Arkansas “Special”Elections

    The Arkansas Legislature has before it House Bill 1357,a bill designed to limit the number of  dates a year in which special elections can be held and to increase voter turnout. That bill would restrict special elections to either the primary or general election date in a general election year or similar two dates on non-general election years.  An amendment to the bill added in the State Senate would allow school Board elections to remain on the third Tuesday in September and “Special School Elections”could be held either in conjunction with that election or on the date authorized for other special elections.
    Why would Arkansas lawmakers trouble themselves with such mundane issues as this?  After all what business is it of the State Legislature when local districts choose to hold their elections for special local events?  Well,I’m glad you thought of that.  Although I can’t speak for all of Arkansas I can certainly relate current experiences of Garland County residents about “Special Elections”of late.
    Garland is a county with a list of registered voters that ranges in the 63,000 range.  As of today there are 63,455 registered voters.  At the last general election (Nov ’12) that number was 62,448 registered voters.  In recent years we have had a pretty respectable percentage of voters that have turned out at the polls on general election dates.  Last year we had a voter turnout of 40,946 or 65.6% of the eligible voters at the general election.  Not great that only about 2/3 of the electorate actually vote,but statistically speaking,that’s really pretty good based on average participation nationwide.   In the primary elections held in May of 2012 here in Garland County,there was a turnout of 12,082 or only 19.3% of the electorate.  Not nearly as good,but still reasonable all things considered.
    Already this year  there has been not one,but three “Special Elections”scheduled in Garland County!  Every election requires a cost for the election to the county and in the case of special elections that is partially,but not totally reimbursed by the requesting district.  The costs of these elections are not inconsequential and in this day of overstretched governmental budgets this is a serious thing.

    The first of those three Garland County “Special Elections”  this year was a millage vote for Lake Hamilton School district.  In spite of the Lake Hamilton’s school superintendent’s assuring the residents of Garland County as recently as August of 2012 of no need for additional tax increase needed for the next several years,a special election was scheduled for Mar 12,2013.  This election was held in only one polling place,the Lake Hamilton School (not a normal polling place for other elections).  Persons who did not choose to vote early had to somehow figure out where to go vote since their regular polling places were closed.  Few people read the paper every day in today’s busy society so many of the registered voters had no idea where to go to vote. Many of them did not even know such an election was being held at all!   The result,out of 15,429 registered voters in the district,2274 actually cast votes (14.7%).  As special elections go,this was actually a very high turnout!  Many such elections garner only 3 to 5% turnout!

    The second “Special Election”already this year in Garland County was one covering the entire county to raise millage rates for building expansion at the National Park Community College.  This election was held yesterday Apr 9th.  On this election there were a total of 4619 votes cast out of a registered voter list of 63,435 or 7.3% of the electorate. This was in spite of extensive get out the vote campaigns by both sides.

    Next month there is another “Special Election”scheduled  in Garland County for residents of the city of Hot Springs to determine the form for city government.  History shows that this will likely also have a very poor turnout as compared to regular,or even primary elections.

    All across the state there are special elections held that have voter turnouts with from 3% to 15% of registered voters.  This bill would change that by restricting local voting districts from cherry picking times and dates that are favorable for their single issue so that it would insure passage of the tax or governmental issues that they favor.  Allowing this kind of open ended scheduling of elections for limited attention issues assures that the average voter will have little opportunity to participate in government or to exercise their civic duty of voting.  It encourages a defeatist attitude on the part of the voters that the “powers that be”will manipulate the elections in such a way that they might as well not even bother.

    HB-1357 was presented by Rep Alan Kerr (R) and  Sen David Saunders (R).  CoSponsors include Reps  Cozart (R),Lowery (R) and Slinkard (R).  In debate Rep Kerr was asked  if an expected Senate amendment to exempt some school elections would address concerns that mayors have voiced about the bill. Kerr said it would not.   He went on to add,“They’ve abused those privileges over the years,having elections on holidays,days after holidays,trying to time them in such a way to control the outcome of the elections,and in my opinion that’s completely un-American and just wrong.”

    Rep Kerr,you are right on!  Scheduling numerous elections based on limited interest issues deletes the perceived value of citizen participation in government and discourages voter participation.  We need to expand citizen participation,not hamper it by convincing voters that their vote doesn’t count based on the obvious manipulation we see in these “Special Elections”. Special elections for various issues are a necessary ingredient of governmental function,but they need to be restricted to avoid abuse and encourage voter participation and faith in the process.

    HB-1357 has had a checkered past and failed in one house vote.  That vote was expunged today (4/10) by a vote of 82-0 with 18 not voting.  It has been returned to the list of house bills for consideration.  Please contact you state representative and senator and urge them to support passage of HB-1357. Lets act now to end the endless revolving door of “Special Elections”in Arkansas.

    Outdoor Channel Pulls CO Production Over New Gun Laws

    The following is a copy of an e-mail sent by Michael Bane of the Outdoor Channel to Colorado State Senator Steve King on or about Mar 7th.  In it Michael Bane,an Executive Producer for “The Outdoor Channel”expressed that he would pull his production shows out of Colorado  if the anti-gun bills passed into law.
    Dear Senator King;
    I met you yesterday after the so-called “public hearings”on the antigun bills;as I mentioned,I am an Executive Producer for OUTDOOR CHANNEL. I currently have four series in production,including GUN STORIES,the top show on OC,with several additional series in development. My series focus on guns,hunting,shooting and the outdoors.
    This morning I met with my three Producers,and we made the decision that if these antigun bills become law,we will be moving all of our production OUT of Colorado. We have already cancelled a scheduled filming session for late this month. Obviously,part of this is due to our own commitment to the right to keep and bear arms,but it also reflects 3 lawyers’opinions that these laws are so poorly drafted and so designed to trap otherwise legal citizens into a crime (one of our attorneys referred to them as “flypaper laws”) that it is simply too dangerous for us to film here.
    I can give you chapter and verse on the legal implications if you need,but suffice to say that the first legal opinion was so scary we went out and got two others. Al three attorneys agreed.
    We are relatively small potatoes in television,but our relocation of production will cost Colorado a little less than a million dollars in 2013.
    Secondly,we have proudly promoted Colorado in our productions (and have been moving more and more production into the state);now we will do exactly the opposite. What does this mean for Colorado? The community of television producers is a small one. Last week I had lunch with a major network producer who was looking to locate his new reality series in Colorado. That producer is also a shooter,and the new reality series will now be based out of Phoenix. That lunch cost Colorado over a million in economic impact.
    Thirdly,according to numbers I received from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (for whom I used to work) yesterday,hunting had an almost $800,000,000 impact on Colorado in 2012,driving as many as 8330 jobs. Next month I will be in Texas meeting with most of the top outdoor/hunting producers,and the Number One agenda item will be Colorado. Already,hunting organizations and statewide hunting clubs around the country are pulling out of Colorado,and we expect this trend to accelerate rapidly.
    The message we will take to our viewers and listeners is that these proposed laws are so dangerous to hunters and any other person,be she a fisherman or a skier who brings a handgun into the state for self-defense,that we cannot recommend hunting,fishing or visiting Colorado. We reach millions of people,and,quite frankly,we have a credibility that Colorado government officials can no longer match. Colorado Division of Wildlife is already running ads trying to bring more out-of-state hunters to Colorado…in light of the flood of negative publicity about these proposed laws,I can assure you those ads will fail.
    We estimate that as many as one-quarter to one-third of out-of-state hunters will desert Colorado in the next 18-24 months,which will quite frankly be a disaster for the hunting industry in Colorado and have a devastating effect on our western and northern communities (certainly cities like Grand Junction).
    This is not a “boycott”in the traditional sense of a centralized,organized operation;rather,it is more of a grassroots decision on where shooters,hunters and other sportsmen are willing to spend their money. Look at the collapse of the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in February. That venerable multimillion dollar trade show chose to ban modern sporting rifles and standard capacity magazines,and within three weeks it collapsed as all vendors and sponsors pulled out.
    Colorado is going to pay a huge price for laws that will do nothing. Thank you,sir,for your support.

    Best.

    Michael Bane

    OUTDOOR CHANNEL
    mbane@outdoorchannel.com

    On a follow-up interview on March 8th by Channel 9,KUSA-TV,Denver  “an Outdoor Channel spokesperson”stated that Bane doesn’t speak for all of The Outdoor Channel,but only for his own four popular shows. They stated,  “. . .  his views and the direction in which he takes his productions do not necessarily reflect those of Outdoor Channel.”  KUSA-TV also stated that the Outdoor Channel had recently accepted a purchase offer by the owners of the Denver Nuggets,and the Colorado Avalanche:  Kroenke Sports and Entertainment LLC which is based in Denver.

    On March 10th Al Maurer wrote in the Washington Times reported that Democratic Senate leadership had threatened to hold up or stop legislation on their pay unless CO sheriffs drop their opposition to the proposed gun control measures. In a move reminiscent of Chicago-style mob politics,Democratic State Senate leadership threatened sheriffs with holding up or stopping legislation that affects sheriffs’ pay unless they change their collective position on gun control. According to Al Maurer Sheriff Terry Maketa of El Paso County  “intends to press for an investigation for possible extortion and influencing elected officials,including possibly filing charges with the Colorado State Attorney General’s office.”Apparently Democrat Legislators are refusing to meet with their constituents.  The Senate Democratic leadership has been reportedly “missing in action”.  Sen Morgan Carroll of Aurora  Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo,and Rep Joe Salazar failed to show or cancelled meetings.   Sen Jeanne Nicholson (D-Gilpin County) showed,but refused to announce how she would vote and “literally ordered hundreds of gun owners at the meeting to sit down when they quietly stood to show their opposition to the bills”.

    On the week of Mar 22nd,Colorado  Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) signed three bills.  They included bills that would;1) limit ammunition magazines,  2) require universal background checks,and  3) charge gun buyers for the cost of those checks. There are still two bills reportedly making their way through the legislature but the bill to eliminate guns on college campuses is effectively dead,at least for this legislative session.

    Arkansas HB 1741 to Free Counties from City Regulations

    Many of you may know that current state law has allowed cities and municipalities to regulate and control property and land/road development up to 5 miles outside their respective city limits.  Some cities (including Hot Springs) have chosen to do this.  The 5-mile Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) has resulted in many problems such as:  1)read below,2.) landowners and developers within the 5 mile ETJ are regulated by city leadership that they are not allowed to vote for – regulation without representation which goes against everything our Constitution stands for,3.) ongoing anger,frustration and resentment resulting in strained and nonproductive working relationships between city and county all across the state,4.) costly sometimes unneeded regulations that stop development.  I’ll keep the list of problems brief,but if you want multiple examples of where cities are regulating and causing problems for county taxpayers then ask Rick. Remember that county taxpayers includes city taxpayers as well;cities are within the county.  Rick (or I) can give you multiple examples of developments/roads where the city “approvers” approved and regulated and never looked beyond the small area they were approving;never looked at the impact of their “regulations” on adjoining areas.  The county has had to spend large amounts of money fixing roads and drainage issues caused by city planning and regulation.  There have been houses and property flooded,roads flooded and torn up because of some developments approved by city planners;never considering the impact on surrounding areas,county infrastructure and other property owners.

    On a side note,I went to the Capitol last Tuesday to observe our governmental process first hand.  SB 530 and SB 531 were on the committee’s agenda.  (I will send updates on those and another HB sponsored by Rep. Bruce Cozart in separate emails)  As I sat and listened in the Senate City,County and Local Affairs committee,I found myself becoming more and more disappointed in some of the testimony that I saw and heard.  It seemed that the Senate committee members tried hard to accomplish their work in a timely manner and seek accurate information in order to vote in the best interests of the people of Arkansas.  Over and over,I heard testimony by the senators sponsoring the bills say that they had urged the Arkansas Municipal League (AML) to work with the Association of Counties (AAC) to find common ground that would serve the people of this state.  I heard the Arkansas Association of Counties relate how they had repeatedly invited the Municipal League to participate in the process.  Over and over,I heard both legislators and AAC staff report that the Municipal League (except for one city attorney) had not answered their invitations to work together. I then sat and listened to Municipal League representatives argue against every bill that was brought forth by the Association of Counties that day.  Over and over I heard,“The current law is working fine and does not need to change.”  That’s an interesting statement considering the number of proposed amendments to ETJ,annexation type bills that are currently being filed.  I would question,working well for who and at the expense of who? What I really found interesting was that at times,the AML  even gave testimony against the current law that wasn’t even proposed for change.  Was this an attempt to confuse the issues and proposed changes?  Is the AML trying to show it can control state government and keep the AAC in its place?

    What I really found disappointing was that the above mentioned city attorney which happens to be from this area and had all drafts of proposed amendments and legislation and from what I understand gave some productive changes that were incorporated into the above pieces of legislation shared his support for the bills in the hallway and then went into committee and testified against the very bills that he had provided input into and voiced support for.  What is that about?  Is the AML so threatening?  I have been told that the AML has already started a massive telephone and email campaign against every piece of legislation that the AAC has brought forth.  I have read all the legislation and I see reasonable legislation that is a win-win for both city and counties.  My last observation of the non-verbal communication by the Municipal League rep was when the chair of the senate committee once again asked that the AML and the AAC work together.  The AML rep said,“We have always worked together and will continue to do  so.”  You should have seen the smile on his face as he turned toward the committee members.  A lot of trust has been lost.  With these behaviors,I fear for the ability for cities and counties to work together for the good of all.

    Please call or email the members of the House City,County and Local Affairs Committee and ask for them to vote for HB 1741.  Ask them to vote for local control.  The House telephone number is 501-682-6211.  They will relay messages to House members.  While in session,telephone messages sometimes are more effective;however,email addresses follow:I have highlighted those serving Garland County.

    Rep. David Fielding,Chair       david.fielding@arkansashouse.org              Rep. Eddie Armstrong earmstrong4rep@gmail.com                 Rep. James McClean james.mclean@gmail.com                Rep. John Burris  burrisforstaterep@gmail.com

    Rep. Mary Slinkard mary.slinkard@arkansashouse.org                                   Rep. Davis Kizzia david.kizzia@arkansashouse.org   (501-337-9959)      Rep. Andy Mayberry andymayberry@windstream.net

    Rep. Bruce Cozart bruce.cozart@arkansashouse.org  (501-627-3232)       Rep. Douglas House        housedouglas@gmail.com                                 Rep. Scott Baltz scottbaltz@yahoo.com                 Rep. Mark McElroy mdmcelroy1@yahoo.com

    Rep. Monte Hodges monte.hodges@arkansashouse.org              Rep. Richard Womack richard@richardwomack.com  870-403-6287        Rep. Fonda Hawthorne fondahawthorne@yahoo.com Rep. George McGill georgemcgill@sbcglobal.net

    Rep. David Whitaker david.whitaker@arkansashouse.org             Rep. Micah Neal micah.neal@arkansashouse.org

     

    HB 1741:  Sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman:  “An Act To Allow Unincorporated Areas of the County to be Free from Regulations of Cities on Road Standards and Planning Ordinances”.  HB 1741 simply allows the quorum court of each county to decide the rural public roads in unincorporated areas of the county will be under the control of the county quorum court and county judge as per Amendment 55 or the city council and mayor.  HB 1741 restores the authority of the county over rural public roads in Arkansas in keeping with Article 7,Section 28 and Amendment 55 of the Arkansas Constitution and the laws of Arkansas,which provide that the county judge and county have exclusive and original jurisdiction and responsibility over the operations of rural public roads (except for state and federal highways).

    Roadways in the unincorporated areas of the county are not maintained by the city,even if within the territorial jurisdiction of the city,they are accepted and maintained by the county and county taxpayers.  Counties in Arkansas have basic road standards ordinances necessary for acceptance by the county for perpetual maintenance.  Minimum Road Standards by counties in Arkansas are for rural roads to be developed with adequate design for proper life and maintenance and for conveyance of water by way of roadway ditches.

    In contrast,cities road standards are for urban roads and often include asphalt overlay,curb and gutter,storm water drainage systems and street lighting.  Application of city road standards for urban roads in the unincorporated areas of the county (within the territorial jurisdiction of cities) is unnecessary,costly,reduces the ability of rural landowners to use and develop their lands.  Also,storm water drainage systems have design for 2 or 3 year flood events and can be less effective in handling storm water than ditches.  Curbs and storm water drainage systems funnel large amounts of water and dumps the run off somewhere usually downhill while proper ditches allow water to run off but also be absorbed into the ground rather than dumping large amounts of water on others downhill.  Many cities have miles of streets without curb and gutter and yet the General Assembly has apparently authorized city councils in Arkansas to regulate and require citizens in rural Arkansas,miles outsides of cities,to build asphalt roadways and install curb,gutter and storm drainage when developing or subdividing their lands.  Ramifications of these onerous and unnecessary land use regulation stifle growth.  While the Crawford County is the 4th largest growing county,the growth and development has largely occurred outside the 5 mile planning boundary sought to be exercised by the city of Van Buren.

    Contributed by:Denice Davis

    Should Prosecutor Elections be Non-Judicial?

    Arkansas’House Bill 1855 sponsored by Nate Bell R-20 recently passed the House by a vote of 24 Republicans,38 Democrats and 1 Green member.  It provides for non-partisan election for prosecuting attorneys.  Representative Bell has also sponsored HB2017 to allow county quorum courts to pass a resolution providing for non-partisan sheriffs elections.  I oppose all non-partisan election laws!  The only thing such does is to hide the candidate from the voters right to know who and what he stands for. Why not simply run as an independent if you want to avoid being identified with a political party or in Rep Bell’s words,“to be outside the purview of party bosses”?

    To remove prosecutor candidates from their party identity means that most of the voters will have no idea how these people stand on significant issues or who they stand with.  People tend to migrate to political parties because of their desire to identify with others of a like mind.  They identify with the party platforms,goals,and purpose and want to associate with others who share similar philosophical beliefs.  To shield candidates such as prosecutors,sheriffs,and judges from revealing those associations to the average voter is to make it easier for individuals to win elections through a combination of lies,deceit,or misinformation while concealing their true identity and ideology from the voters.

    In a Facebook discussion of HB-1855 Rep Bell stated about another group that already has non-partisan elections in Arkansas,“judges are bound by a code of judicial conduct that does NOT apply to any other office”.  Wow,imagine that!  He is stating that judges have a code that negates them injecting their personal philosophy into their job!  Well,just how does that work out in the highest and most visible court in our land?  There are nine Supreme Court justices and on almost every case there are the same four on one side of the issue and the same four on the other.  Are you really going to attempt to insult my intelligence by telling me that their “code of judicial conduct”prevents them from making decisions strongly influenced by their personal philosophy or idealogy?  When I pointed this out to Rep Bell he told me that I was misquoting him and that I was using the liberal tactic of misquoting someone to put words into their mouth. Wow!  I have been accused of a lot in my life,but to be slimed as being a liberal,or using their tactics has never been one of them. I am usually accused of being somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun.

    The last time the people of Arkansas voted for a Democrat for president was 1996.  That was over 16 years ago!  Today the people of Arkansas are so fed up with the lies and deceit they see coming out of the Democratic leadership in Washington they want nothing to do with it.  Arkansans  are for the most part conservative folk who love their country and hate the apparent intentional destruction of it by the left.  They are sickened by obvious lies of leaders like Harry Reid from the Senate floor demeaning the personhood of his opponents and self-serving ridiculous rhetoric such as Nancy Peloci’s “We have to pass the bill so we can find out what is in it.”  The Democratic party in AR is losing power and has lost its 100 plus year stranglehold on the state as evidenced by the Republican take over of both legislative houses in 2012.  No wonder HB-1855 received 38 Democrat votes. Many don’t want to run under their own party label and reputation!

    In the Facebook debate on HB-1855 Rep Bell stated,“There is simply no difference between a GOP prosecutor and a Democrat prosecutor.”  Well,Nate,let me explain the difference to you with just one simple issue.  You and your colleagues this session have passed laws regulating abortion in Arkansas.  Do you really think a Democrat prosecutor will enforce those new laws to the same way as a Republican prosecutor?  How about a related position,that of State Attorney General?   That is basically like a state wide version of the county prosecutor,perhaps it too should be non-partisan?  Nate,do you really think a Democrat Attorney General would defend your new laws restricting abortion in Arkansas the same way a Republican in that position likely would?  Party affiliation indicates a mind-bent that should not be hidden from the voters.

    Prosecutors determine who will be prosecuted for alleged crimes and who will not.  They determine which cases will be vigorously prosecuted and which will be plea-bargained.  They determine what judgments will be pursued and in some cases chose between seeking life,or death.  It is their job to determine how and where they will expend the assets of their office.  Voters electing folks of such powerful offices should have the right to know what kind of people they are picking.  I am not saying all Democrats are left-wing loons nor that they are crooked and untrustworthy.  I’m also not saying all Republicans are either saints or right wing crazies. All Libertarians are neither pot heads nor pacifists,and Green party folk are neither all crazy tree huggers nor holy ecological gurus.  However,my mother taught me that you are known by the company you keep,and the political company candidates keep should be visible when they run for public office!  Individuals who do not want to run under a party label can always run as an independent.  No one forces anyone to belong to or contribute to any political party to run for office in Arkansas.

    Elected officials do not check their philosophy at the door when they enter their office.  Every clue as to who they are and what they stand for should be available to the voters at the polling place.  To deny voters the knowledge of where these people stand politically when it obviously has great bearing on how they will likely execute the duties of their office is an insult to the voters of Arkansas.  Using Nancy’s vernacular we should not be in the position in Arkansas of having to,  “vote for the guy to find out who he is.”

    If you think you have a right to know the party affiliation of candidates in prosecutors’elections,then call your state senator and tell him so before House Bill 1855 is voted. You can call the state senate at 501-682-2902 to leave a message or check on the internet for who your senator is at:  http://www.arkansas.gov/senate/senators.html