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A proposal to shorten legislative term limits lacks the signatures to remain on the ballot, but an initiated act on minimum wage increases should stay there, according to reports issued Monday by special masters.

Special Master Mark Hewett on Monday found that the sponsor of a proposed constitutional amendment that would shorten the number of years that state lawmakers may serve failed to submit enough valid signatures to qualify the proposal for the Nov. 6 general election ballot. He said the secretary of state's office, which checks petitions, erroneously included more than 14,000 signatures of registered voters in its final count.

Meanwhile, Special Master Sam Bird concluded that the secretary of state's office erroneously discarded some signatures when it certified the proposed initiated act to raise the state's minimum wage by $2.50 an hour to $11 per hour by 2021.

Now the state Supreme Court will consider the findings of Hewett and Bird, who were appointed this month to review legal challenges to the ballot proposals. The challenges were led by Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce President Randy Zook. Both special masters held hearings last week.

TERM LIMITS

The Arkansans for Common Sense Term Limits ballot committee, led by Zook, asked the Supreme Court to toss the term limits proposal -- Issue 3 -- from the ballot.

The proposed amendment would impose the strictest term limits in the nation on state lawmakers. It would limit state representatives to three two-year terms, senators to two four-year terms and a combined maximum of 10 years in both chambers. Amendment 94 to the Arkansas Constitution, approved by voters in 2014, limits lawmakers to serving up to 16 years in the House, the Senate or combined service in both chambers. Senators, who draw two-year terms after once-a-decade redistricting, may serve beyond 16 years.

On Aug. 3, Secretary of State Mark Martin's office determined that Issue 3 qualified for the ballot because the sponsoring group, the Arkansas Term Limits committee, turned in no more than 93,998 valid signatures of registered voters. The proposal needed 84,859 valid signatures to qualify.

Zook asserted that Issue 3's ballot title and popular name are not fair or complete and will mislead voters. He also contended that some of the paid and volunteer canvassers circulating petitions failed to properly collect signatures of registered voters and those should be invalidated.

In his report to the Supreme Court, Hewett found that Martin's office erroneously included 14,810 signatures of registered voters in its final count, and this error was mostly for not complying with a state law on paid canvassers.

"Accordingly, I find that the sponsor submitted insufficient signatures to [qualify] for the November 6, 2018, General Election Ballot," Hewett said.

While the Arkansas Term Limits committee attempted to raise arguments challenging the constitutionality of various laws, including Arkansas Code Annotated 7-9-601, " I decline to make any determinations regarding the constitutionality of statutes because it is outside the scope of the review tasked to me by the Arkansas Supreme Court in its per curium order, which directed me to 'determine the questions of fact contained in the petition,' " Hewett wrote in his report to the Supreme Court.

Chad Pekron, an attorney representing the Arkansas Term Limits committee, said that "we came very close" in qualifying for the ballot based on the findings of Hewett, and there were some constitutional issues that Hewett wasn't allowed to consider in his proceedings.

Pekron said he disagrees with some of Hewett's statutory interpretations, and he hopes to convince that Supreme Court to keep the proposal on the ballot.

Zook said Monday in a written statement that "we are pleased with the special master's findings, and we're hopeful the Arkansas Supreme Court will agree that this measure did not meet the requirements to be on the ballot.

"Aside from the flawed signature effort, proposed Issue 3, being pushed by out-of-state interests, is bad policy for Arkansas. Saddling Arkansans with the most restrictive term limits in the country would be detrimental to the operation of our state government," Zook said.

MINIMUM WAGE

The Citizens for a Sound Economy committee, also led by Zook, asked the Supreme Court to toss the proposed initiated act to raise the minimum wage off the ballot. It's Issue 5.

The secretary of state's office determined that the sponsor, the Arkansans for a Fair Wage committee, turned in 84,526 valid signatures. The proposal needed 67,887 signatures.

In his report Monday, Bird determined that Martin's office had improperly culled 19,335 signatures from those gathered by canvassers.

Attorneys for Citizens for a Sound Economy argued that thousands of signatures initially submitted by David Couch, the architect of Issue 5, in July should have been invalidated.

Even though Couch had many signatures invalidated following his initial submission, the secretary of state's office determined that he had at least enough valid signatures (75 percent) to qualify for an additional 30 days of gathering. When Couch came backs weeks later, he had tens of thousands of more signatures, but Zook's attorneys argued that Couch should have never been allowed the extra time to begin with.

Bird concluded that 582 signatures should be invalidated from the count in favor of Issue 5 because the canvassers submitted signature cards referencing a different issue altogether, one to expand casino gambling.

But by adding in the previously culled signatures, Bird counted 71,459 total signatures, more than the 67,887 needed to place the initiated act.

"It is clear (and I find) that sponsor's petition exceeded the minimum number of signatures ... required to qualify it for placement on the November 6, 2018 ballot," Bird wrote in his finding.

Issue 5 would raise the state's current minimum wage of $8.25 per hour to $9.25 on Jan. 1, 2019, then to $10 per hour in 2020 and to $11 in 2021.

"They're trying to disenfranchise voters because the canvasser left the last letter out of their name" on the forms submitted to the secretary of state, Couch said.

"We're disappointed in the special master's findings. We believe the committee pushing for the wage increase failed to follow the process Arkansas law sets out for gathering signatures, and that many signatures were improperly validated. Hopefully, the Arkansas Supreme Court will agree with us that this measure, which would hurt the state's economy and likely cost jobs, did not qualify for the November ballot," Zook said in a statement.

A Section on 09/25/2018

Print Headline: Special master rejects term-limits ballot issue

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Comments

  • RBear
    September 25, 2018 at 6:16 a.m.

    In general, the Secretary of State seems to be negligent in both cases in properly managing the process. Martin and some of his reports have been an embarrassment to this state and has been sloppy countless times in dealing with important procedural matters regarding voting. His term could not end soon enough.
    ...
    Glad to see the minimum wage initiative is in more solid position going before the Supreme Court. Let's hope partisan politics doesn't invade it, which is a real possibility based on this Court.

  • DontDrinkDatKoolAid
    September 25, 2018 at 6:32 a.m.

    However: term limits are needed in this state.

  • RBear
    September 25, 2018 at 7:35 a.m.

    DDDK last time I checked, the state has them including for constitutional officials.

  • theaverageman
    September 25, 2018 at 9:08 a.m.

    10 years is too long for term limits it should be 2 or 4 years instead and maybe our state government can get their act together and pull some much needed weight. The people that's in our legislature right now as well as Assa Hutchinson need to be voted out because they have ignored the people of this state by being so self centered. So if you want this state to move forward you will get out and vote by draining our local swamp that's holding this state hostage.

  • RBear
    September 25, 2018 at 9:28 a.m.

    TAM that’s FAR too short and would cost quite a bit of money to run. It also puts inexperienced lawmakers in office, creating one big cluster. It would probably be deemed unconstitutional.

  • theaverageman
    September 25, 2018 at 11:01 a.m.

    @Rbear Do you know what you're even talking about? What do you mean by "inexperience lawmakers"? I don't see how 2 or 4 years is too short or unconstitutional because that's the problem with this country as a whole when have too many career politicians who has been in office for so long whether it would be local, state, or national level that has not done much other than screw the average citizen over. I bet you would be in favor for career politicians to be in office as long as they want. If the President and governor have short term limits, then so should our legislature. Point is the people that's in our government right now top to bottom should be long gone right now because they have not done anything to make this state better or its people.

  • WhododueDiligence
    September 25, 2018 at 11:05 a.m.

    The problem in politics is big money. Term limits can't solve that. In some cases term limits can make the problem worse. Lobbyists are paid by big-money interests and they don't have term limits. The same big-money interests also fund election campaigns and run frequent misleading ads which heap praise on their candidates and heap relentless demonizing scorn on the opponents of their candidates.
    *
    Ultimately it's up to voters to solve the problem. To solve it voters need to reject misleading attack ads and support candidates--especially in the primary elections where voters have the highest number of choices--who are most concerned with helping the people of their districts. To solve it voters need to vote against the candidates most concerned with helping the big-money campaign donors and their heavily lobbied narrow special interests.
    *
    When voters succeed in electing legislators who genuinely are concerned with helping the people in their district and in their state, it certainly doesn't help the problem by having those legislators kicked out by term limits. And ironically much of the big-money misleading attack advertising comes from recently legalized tax-exempt shady national electioneering organizations headquartered outside the state.

  • RBear
    September 25, 2018 at 7:33 p.m.

    TAM actually no, I would not be in favor of career politicians and yes, I do know what I'm talking about. I've worked with public officials as a private citizen for decades and know what's most effective. I know that anything less than 4 years is completely ineffective and you essentially turn government over to lobbyists who know the ropes and "coach" the lawmaker.
    ...
    My guess is you barely know who your elected officials are and probably have never spoken to them face to face. So, I'll write your comment off to lack of knowledge on the subject.

  • theaverageman
    September 26, 2018 at 9:41 a.m.

    @Rbear actually I have and I'm pretty aware that are state government is corrupt and needs to be replaced. All I know is 10 plus years is too long to be in office and our so-called leaders have done nothing but being lazy and ignoring the people which is why I'm in favor of shorter term limits. So instead of trolling and being insulting, take a careful look at our state government as a whole to find out if they are worth staying in office.

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