Trial Lawyers group, sent a letter to lawmakers that noted a powerful Arkansas corporate citizen, Riceland Foods OPPOSED a cap on punitive damages, part of the “reform” measures favored by many businesses. Riceland won a huge damage award against Bayer Cropscience in a class action suit over genetically engineered rice. The rice tainted Arkansas crops and made it impossible to sell in foreign markets. Wrote Hass:
Some proponents of SJR 5 cite this case as being bad for Arkansans businesses, yet it was Arkansas businesses and farmers who triumphed over a foreign company. How is protecting Arkansas businesses over German ones bad for business?
Full letter on the jump.
A heavy agenda is under consideration at the Capitol on other fronts. And tomorrow. Among the developments:
* GROCERY TAX CUT: A proposal to take the remaining tiny sales tax off groceries, if revenues can support it, came out of House committee today.
* RAW MILK: The bill to allow farm sales of unpasteurized milk (cheese makers everywhere cheer) also cleared a House committee.
* DREAMS DASHED: Odds look long for Sen. Joyce Elliott’s bill to allow children of undocumented immigrants to have in-state tution at Arkansas colleges along with other Arkansas high school graduates. Immigrant animosity is simply too great among Arkansas Republicans.
* PUNISHING PLANNED PARENTHOOD: David Goins of Fox 16 reports on Twitter that the Senate fell one vote short of passing the bill to deny state funding to Planned Parenthood for HIV and sexual transmitted disease education. It got the minimum 18 votes, but one vote was missing when the ballot sounded. It can be reconsidered.