From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
Three proposed constitutional amendments will be on the ballot in November when Arkansas voters go to the polls.
All three were referred by the legislature.
A fourth amendment, to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, is under litigation. It will appear on the ballot, but depending on a final ruling by the state Supreme Court, votes for it and against it may not be counted.
The first amendment proposed by the legislature, Issue One, would allow the legislature to call itself into special session.
Under the Constitution as it is now written, only the governor may call an extraordinary session.
If approved by voters, the amendment would create two methods for legislators to call themselves into special session.
The Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate could issue a joint proclamation. Or, a two-thirds majority of each chamber could sign a document calling for the special session.
Whether issued by legislative leadership or a two-thirds majority of each chamber, the proclamation would have to state the reason for the special session.
Once called, they would play out just like special sessions do now.
First, the legislature would have to consider items on the call. Then, if a sufficient majority is supportive, legislators could introduce additional bills on any topic.
Issue Two would make it more difficult for voters to approve ballot issues in the future.
Instead of a simple majority, it would require 60 percent approval by voters in order to take effect.
The 60 percent threshold would apply to measures proposed by citizens’ groups, as well as amendments referred by the legislature.
In other words, Issue Two would make it harder for citizens to change the law. Requiring a 60 percent majority is a historically high threshold.
Issue Three would prohibit state and local governments from burdening the practice of religion in Arkansas.
It’s important to remember that those prohibitions are already in our current Constitution.
What Issue Three would do is open the door for lawsuits by individuals who feel they cannot practice their religion because of some government regulation.
The Constitution already provides extensive protection of our rights to worship as we choose.
Your freedom to worship is protected already, whether you attend church on Sunday mornings, or whether you go to mass or the synagogue on Saturdays.
You don’t have to file a lawsuit to protect your religious freedom – you’re already free to worship during Bible study on Wednesday nights and during prayer breakfasts on weekday mornings.
I encourage everyone to study the proposed amendments and discuss them with friends and family.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.