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The Arkansas Bar Association's proposed constitutional amendment would:

• Prohibit so-called tort reform, or any law that "abridges, limits or impairs a jury's right to determine damages in a civil action."

Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce President Randy Zook issued a letter June 6 asking chamber members to lobby attorneys against the Bar Association amendment. Zook's group says the state needs caps on damages awards in lawsuits to compete with other states for economic development and jobs.

Scott Trotter of Little Rock, the lawyer who drafted the Bar Association's proposal, says the state's economy seems to be growing without tort reform. He points to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's reports of 70,200 new jobs since 2014 and a 3.8 percent unemployment rate that betters the national average.

• Regulate "dark-money" campaign spending by requiring any person or group buying campaign ads to disclose the expenditures and contributors' names.

Now, certain nonprofit organizations can buy ads that attack or support a candidate without disclosing contributors. Those ads figured into three Supreme Court races in recent years, helping defeat justice candidates Tim Cullen of Little Rock in 2014 and Clark Mason in 2016, and Justice Courtney Goodson as she ran for the post of chief justice in 2016.

• Prohibit an individual legislator or group of legislators from picking recipients of grants or other state funds for pet projects.

That spending was part of two federal indictments earlier this year. Former Sen. Jon Woods, R-Springdale, and former Rep. Micah Neal, R-Springdale, were indicted in connection with alleged kickback schemes involving their approval of state General Improvement Fund money to the private Ecclesia College and to two health providers identified as Decision Point and Ameriworks. Neal has pleaded guilty. Woods has pleaded innocent.

• End a requirement for legislative committees to approve state agencies' administrative rules. And require the General Assembly to muster a two-thirds majority to override the governor's veto, instead of the simple majority needed now.

• Retain the state Supreme Court's power to set rules of court practice and procedure.

A Section on 06/16/2017

Print Headline: Proposed amendment

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