Vote “NO” on Constitutional Amendments (Issues 1, 2, and 3)
Looking at the 6 Constitutional amendments on the ballot, we start from a basic premise that changing the Constitution is to be avoided if at all possible. We just do not believe in mandatory amendments for that ruling document every 2 years (each election cycle) — so proponents must demonstrate compelling reasons to get a “yes” vote from us on any Constitutional amendments.
The first three proposed Constitutional amendments — Issues 1, 2, and 3 — are all proposed/written by the Arkansas Legislature (which can legally bring up to 3 issues to the people for a vote every election cycle):
Let’s start with Issue 1, a simple change that seems basic enough: changing the terms of county elected officials from 2 years to 4. But here’s the concern — your city and county elected officials are those public officials who serve closest to the people, and voters currently have the opportunity every 2 years to ensure public officials are doing a good job (by voting those folks out who are not). Meanwhile, elected officials will tell you that elections every 2 years make it “difficult to get any real work done” in between constant running for office.
We believe that elected officials hold office to serve the constituents; if they are doing a good job then getting re-elected shouldn’t be a time-consuming nor onerous task (it certainly shouldn’t dominate their activities during an entire 2-year term of office). Voting “yes” on Issue 1 means we dilute our right to frequently change out those public officers, in exchange for making it more convenient for those folks to run their re-election campaigns.
Another part of Issue 1 would deem an individual elected if there are no opposing candidates, thus automatically removing that particular race entirely from the ballot. We oppose this on the same grounds — it takes away voters’ rights to know who the candidates are and to cast a vote (or not) for each and every candidate. It moves Arkansas away from, instead of toward, more transparency.
Because we want our county government to remain very responsive to the people, we vote “NO” on Issue 1.
Whether the Governor should keep his powers when he travels out of state is interesting to ponder. Our current situation (where the Lt. Governor inherits gubernatorial powers in the Governor’s physical absence) has certainly led to surprising political stories in the past, such as the day Republican Lt. Governor Mark Darr OK’d controversial gun legislation in Democrat Governor Mike Beebe’s absence (Beebe would have let it go into effect anyway). But we’re not sure the state — or the state’s executive branch — has ever been endangered because of this practice.
Where’s the compelling reason to make this change? How would it benefit Arkansas? The Arkansas Legislature hasn’t made a case to this voter. Because we tend to lean against changing the Constitution unless there are compelling reasons to do so, we vote “NO” on Issue 2.
Opponents have sued on several 2016 ballot issues, saying the ballot titles are “misleading.” Issue 3 is not one of them, but it should be. There is not one sentence in this proposal that creates or expands jobs — the Legislature (who wrote it) assumes their version of economic development will cause that to happen, so they wrote that into the title (misleading voters!).
Issue 3 came about because North Little Rock (and other Arkansas cities) had contracted with a private organization to perform economic development for the city, even though the practice is outlawed in our state Constitution. A lawsuit ensued and the court ruled cities could not operate their economic development activities this way. So the Legislature created this measure that, among other things, makes this practice legal under our state Constitution. If passed, Issue 3 allows those cities (like NLR that lost the lawsuit) to continue operating the same way they did before.
Our Constitution does not currently allow cities and counties to borrow money for “economic development” and when the state of Arkansas does it, the state is limited to borrowing 5% of yearly state revenue. Among other changes, this measure completely removes the 5% limit, allowing borrowing of up to 100% of projected revenue — and removes the restriction against borrowing by cities and counties so they can get in on the action, too.
By changing the Constitution’s current wording of “industrial development,” this proposal allows borrowing by cities, counties, and the state for pretty much anything those governments want to call “economic development” — a much more broad use than currently allowed.
This measure also authorizes compacts between cities, counties and school districts for economic development. Government is too involved in education now; there’s no need for the compacts authorized in Issue 3. Our school district’s budget is already larger than the city and county government budgets combined; we do not believe that school districts need more borrowing power!
Meanwhile, Issue 3 also allows the Legislature or local city councils/quorum courts to create new taxes to pay off economic development debt. We cannot pay for the borrowing our government does now, so giving government more power to tax hard-working Arkansans just doesn’t make sense.
We oppose any government entity picking winners and losers. Government should never intervene in capitalism/business by giving some projects “government assistance” over others via unlimited borrowing to ‘invest in economic development.’ Past experience (Hewlett-Packard in Conway, for example) demonstrates this type of ‘economic development’ does not typically result in more jobs and increased prosperity, as government always promises.
Issue 3 basically removes all limits on borrowing by city, county, and state government, while allowing those same entities to tax us in new ways as they continue to borrow to pick their winners and losers. We vote “NO” on Issue 3.
Arkansas voters will confront some serious issues at the ballot box this fall. Please study these three Constitutional amendments proposed by the Arkansas Legislature — and be sure to VOTE on November 8.