Arkansans for Healthy Eyes, the ballot question committee opposing an initiated act to reverse Act 579 of 2019, filed a petition for rehearing with the Arkansas Supreme Court on Monday (Dec. 23). The state’s high court ruled two weeks ago that Secretary of State John Thurston’s office must count signatures collected by a group, Safe Surgery Arkansas, wanting to repeal the state law that expanded optometrists’ scope of practice.
Arkansans for Healthy Eyes said it wants the Arkansas Supreme Court to reconsider its recent decision concerning Act 376, which outlines the state’s referendum process.
“We believe the decision was inconsistent with recent precedent, and we think it actually creates a lot of confusion around the referendum process, especially where Act 579 is concerned,” said Vicki Farmer, chairman of Arkansans for Healthy Eyes. “We’re simply asking the court to take another look at the law, and the impact of this decision,” said Farmer.
In a decision two weeks ago, the court said the emergency clause of Act 376 is invalid. However, the court applied Act 376 as an immediately effective statute in a case last May (Arkansas True Grass v. Rutledge, 2019 Ark. 165), specifically citing the emergency clause, according to the group.
The law Safe Surgery Arkansas is seeking to overturn – Act 579 of 2019 – allows optometrists to perform limited eye surgeries. The legislature approved the measure in the regular session earlier this year. Safe Surgery Arkansas represents the state’s ophthalmologists who opposed the new law and were pushing for the ballot referendum. Arkansans for Healthy Eyes, which intervened in the case, represents the state’s optometrists.
“We are hopeful the court will reconsider its decision, follow its recent precedent, and clarify that Act 376 was in place at the time the Signatures were submitted, and the Secretary of State was correct to reject those signatures in its initial review,” said Farmer.
“Meanwhile, we will still work toward putting Act 579 in place so that Arkansas patients can start to receive the improved access to eye care they deserve,” said Farmer.
Talk Business & Politics will update this story later today.