This opinion piece published in the Oct. 21, 2020, edition of The Record.

 

 

We’ve been friends for years. Our kids grew up together and are close friends. We were in each other’s weddings. They are lifelong Republicans and work hard for many state and federal Republican candidates. Politically, we think differently. 

So it was natural on Saturday as together we watched the Razorbacks whip up on Ole Miss – yes, we wore masks, were socially distanced and were outside – that politics would come up. We’ve never become crossways with each other over politics.

Issues came up Saturday. 

By issues, I mean, where we stand on the Issues on the ballot. So many personalities are on the ballot this November, the Issues – not much personality to them – get overlooked.

Believe it or not, we found some common ground on the three Issues on the ballot this year. Other Issues appear on the ballot but were struck down already by the Arkansas Supreme Court. 

Issue 1 provides more funding for roads and infrastructure by making permanent 0.5 percent state sales tax that is due to expire in 2023. It’s important for Madison County to have that funding and County Judge Frank Weaver has stated the county will lose $500,000 per year if this sales tax expires. We can see the other side that our friends pointed out. The state has a surplus of funds right now, so why are we voting to approve a permanent tax? But I wonder whether Madison County would be privy to that surplus in state funding and whether those funds would be distributed for roads. Sen. Bob Ballinger has used money to support projects and issues outside of our county and he’s supposed to be representing us. That’s why a vote for Issue 1 makes sure Madison County gets the funding for roads it needs.

Issue 2 circumvents the term-limits amendment by removing lifetime term limits from lawmakers. Currently, lawmakers serving in the Arkansas Legislature can serve 16 years, mixing and matching service in the House and the Senate. Issue 2 allows lawmakers to serve 12 years in a row, sit out for four years and then run again. 

Senators and representatives received a pay raise a few years ago and we have some lawmakers who have made their service as a lawmaker a career, treating their elected office as a profession. That is not in the best interest of Madison County. What we need are leaders who put our interest first and serve our county, not use taxpayer funds to support a professional career as a lawmaker.  

Issue 3 has a hidden little nugget about transparency or better yet, a lack of it. Issue 3 changes how citizens are able to put initiatives on the ballot. But it also changes publications and deadlines. It would require those wanting an initiative on the ballot to get signatures from 45 counties, rather than 15. It also would delete the requirements that constitutional amendments are published in a newspaper. In short, it does not make it a requirement that citizens are notified about what they are actually voting on. Transparency about the issues and the right to know what you are voting on makes it imperative that citizens vote no on Issue 3. 

Not surprisingly our discussion on Saturday of the issues was short-lived. And it shouldn’t have been, because the votes on these issues however boring have a direct impact on our democracy, and this year on your roads and bridges and taxes. 

Where issues did come up was when we turned our discussion to South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and whether or not he deserves to lose to the Democratic challenger Jamie Harrison. Thank goodness for Sam Pittman and the Razorbacks’ defense that just happened to intercept the ball and divert our attention to the big screen. Suddenly our issues were few and our fellowship fun again.


Ellen Kreth is publisher of the Madison County Record and can be reached at ekreth@mcrecordonline.com