Ballot Issues 2020
During the 2019 legislative session, the Arkansas legislature voted to place Issue 1 on the 2020 ballot. Voters will decide whether to make permanent a 0.5% sales tax, originally passed in 2012 and set to expire in 2022.
Issue 1 seeks to make the 0.5% state sales tax permanent and would continue to fund roads in Arkansas. The dedicated tax could only be used to fund maintaining, repairing and improving highways, roads, and streets. The revenue from the tax would be split three ways: 70% to Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT), 15% to county governments and 15% to city governments.
Arguments for Issue 1
The group Vote for Roads, Vote for Issue 1 supports making the sales tax permanent because the tax supports over 3,600 jobs annually, ensures safer roads for Arkansans, and provides funding to every city and county without a raise in taxes.
According to the Vote for Roads, Vote for Issue 1 website, without Issue 1, Arkansas cities and counties would lose a combined $90 million in road funding.
Arguments Against Issue 1
The group Americans for Prosperity opposes making the sales tax permanent because Arkansas has a 6.5% sales tax, the second-highest sales tax rate in the country. The group believes roads can be funded other ways than permanently extending the 0.5% sales tax.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, the group believes the $293 million brought in annually by the tax would be better spent by Arkansas residents, or to fund health care or education. According to the Americans for Prosperity website, the funds go directly to ArDOT with limited oversight and control by taxpayers or elected officials.
During the 2019 legislative session, the Arkansas legislature voted to put Issue 2 on the 2020 ballot. Voters will decide whether or not state legislature term limits should be amended.
Issue 2 seeks to amend Arkansas law, allowing state legislators to serve up to 16 years. Issue 2 would prevent legislators from serving 12 years consecutively. After a four-year break, a person could run for office again. There would be no limit to the total number of years that could be served.
If Issue 2 is passed, current legislators could serve for 16 years consecutively before this issue is fully in effect.
There were no groups who filed to support or oppose this amendment with the Arkansas Secretary of State.
During the 2019 legislative session, the Arkansas legislature also voted to place Issue 3 on the 2020 ballot. Voters will decide if changes should be made to how proposed ballot measures make it on the ballot for voter approval and the requirements for legislators’ salary to be changed.
Issue 3 proposes to change three sections of the Arkansas Constitution: Article 5, Section 1; Article 19, Section 22; and Amendment 70, Section 2.
The first amendment proposed by Issue 3 would change Article 5, Section 1, the “Initiatives and Referendum,” of the Arkansas Constitution. This change would:
- Establish a deadline for voter signatures of January 15 instead of four months before the general election;
- Increase the required number of counties that voter signatures are needed, from 15 to 45 counties;
- Establish a deadline of April 15 for lawsuits to be filed challenging statewide ballot measures;
- Eliminate the “cure period” for state, city and county elections, which allows interest groups to gather more signatures if the initial signatures do not meet the requirements;
- Eliminate the requirement that a person must prove a petition is invalid if they are challenging the validity of a ballot issue petition; and
- Include in the constitution that if a deadline falls on a weekend or holiday, the deadline will be extended to the next business day.
The second proposed change would amend Article 19, Section 22, the “Miscellaneous Provisions,” of the Arkansas Constitution. This change would:
- Increase from 50% to 60% the number of legislative votes needed in each chamber to propose a constitutional amendment to voters; and
- Remove a requirement that constitutional amendments must be published in a newspaper in each county, six months prior to the election. The proposed amendment would instead be printed “in a manner provided by law.”
The third proposed change would amend Amendment 70, Section 2 of the Arkansas Constitution, changing how legislators propose salary changes for elected officials. This change would:
- Remove the requirement that the salary change be published in a newspaper in every county six months prior to the election. The proposed amendment would instead be printed “in a manner provided by law;” and
- Add a similar requirement from Article 19, Section 22, requiring a 60% vote from each chamber, an increase from 50%, for a change in a legislator’s salary.
Arguments for Issue 3
There are two groups supporting Issue 3: the Committee to Protect the Arkansas Constitution and Arkansans for Arkansans.
According to the Vote Y3s’ website, these proponents believe Issue 3 will give a voice to more Arkansans because it will require signatures from 45 counties. It will stop groups from buying petition signatures and prevent out-of-state interests from promoting their political agenda. These groups believe Issue 3 will only bring issues to the ballot that are important to Arkansans and will protect the integrity of the Arkansas Constitution.
Arguments Against Issue 3
According to the Protect AR Rights’ website, Issue 3 would make it harder for citizens to propose ballot initiatives, as it adds a barrier to gather signatures needed for petitions. The website states, if passed, Issue 3 “would make it almost impossible for citizens themselves to put measures on the ballot that would create new laws or amend the constitution.” The website goes on to say, “only politicians, usually with the support of powerful lobbyists, and the highest-financed special interest groups will be able to put forth ballot measures in the future.”
On Monday, October 19, early voting begins in Arkansas for the 2020 election. We encourage voters to know the initiatives and issues on the ballot. It’s important that each citizen know what each issue is and how it will impact their lives. Research each issue so you can be an educated voter when casting your vote.
In addition to state ballot issues, you can view your local ballot issues here.