LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An effort to impose the strictest term limits in the nation on Arkansas’ Legislature was challenged Wednesday by two industry groups that asked the state Supreme Court to disqualify the proposed limits from the November ballot.
Arkansans for Common Sense Term Limits, a campaign formed by the Arkansas Farm Bureau and the state Chamber of Commerce, filed the lawsuit with the state high court over the proposed constitutional amendment on term limits. The measure would limit Arkansas lawmakers to two four-year terms in the Senate and three two-year terms in the House, with a total cap of 10 years in office. Arkansas lawmakers are currently limited to a total of 16 years in the House, Senate or a combination of both.
The lawsuit claims the proposed ballot title doesn’t make clear to voters that it would also repeal the Legislature’s ability to put any future term limit changes on the ballot. It also claims some of the signatures submitted by supporters of the term limits should be invalidated.
“If this amendment passes, it would wipe out literally all of the institutional knowledge in our legislature,” Randy Zook, head of the state Chamber, said in a statement. “That means more and more influence will shift to legislative staff, career bureaucrats, and lobbyists.”
Arkansas is among 15 states that limit how long state legislators can serve in office. Oklahoma and California currently have the strictest term limits, restricting legislators to a total of 12 years in their legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Arkansas’ current term limits were approved by voters in 2014 through a measure the majority-Republican Legislature put on the ballot. Under those limits, some lawmakers can be in office longer than 16 years if they serve partial terms due to redistricting or a special election.
“We’re disappointed that they don’t think the voters deserve a chance to vote on term limits. … Their brand of corporate censorship will not succeed,” said Tim Jacob, a spokesman for Arkansas Term Limits, the group behind the measure.