Monday, August 26, 2013

Activist Blames Arkansas AG For Failure Of Medicaid Referendum - We Should Also Blame The Legislature

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ARRA News Service: Bill Smith, Editor: Conservative Activist Debbie Pelley was quoted in an article by George Jared, Jonesboro Sun Staff Writer regarding Arkansas AG McDaniel's failure to swiftly perform his duty with respect to petitions (link not available):Attempts to place a referendum on the 2014 ballot to endorse or repeal a planned expansion of Medicaid in the state failed Wednesday, and local conservative activist Debbie Pelley said Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is the reason why.

“I’d like to see a lawsuit filed ... I don’t know if it’s feasible, but I’d like to see a lawsuit filed,” Pelley told The Sun.

To get a petition on the ballot, at least 46,880 signatures from registered voters had to be collected from across the state. The signatures have to be submitted during a 90-day period that begins at the end of the state legislative session, according to state law.

McDaniel’s office had to approve the ballot language, and the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office had to certify the referendum, according to the Stephens Media Group's Arkansas News Bureau. By the time both had been done, only 52 days remained to collect signatures, and it wasn't enough time, Pelley said.

McDaniel declined to comment about the accusations.
This is not the first time that AG McDaniel has come under criticism for delaying his approval of a ballot title or referendum petition.

It seems that an easy fix should be done by our "esteemed" Arkansas legislature. The obvious solution is to change the period of time in which signatures may be collected beyond the actions by the Attorney General.  For example, they could change the law on petitioning to set the 90 day period for collecting signatures for a referendum as the period "after which" the Attorney General has "approved" the ballot title and petition for legal sufficiency. The legislature should also set the period of time the AG has to do due diligence in his responsibilities for approving the referendum and ballot title. Obviously, the time frame cannot be drug out.  If enough petition signatures are secured, the related legislation should be suspended. Also, the petitioning must be completed in adequate time to allow the county election commissioners to complete and design their ballots long before early voting begins.

The Attorney General should not by their delayed actions be shortening the time period for the petitioners to collect signatures.  When this office does so it drags the petition  through the "political mud" in an obvious effort to prevent Arkansas voters, once informed through an adequate petitioning period of time, from  having access to the ballot box, assuming enough of them signed the petitioned.  Overturning legislation deemed onerous by the petitioners is a right of the people.

The members of the legislature and the Governor still have the advantage in messaging. They passed and signed the bill. They have a permanent bandwagon and many months on which they may choose to ignore or defend their reasoning for the now perceived onerous legislation identified via the petitioning process.

While the legislature has the advantage of time, they may not wish to explain their reasoning or position on an issue before or during the next election cycle. In fact, many constituents don't even hear from their elected member of the Arkansas legislature until they are back on the campaign trail asking for more money and votes.

It is time for the members of both houses of the Arkansas legislature to be confronted sooner rather than later by the will of the people when they have done something which their constituent voters believe does not represent them, or may be reprehensible, or may be trampling on their individual rights, or may be expanding the power of government, or may be invading privacy, etc. Yes, they may not being re-elected to office, but this does not prevent the impact of abusive legislation.

No wonder, the incumbent legislative members want to extend their terms in office. They avoid facing their "inconsequential" constituents. With rare exception, most elected members of the Arkansas legislature, regardless of party, deem themselves too busy with lobbyists, the process of legislating for a few months, taking prepaid trips, and talking with anyone but their constituents. They apparently see little reason to communicate with their constituents who know them and may actually challenge them in their reasoning except when running again for office. And, forget their having open forums.

Once they are elected, they seem to display a disdain of any obligation to communicate effectively with their constituents. Yes, there are exceptions. However, most members of the Arkansas legislature have clearly shown why term limits are more than valid. Once elected, they experience the "legislative shuffle," and pejoratively deem their fellow citizens in their home districts as less relevant than the other members of the legislature.

The blame for the perceived onerous legislation already rests on the legislature. The bill was written by them, passed and signed and there is no longer any recourse. Thus, their failure to provide an adequate time period for voters to complete petitions objecting to this legislation falls even more squarely on the members of the Arkansas Legislature! Remember this the next time you vote.

Tags: Debbie Pelley, Arkansas, Attorney General, Dustin McDaniel, delays, petition approval, Medicaid referendum, Arkansas legislature, ARRA News Service, Bill Smith

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