10-year legislative term limit sought for Arkansas

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A ballot initiative filed with the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office seeks a constitutional amendment that would impose the strictest legislative term limits in the country.

The proposal would restrict lawmakers to a maximum of 10 years in the state Legislature.

The Arkansas Term Limits ballot committee filed the proposed amendment with the secretary of state on Thursday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. If approved for the ballot, voters would decide on the amendment in 2020.

Under the proposal, lawmakers could not be elected to more than three two-year terms in the House of Representatives, more than two four-year terms as a senator, or any term that if served would exceed 10 years in the General Assembly. A partial term served following a special election “shall not count toward the limit unless service in that term is longer than one year in duration. Only full years of a partial term shall be counted,” it states.

California and Oklahoma currently have the strictest legislative term limits, limiting their lawmakers to 12 years in office, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The state Supreme Court disqualified a similar proposal sponsored by the committee last October. The state’s high court determined that there weren’t enough valid signatures from registered voters on petitions.

The sponsor must collect signatures totaling 10 percent of the votes cast for governor in the last election for a proposed constitutional amendment to qualify for a vote. Chris Powell, a spokesman for Secretary of State John Thurston, said that means sponsors must collect 89,151 valid signatures.

The committee should be able to begin to collecting signatures of registered voters in the next month, committee chair Thomas Steele said.

A voter-approved measure in 2014 loosened Arkansas’ term limits and allowed lawmakers to serve 16 years in the House, Senate or a combination of both.

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