Arkansas’s motto is Regnat Populus — “The People Rule.” Unfortunately, the people’s so-called representatives are demanding that this motto be made more fitting: Regnat Tyrannis.
I jest. The Natural State’s legislators aren’t nearly so honest. Just devious.
A few years back, the fine people of Arkansas (where I grew up) had arguably the nation’s most accessible-to-the-people petition process. With it, they enacted issues that legislators despise: term limits, for instance.
But in 2013, legislators passed several bills upping the difficulty and cost of the citizen initiative process.
Yesterday, Senate Bill 698 was passed and now goes to the governor.
Today, the Senate votes on House Joint Resolution 1003, a constitutional amendment for the 2018 ballot. It increases the petition requirement and raises the vote threshold to 60 percent to pass an initiative amendment.*
SB 698 is straightforwardly sinister. When groups gather the voter signatures to place a measure on the ballot, the Secretary of State is required to publish the wording in the legal notice section of newspapers throughout the state. Despite low readership. This bill would make the petitioners pay.
According to a report in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the state spent nearly $2 million publishing the language of these measures in 2016. The old requirement should be repealed, but the new one would be disastrous: Only citizens with deep, deep pockets could pursue ballot initiatives.
A veto is needed from Governor Asa Hutchinson — call him at (501) 682-2345.
As for HJR 1003, Arkansans can find their state senator here. Call early.
My adopted state’s motto is also Latin: Sic Semper Tyrannis.** The good people of Arkansas are welcome to it, until theirs is once again operative.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
* At least, voters can defeat this measure at the ballot box.
** The precise English translation of Virginia’s motto is “Thus always with tyrants.” The common translation is “Death to all tyrants.”