Arkansas Issue 3: Only 22 states have judicial compensation commissions and they tend to be advisory

An aspect I’ve not discussed yet of Arkansas’ Issue 3 is the specific role and function of the Independent Citizens Commission. Under the terms of the amendment if approved the commission would meet and set the salaries for justices/judges, elected constitutional officers of the executive department, and members of the General Assembly. The Commission’s determinations would be automatically put in place and the legislature would not have the power to override their determination. Moreover, the legislature would not have to appropriate the funds separately, a sticking point in other states.

22 states have statutorily or constitutionally created commissions to look at judicial compensation. Several other states (such as Kentucky in 2010) have ad hoc or one-time only commission to this effect.

Data for the below is from two NCSC products: State Court Organization and the KIS Resource Guide on such commissions.

Judicial Compensation Commissions vs. Joint Compensation Commissions

The commission envisioned under Issue 3 would handle the salaries for the state’s top officials in all three branches of government. Of the 22 states with commissions that work on or look at judicial compensation, half (11) focus solely on the judiciary.

  • Reviews Non-Judicial Positions (11): Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Washington
  • Reviews Only Judicial Positions (11): Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas

Advisory, Automatic, or Automatic Subject to Override?

Another element of the Issue 3 commission is that its recommendations would be automatically into place and not subject to neither a separate appropriation nor a legislative override. In the case of Arkansas the adjustment would be automatic (“An adjustment to a salary shall be effective ten (10) days after it is filed with the Auditor of State.“)

  • Commission recommendation is advisory only; legislature must appropriate funds (14): Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah
  • Commissions recommendation is automatically appropriated unless legislature overrides (7): Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma
  • Commissions recommendation is automatically appropriated unless voter referendum overrides (1): Washington