We will take a stand

Editor’s note: This editorial expresses the views of the Log Cabin Democrat. The editorial board is composed of Frank Leto, Jeanette Anderton and Alex Kienlen. The editorial board was split on Issue 1, so the majority opinion is included in the main editorial followed by Kienlen’s dissenting opinion.

This editorial originally ran in the Log Cabin Democrat Oct. 3. It expresses the views of the Van Buren County Democrat.

The Log Cabin Democrat will take a stand in the 2020 general election. As the largest news-gathering operation in Faulkner County, the editorial board believes it is important to express our professional opinions and make recommendations to our readers on issues and candidates.

The board consists of three members who have spent years in the journalism industry. Our education, training and years of experience have provided us with a clear understanding of government. We owe it to our readers to share that knowledge and understanding with you.

This week, we will talk about the three ballot issues. We plan to write endorsements for candidates in the presidential race, the second congressional race and the opposed justice of the peace races in Faulkner County.

Over the next few weeks, we will invite the candidates – with the obvious exception of presidential candidates – to our office to ask them about the specific issues they will face if elected. Our endorsements will be based solely on a candidate’s merits. We strongly encourage voters to choose candidates based on merit as well.

The Log Cabin Democrat welcomes your opinions. We think it is vital to have lively, thoughtful discussions about politics. Whether you agree or disagree, we want to hear from you. Send us letters to the editor at editorial@thecabin.net.

The Log Cabin Democrat opposes Issue 1, which would make permanent a half-cent sales tax scheduled to sunset in 2023. We are not opposed to the tax itself, which annually garners nearly $206 million for the Arkansas Department of Transportation and $44 million each to cities and to counties. The revenue is used for maintaining and improving roads and we are in favor of improving roads. We are also not opposed to having a half-sent sales tax to raise funds for those improvement.

However, we see no need to make this a part of the Arkansas constitution. There is no urgency. If Issue 1 fails, the state can ask voters to extend the existing half-cent sales tax. Arkansas voters approved the road tax in the first place, and would likely approve extending it. The city of Conway handily passed a street in a special election in 2017 with 59 percent voting in favor of it.

The Log Cabin Democrat opposes Issue 2, which would change term limits for members of the Arkansas General Assembly. This would end lifetime term limits for state senators and representatives and allow legislators to run again after a four-year break. It would switch term limits from 16 to 12 years in House/Senate. If a legislator takes a break before they serve 12 years, the clock starts over. Issue 2 is convoluted, and will likely mislead some voters who support term limits into voting for it. The citizen proposal about term limits that didn’t make it onto the ballot would have returned Arkansas to the stricter pre-2014 term limits. This would do the opposite.

The Log Cabin Democrat opposes Issue 3, which would eliminate the requirement that constitutional amendments proposed by the legislature be published in a newspaper for six months ahead of the election and would alter the citizen initiative process.

The Log Cabin Democrat joins the Arkansas Press Association in speaking out against Issue 3. We wholly agree that government business must be conducted in a transparent manner. The APA said: “Public notice in newspapers is essential for transparency and accountability. Issue 3 could eliminate public notice about important ballot issues.”

Issue 3 vaguely proposes legislative amendments would instead be published “in a manner provided by law.”

It would also make it almost impossible for citizens to put measures on the ballot for consideration by moving up the deadline to submit voter signatures and eliminating the “cure period” groups have to collect additional voter signatures for statewide, county and city ballot issues.

The “cure period” is extra time for groups to collect signatures to qualify for the ballot as long as they collected 75 percent of total required signatures and 75 percent of required local signatures from 15 counties and submitted them to the secretary of state, county clerk or city clerk.

For this election, there were three citizen-led ballot issues and none of them made it onto the ballot. There is no need to make it more difficult for citizens’ voices to be heard.

Dissenting opinion by Alex Kienlen

I am for Issue 1. Eighty-six million reasons exist, as they say, for Issue 1 to receive a “for” vote, that being the amount in dollars in economic activity its passage would create in the state of Arkansas. A rural state, by the way, which is utterly dependent upon its roads and bridges to get business done. These same roads, by the way, you and I and our families travel upon.

And it doesn’t stop there. Thirty six hundred reasons exist, as the number of jobs maintained by Issue 1, a tax which is already in place and its continuance will have zero, no, impact on anybody’s take-home.

More reasons? Turnback to Faulkner County: $1,115,754; Cleburne County: $516,088; Van Buren County: $470,009 from a total of $44,055,001 to all Arkansas counties. All at risk. And this is money which will be pulled from budgets if this Issue does not pass. It is impossible to detail a single – any – county in the state which the loss of road money will not have a significant and negative impact.

Its permanence? Is it in any way conceivable in our or our children’s lifetimes that we won’t need this funding for our roads, counties and cities? Is it in any way conceivable that counting on legislators to pass this needed tax bill over and over again could lead to disappointment? Is it in any way conceivable that legislative disappointment could lead to major negative economic impact on our communities, our jobs and, yes, our roads?

Isaiah 55:6 (NIV)

6 Seek the Lord while he may be found;

call on him while he is near.

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