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Ark. to vote on alcohol, min. wage

Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas voters will not vote on legalizing marijuana in November after advocates failed to gather the necessary signatures to place measures regarding both medical and recreational uses of the plant on this year’s ballot.

Signatures are currently being counted to determine whether or not two other measures will be put to a vote, one regarding statewide alcohol sales and one concerning raising the Arkansas minimum wage.

Stephen Copley, president of Give Arkansas A Raise Now and representative of An Act to Increase The Arkansas Minimum Wage, said the 62,507 signatures necessary for the measure to be placed on the November ballot have been gathered and have been submitted to the office of Secretary of State Mark Martin for review and validation.

Copley’s measure would raise Arkansas’ minimum wage for the first time since 2006 from $6.25 to $7.50 per hour by 2015, to $8 per hour in 2016 and $8.50 per hour in 2017, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

While the national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, companies who do not engage in interstate commerce and do not generate more than $500,000 per year in revenue, can choose to use the lower state minimum wage, according to the Arkansas Department of Labor.

The Democrat-Gazette reported representatives for The Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Amendment petition submitted 84,969 signatures for verification July 7, the final day signatures were accepted. The petition requires 78,133 signatures to be placed on the ballot. 

Larry Page, executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, said while Arkansas Baptists can now be sure they will not have to contend with issues regarding marijuana during this election cycle, he expects the issue of statewide alcohol sales to be included on the ballot.

“We will be holding strategy meetings with some of our leaders throughout the state to develop a game plan to counter the incredible push that will come to wet our entire state,” said Page.

He said reasons for fighting the measure are not simply faith-based,  but also practical.

“There are many legitimate and commonsense reasons to leave the law as it is. … If the statewide alcohol initiative is passed, local control will be taken away. The end result is that a few populous counties – counties that are already ‘wet’ – will decide the fate of rural and less populated counties that are ‘dry’ and want to remain dry,” said Page.

Of the 75 counties in Arkansas, 37 are considered dry counties, according to the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Some areas within Arkansas’ wet counties are also considered dry.

Secretary Martin’s office is now working to validate the signatures submitted for both The Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Amendment and An Act to Increase The Arkansas Minimum Wage. 

A 30-day period is provided to representatives of the petitions to gather any additional signatures needed to fill the requirement following validation. The deadline to certify petitions for the November ballot is Aug. 21.

Contact Caleb Yarbrough at caleb@arkansasbaptist.org.

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