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FAYETTEVILLE -- An issue on the November ballot would give legislators the power to review and approve state regulations. That issue drew more questions and concern than the other four ballot issues combined at a forum Wednesday in Fayetteville.

"They could make decisions on how the state hospital treats patients?" asked Rita Officer of Goshen, one of about 50 people attending an information session sponsored by the Washington County League of Women Voters.

Kristin Higgins of Little Rock, staff chairwoman for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture's Public Policy Center, said the extent of legislative review would be a matter for the Legislature to decide if the amendment passes.

She said she could answer factual questions but further discussion of the merits or demerits of the issue would have to be addressed to supporters or opponents. The forum was held at the Fayetteville Public Library.

The state Legislature voted to place Issue 1 on the ballot. The proposed constitutional amendment would empower the "General Assembly to provide for legislative committee review and approval of state agencies' administrative rules," according to the ballot title. Details of how the Legislature would review regulations would be up to the Legislature. Under the current state constitution, the Legislature passes laws and controls budgets, but the detailed regulations implementing those laws are left up to the executive branch.

Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, sponsored the Senate joint resolution that placed Issue 1 on the ballot. He has said in previous interviews the purpose is to ensure state agencies don't implement rules in ways that conflict with legislative intent.

Gov. Mike Beebe opposes the measure, saying it conflicts with the principle of separation of powers and the Legislature already has checks and balances such as power over budgeting.

"Does this apply to state boards? Are they going to be licensing electrical inspectors?" asked another audience member. "What is the problem they're trying to fix?"

Other issues on the ballot for November include:

• A raise of the state's minimum wage

• A procedure making it more difficult to get an extension of time to collect more petition signatures for initiated acts and amendments

• A measure extending term limits of legislators

• One that would allow alcohol sales throughout the state. Currently, 37 of the state's 75 counties are "dry," allowing limited alcohol sales only.

All the ballot issues are simple and straightforward except for Issue 3, the term limits measure, said Joan Wimberly of Fayetteville. "Why does it have five things in there?" she asked.

The issue includes provisions for limits on gifts to legislators, creates a commission to set lawmakers' salaries, lengthens the time lawmakers have to wait after leaving office before accepting a lobbying job and restricts campaign contributions.

Higgins and Berni Kurz, Washington County Extension agent, said the Legislature is allowed to place many items in one ballot question as long as the items share a theme, but the issue is being challenged in court for being too complex.

NW News on 09/25/2014

Print Headline: Regulation Review Draws Crowd's Concern

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