Gov. Mike Beebe is expected make an announcement today at 11:00 am that he will call a special election to renew a $575 million highway bond program first passed by voters in 1998 called the GARVEE bonds.
The likely date for the election is November 8, 2011; however, at this point little is known about who is financially supporting the committee organizing to support the ballot measure called Move Arkansas Forward Committee.
According to the Arkansas Ethics Commission, Move Arkansas Forward has not yet filed a finance report or a statement of organization.
According to Arkansas Code Section 606(a)(1)(A), "A ballot question committee or a legislative question committee shall file a statement of organization with the Arkansas Ethics Commission within five (5) days of receiving contributions or making expenditures in excess of five hundred dollars ($500) for the purpose of expressly advocating the qualification, passage, or defeat of a ballot question or the passage or defeat of a legislative question."
In addition, Arkansas Code Section 607(a) states "A ballot question committee or a legislative question committee which either receives contributions or makes expenditures in excess of five hundred dollars ($500) for the purpose of expressly advocating the qualification, disqualification, passage, or defeat of a ballot question or the passage or defeat of a legislative question shall file with the Arkansas Ethics Commission financial reports as required by §§ 608 through 610."
According to this report from the Arkansas News Bureau, the committee began organizing in early June. However, according to committee spokesman Craig Douglass, there is no filing requirement until the election date is set. Doulass said he was "advised that since we don’t have an election date set yet, there is no election to ‘influence.’ The lawyers are checking on the requirements and I will know more after the Governor sets the special election date."
Also on Monday, a group called Arkansas Good Roads Transportation Council began running radio ads in support of the GARVEE bonds. They have a website dedicated to this effort – 1999map.com.
"In 1999, Arkansans voted for the Arkansas Highway Commission to issue bonds investing in smoother, safer Interstates," states the website. "The result was the 1999 Interstate Rehabilitation Program, which modernized over 350 miles of Interstates. That’s the good news. The other news is that the 1999 program has come to an end and today Arkansas has over 650 miles of Interstate highways. So, more must be done to finish the job."
The website shows an interstate map with areas that have been "modernized" as a result of the 1999 bonds and areas that still need work. The Ethics Commission has no record of this group in the current campaign season either.
I will update this post when more information becomes available.