From the quiet hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
When Arkansas voters go to the polls this year, they will elect candidates of their choice, and they will determine the fate of three constitutional amendments proposed by the legislature.
Issue One is a proposal to permanently extend the current half-cent sales tax that is dedicated to highway maintenance and construction.
The current half-cent sales tax was approved by voters in a statewide election in 2010, but it is scheduled to expire in 2023.
It would generate almost about $293 million a year in revenue. Cities and counties would receive their traditional division of 15 percent each, which amounts to $44 million for city street repairs and $44 million for county roads.
The state Transportation Department would get about 70 percent of the revenue. That comes to about $205 million a year.
Highway officials have long advocated for a more stable funding source than the current motor fuels tax, which is shrinking as a source of revenue.
The motor fuels tax is collected on a per gallon basis. Every year, as new cars and trucks get better gas mileage, the Transportation Department gets less revenue to maintain the same number of roads.
Also on this year’s ballot is Issue Two, which would limit terms in the Arkansas legislature to 12 consecutive years. After an individual has served 12 years, he or she would have to step down and wait four years before being able to seek legislative office again.
Currently, the limit on legislative service is 16 years. It is a lifetime limit, which means that after you have reached your limit, you cannot run again ever.
Issue Three cleans up the process by which citizens’ groups place initiatives on the ballot.
The flaws in the old system became apparent over the past few years, when out-of-state organizations routinely attempted to expand casino gambling and legalize marijuana. They tried to take advantage of loopholes to buy their way into the state Constitution.
Issue Three protects the integrity of the election process. Signatures would have to be gathered from all across Arkansas, not just in the big cities.
Also, signatures would have to be submitted in January, rather than in July, in order to give election officials plenty of time to validate them.
Issue Three would eliminate a lot of the confusion we now have every election year, because it would set April 15 as the deadline for filing legal challenges of ballot initiatives.
Now, legal challenges take so long to decide, voters can never be certain which issues will appear on the ballot.
Issue Three would clear up that confusion.
Please take the time to learn about ballot issues, and all the candidates who are running for office this year. Voting is a right, and if we don’t exercise it we risk losing it.
From the Capitol, it is always my greatest honor and most sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.