Today’s the deadline to submit petitions to qualify initiated acts and constitutional amendments for the ballot. On tap: casinos, minimum wage, term limits.

Nate Steel, a Little Rock laywer, has wheeled petitions with 96,000 signatures to the secretary of state’s office to qualify an amendment that would permit two new casinos in Arkansas, in Jefferson and Pope counties, and solidify existing casinos, with added sports wagering at the Oaklawn and Southland racinos. The tax revenue would go to state general revenues and local governments.


Expected later today are petitions to curb legislative term limits from 16 years (up to 22 in some rare Senate cases) to 10 and to raise the minimum wage. The amendments on casinos and term limits need 84,859 signatures of registered voters. If the initial review knocks too many off those submitted, there is a “cure” period. The term limits people turned in 135,000. The minimum wage group also filed.

All three of these efforts have employed paid canvassers.


There’s been no disclosure yet of the backers of the casino amendments, though my sources have said they include the Cherokee and Quapaw Indian tribes and the owners of the dog and horse tracks. Filings are expected later this month.

Term limits have the backing of a national group, U.S. Term limits, that fell short of qualifying for the ballot two years ago and which backed the first term limits amendment that shortened service to six years in the House and eight in the Senate. Now-felon and then-Sen. Jon Woods engineered a term limits extension by grafting it and a legislative pay raise onto an “ethics” proposal sponsored by Rep. Warwick Sabin that made some minor and generally ineffectual changes in ethics laws.


Also unclear is the financial might of the minimum wage effort. David Couch, a Little Rock attorney who’s working on the measure, said it is not organized labor, a contributor to past minimum wage campaigns. The minimum wage measure is an initiated act and needs 67,887 signatures. It would raise the minimum wage from its current $8.50 an hour in stages to $11 by 2022. The initial ethics filing for the measure by Arkansans for a Fair Wage included the names of Couch, Rich Huddleston of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, City Director Kathy Webb, Steve Copley, Jeff Quick, Donna Massey of Arkansas Community Organizations, Camille Bennett, Bret Schulte, Mike Pierce and Donell Meadows.

Petition drives had to be mounted over a short six-week period in the case of casinos and minimum wage because Attorney General Leslie Rutledge was throwing up a blockade to all ballot measures until the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered her to stop. The term limits measure has been underway since earlier approval of a ballot title.