Notes from the Campaign Trail: Casino amendment cleared for ballot, term limits gets legal challenge

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 455 views 

The Arkansas Casino Gaming Amendment of 2018 was cleared for the November ballot by Secretary of State Mark Martin, while a legal challenge was filed against the Arkansas Term Limits proposal.

Officials with Driving Arkansas Forward received word that their signatures cleared the threshold required by state officials. The amendment authorizes two new casinos – one in Jefferson County and one in Pope County – while enhancing the gaming operations at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs and Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis. Tax revenues would be used for general state revenue, local revenue and purse enhancements at Oaklawn and Southland.

“Arkansas voters will have a choice on Nov. 6 to keep our money in our state by approving Issue Four,” said Nate Steel, counsel for Driving Arkansas Forward, the coalition of business and political leaders from across Arkansas that supports expanded gaming. “Right now, about 30% of our state’s residents regularly visit casinos outside Arkansas. It’s time to keep that money where we live to support our economy, improve our infrastructure and create new jobs. We appreciate the Secretary of State’s Office for its efficient work through the time-consuming process of verifying voter signatures, and we are especially thankful for the tens of thousands of voters who have made it clear that they want Issue Four on the ballot.”

A term limits proposal received a legal challenge from Arkansans for Common Sense Term Limits, a registered ballot question committee, that filed a petition with the Arkansas Supreme Court, asking that the measure be struck from the ballot.

“Out-of-state interests have already spent half-a-million dollars to push this measure in our state, to benefit their national agenda,” said Randy Zook, president and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas and chairman of Arkansans for Common Sense Term Limits. “Plus, they’re purposely misleading Arkansas voters.”

“For example, it’s not made clear in the name or ballot title, but the measure includes an unprecedented repeal of the Arkansas Legislature’s constitutional right to refer out any future measures dealing with term limits – that’s a major constitutional change that voters should know about,” said Zook.

The committee also says some of the paid and volunteer canvassers circulating petitions to put the measure on the ballot failed to properly collect signatures, and that those signatures should be invalidated.

“The fact is, we have legislative term limits in place now,” said Warren Carter, executive vice president of Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation. “If this measure passes, we’d be saddled with the most severe term limits in the country – that’s a step back for Arkansas. No other state has passed a new term limits measure in nearly two decades.”

The 2018 term limits proposal would restrict Arkansas House members to 3 two-year terms and Arkansas Senators to 2 four-year terms, just like an original term limits measure, passed in 1992, did. However, this year’s measure adds three more provisions.

First, it caps legislative service at a maximum of 10 years regardless of the mixture of House or Senate terms. Secondly, it prohibits state legislators from referring a constitutional amendment to change term limits – in effect, forcing any changes to term limits to go through the citizens’ initiative process. Thirdly, it allows any legislator elected in 2018 who may exceed the service terms to complete their term.

Tim Jacob, spokesman for Arkansas Term Limits said the proposal is about restoring power to everyday citizens.

“The same powerful lobbyists and legislators who tripled their pay and doubled their own terms without telling the voters, once again show their fear of the voters. This is corporate censorship of the voters,” Jacob said. “The people of Arkansas deserve the right to vote, period. The good people of our state will vote YES on Issue #3 unless lobbyists and legislators are able to sabotage the vote.”

Second District Democratic Congressional nominee Clarke Tucker revealed a second TV spot this week. Earlier, Tucker promoted an ad that highlighted several prominent female family members – an ad aimed at courting female voters.

His latest ad, “What Matters Most,” focuses on healthcare and discusses his fight against cancer, his efforts in the state legislature on the topic, and his opposition to repealing the Affordable Care Act’s pre-existing conditions clause. You can view the spot, which is airing districtwide on broadcast and cable TV, in the video below. It was paid for by Tucker’s campaign and the DCCC.

FYI, a political poll was in the field on Wednesday (Sept. 5) testing negative messaging on Tucker. An avid reader reports she was called.

The poll asked a series of questions regarding statements that Tucker’s opponent, U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, has said about him and if it changed the voter’s mind. It also asked questions regarding Nancy Pelosi, missed votes, and Democratic spending habits.

Expect to see something on the airwaves that validates the message testing soon.

Healthcare has also become a lightning rod issue due to a court case in Texas.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is one of 19 GOP state attorneys general who have joined the court case, which says the ACA should be declared unconstitutional due to Congress reducing the individual mandate penalty to $0, starting in 2019. The states are arguing that this renders the individual mandate, which requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance, unconstitutional thus invalidating the entire Affordable Care Act.

All four of Arkansas’ Republican Congressmen voted to repeal the ACA and voted to reduce the individual mandate to $0.

Third Congressional District Democratic nominee Josh Mahony issued a statement highlighting his opposition to the Republican lawsuit.

“It’s infuriating to see elected officials fighting to take away Arkansans health care,” said Mahony. “If this lawsuit is successful, thousands of Arkansans would lose access to healthcare through no fault of their own. Congressman Steve Womack has voted countless times to repeal the ACA, which would cause countless Arkansans to lose health insurance because of a pre-existing condition. Arkansans deserve a Congressman who will fight to protect their health insurance and not allow insurers to discriminate based on past or present illnesses.”

“We should be discussing how to make healthcare better and more accessible, not potentially causing millions of Americans to lose healthcare,” said Mahony. “Healthcare is a right and any attempt to strip Arkansas families of it morally wrong.”

Editor’s note: ‘Notes from the Campaign Trail’ is a compilation of various political insider tidbits. It is sponsored by Campbell Ward Consulting|Communications.