LITTLE ROCK — A proposed constitutional amendment that would make it harder to amend the Arkansas Constitution was resoundingly defeated Friday in the Senate.
House Joint Resolution 1003 by House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, received nine votes in support and 21 against. It needed 18 votes to pass.
Among other things, the measure would, if referred to the November 2018 ballot and approved by voters:
—Require that a proposed constitutional amendment receive at least 60 percent of the votes cast in an election for approval instead of a simple majority.
—Require at least a two-thirds vote in both chambers for a proposed constitutional amendment to be referred to the ballot, instead of a simple majority.
—Increase from 15 to 25 the minimum number of counties from which petitions must be submitted for a citizen-initiated proposed constitutional amendment.
The proposal passed 79-10 in the House on Monday.
Supporters say the measure would make the state constitution more stable and consistent. Opponents, including the Christian conservative Family Council, say the requirements to get a voter-initiated amendment on the ballot and passed are strict enough now.
Gillam said after the vote Friday he was disappointed the measure failed in the Senate after “a significant passage here.”
He said he was not planning to seek another vote Monday, the day the session is set to wrap up.
“If there are legitimate questions or things that I might could answer that I just didn’t get answered, or maybe the members didn’t have a chance to on the Senate end, obviously I’ll make myself available for that, but I think with the vote count that was related to me, there doesn’t seem to be the appetite for it,” Gillam said.
The Legislature can refer up to three proposed constitutional amendments to the ballot every two years. Earlier in the session, lawmakers referred two: One to require voters to show photo identification at the polls, and one to limit damages and attorneys’ fees in civil lawsuits and give the Legislature power to repeal, amend and create court rules.