AG Opinion: Arkansas Legislature Controls Its Own Ethics Rulemaking

House Health CommitteeWe have written before about Issue 3, which voters passed last November. Among other things, Issue 3 extended term limits for Arkansas’ legislators and put new ethics guidelines in the Arkansas Constitution.

One ballot proposal that did not garner very much attention, however, was Issue 1, which voters also passed last November.

Issue 1 made rules and regulations promulgated by state agencies subject to legislative review and approval.

On the surface, Issue 1 and Issue 3 seem to have very little to do with each other. One prescribes new ethics laws and extends term limits for legislators; the other increases accountability between the Arkansas Legislature and the state agencies operating under the Executive Branch of government.

Before leaving office this week, however, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued an opinion that connected Issue 1 and Issue 3: Together, Issue 1 and Issue 3 give the Arkansas Legislature a lot of authority over the ethics guidelines Issue 3 put in the Arkansas Constitution.

In a Nutshell

In a nutshell, here is what has happened:

  1. Besides extending term limits, Issue 3 outlined ethics guidelines for things like gifts to lawmakers from lobbyists.
  2. Issue 3 directed the Arkansas Ethics Commission to make rules implementing those ethics guidelines.
  3. Issue 1 gave the Arkansas Legislature authority over rules and regulations implemented by state agencies like the Arkansas Ethics Commission.
  4. This means the legislature controls the new ethics rules put out by the Arkansas Ethics Commission under Issue 3.
  5. Issue 3 also gives the Arkansas Legislature the power to change the ethics guidelines in the Arkansas Constitution with a 2/3 vote of the Arkansas House and Senate; no approval from voters is required.

In other words, Issue 3 directs the Arkansas Ethics Commission to implement new ethics guidelines, but Issue 1 gives the Arkansas Legislature authority over anything the Ethics Commission tries to implement.