Ma­jor Ques­tions Seek Voter Ap­proval In Elec­tion

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - OPINION - May­lon Rice Po­lit­i­cally Lo­cal

It is now crunch time for can­di­dates and es­pe­cially those pro­mot­ing or fight­ing the four pro­posed ques­tions be­fore vot­ers in the 2018 Gen­eral Elec­tion, which is Nov. 6.

Of the ques­tions be­fore vot­ers, two are from the elected of­fi­cials (a.k.a. the Arkansas Leg­is­la­ture) and three are from ci­ti­zen-driven ini­tia­tives.

The fifth ques­tion set for the bal­lot, but still in ques­tion whether it will ap­pear, is a ci­ti­zen-led bal­lot is­sue for casino gam­bling pro­posed to raise rev­enue of which a por­tion of those rev­enues will be for road re­pairs and high­way pro­grams.

That is­sue, as of now, is still try­ing to con­firm the proper num­ber of sig­na­tures has been sub­mit­ted.

De­spite the am­bi­gu­ity of the sig­na­tures, ad­ver­tise­ments on tele­vi­sion and ra­dio have been air­ing about the pro­posed amend­ment for casino gam­bling for roads.

But re­mem­ber, Arkansas vot­ers, we have seen this be­fore as an amend­ment pro­posed never makes the of­fi­cial bal­lot.

As of Aug. 28, 2018, four statewide bal­lot mea­sures were cer­ti­fied for the 2018 bal­lot in the state of Arkansas, ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial state web­site.

Those is­sues are:

Is­sue 1: Tort Law Amend­ment that lim­its at­tor­ney’s fee and dam­ages awarded in law­suits and al­lows the leg­is­la­ture to amend or re­peal the Supreme Court’s re­lated rules.

Is­sue 2: An Elec­tions Amend­ment that re­quires a voter photo iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to vote.

Is­sue 3: A Term Lim­its Amend­ment that im­poses six-year term lim­its on rep­re­sen­ta­tives and eight-year term lim­its on sen­a­tors.

And Is­sue 5: An Amend­ment on the Min­i­mum wage that in­creases the state’s min­i­mum wage to $11 per hour by 2022.

Is­sue No 4, if you are count­ing, is to be the casino gam­bling/road re­pair is­sue.

The big-hot but­ton is­sue of the next nine weeks will be Tort Re­form or Amend­ment 1 on the bal­lot for Nov. 6.

Al­ready sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic de­bate has been raised from Po­lit­i­cal An­i­mals Clubs across the state to the state Bar As­so­ci­a­tion and even the Arkansas Med­i­cal Com­mu­nity has weighed in on this is­sue. The Arkansas State Cham­ber of Com­merce and other quasi po­lit­i­cal/busi­ness en­ti­ties have staked out sides on this is­sue, which will limit the amount of le­gal dam­ages and li­a­bil­ity in all types of le­gal lit­i­ga­tion.

Per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant is­sue in Is­sue 1 other than set “dam­age awards,” in most cases is that the power to change court rules and reg­u­la­tions will given to the state leg­is­la­ture — not the courts them­selves. It’s the first time ever since the Arkansas Con­sti­tu­tion was set in 1874 that the elected of­fi­cials, not elected judges, will make the rules for Arkansas court sys­tem.

That alone should give ev­ery­one a sig­nif­i­cant pause for re­flec­tion.

Truth­fully, that is­sue alone, scares the Dick­ens out of me.

But back to the is­sues on the bal­lot.

The Arkansas State Leg­is­la­ture is al­lowed to re­fer up to three con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments to the bal­lot for each gen­eral elec­tion. Dur­ing the 2017 leg­isla­tive ses­sion, the state leg­is­la­ture re­ferred just two — a voter ID amend­ment and a cap on at­tor­ney’s fees and law­suit dam­ages awards amend­ment.

The bal­lot is­sues ap­pear­ing on the Gen­eral Elec­tion bal­lots for Arkansans to de­cide over the last decade has been many.

A to­tal of 48 mea­sures ap­peared on statewide bal­lots be­tween 1995 and 2016. And from 1995 to 2016, an av­er­age of four mea­sures ap­peared on the bal­lot dur­ing even-num­bered years in Arkansas.

Be­tween 1995 and 2016, 68.75 per­cent (33 of 48) of statewide bal­lots were ap­proved by vot­ers, and 31.25 per­cent (15 of 48) were de­feated.

Study th­ese is­sues and ask ques­tions about them. Of­ten the Devil is in­deed, deep in th­ese amend­ments’ de­tails.

MAY­LON RICE IS A FOR­MER JOUR­NAL­IST WHO WORKED FOR SEV­ERAL NORTH­WEST ARKANSAS PUB­LI­CA­TIONS. HE CAN BE REACHED VIA EMAIL AT MAYLONTRICE@YA­HOO.COM. THE OPIN­IONS EX­PRESSED ARE THOSE OF THE AU­THOR.

“Study th­ese is­sues and ask ques­tions about them. Of­ten the Devil is in­deed, deep in th­ese amend­ments’ de­tails.”

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