Issues

Issue 1: Limiting Attorney Fees, Restricting Punitive Damages, and Capping Noneconomic Damages in Lawsuits, and Letting the State Legislature Make Rules About Pleading, Practice, and Procedure for All Courts.

Issue 1 is a proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution. In 2017 the Arkansas Legislature referred Issue 1 to the people for a vote. If passed it will change how all injury lawsuits are handled in Arkansas. Issue 1 limits attorney contingency fees in lawsuits to one-third of the total amount of money the injured person receives; the Arkansas Legislature may change this limit by a two-thirds vote of the Arkansas House and Senate. Issue 1 also restricts punitive damages to $500,000 or three times the total amount awarded in the lawsuit—whichever is higher—unless the injury was deliberate or willful; the Arkansas Legislature may increase this amount by a two-thirds vote of the Arkansas House and Senate. Issue 1 restricts noneconomic damages in cases of injury or death to no more than $500,000; the Arkansas Legislature can raise this limit upon a two-thirds vote of the Arkansas House and Senate, and the state will be required to adjust the limit for inflation or deflation based on the Consumer Price Index. Issue 1 lets the Arkansas Legislature make rules of pleading, practice, and procedure for all courts in Arkansas upon a three-fifths vote (60 votes in the Arkansas House and 21 votes in the Arkansas Senate). Giving the legislature power over rules of pleading, practice, and procedure means lawmakers would be able to make rules about the types of evidence that can or cannot be used in court, and the legislature would be able to require cases to pass through mediation or through other channels before going to trial; the Arkansas Legislature would have this power over all courts in Arkansas—not just courts dealing with personal-injury lawsuits. Issue 1 does not limit economic damages for things like medical bills or lost wages.

Issue 2: Requiring Voters to Show Photo ID When Voting.

Issue 2 is a proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution. In 2017 the Arkansas Legislature referred Issue 2 to the people for a vote. Issue 2 adds a provision to the Arkansas Constitution saying a voter must present a valid photo identification when casting a vote. It also says the State of Arkansas must issue a free photo ID to eligible voters who lack a photo identification. Any voter voting by absentee ballot would be required to enclose a copy of a valid photo ID with the ballot. Issue 2 lets the Arkansas Legislature decide which forms of photo identification would be acceptable in order to vote, and it says that voters who lack a photo ID on Election Day would be allowed to vote using a provisional ballot; provisional ballots would be counted only if the voter later certifies the ballot in a manner prescribed by the Arkansas Legislature. Even though Issue 2 is a constitutional amendment, it gives the Arkansas Legislature the power to add exceptions to the requirements that voters present a valid photo ID when voting or enclose a copy of a valid photo ID when mailing an absentee ballot.

Issue 3: Instituting Shorter Term Limits for State Legislators.

Issue 3 is a proposed constitutional amendment enacting term limits for state legislators. The Secretary of State certified Issue 3 for the ballot after enough registered voters signed petitions to have the amendment brought before Arkansas’ voters. Issue 3 would limit state representatives to no more than three terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives for a total of six years; it limits state senators to no more than two terms in the Arkansas Senate for a total of eight years. Additionally, Issue 3 says no one may serve more than 10 years total in the Arkansas House and Senate. In practice this means a state legislator could serve a maximum of three two-year terms in the Arkansas House and then serve one four-year term in the Arkansas Senate for a total of 10 years. A state legislator also could serve two four-year terms in the Arkansas Senate followed by one two-year term in the Arkansas House for a total of 10 years. Issue 3 also prevents the Arkansas Legislature from referring constitutional amendments changing legislators’ term limits; any changes to term limits must be made by collecting petition signatures from registered voters via the initiative and referendum process.

Issue 4: Authorizing Four Casinos in Arkansas.

Issue 4 is a proposed constitutional amendment authorizing four casinos in Arkansas: one in Garland County; one in Crittenden County; one in Jefferson County; and one in Pope County. The Secretary of State certified Issue 4 for the ballot after enough registered voters signed petitions to have the amendment brought before Arkansas’ voters. Under Issue 4, the Arkansas Racing Commission would be responsible for licensing and overseeing casinos. Under Issue 4, the Racing Commission automatically would award casino licenses to the horse and greyhound racetracks in Garland County and Crittenden County. The casinos in Jefferson and Pope Counties would be operated by companies who have a successful record operating casinos elsewhere. Issue 4 taxes casino revenue; most of the tax revenue would go to the Arkansas Legislature and the Racing Commission for purses at the race tracks; the rest would go to the local city or county in which the casino is located. Issue 4 lets casinos operate 24 hours per day, 365 days per year; it lets casinos sell or give away alcohol any time the casino is in operation, regardless of whether or not the casino is in a dry county; and it lets the casinos offer virtually any form of gambling, including cards, dice, slot machines, and any game played with a machine or electronic device. Issue 4 also would allow wagering on ballgames and sporting events. Because Issue 4 is a constitutional amendment, the Arkansas Legislature would not be able to amend it in any way.

Issue 5: Raising the Minimum Wage to $11 by 2021.

Issue 5 is a proposed initiated act to raise Arkansas’ minimum wage. The Secretary of State certified Issue 5 for the ballot after enough registered voters signed petitions to have the proposal brought before Arkansas’ voters.  Issue 5 would raise Arkansas’ minimum wage from $8.50 per hour to $9.25 per hour on January 1, 2019, and then to $10 per hour by January 1, 2020, and finally to $11 per hour on January 1, 2021. Issue 5 would not amend the Arkansas Constitution; instead it is an initiated act that writes a new provision into Arkansas’ state minimum wage law. Because Issue 5 is an initiated act, the Arkansas Legislature can amend Issue 5 upon a two-third vote of the Arkansas House and Arkansas Senate.