Did you notice at the end of Tuesday’s general election ballot a long list of “issues” for Arkansans to consider at the polls? If they had been offered as “propositions” we might have thought we had stumbled into California.
Unfortunately, the Arkansas initiative process has become a playground for the same forces it was supposed to block. This year the bulk of the money both for and against three ballot measures – actually proposed constitutional amendments — came from some deep-pocket interest groups.
What all that says is our distrust of government, politicians and parties has delivered us into the loving arms of interest groups all too happy to push private agendas. Because of a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, we also have more difficulty in learning who’s trying to push us around.
The big spenders lost because of the independent streak of Arkansans and several basic tactical errors.
Issue No. 1 was well organized and sold by county and municipal governments, contractors and chambers of commerce who will benefit from the proceeds of a one-half cent sales tax to finance major highway projects.
Issue No. 2 never got off the ground and was poorly explained to voters. It was designed to finance liabilities of closed police and fire pension funds.
Issues No 3 and 4 were shot down by the courts. No. 3 would have authorized casino gambling in Pulaski, Miller, Franklin and Crittenden counties. No. 4 would have authorized a casino monopoly for a private firm in Pulaski, Sebastian, Garland, Crittenden, Miller, Boone and Jefferson counties.
Issue No. 5 would have allowed Arkansans to grow their own marijuana under the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act.
Look for more “issues” on future ballots. A whole industry – campaign consultants, lawyers, signature collectors, pollsters, advertising and media experts – depends on it.