LITTLE ROCK — The House on Friday adopted one amendment to a proposed ballot measure to cap damages in civil suits and rejected another.
In a voice vote, the House adopted an amendment to Senate Joint Resolution 8 by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain Home, that was endorsed Thursday by the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee. Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, a lawyer, sponsored the amendment and urged its adoption in the committee Thursday and on the House floor Friday.
SJR 8 would ask Arkansas voters to change the state constitution to impose limits on civil suits and give the Legislature power over court rules.
Ballinger’s amendment modifies the resolution by capping damages for harm that cannot be measured in money, such as pain and suffering or death, at $500,000 instead of $250,000 and capping punitive damages at $500,000 or three times the amount of compensatory damages, instead of $250,000 or three times the compensatory damages.
Ballinger’s amendment also removes a provision that would require legislative approval of all new court rules. The resolution would still give the Legislature authority to change and repeal court rules and create new rules with a three-fifths vote.
“Several people have asked for that amendment and so we have listened to them and tried to build a consensus and bring people together on this,” Ballinger said.
After the House adopted Ballinger’s amendment, Rep. Jimmy Gazaway, R-Paragould, also a lawyer, asked the House to replace it with an amendment that would impose looser restrictions on civil suits, including a $1 million cap on damages for harm that cannot be measured in money.
A $500,000 cap is “morally not right,” he said.
Gazaway’s amendment received 36 votes in support and 48 against.
The House did not vote on the resolution itself Friday.
The Legislature can refer up to three constitutional amendments to the ballot every two years. House Joint Resolution 1016 by Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Elm Springs, has cleared the House but has not yet been considered in the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee.