A coalition of corporate interests led by the head of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce filed a second lawsuit this week to protect their interests — this time against a proposal to shorten term limits extended in 2014 by a legislatively sponsored and misleading “ethics” amendment.

The group, Arkansans for Common Sense Term Limits, led by Randy Zook, filed the lawsuit directly with the Arkansas Supreme Court to have the proposal disqualified from the ballot.


The lawsuit contends the ballot title, Arkansas Term Limits Amendment, is misleading because it not only changes term limits to a shorter period but also changes the mechanism for changing term limits. It would prohibit legislatively-sponsored changes, leaving them only to popular initiatives.

Term limits are currently 16 years of legislative service, though two-year Senate terms drawn after redistricting don’t count. Sen. Cecile Bledsoe is running this year for a term that will take her service to 20 years. Depending on a draw for 2022, Sen. Jason Rapert, to name one, could serve 22 years.


The 2014 amendment was pitched as a “term limits” proposal, though it amounted to a significant expansion of the time a legislator could serve in a single chamber and thus accrue more power. Under the 1992 term limits amendment, legislators could serve six years in the House and eight years in the Senate, for a total of 14 years of service.

The proposal headed to the ballot would restore the old limits — six years in the House and eight in the Senate — but put a 10-year cap on service.


Legislators and lobbyists are howling. Lawmakers like their power. Corporate fat cats like their rented representatives. They provide most of the campaign money that elects members. They are howling about how Arkansas would be devastated by loss of institutional expertise. It was just such expertise that produced the cesspool of corruption and multiple federal convictions over abuse of the legislative process, with more to come.

As corrupt as the General Assembly is; as beholden to the corporate interests as it is, I’m offa mind to reverse my past opposition to term limits measures and vote to throw the bums out. The Walton money that controls so much of the legislative agenda already holds that five years is about enough for a school teacher before they’re ready for the scrap heap. If there’s a flaw in this term limits proposal, it may be too long.

The lawsuit says the proposal is flawed, among others, because it lacks an effective date. This prevents voters from knowing how votes in the November election could affect service. The amendment says service counts beginning in 1993, but it also says no term to which someone is elected may be cut short by the amendment. That looks pretty easy to resolve to me — legislators will get this election result regardless if it puts them over the limit with service back to 1993. Better that in a court ruling after the election than depriving the desire of 135,000 Arkansas petition signers that this should reach the ballot.

The lawsuit also raises technical challenges on signatures gathered by paid canvassers. The corporate lobby took care to impose hurdles on paid canvassing with background check, residency and other requirements so that just these sorts of challenges could be raised to popular initiatives. The corporate lobby prefers to control the ballot through the legislature. Regnat populus? No way.


The same corporate players have already sued to block a proposal to raise the minimum wage with a challenge of technical signing rules.

In addition to fighting a living wage and a revolt against a corrupt legislature, the corporate lobby is also spending millions to approve Issue One to limit access to courthouses for injured people and to give the corrupt legislature power over court rules.

Don’t forget that their allies in this at local chambers of commerce. Recently convicted felon Jon Woods, in addition to cooking up the bogus term limits and ethics amendment that extended terms, raised legislative pay and provided ethics loopholes, also manufactured for his friends in the chambers a measure to allow tax money to go to private chambers of commerce. This overcome a lawsuit that successfully struck down the unconstitutional spending.

Thus, in Little Rock, people are paying tax money on Big Macs to help pay the salaries of people at the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce who are working to hold down their wages, keep their lawsuits for medical malpractice and nursing home negligence out of court and to protect long terms for legislators who support government-by-corporation.

Here’s the lawsuit.