Ballot Issue Groups Forming Around SJR8
The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce announced this week the formation of a group advocating the passage of a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot.
Arkansans for Jobs and Justice filed the paperwork necessary Monday to campaign in favor of SJR8, a proposed constitutional amendment from the legislature "concerning civil lawsuits and the powers of the General Assembly and Supreme Court to adopt court rules."
The ballot issue group is the first to file its intentions to support the measure. Three groups have filed to oppose the measure, including the recently formed Defending Your Day in Court.
Ballot Issue Groups Related to SJR8
Source: Arkansas Ethics Commission, Legislative Question Committee filings
SJR8 was referred to voters by the legislature. The measure is similar to Issue 4, an initiated amendment submitted by an organization that collected voter signatures to put the issue on the ballot. The Arkansas Supreme Court struck Issue 4 from the 2016 ballot just before Election Day after a lawsuit was filed challenging the proposal's ballot title.
The 2018 ballot measure seeks to establish a dollar limit for financial damages awarded in certain types of lawsuits, shift authority from the state supreme court to the legislature in setting court rules and procedures, and limit how much attorneys are paid in medical injury lawsuits.
Supporters of these types of laws often use the phrase "tort reform" when talking about them. In 2003, state lawmakers passed the Civil Justice Reform Act to change procedures related to civil lawsuits. The changes included revisions of rules regarding medical-injury lawsuits. Portions of the law were later found unconstitutional by the Arkansas Supreme Court, leaving the constitutional amendment process as the only way to make changes related to state compensation laws.
No Legislative Question Committee groups have filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission in relation to a second constitutional amendment referred by the legislature. HJR1016 would require citizens present photo identification when voting and for the state to provide photo identification to eligible voters free of charge. Groups that raise or spend money on the passage or defeat of a ballot measure are required to register with the Ethics Commission and file financial reports.
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