LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers filed 31 proposed amendments to the state constitution just before the filing deadline, adding to the dozens of proposals filed this session addressing issues including unpaid prison labor and highway funding.
Amendments filed Wednesday included seven that propose changing term limits, six seeking to change the process to amend the constitution and five dealing with highways, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. There are also three proposals regarding tort reform and two addressing the frequency lawmakers gather in Little Rock.
The Legislature can select up to three proposals for the 2020 general election ballot.
One of the amendments likely to be selected is a plan to fund highways through a potential half-percent sales tax renewal, said Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Jim Hendren of Sulphur Springs.
Hendren also noted that there is heavy interest in tort reform, including capping damages for lawsuits.
“The third one, I don’t know, there’s a lot of things out there,” Hendren said.
One proposal seeks to amend the state constitution to ban slavery as an acceptable criminal punishment. Democratic Rep. Vivian Flowers of Pine Bluff said she proposed the legislation because Arkansas has a modern-day form of slavery because inmates in state prisons work without pay.
“There can be no exceptions for slavery,” she said, though she noted that the state Department of Corrections is operating within the confines of its budget and state law.
The proposal isn’t feasible unless the department receives a major funding increase, said Solomon Graves, a department spokesman. Inmates who aren’t paid gain experience that can help them find jobs later, while inmates who are enrolled in work-release programs are paid by their employers, he said.
Alabama is the only other state that allows inmates to work without pay, Flowers said.