Today, the Senate Rules Committee convened to consider whether or not the voter ID bill required a supermajority vote. The House Rules Committee met on this issue last week and ruled that the bill, SB2, did not require a supermajority vote. The full House then passed the full bill and sent it to the full Senate to concur in amendments.
Advance Arkansas Institute’s Dan Greenberg appeared before the Senate Rules Committee today to offer his opinion:
Amendment 51 supplies conditions for amending the state Constitution. If we are going to amend the state constitution, there are only two ways to do it. We could to it thru the regular constitutional amendment process (vote of the people) or through the special 2/3 legislative vote provision described in Amendment 51 (and other places). But it is important to note that either or both of these options, including Amendment 51, would only change the constitution by changing the words in the constitution. The two-thirds rule only applies to changing the text of the state constitution itself, not the text of the code or statutes. But SB2 doesn’t amend the constitution at all or change the words of the constitution, so Amendment 51 is completely irrelevant to SB2.
In fact, passage of SB2 will not amend the constitution at all or change the words of that document at all. SB2 is a bill, not a proposed constitutional amendment, so bringing up the 2/3 requirement, with respect to adding statute, suggests a confused understanding of Amendment 51. All SB2 does is change the code, and Amendment 51 doesn’t create a 2/3 requirement, or any other procedural requirement, for changing the code. The rules for SB2 are the same rules that the Arkansas legislature has to follow for any other statute; it only requires a majority vote.
The majority of the Rules Committee disagreed with Mr. Greenberg: they voted on along party lines (8-6) to send a resolution to the Lieutenant Governor stating their belief that he had incorrectly deemed SB2 passed because the bill required a supermajority vote. The resolution was non-binding and was sent to the Senate. The full Senate then voted 13-21 to reject the Rules Committee’s resolution.
Shortly thereafter, the Senate passed SB2 with amendments by a vote of 22-12. The bill now heads to the governor.