Tagarkansas

Stories about Arkansas

Arkansas school board requires students to use bathroom consistent with sex assigned at birth

The school board for the Conway School District in Arkansas on October 11, 2022, unanimously approved policies regarding gender identity in public schools. 

One of the policies requires that students use the restroom that matches their sex assigned at birth, though each district school must provide an accommodation to any individual who does not want to comply with the policy. The other policy passed mandates that students traveling on overnight trips for extracurricular activities, field trips, interscholastic activities, or intrascholastic activities be assigned to hotel rooms based on their sex assigned at birth. 

In support of the policy, state Senator Jason Rapert (R) attended the school board meeting and said, “For the first time in my entire representation in the Arkansas Senate have I ever felt led to come and speak at a school board meeting. I am proud of the school board members.”

Linda Tyler, a parent in the school district, opposed the board members’ decision. “It makes me feel sad because I personally know many transgender young women and young men, and I know the difficulty of their journey,” according to local news outlet THV11.

Additional links:

https://ballotpedia.org/Conway_School_District,_Arkansas

https://ballotpedia.org/Jason_Rapert

Reference links:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1eEEX9tiCF6lsg6lsySy7SExArku5JE7v/view

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1eHiEn9cPJ7q1zK3wz6hIiP-ZMm1BbFmV/view

https://www.thv11.com/article/news/education/conway-school-board-transgender-bathroom-use/91-8846f49c-4607-4718-8861-b6a9830582f7

https://katv.com/news/local/conway-school-board-approve-policies-limits-bathroom-access-and-overnight-trips-on-gender



All candidates for Arkansas House of Representatives District 10 complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

Both of the candidates running in the November 8, 2022, general election for Arkansas House of Representatives District 10 — Kate Schaffer (D) and Mindy McAlindon (R) — completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. These survey responses allow voters to hear directly from candidates about what motivates them to run for office. 

Eighty-eight of the country’s 99 state legislative chambers will hold regularly scheduled elections in 2022. The Republican party controls both chambers of Arkansas’ state legislature. Arkansas is one of 23 states with a Republican trifecta.

Here are excerpts from candidates’ responses to the question: What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?            

Schaffer:       

  • “I care about the value of Arkansas’ creative economy, investing in more art and technology at all levels of education—Pre K through Higher Ed—means keeping our kids in our home state.”
  • “I support the state doing its part to boost Public/private partnerships to solve our workforce development, transportation and affordable housing hurdles.”
  • “I’ll fight for quality and affordable early childhood education through Pre K and head start programs. I support the RAISE Act, we must pay teachers more.”

McAlindon:   

  • “Lower Taxes will help families thrive and lead to economic opportunities.”
  • “School Choice will help families make the best educational decisions for each child. It will also help all schools improve.”
  • “Economic Development will help Arkansas utilize its many resources and become the best it can be.”

Click on the candidates’ profile pages below to read their full responses to this and other questions.

We ask all federal, state, and local candidates with profiles on Ballotpedia to complete a survey and share what motivates them on political and personal levels. Ask the candidates in your area to fill out the survey.

Additional reading:



All candidates for Arkansas State Senate District 35 complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

Both of the candidates running in the November 8, 2022, general election for Arkansas State Senate District 35— Tyler Dees (R) and Doug Peterson (L) — completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. These survey responses allow voters to hear directly from candidates about what motivates them to run for office. 

Eighty-eight of the country’s 99 state legislative chambers will hold regularly scheduled elections in 2022. The Republican Party controls both chambers of Arkansas’s state legislature. Arkansas is one of 23 states with a Republican trifecta government.

Here are excerpts from candidates’ responses to the question: What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?            

Dees:           

“Limiting government overreach and mandates, reducing taxes, responsible budget management, defending the unborn through pro-life standards, Increasing parental voices for protection of their children and celebrating the many success of the people in our district.”

Peterson:                   

“Personal property tax is an unfair, inefficient burden on the people and business interests of Arkansas. It is unjustly biased against rural residents and small business owners. We enacted a Constitutional amendment in 1992 to exempt furniture and other specific personal use items, but left in place taxes on things like lawn mowers and backyard chickens.”

Click on candidates’ profile pages below to read their full responses to this and other questions.

We ask all federal, state, and local candidates with profiles on Ballotpedia to complete a survey and share what motivates them on political and personal levels. Ask the candidates in your area to fill out the survey.

Additional reading:

Arkansas State Senate elections, 2022



Votes for Arkansas marijuana legalization initiative will be counted

Votes for Arkansas Issue 4, a marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot, will be counted after the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners’ decision to not certify the initiative’s ballot title.

Responsible Growth Arkansas, the campaign behind the marijuana legalization initiative, submitted more than 190,000 signatures on July 8. The Arkansas secretary of state announced on July 29 that the campaign had submitted more than the required number of valid signatures (89,151) and qualified for the ballot.

On Aug. 3, 2022, the election commissioners declined to certify the ballot title and popular name for the initiative, stating that the language was misleading. The next day, Responsible Growth Arkansas filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court. The campaign said the board “[thwarted] the will of the people and their right to adopt laws by initiative.” The campaign requested an expedited review because the deadline for the secretary of state to certify measures for the 2022 ballot was August 25. On August 11, the state Supreme Court ordered the secretary of state to certify the measure for the ballot.

Under Issue 4, adults 21 years old and older would be authorized to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Adults could possess up to one ounce of marijuana. By March 7, 2023, businesses that already hold licenses under the state’s medical marijuana program would be authorized to sell adult-use marijuana at their existing dispensaries and one additional location for adult-use marijuana sales only. By July 5, 2023, an additional 40 licenses would be given to businesses chosen by a lottery and would need to be located at least five miles away from a dispensary with an active license. The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would regulate the program and provide for licensing.

Responsible Growth Arkansas has raised $4.01 million according to campaign finance reports covering information through August 31. The campaign said Issue 4 would “[support] law enforcement salaries and bolster local police budgets so that our officers can go after serious crime,” “[improve] the Arkansas’ existing medical marijuana program by removing burdensome taxes that are currently being paid by qualified patients receiving medical treatment,” and “safely legalize the sale of cannabis to adults 21 and older and create revenue that goes to more funding for local police departments.”

Safe and Secure Communities registered to oppose the initiative and has raised $2 million. Safe and Secure Communities said, “We’re on a mission to save Arkansas from the destructive effects of legalized drugs, and we need your support. Many cities around the nation are destroyed, and now Arkansas is at risk. Help keep Arkansas communities secure and our citizens safe. The pot industry is directly targeting kids, even though hundreds of scientific studies show that marijuana – especially today’s high-potency weed – permanently damages the teenage brain. Teens who smoke pot regularly drop out at twice the rate of non-users, and as adults they earn less and have a lower IQ. Marijuana-related policy changes, including legalization, have significant unintended consequences for children, adolescents, and cities large and small.”

Marijuana legalization measures are certified to appear on the 2022 ballot in Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process. A marijuana legalization initiative targeting the 2022 ballot in Oklahoma was ordered to appear on the 2024 ballot after legal challenges were not resolved before state deadlines to print ballots.



Five measures that would change the initiative process are on the ballot in 2022

In November, there are a total of five measures on the ballot related to the initiative process. A ballot initiative is a way that citizens can propose, amend, or repeal a state law or constitutional provision by collecting signatures from registered voters. Successful signature drives result in an initiative being placed on the ballot for voters to approve or reject. Twenty-six states have an initiative process at the state level, and each state has different rules and requirements regarding the ballot initiative process, including majority and supermajority requirements, single-subject rules, and requirements for measures that increase taxes.

Five measures regarding the initiative process are on the ballot for the November 8, 2022 general election. One measure was on the ballot in June. This November, the states with ballot measures regarding the initiative process are Arizona (3 measures), Arkansas (1 measure), and Colorado (1 measure). 

Last June, voters rejected a measure in South Dakota called Amendment C by 67-32%. Amendment C would have changed the vote requirement from a simple majority to a 60% majority for ballot measures that increase taxes or require the state to appropriate $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years.

In November, voters will decide on five measures regarding the initiative process in Arizona, Arkansas, and Colorado:

  • Arkansas Issue 2: Amends the Arkansas Constitution to require a 60% vote of approval from voters to adopt constitutional amendments (legislatively referred and citizen-initiated) and citizen-initiated state statutes.
  • Arizona Proposition 128: Amends the Arizona Constitution to allow the Arizona State Legislature to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot initiatives if any portion has been declared unconstitutional or illegal by the Arizona Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Arizona Proposition 129: Amends the Arizona Constitution to require that citizen-initiated ballot measures embrace a single subject.
  • Arizona Proposition 132: Amends the Arizona Constitution to require a 60% vote for voters to pass ballot measures to approve taxes.
  • Colorado Proposition GG: Requires the ballot titles and fiscal impact summaries for initiatives that affect income taxes to include information on how the change would affect income taxes for different categories of income.

Between 2010 and June 2022, there were 20 measures regarding the initiative process on the ballot. Voters approved 11 (55%) of them, while nine (45%) were rejected.

Additional reading:



Arkansas marijuana legalization initiative to appear on November ballot; votes may not be counted pending state supreme court ruling

On Aug. 11, the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered the Secretary of State to certify a marijuana legalization initiative for the election on Nov. 8. Votes on the initiative may not be counted pending a court ruling on the initiative’s ballot language.

Responsible Growth Arkansas, the campaign behind the marijuana legalization initiative, submitted more than 190,000 signatures on July 8. The Arkansas secretary of state announced on July 29 that the campaign had submitted more than the required number of valid signatures (89,151) and would qualify for the ballot if the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners certified the ballot language.

On Aug. 3, 2022, the election commissioners declined to certify the ballot title and popular names for the initiative, stating that the language was misleading. The next day, Responsible Growth Arkansas filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court. The campaign said the board “[thwarted] the will of the people and their right to adopt laws by initiative.” The campaign requested an expedited review because the deadline for the secretary of state to certify measures for the 2022 ballot is August 25. On August 11, the state Supreme Court ordered the secretary of state to certify the measure for the ballot. Votes on the initiative may not be counted, however, if the supreme court rules that the ballot language is misleading. Case briefs were scheduled to be filed with the court through September 2, 2022.

The measure would legalize marijuana use for individuals 21 years of age and older and authorize the commercial sale of marijuana with a 10% sales tax. Adults could possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Under the amendment, businesses that already hold licenses under the state’s medical marijuana program would be authorized to sell marijuana for personal use. An additional 40 licenses would be given to businesses chosen by a lottery. The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would regulate the program and provide for cannabis business licensing.

Marijuana legalization measures are certified to appear on the 2022 ballot in Maryland, Missouri, and South Dakota. Marijuana legalization measures could also appear on the ballot in Oklahoma and North Dakota. Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process.

Since 2012, the Arkansas Supreme Court has invalidated nine citizen-initiated measures that had been certified for the ballot. In 2020, three citizen-initiated measures were certified for the ballot. Two were later blocked from appearing on the ballot. One appeared on the ballot, but votes for the measure were not counted or certified. In 2018, a citizen initiative was blocked from appearing on the ballot after having been certified. In 2016, three initiatives appeared on the ballot, but votes on the measures were not counted or certified. In 2012, two initiatives appeared on the ballot, but votes were not counted or certified.

From 2012 to 2018, six citizen initiatives appeared on the ballot and had votes counted and results certified. Of the six measures, four were approved (66.67%) and two (33.33%) were defeated.



Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners declines to certify ballot language for initiatives to legalize marijuana and repeal Pope County’s casino authorization

On August 3, the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners declined to certify the ballot titles and popular names for two initiatives that had submitted signatures. Fair Play for Arkansas 2022 said they were considering their options to challenge the board’s decision. Responsible Growth Arkansas said they planned to challenge the board’s decision with the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Responsible Growth Arkansas, the campaign behind the marijuana legalization initiative, submitted more than 190,000 signatures on July 8, 2022. The Arkansas Secretary of State announced on July 29 that the campaign had submitted more than the required number of valid signatures (89,151) and would qualify for the ballot if the Board of Election Commissioners certified the ballot language.

The measure would legalize marijuana use for individuals 21 years of age and older and authorize the commercial sale of marijuana with a 10% sales tax. Adults could possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Under the amendment, businesses that already hold licenses under the state’s medical marijuana program would be authorized to sell marijuana for personal use. An additional 40 licenses would be given to businesses chosen by a lottery. The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would regulate the program and provide for cannabis business licensing.

Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process.

Fair Play for Arkansas 2022 reported submitting 103,096 signatures for an initiative to repeal the casino authorization for Pope County. In 2018, voters approved Issue 4 authorizing the county to grant a casino license for one casino. Under Issue 4, the Pope County license required applicants to pay fees to apply, demonstrate experience in conducting casino gaming, or furnish a letter of support from the county judge. The Pope County license was awarded to the Cherokee Nation.

In Arkansas, a total of 44 ballot measures appeared on the statewide ballot between 2000 and 2020. Thirty-two (72.73%) ballot measures were approved, and 12 (27.27%) ballot measures were defeated.



Signatures submitted in Arkansas for initiatives to legalize marijuana and repeal Pope County’s casino authorization

In Arkansas, a campaign behind a marijuana legalization initiative reported submitting more than 190,000 signatures on July 8, 2022. Steve Lancaster, a spokesperson for the campaign, said, “we’re going to be well in excess of what we need to get on the ballot, so we’re very excited about that.” Of the signatures submitted, 89,151 signatures must be valid for the initiative to appear on the ballot in November.

The measure would legalize marijuana use for individuals 21 years of age and older and authorize the commercial sale of marijuana with a 10% sales tax. Adults could possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Under the amendment, businesses that already hold licenses under the state’s medical marijuana program would be authorized to sell marijuana for personal use. An additional 40 licenses would be given to businesses chosen by a lottery. The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would regulate the program and provide for cannabis business licensing.

Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process.

Signatures were also submitted for an initiative to repeal the casino authorization for Pope County. The county was authorized to grant a casino license for one casino when voters approved Issue 4 in 2018.

Under Issue 4, the Pope County license required applicants to pay fees to apply, demonstrate experience in conducting casino gaming, or furnish a letter of support from the county judge. The Pope County license was awarded to the Cherokee Nation, but the license is not yet in effect pending legal challenges.

Fair Play for Arkansas 2022, the campaign behind the initiative, said, “Gambling interests are desperately trying to bring a casino to Pope County, over the objections of our community. In 2018, out-of-state casino developers wrote Pope County into a statewide ballot initiative to legalize casino gambling in just four counties in Arkansas—without any input from Pope County citizens. It turns out that Pope County voters don’t want a casino. We rejected Amendment 100 by a 3-2 margin, the highest NO vote of any county in the state.”

In Arkansas, a total of 44 ballot measures appeared on the statewide ballot between 2000 and 2020. Thirty-two (72.73%) ballot measures were approved, and 12 (27.27%) ballot measures were defeated.



Boozman defeats three challengers to win the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Arkansas outright

Incumbent John Boozman defeated three other candidates—Jake Bequette, Heath Loftis, and Jan Morgan—in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Arkansas on May 24, 2022.

Dr. Jay Barth, emeritus professor of politics at Hendrix College, said the key question in the primary was whether Boozman would be able to get more than 50% of the vote and avoid a runoff. With 90% of precincts reporting, Boozman led with 58% of the vote, followed by Bequette with 21% and Morgan with 19%.

Boozman, a former optometrist, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010. Boozman had the endorsements of former President Donald Trump (R), U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and former White House Press Secretary and 2022 Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R). Boozman highlighted Trump’s endorsement and focused on his legislative record, saying, “[President Trump and I] rebuilt our military, stood up for our veterans, helped our farmers through challenging and unprecedented times, confirmed three conservative Justices to the Supreme Court and completely reshaped the judiciary.”

Bequette, a U.S. Army veteran and a former football player from Little Rock, cited immigration and law enforcement as top issues. Bequette described himself as a political outsider and highlighted his military service and time as a player for the Arkansas Razorbacks and the New England Patriots. Bequette said, “I’m no squish career politician. I’m a former all-SEC Razorback and an army veteran who left the NFL and volunteered for the 101st Airborne in Iraq.” Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R) and Burgess Owens (R) endorsed Bequette.

Morgan worked as a journalist and owned a firearms training facility in Hot Springs. Morgan focused on immigration and election administration and said she supported term limits. Morgan described herself as a conservative fighter, saying, “America needs aggressive fighters in D.C. who will get in the ring and boldly take on our enemies rather than stand on the sidelines.” Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn endorsed Morgan.

Bequette and Morgan called Boozman a RINO (Republican in Name Only) and criticized him for not challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election. Bequette also criticized Boozman for not committing to a debate. Boozman’s campaign responded by highlighting Trump’s endorsement and Boozman’s record. In one of Boozman’s campaign ads, the narrator said, “[Boozman] is a workhorse, not a show pony.” It continued, “Others have words; Boozman does the work.”

At the time of the primary, groups not directly affiliated with any of the candidates had spent $5 million in the race, the second-largest amount of satellite spending for a U.S. Senate primary where a GOP incumbent was running for re-election in 2022, according to data from Open Secrets. The Arkansas Patriots Fund spent $1.5 million in support of Bequette, the most of any group. The group received a $1 million donation from businessman Richard Uihlein last year, according to data from the FEC. Several different groups spent a combined total of $2.1 million in support of Boozman.

At the time of the primary, three independent election forecasters considered the general election as Solid Republican.



Incumbent John Thurston defeats Eddie Joe Williams in Arkansas’ Republican primary for secretary of state

Incumbent John Thurston defeated former state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams in the Republican primary for Arkansas Secretary of State on May 24, 2022.

Based on unofficial results, Thurston had 72% of the vote to Williams’ 28%.

During the primary, Thurston and Williams disagreed on how Arkansas handled the 2020 election. Thurston said, “There were inconsistencies across the country … however, as a result of the hard work of my staff, we did not have these issues in Arkansas.”

Williams pointed to 327 disqualified ballots included in the total count for Pulaski County, saying, “When that happens, leadership has to stand up … I will make every effort to ensure that doesn’t happen again.”

Thurston was first elected secretary of state in 2018 and served as the commissioner of state lands from 2011 to 2019. Before entering office, Thurston was a minister in Little Rock and with the Arkansas state prison system.

Thurston highlighted his experience as secretary of state, saying he would “continue the focus on election security, preservation and security of the Capitol, and to continue to provide great customer service to those wishing to do business within the state of Arkansas.”

Williams was mayor of Cabot from 2007 to 2010 and served in the Arkansas Senate from 2011 to 2017. Williams left that position when former President Donald Trump (R) appointed him to the Southern States Energy Board. Williams also worked with Union Pacific Railroad as a regional director of transportation.

In a candidate interview, Williams said, “my greatest obligation as secretary of state is to prepare for the unexpected, whether that is preparing for Capitol protests, ensuring integrity during elections, or having groups and teams ready to uphold Arkansas voting laws.”

In Arkansas, the secretary of state has jurisdiction over state election laws, ensuring uniform implementation throughout the state. The secretary of state is also responsible for assisting county officials with conducting elections. In addition to election-related responsibilities, the secretary of state oversees business filings and maintains the state capitol grounds and the capitol police.

Arkansas has a Republican triplex, meaning Republicans control the offices of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. Upon his election to the office in 2018, Thurston became the second Republican secretary of state in Arkansas since Reconstruction.