Group sues over re­jec­tion of eye law ref­er­en­dum ef­fort

The Saline Courier - - OPINION -

LIT­TLE ROCK — Op­po­nents of a new Arkansas law that ex­pands the pro­ce­dures op­tometrists can per­form are su­ing the state for re­ject­ing an ef­fort to hold a ref­er­en­dum on the mea­sure next year.

Safe Surgery Arkansas on Tues­day asked the state Supreme Court to re­verse elec­tion of­fi­cials’ rul­ing that the group had not sub­mit­ted enough valid sig­na­tures to force a pub­lic vote on the eye surgery law.

The new law al­lows op­tometrists to per­form sev­eral pro­ce­dures that cur­rently only oph­thal­mol­o­gists can per­form, in­clud­ing in­jec­tions around the eye, re­mov­ing le­sions from the eye­lids and cer­tain laser eye surg­eries. The law’s sup­port­ers say op­tometrists are al­ready trained to per­form the pro­ce­dures but are be­ing forced to re­fer pa­tients else­where. It’s drawn heavy op­po­si­tion from oph­thal­mol­o­gists who say the change puts pa­tients at risk.

Safe Surgery is chal­leng­ing a law that of­fi­cials used to re­ject the pe­ti­tions. The law re­quires can­vassers to file pa­per­work that they have never been con­victed of cer­tain crimes be­fore they can be­gin col­lect­ing sig­na­tures. Ac­cord­ing to the lawsuit, Sec­re­tary of State John Thurston’s of­fice said the bulk of the sig­na­tures sub­mit­ted by Safe Surgery weren’t counted be­cause can­vassers didn’t file that pa­per­work.

A spokesman for

Thurston’s of­fice de­clined to com­ment on the lawsuit.

The group’s lawsuit ar­gued the court should ei­ther find that the law on the can­vasser pa­per­work wasn’t in ef­fect at the time that it col­lected sig­na­tures or that the law was un­con­sti­tu­tional. The group ar­gued the re­quire­ment “serves to de­stroy both the work of the can­vasser and the will of the sign­ers.”

Sup­port­ers of the eye surgery law said they’re con­fi­dent the at­tempt to re­vive the ref­er­en­dum ef­fort will be de­feated.

“We are con­fi­dent in the sec­re­tary of state’s ap­pli­ca­tion of the law and re­jec­tion of the pe­ti­tion, which in­cluded tens of thou­sands of un­law­fully so­licited sig­na­tures,” Vicki Farmer, chair­woman for Arkansans for Healthy Eyes, said in a state­ment.

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