Arkansas Farm Bureau has announced opposition to Issues 1 and 4 in the upcoming general election, while supporting Issue 2, which would provide a higher threshold for items to be added to the state constitution.
Issue 1 would allow the General Assembly to call itself into special session, while Issue 4 would make recreational use of marijuana legal and create a state-sanctioned monopoly in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana. ArFB’s support for Issue 2 revolves around its belief that Constitutional revisions should require a higher threshold of voter support.
Arkansas Farm Bureau’s board of directors, citing member-defined policy positions, affirmed the organization’s efforts to educate members about Issues 1, 2, and 4. Without specific policy on Issue 3, the board did not take a stance on that proposal.
“Changing the Arkansas Constitution is a really big deal,” said Rich Hillman, a farmer from Carlisle who is president of Arkansas Farm Bureau. “And our members tell us they only want the most important things anchored in constitutional law. We are opposed to issues 1 and 4, and supportive of Issue 2, because it requires a higher threshold of voter support to enact changes to the Arkansas Constitution.
“Understanding the ballot issues is an important part of being an engaged and involved citizen. We believe strongly that our members’ voices should be heard, and that is why we announced our support for Issue 2 and strong opposition to issues 1 and 4.
“Our members define our organizational policies as part of a year-long policy development process. So these are not policy positions that have occurred without significant and thoughtful input from our members. We stand behind the policy our members have defined.”
Here is more detail on each of the issues and Farm Bureau’s existing policy position that supports its stances.
Long-standing Arkansas Farm Bureau policy states: “We support the General Assembly continuing to meet once every two years, with the Governor calling special sessions as needed.” (Government 157, #24.)
Issue 1 would allow the Arkansas legislature to call themselves into special session at any time in one of two ways: the speaker of the House and president of the Senate jointly deciding to convene lawmakers; or two-thirds or more of both the House and Senate signing a written proclamation. Under the current system, only the sitting governor can call a special session. ArFB opposes Issue 1 because it believes the possibility of additional “special sessions” would discourage some Arkansans from seeking elected office, concerned over whether they would have time to serve, and, as such, threaten the balance of power between the branches of government.
The bottom line is special sessions should be called in rare circumstances and not used as a political tool. Since our state’s government was reorganized in 1874, only the sitting governor can call for special sessions of the general assembly/legislature and set the agenda for these sessions. It is a system that has served our state well for almost 150 years and provides a balance between the executive and legislative branches of our government.
Current Arkansas Farm Bureau policy states: We recommend the legislature study the procedure by which ballot initiatives are proposed, with the possibility of making the process more stringent. (Government 157, #45)
Arkansas Farm Bureau policy supports Issue 2, because we believe constitutional issues should meet a higher threshold than a simple majority. Issue 2 would require a 60% vote to approve ballot issues, which, if passed, amend our state constitution. ArFB supports a more stringent process for public referrals to get on the ballot in Arkansas since many recent ballot issues have had a negative impact on our state. Several ballot issues have become Constitutional law in the past several years, and they are extremely difficult to amend or remove afterwards. It stands to reason that these measures should meet a higher threshold to become a part of the Arkansas Constitution.
On Issue 4, two policy positions currently exist, stating: We support legislation to ban production or use of recreational marijuana in the state of Arkansas. (Crime and Law Enforcement 162, #40). Also, “We oppose the legalization of recreational use of marijuana.” (Narcotics and substance abuse, N158, #3)
Issue 4 is a citizen-initiated measure to legalize recreational marijuana. One of the most challenging workplace issues in Arkansas is absenteeism/employee sobriety. Farm Bureau believes legalizing recreational marijuana will intensify this challenge, making it more difficult for agriculture and other key industries to access the workers they need to meet food and product demands. Studies have shown open access to recreational marijuana leads to higher risk of drug addiction in minors and more dangerous roadways for Arkansans. In Washington state, the share of drivers who tested positive for marijuana following a fatal crash has doubled since the state legalized marijuana. And in Colorado, marijuana-related traffic deaths have more than doubled since the state legalized marijuana. On average, states where marijuana was legalized saw a 10 percent increase in auto premiums, and a 16 percent increase the following year, as additional accidents led to increased insurance premiums.
Arkansas Farm Bureau is a nonprofit, private farm and rural advocacy organization of almost 190,000 member families throughout the state working to improve farm and rural life.
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