Monday, March 10, 2014

Lawmakers Fail To Adopt Two Constitutional Amendments

Two proposed constitutional amendments that would have affected the state's natural gas industry did not make it through the Legislature's 60-day regular session.  That session ended this past weekend.

SJR 12—Proposing Water Resources Protection Amendment to the Constitution.
This proposed amendment sought to constitutionally define the state’s rights of ownership, control and regulation over water resources on and under the state.  The Senate supported this amendment, which was strongly advocated by Senate President Jeff Kessler and Majority Leader John Unger.  The House refused to support the proposed amendment on Saturday evening when the Resolution received less than a 2/3s majority.  There were significant questions raised in the House by delegates concerned over how existing property and water rights might be affected if the State were given a position of constitutional primacy over water resources.

SJR 14—Proposing the Future Fund Amendment to the Constitution. 
This proposed amendment sought to provide constitutional protections to the “Future Fund” that were strongly advocated by Senate President Kessler as a way to guarantee that future Legislatures would be restricted in their access to the assets of the Fund.  Senior House Democratic leaders and Republicans had serious concerns about enshrining such strong protections in the state Constitutions for a reserve fund that was to be built using historically inconsistent severance tax collections, and when other needs of the State may have precedence in any given year rather than building up another reserve account in state government.  The Senate did support the passage of the amendment, but the House failed by a wide margin to provide the 2/3 vote needed to place the issue on the November ballot.