Highway Commission to Pursue Ballot Issue for Road Funding
Arkansas Highway Commissioners are pinning their hopes for additional highway funding on voters.
Commissioners unanimously voted June 7 to pursue a citizen-led initiative for highway funding after the legislative session ended without such a ballot measure from legislators. A proposed ballot measure for raising the state's gas tax and an accompanying bond issue to pay for road work was filed but it didn't make the cut. Legislators only referred two measures to the November 2018 ballot.
"I think it's a great option for us, the only option we have, because our legislature and government leaders are just so against raising the tax," Commissioner Dick Trammel was quoted in an Associated Press article about the vote. "I think the people will accept we need better roads and good highways in Arkansas."
Now comes the leg work.
Supporters still have to flesh out the details of exactly what they want to put before voters - will it be an increase in the taxes on motor fuel or funding from sales tax? Will it be a constitutional amendment or an initiated act? Commissioners said they hope to decide a path by the fall.
Supporters also have to submit a ballot title and popular name to the Attorney General's Office for approval. Only after the title and name are approved can supporters collect signatures from voters to put the issue on the ballot.
Constitutional amendments require more than 84,000 voter signatures and initiated acts require more than 67,000 signatures.
The Highway Commission's vote was not the only major ballot issue decision made this month.
Members of the Arkansas Bar Association debated whether to pursue a ballot measure that would have competed with SJR8, a proposed constitutional amendment from the legislature that seeks to establish limits on how much money can be awarded in some types of lawsuits and provide legislators with authority to set court rules.
The association's amendment sought to ban limits on damages awarded in lawsuits; set campaign spending rules; increase the threshold for overriding a governor's veto; and end the legislature's oversight of state agency rules.
Delegates from the Arkansas Bar Association considered the proposal at a meeting June 16 where it failedby a few votes. The outcome means the association will not pursue the measure. However, it's expected that some attorneys will continue to oppose SJR8 - one attorney filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission on June 8 to campaign against the measure.
As of June, only one group has approval from the Attorney General to collect signatures for a potential 2018 ballot measure. It involves term limits. The deadline for citizen-led proposals is not until next summer. Find out what ballot proposals have been rejected in recent weeks in our June ballot issue newsletter.
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