There is a whole lot to like in this election season. There are many good candidates for Little Rock's new school board (not just the ones we endorsed, either), there are good candidates for Congress all over the ballot, and more than one legislative race has a good choice between two fine candidates--and sometimes a third party.
The three issues on the ballot: not so much.
All three have well-meaning supporters. But we have to recommend against all three. A special thank you to the people at the U of A Division of Agriculture Research & Extension outfit and the Cooperative Extension Service for their handy-like-a-shirt-pocket explanations and short videos on the issues. That was money well spent, and voters well educated.
This would make permanent a 0.5 percent state sales tax to fund road improvements at the state and local levels. Since it is a proposed constitutional amendment, it would not only make permanent this tax, but put it in our state constitution. That is, make it permanent in spades.
One argument made in favor of this tax: It's not new, and people wouldn't be paying more. But that's always the case with tax sunset clauses. They never sunset. The government keeps coming to the people for renewals. Which is fine if the people want those renewals, because the government has been good stewards of the money. Which is admittedly, most of the time.
(Imagine if your car note was made permanent, but because you paid the same every month, the car company explained that you really weren't paying more.)
The current 0.5 percent tax would "sunset" in 2023. And folks enjoy their highways and roads, and would no doubt grant the government another extension in 2023, if asked. This proposal takes away the need to ask.
Also, Arkansas has one of the highest sales tax rates in the country already. Some lists have us ranked No. 2 overall.
Issue 1 has some powerful friends. And it might well pass if voters are of a mind to trust a government that has admittedly proven worthy over the years when it comes to road improvements.
But taxpayers like sunsets, or should. If this issue is voted down and comes up again in two years with a sunset provision, we would probably support it. But without a sunset, we recommend No on Issue 1.
The biggest issue with this issue is that it would remove lifetime term limits from lawmakers. Currently, those serving in the Arkansas Legislature can serve 16 years, mixing and matching service in the House or Senate. Issue 2 would change that, and require that after serving 12 years in a row, the lawmaker must sit out four years before being eligible to run again.
This is the least talked-about issue on the ballot, and probably deservedly so. But we see no good reason to change the term limits law yet again. Voters are just getting used to the new rules implemented in 2014. We recommend No on Issue 2.
This would change how citizens' initiatives are put on the ballot, and change publication requirements and deadlines.
Issue 3 would require those trying to get something on the ballot to collect signatures from 45 counties instead of the current 15. No matter how you cut it, that would make things more difficult for grass-roots campaigns. The amendment, if passed, would also eliminate the "cure period," after the first round of signatures are handed to the Secretary of State's office. The cure period now allows for more time to collect more signatures if the state says the first group of signatures don't meet the threshold.
The issue would also increase the number of lawmakers who'd have to approve of a Legislature-referred amendment to the people from a simple majority to 3/5ths of the members. And it would remove the requirement that constitutional amendments proposed by the Ledge be published in a newspaper. Instead the language is vague about notifying citizens. We have an obvious interest in having legal notices published in newspapers. But we are also opposed to efforts to lessen transparency in government, especially on an issue to be voted on by everyone.
We'd recommend No on Issue 3 as well.