Whether a voter casts a ballot early, absentee or on Election Day, all Arkansas will have their say on three statewide issues.
Issue 1: Road Tax
Voting yes on Issue 1 would amend the state constitution to make a half-cent sales tax to fund road projects, and highway and bridge maintenance permanent.
On the ballot, it would read “An Amendment to the Arkansas Constitution Continuing a One-Half Percent (0.5 percent) Sales and Use Tax for State Highways and Bridges; County Roads, Bridges and Other Surface Transportation; and City Streets, Bridges, and Other Surface Transportation After the Retirement of the Bonds Authorized in Arkansas Constitution, Amendment 91.”
Issue 1 would allocate 70 percent of the revenue for ArDOT, 15 percent to counties and 15 percent for cities, according to the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Office.
“It is a pay-as-you-go plan in which the money will be put back into the system – asphalt and concrete for highway and bridge maintenance and repairs; enhanced striping and other safety improvements; and congestion relief and widening with some new construction,” Arkansas State Highway Commissioner Alec Farmer of Jonesboro previously told The Sun.
The tax set to expire in June 2023 was approved by voters in 2012 as part of the Department of Transportation’s Connecting Arkansas program. Under Constitutional Amendment 91, revenue from a current half-cent sales tax funds projects for the state’s highway system, county roads and city streets.
Projects in Northeast Arkansas funded by the ongoing tax include the Monette bypass on Arkansas 18, widening of that highway to five lanes east of Manila through the Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge; and the widening of U.S. 412 from Paragould to Walnut Ridge.
Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Jonesboro, who won a state Senate seat during the March 3 primary, voted in opposition to the proposal. A coalition of groups that includes the Northeast Arkansas Tea Party and Arkansas Public Policy Panel, is rallying against Issue 1.
“Most road maintenance costs are driven by big trucks that do damage and not by general consumers driving our light vehicles on the roads, yet this proposal asks general consumers, mostly low- and middle-income families, to pay the giant’s share of maintaining and building our road infrastructure,” said Bill Kopsky of the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.
Issue 2: Term Limits
Another state legislature-approved proposal, affirming Issue 2 would change term limits for the Arkansas General Assembly. The initiative will read “A Constitutional Amendment to Amend the Term Limits Applicable to Members of the General Assembly, to be Known as the ‘Arkansas Term Limits Amendment.’”
According to the extension service, voting in favor would “remove lifetime term limits for state legislators, prohibit future legislators from serving more than 12 years in a row … and allow current legislators and any legislator elected this November to serve under the current term limit amendment, which allows them to serve 16 years consecutive or non-consecutively.”
The ballot initiative allows for a four-year break between 12-year stints in the Legislature, the extension’s election guide states. Two-year Senate terms also would apply to calculate consecutive years in office for those elected after Jan. 1, 2021.
Issue 3: Legislative Process
Issue 3 will read “A Constitutional Amendment To Amend The Process For The Submission, Challenge, And Approval Of Proposed Initiated Acts, Constitutional Amendments, And Referenda.”
The proposal sets Jan. 15 as the date signatures are due for voter-proposed ballot measures, requires signatures from 45 counties instead of 15 and eliminates the “cure period” for additional signatures that may come after the first round is submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office, the extension office reported.
It also would require 60 percent of legislatures of each house to approve a proposed amendment for voters’ consideration.
The Arkansas Press Association is campaigning against the amendment because it also strikes the requirement for ballot issues to be published in newspapers in all 75 counties six months before an election.
“Public notices in newspapers provide voters with an independent, accountable and verifiable way to learn about ballot issues,” said Ashley Wimberley, APA executive director. “Some of these measures are so lengthy or complicated, the only way they can be fully digested is through public notice. The APA opposes Issue 3 and its limits on transparency.”
The University of Arkansas Extension Office’s 2020 Voter Guide can be read at bit.ly/3cPCW22.