BY STATE SENATOR LARRY TEAGUE –
LITTLE ROCK – The Secretary of State’s office has certified two more ballot issues for voters to decide at the November 4 election – a proposed constitutional amendment to allow sales of alcohol and an initiated act to raise the state minimum wage.
The alcohol and minimum wage issues will be on the ballot along with three proposed amendments referred by the legislature.
Sponsors of both measures were short of the required number of signatures at the July 7 deadline, but were allowed additional time to continue circulating petitions.
The Secretary of State certified that at least 87,000 signatures for the alcohol sales amendment were valid, which was enough to certify the measure for the ballot because 78,133 were needed. That is 10 percent of the number of votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election.
The minimum wage measure is an initiated act, which means that if voters approve it in November, it would become state law but not a constitutional amendment. Its supporters needed 62,507 signatures, or 8 percent of the total number of votes cast in the most recent race for governor. The Secretary of State’s office certified the minimum wage initiative after validating at least 70,000 signatures.
Opponents of statewide alcohol sales have said that they intended to file legal objections to prevent the measure from being placed on the ballot, or if it is too late to remove it from the ballot to disallow counting votes for it.
Arkansas has 38 “wet” counties and 37 “dry” counties, although there are cities in the dry counties that allow private clubs to sell alcoholic beverages.
The legislature referred three proposed constitutional amendments during last year’s regular session.
One would tighten requirements for placing initiated acts and proposed amendments on future general election ballots. If supporters turned in an insufficient number of signatures before the July deadline, they would not get an extra 30 days to continue gathering signatures unless they had initially turned in 75 percent of the required number of signatures.
Voter approval of the amendment would prevent a repeat of what happened in 2012, when groups backing casinos and tax increases submitted petitions on which only a third of the signatures were valid. However, they were still allowed more time to gather more signatures.
Another proposed amendment would require approval from the legislature before any new rule enacted by an executive branch agency could take effect.
Now, during the interim between sessions it is the practice of the legislature to review new rules proposed by executive branch agencies.
However, legislative committees do not have power under the Constitution to block a new rule if the agency insists on implementing it. Generally, state agencies do not go against the wishes of legislators but on rare occasions they have gone ahead with rules changes in spite of negative reviews by legislative committees. If voters approve the proposed amendment in November, the legislature would be granted constitutional power to prevent a rule from taking effect.
The third amendment referred by the legislature would restrict gifts that elected officials could accept from lobbyists. It also would prohibit legislators from becoming lobbyists until at least two years after they leave office. It would limit an individual’s service in the legislature to 16 years total.