Sunday open line | Arkansas Blog

Sunday open line

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Here's an open line. Also:

* VOTER INITIATIVES: Here's an article by Paul Jacob, a North Little Rock native who was an important foot soldier in the national campaign to pass term limits. He's writing about efforts sweeping the country to make it hard to put citizen initiated laws and amendments on the ballot. That's happening in Arkansas this legislative session, as he notes. Corrupt canvassing activities are being used to justify legislation that will make it prohibitively difficult to mount initiatives — for medical marijuana, government ethics, a fairer gas severance tax, casinos, you name it. Particularly name casinos. The effort is being driven by actors beholden to the casino owners at the Southland and Oaklawn race tracks. Writes Jacob:


The legislation is designed to attack fraud in petitions, and it appears from reports that there were indeed forged signatures on petitions turned in for a couple of 2012 ballot initiatives. The problem is that no one has been charged with a crime. Instead, legislators are slapping a cumbersome and expensive new state registration and training program on future initiative and referendum petitions.

The frightening result of any transgression of the new Labyrinth of rules and regs embedded in SB 821 is that the perfectly valid petition signatures of registered Arkansas voters would be thrown out and discounted, right along with the bad. A simple technical mistake made by someone working for the campaign — petition circulator, manager, clerk, notary public — can deny voters a signature and, thus, a vote.

Will Arkansas Republicans throw this monkey wrench into Arkansas’s long, proud tradition of initiative and referendum? Will they allow this law to pass on their very first watch?

Republicans have the opportunity to prove to voters close to home that they are different — indeed, better — than Democrats, who haven’t always been very nice to small-d democracy, either. But in Ohio, Idaho and Arkansas (and elsewhere) Republican politicians seem bent on taking whacks at democracy . . . and, in the process, losing future elections

* A FAIR SHAKE FOR IMMIGRANTS: Gov. Mike Beebe says HE won't stand in the way of Sen. Joyce Elliott's legislation to provide college scholarship for Arkansas high school graduates and long-time residents who don't have legal residency. It took Beebe a while — six years — to catch up with Mike Huckabee, but catch up now he has. The AP article here quotes him as saying he still has concerns about whether extending this help would violate federal law. (Other states have no such qualms.) But the problem is not Mike Beebe. The problem is the Republican legislative majority. Would IT allow succor to immigrants whose families have played by state rules, paid taxes and worked for a better life? The news I'm hearing for the coalition that has been working on this issue for years is that the issue boils down to a single swing Republican from Northwest Arkansas on the Senate committee that will hear this legislation. He's reportedly believed to be persuadable. Nationally, Republicans have been moving a little on immigration, particularly on efforts such as the DREAM Act, in part motivated by hopes of not permanently losing Latino voters. But, as we've seen on other issues, the new Arkansas legislative majority is a whole lot fonder of the narrow and exclusionary ways of 1963 than the ways of a world 50 years older.

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