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Ballot Initiatives, Amendments for 2016 Election


Ballot Initiatives, Amendments for 2016 Election

Voters to decide more than political races in November When voters head to the polls on Nov. 8, they will be weighing in on more than just the outcome of the U.S. Presidential race, and the state, county and local political races. They will also be giving their “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” on a number of initiatives that could have long-term effects on the lives of Arkansans.

Seven statewide ballot measures were certified for the 2016 ballot in the State of Arkansas. However, two of those issues were nixed by the Arkansas State Supreme Court. Those two measures will still appear on the ballot, since ballots were already printed before the rulings were made, but votes cast will not be counted.

A “Constitutional Amendment to Allow the Governor to Retain His or Her Powers and Duties When Absent From the State,” an “Amendment to the Arkansas Constitution Concerning the Terms, Election, and Eligibility of Elected Officials,” an “Amendment to the Arkansas Constitution Concerning Job Creation, Job Expansion, and Economic Development,” the “The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act,” and the “The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016” have all passed muster with the Secretary of State will all be on the November ballot.

While more than a dozen initiatives were filed for spots on the 2016 ballot in Arkansas, some of them were repeat filings of the same or similar measures.

Petitioners needed to file the requisite number of signatures by July 8 to be considered for inclusion on the ballot. The Secretary of State's office had 30 days to count signatures.

Under state law, citizens of Arkansas may initiate legislation as either a state statute or a constitutional amendment.

In Arkansas, citizens also have the power to repeal legislation via veto referendum.

The Arkansas State Legislature may also place measures on the ballot as legislatively referred constitutional amendments or legislatively referred state statutes.

Citizens were required to file at least 67,887 valid signatures for initiated state statutes, at least 50,916 valid signatures for veto referendums, and at least 84,859 valid signatures for initiated constitutional amendments.

The 2016 state legislative session ran from Jan. to April 20, during which time the Arkansas State Legislature was able to place legislative referrals on the ballot. It placed three measures on the ballot.

Arkansans have a knack for launching grass-roots initiatives and building support for their cause at the polls. A total of 44 measures have appeared on statewide ballots since 1996. Ballot measures only appear in even-numbered years in Arkansas.

Between 1996 and 2016, an average of four measures appeared on the ballot during even-numbered election years in Arkansas, with at least one, and as many as six on the ballot in that 20-year span, with about a 60 percent (29 of 48) success rate. About 35 percent (17 of 48) were defeated, and two were approved but then overturned by the State Supreme Court.

A snapshot look at this year’s ballot measures:

• (Issue 1) Terms, Elections and Eligibility of County Officials Amendment — Increases the terms for certain county officers to four

• (Issue 2) Gubernatorial Powers Amendment — Allows the governor to retain his or her powers and duties when absent from the state. Under current law, the Lieutenant Governor becomes “acting governor” when the governor leaves Arkansas for official or personal business.

• (Issue 3) Removal of Cap on Bonds Amendment — Removes the cap on the amount of bonds the state is allowed to issue. The current cap would be removed, allowing for the unlimited issuance of bonds, which is aimed at spurring economic development around the sate.

• (Issue 6) The Medical Marijuana Amendment, which differs from the Medical Marijuana Act in that it is an amendment proposal, rather than a statute proposal, would legalize medical marijuana in Arkansas at a constitutional level. Both proponents and opponents of marijuana legalization have contended that multiple ballot measures on medical marijuana could be confusing to voters on both sides of the issue.

• (Issue 7) Medical Marijuana Act — Legalizes medical marijuana, or more specifically, de-criminalizes regulated possession, manufacture, use and distribution of cannabis, which would still remain a criminal act under federal law.

These two ballot measures were on the ballot, but those votes will not be counted:

• (Issue 4) Limit Contingency Fees and Awards in Medical Cases Amendment — A tort reform amendment that prohibits charging excessive contingency fees for legal representation in suits seeking damages against healthcare providers. Also limits awards for non-economic damages in any potential lawsuit to $250,000.

• (Issue 5) A proposed Casinos Amendment would allows three new casinos to operate — one in Boone County, one in Miller County, and one in Washington County.

Currently Crittenden County and Garland County are the only locations in the state that are authorized to operate casino- style gaming.

Opponents have voiced concerns about not only the expansion of gambling in Arkansas but also the specific sites being worked into the law at the constitutional level, as well as putting the issue to a statewide vote rather than allowing county voters to make the decision about casinos in their individual counties.

The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension service has a non-partisan rundown on all of these ballot measures online at communities/votereducation/ state-ballotissues. aspx

By Ralph Hardin

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