After taking flack over voting for a measure that sends to voters an initiative that, among other things, would alter current term limits for legislators State Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, last week explained his vote and said he is pushing for a change in the Senate.
Stubblefield, who represents District 6, which includes Logan County, also raised issues with the group pushing for the initiative’s removal. Rep. Jon Eubanks, R-Paris, did not vote on the measure.
Last week as U.S. Term Limits continued to call upon legislators to recall the measure set to go before voters next November.
As he has stated since the national term limits group began applying pressure, Stubblefield said he does not remember voting on the bill at all.
“In the House they have a big (electronic) board that tells you how everybody voted, Yea, Nay or not voting,” said Stubblefield. “In the Senate they do it by a roll call vote. If you’re outside talking to a lobbyist they can roll that thing so fast.
“I’ve talked to (Sen.) David Sanders and he said he was in Maumelle that day. I’m not sure I was in the room when that vote was taken.”
Like Stubblefield, Sanders, R-Little Rock, has also been targeted by the organization as being a “pledge breaker” for stating they would oppose altering the term limit statute in place, then voting for HJR1009.
HJR1009 alters term limits in that it allows law makers to spend 16 years in the legislature, regardless the chamber. Currently, individuals can serve three two-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate.
However, Senators can gain an additional two years, for a total of 16, with split sessions created by the redrawing of district boundaries based on Census data. Stubblefield is one such legislator who will be eligible to 16 years of service.
“All this does is give legislators the flexibility to serve in either house,” said Stubblefield. “I have always been for term limits but once I got down there (I found) the first year you’re learning. The second (term) you might get some seniority or a co-chair. A lot of times it’s easier to persuade a freshman than someone who has been there two, three or four (sessions).
“Still if it makes it to the ballot I will vote against it.”
Because of the uncertainty of his vote, Stubblefield said he has asked if an electronic board similar to the one in the House can be installed in the Senate.
“They are going to install one,” Stubblefield said. “They said they just haven’t had anyone ask before. I want people to know how I vote.”
That doesn’t mean a vote might not go awry, however.
“When you vote on 2,200 pieces of legislation, what are the odds of making a mistake,” Stubblefield asks. “The odds are there.”
Stubblefield said the measure could be brought back during the fiscal session in January but he seemed less than assured it would make much of a difference.
“That passed by a pretty wide margin,” Stubblefield noted.
A two-thirds vote by both chambers would be necessary to bring up a non-appropriation bill during the fiscal session.
Also, Stubblefield says, the amendment is about much more than term limits, as U.S. Term Limits likely knows.
HJR 1009 would do a variety of other things, including banning legislators and constitutional officers from accepting gifts from lobbyists; banning corporate contributions to political candidates; establishing a commission to set salaries for legislators, constitutional officers and judges; and extending the cooling-off period between a legislator leaving office and becoming a lobbyist from one year to two.
“This group is a lobbyist group,” Stubblefield says of U.S. Term Limits. “They are lobbying for the lobbyists.”
Sen. Jon Woods, R-Springdale, the measure’s Senate sponsor, said the legislative terms provision was an effort to counter the influence of lobbyists and bureaucrats by making it possible for legislators to gain more experience and knowledge in one chamber or the other — not to throw out term limits.
In 1992 U.S. Term Limits backed Amendment 73, establishing the current term limit system.
The Arkansas News Bureau contributed information used in this report.