From the Arkansas Statehouse...

Constitutional amendments galore.

In Constitutional amendments on 25 March 2009 at 2:34 pm

The House State Agencies Committee voted this morning to approve three constitutional amendment proposals, all of which deal with state finance. The proposals now go to a joint committee that will choose from among nine different possibilities, six of which were submitted by a Senate committee last week. The joint committee can choose at most three amendments to present to voters  in 2010.

Unsurprising was this morning’s approval of two amendments: one that would make it easier for the state to issue bonds to fund economic development, and another that would remove constitutionally required interest-rate caps on government bonds. Approval of a third amendment that would remove both the interest-rate caps and restrictions on consumer lending was somewhat less expected. Advocates for the interest-rate-only amendment had argued that consumer provisions would limit the potential for passage. Supporters of the more comprehensive amendment responded that small businesses such as furniture dealers must be allowed to charge higher rates to consumers for financing if they’re to survive.

Several strong proposals fell by the wayside this morning. Rep. Richard Carroll failed to convince members to remove constitutional language barring atheists from serving as witnesses and public officials. The committee also defeated, by an 8-11 vote, Rep. Robbie Wills’s amendment to allow the state to invest in private technology enterprises.

A joint committee could consider the three amendments as early as next week. Also on the table will be Senate amendments to extend the terms of certain local officials; to establish a constitutional right to hunt and fish; to makes the office of sheriff non-partisan; to authorize energy efficiency bonds; to repeal recently approved fiscal sessions; and to subject the Game and Fish Commission to the appropriation process.

Amendment proposals can be approved by the proper committee until the joint amendment committee meets. Sen. Bill Pritchard is expected to resubmit for consideration a previously failed amendment to allow legislators to serve for 14 years in either the House or the Senate.

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