There were two new developments Monday (Sept. 24) regarding Arkansas ballot initiatives that will determine the fate of proposals to raise the minimum wage and shorten term limits.
In separate filings to the Arkansas Supreme Court by specially-appointed masters, the overseers made determinations on the signature gathering process at the heart of the two citizens’ initiatives.
Special Master Mark Hewett, reviewing signatures on a challenge to Issue 3, the term limits amendment, reported that 14,810 petition signatures should be declared invalid. That accounting would drop the term limits proposal below the number of valid signatures needed to qualify for the November 6th general election.
“Based on the foregoing findings, and account[ing] for duplicate errors where a single petition part was disqualified for multiple reasons under the applicable statutes, I find that Respondent erroneously included 14,810 total signatures in its verified and final count. Accordingly, I find that the Sponsor submitted insufficient signatures to qualify for the November 6, 2018 General Election ballot,” Hewett summarized in his report to the state’s high court.
Issue 3 would limit the terms members of the Arkansas legislature can serve. If passed, this amendment would impose a lifetime limit of 10 years of service for members of the Arkansas General Assembly, along with specific limits of service in each house.
In a challenge to Issue 5, an initiated act to raise the minimum wage, Special Master Sam Bird said the proposal’s sponsors collected enough valid signatures to remain on the ballot despite a legal challenge to the contrary.
“I find that the SOS [Secretary of State] improperly invalidated 19,335 signatures, most of which were culled after it had notified the sponsor, by letter dated July 30, 2018, that its petition had 52,124 valid signatures, and that the number of valid signatures was sufficient to qualify the sponsor’s petition for the cure period,” he wrote. “It is clear (and I find) that sponsor’s petition exceeded the minimum number of signatures (68,861), required to qualify it for placement on the November 6, 2018 ballot.”
Issue 5 would increase the state minimum wage in Arkansas for most workers in the state from $8.50 per hour to $11 per hour over a 3-year period.
The legal challenges to the two proposals were led by Arkansans for a Strong Economy and Arkansans for Common Sense Term Limits, both of which are organized by Randy Zook CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas.
Next week, all sides are expected to file briefs with the Arkansas Supreme Court to accept or reject the special masters’ reports. There will then be an opportunity to reply to those briefs before the court renders a final decision.
Both issues are strongly supported by voters. In a recent Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey, Arkansas voters supported the minimum wage proposal 60-30%, while term limits had a 67-18% level of support.