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New State Law Defines Civil Office

by Kristin Higgins - July 23, 2019

A new state helps flesh out a constitutional amendment Arkansas voters approved in 2016 prohibiting county elected officials from also holding civil office while serving out their term.

Issue 1 on the 2016 ballot included several amendments to the state constitution. The change prohibiting elected county officials from also holding civil office did not actually define what it meant by “civil office.”

Since the amendment’s passage, there have been questions about whether an office was considered a “civil office” under the amendment to Article 7. Neither the constitution nor state law defined “civil office.”

Act 639 amends Arkansas Code Title 14, Chapter 14, Subchapter 1 to define civil office as any one of the following elected or appointed positions, including without limitation:

  • County election commissioner
  • Member of the parole board
  • Member of a school board
  • Prosecuting attorney or deputy prosecuting attorney
  • Constable
  • Sheriff or deputy sheriff
  • Chief of police or city police officer
  • City attorney
  • City council member
  • Member of a drainage improvement district
  • Member of a public facilities board
  • Member of a soil conservation district board
  • Member of a county library board
  • Member of a rural development authority
  • Member of a rural development authority
  • Member of a rural waterworks facilities board or regional water distribution board
  • Member of an airport commission
  • Member of a county or district board of health
  • Member of a levee board or levee improvement district board
  • Member of a career education and workforce development board

The new law, which took effect July 24, does not prohibit an elected county official from serving on a board that is required under state law, such as an intergovernmental board. The law also declares what is NOT a civil office, including an advisory board or task force established to assist:

  • The governor
  • The General Assembly
  • A state agency
  • A state department
  • A county office
  • A county department
  • A subordinate service district

Elected county officials who were already in office before Jan. 1, 2017 can continue to serve in a civil office position, according to Act 639.

Find the new state law at www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2019/2019R/Acts/Act639.pdf

What offices are considered elected county officials?

Amendment 95, passed by voters in 2016, named these elected county officials as those who could not also serve in a civil office during their term in office:

  • County judge
  • Justice of the peace (also known as quorum court members)
  • Sheriff
  • Circuit clerk
  • County clerk
  • Assessor 
  • Coroner 
  • Treasurer
  • County surveyor
  • Tax collector