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BRENDA BLAGG: Righting a wrong

Voters get chance to vote with eyes wide open by Brenda Blagg | October 28, 2020 at 1:00 a.m.

For those of us who saw Donald Trump as unfit for the office of president four years ago, it has been an interminable wait for the chance to unseat the Republican incumbent.

Record-setting voting levels in the runup to Election Day, both in absentee balloting and early voting, suggest that millions of Americans are equally committed to voting this year.

Of course, the numbers include people rallying to President Trump's side, but there are many indicators that suggest he'll lose this time around to former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democrats' able standard-bearer.

A Biden win certainly shouldn't be taken for granted, however.

Trump's 2016 win was a surprise-turned-nightmare for this nation. It could happen again despite the shoddy performance of this president.

Day by day, lie by lie, Trump has proven he is a misfit and an incompetent leader, particularly when it comes to handling this pandemic that has taken so many lives, sickened millions more and sorely impacted the economic health of millions of American families.

Trump has shown time and again that he is interested more in what benefits him or his family than in what is happening to the American people.

No president in our lifetimes ever deserved defeat more.

Enough said. Vote.

•••

For those who haven't yet voted, here is a quick recap of the ballot issues that will be considered statewide this year.

The recommendation here is for voters to reject all three, although something similar to Issue 1 might be worth revisiting after Arkansas is past this worsening pandemic and its economic impact, which hits hardest on people least able to pay any additional tax.

Issue 1

Issue 1, the first of three issues referred to voters by the Arkansas Legislature, has more merit than the other two proposals. But it simply comes at a time when Arkansans don't need the burden of a forever tax, particularly one that would be embedded in the state Constitution.

Lawmakers referred Issue 1, a proposed constitutional amendment, to make permanent an existing, half-cent sales and use tax that was originally approved by voters in 2012.

The original levy was earmarked for a four-lane road program and was to end when bonds issued for those specific improvements are paid off in 2023.

If voters approve the measure, the tax will continue indefinitely. Another constitutional amendment would have to pass to amend it.

Revenue from the permanent levy would be split among the state, cities and counties for highways, city streets, county roads and bridges.

The state Department of Transportation would receive an estimated $293.7 million annually while cities and counties would each get $44 million under a longstanding 70-15-15 formula to split revenue among the different entities. How much each city or county would get is decided by different, longstanding formulas.

Issue 2

Issue 2 would once again alter Arkansas term limits for members of the state Legislature and not in a good way.

It would remove an existing cap on how many years any legislator may serve.

Currently, there is a specific limit on how long an individual legislator may serve -- 16 total years, whether in the House or Senate or both, whether served consecutively or non-consecutively.

Issue 2 would eliminate that "lifetime" limit, replacing it with the potential to serve a maximum of 12 years consecutively, but enabling the lawmaker to sit out four years, then run to serve again, presumably for as long as a dozen more years.

Issue 3

Issue 3, yet another proposed constitutional amendment, is aimed at making more difficult the already-challenging citizen initiative process.

Arkansas should take pride in the constitutionally secured ability of its citizens to submit, challenge and approve proposed initiated acts, constitutional amendments and referenda.

Writing laws and amending the Constitution is not left solely to the state's lawmakers.

The changes proposed in Issue 3 would require petitioners to collect signatures in at least 45 of the state's 75 counties, rather than the 15 counties now required.

Petitioners would also have to submit their initiative petitions by Jan. 15 of the election year, rather than four months ahead of the general election.

And there would be no "cure period" in which petitioners could collect additional signatures if their petition doesn't meet the required threshold.

Any lawsuit challenging statewide initiatives would have to be filed by April 15.

The proposed amendment would also increase the number of legislative votes necessary for lawmakers to refer a constitutional amendment to voters. Instead of a simple majority, 3/5 of each chamber would be required.

There's more to the amendment, but those are the more significant changes.

This year, several other ballot proposals, all circulated by citizen sponsors through this state's initiative process, were ultimately knocked off the ballot by the Arkansas Supreme Court. Each was tripped up by provisions in current law.

One of them, Issue 6, is on the printed ballot but votes for or against it will not be counted.


None of the legislatively referred amendments are fully explained in their ballot titles.

For an extensive, neutral analysis of all upcoming ballot issues, see the University of Arkansas Public Policy Center's 2020 Voter Guide

Brenda Blagg is a freelance columnist and longtime journalist in Northwest Arkansas. Email her at [email protected]

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