LITTLE ROCK — The group Arkansas Term Limits on Thursday submitted to the state attorney general’s office a proposed constitutional amendment for the November 2016 ballot that would shorten term limits for state legislators.

LITTLE ROCK — The group Arkansas Term Limits on Thursday submitted to the state attorney general’s office a proposed constitutional amendment for the November 2016 ballot that would shorten term limits for state legislators.


The proposal, which can be viewed at restoretermlimits.org, would allow legislators to serve up to two four-year terms in the Senate and up to three two-year terms in the House — but with an overall limit of 10 years of service total.


Last November, voters approved a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that, along with imposing new ethics restrictions, expanded term limits to allow legislators to serve up to 16 years total, regardless of chamber.


Previously, legislators were allowed to serve up to two four-year terms in the Senate and up to three two-year terms in the House. Arkansas Term Limits’ proposal would return the old limits — but with a new 10-year cap.


The group’s proposal also would declare that legislative term limits could be amended only through an initiative led by the people, not through a legislatively referred amendment.


The proposal would not cut short or invalidate a term that a person was elected to before Jan. 1, 2017; would make a person ineligible to run for a Senate term if the term would cause the person to exceed the 10-year limit; and would exclude from the 10-year limit a partial term served to complete an unexpired term when a vacancy occurs.


Bob Porto, co-chairman of Arkansas Term Limits, said Thursday he does not believe voters knew what they were voting on when they approved Issue 3 on the November ballot. He said the ballot title described it as "setting term limits for members of the General Assembly" and did not clearly state that it would lengthen term limits.


Porto also said supporters touted the measure mainly as an ethics proposal.


"The lawmakers knew clearly that what they needed to do was use deception in order to serve themselves and lengthen term limits," he said.


Porto said the group included the provision prohibiting legislatively referred amendments on term limits because it believes "there’s a direct conflict of interest" when legislators take up the issue.


State Sen. Jon Woods, R-Springdale, the main drafter of the language in Issue 3 on term limits, said Thursday, "I don’t think that’s fair to the voters and fair to the people to come back two years later and try to undo a law that the voters just approved."


Woods said Arkansas Term Limits spent hundreds of thousands of dollars last year educating voters about how Issue 3 would affect legislative term limits.


"I think the voters knew exactly what Issue 3 did," he said.


Woods said the group’s proposal would give Arkansas the strictest term limits in the nation and said he has never before seen a proposal to prohibit the Legislature from referring measures on a specific topic to the ballot.


"I just think it goes too far," he said, adding that when a legislative body has severe term limits, "lobbyists and bureaucrats have all the power."


Woods also said the proposed language contains drafting errors and is likely to be rejected in its initial version.


Arkansas Term Limits has already begun soliciting donations for a planned campaign to support its proposal. Porto said he hopes to be able to use only volunteers to gather the roughly 85,000 signatures that would be needed to place the measure on the ballot if the attorney general approves the wording.