Term limits effort fails to make ballot, other groups plan to turn in signatures on Friday

by Steve Brawner (BRAWNERSTEVE@MAC.COM) 64 views 

The group pushing to toughen Arkansas’ newly loosened term limits law announced Thursday it had failed to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Other voter-initiated efforts were planning on turning in signatures Friday, the deadline for doing so.

Tim Jacobs, one of the leaders of Restore Term Limits, said the group had collected somewhat less than 60,000 signatures. Proposed constitutional amendments require 84,859 valid signatures by registered voters to qualify for the ballot. He said the group had tried to collect signatures using 80 to100 volunteer signature gatherers rather than paid canvassers and needed about 100 more volunteers.

The group sought to tighten Arkansas’ legislative term limits laws so that no legislator could serve more than three two-year terms in the House or more than two four-year terms in the Senate, with legislators limited to 10 years overall, and to prohibit legislators from proposing term limits amendments.

Jacob said his group’s efforts were more challenging than others because backers would not benefit financially from the amendment’s passage. The proposed amendment was a reaction to Amendment 73, passed by voters in 2014, which extended the amount of time legislators could serve to 16 years total. Previously, legislators could serve three two-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate.

Amendment 73, which was referred to voters by legislators, involved numerous other provisions and did not specify that it was lengthening legislators’ terms on the ballot.

Jacob said there was broad support for the effort among voters.

“It was the easiest signature to get,” he said. “It was the easiest petition to get signed. If you knew about it, you were outraged. If we had to tell the story, you were outraged after we finished the story.”

Jacob said he didn’t know if the group would revisit the issue and will discuss doing so this summer.

“Everybody I called this last week was ripping and raring to do it, but as you probably know, it’s an overwhelming effort that you have to do,” he said.

Tthe Arkansas Secretary of State’s office announced Thursday (July 7) that the group Arkansans for Compassionate Care had submitted enough signatures for its medical marijuana initiated act to qualify for the ballot.

Another group pushing a medical marijuana proposal said it will turn in signatures tomorrow. David Couch with the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016 said his group will submit 115,000 signatures Friday, of which about 80,000 would be valid.  That amount of valid signatures would leave the group a few thousand short of the 84,859 needed, but supporters would have a 30-day “cure period” to collect more signatures once the number was verified.

That provision differs from the one by Arkansans for Compassionate Care in that it is a constitutional amendment rather than simply an initiated act, and it lacks a provision allowing people to grow their own plants.

Robert Coon with Arkansas Wins in 2016, which is pushing a constitutional amendment to allow three casinos to operate in Arkansas, said Thursday it would submit more than 84,859 signatures Friday. He said Arkansas Wins would collect more signatures during the cure period and is confident it will make the ballot.

Chase Dugger with the Amendment to Limit Attorney Contingency Fees and Non-Economic Damages in Medical Lawsuits said his group will turn in signatures Friday. The amendment would direct the Legislature to set a cap of at least $250,000 for non-economic damages in medical lawsuits and would limit trial lawyer contingency fees at 33 1/3 percent after expenses.

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