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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Trouble brewing on minimum wage proposal?

Posted By on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 7:09 AM

click to enlarge WAITING FOR WORD: On the sufficiency of signatures for the wage campaign.
  • WAITING FOR WORD: On the sufficiency of signatures for the wage campaign.

On July 7, the deadline, petitioners submitted signatures for two statewide ballot measures — a constitutional amendment to allow alcohol sales statewide and a proposed initiated act to raise the minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 by 2017.

Three days later, the secretary of state's office said the alcohol initiative had met the raw signature requirements, both statewide and in 15 counties. Nine days later, still silence from the secretary of state's office and rising concern that the minimum wage initiative won't meet the raw number hurdle. It filed with about 15,000 gross signatures to spare over the roughly 62,000 necessary, but it was unclear if any of those faced disqualification for facial problems — repeat signatures in the same hand, for example — and also unclear how well canvassers had done in meeting the minimums required in 15 counties.

When petitioners fail to meet the raw signature requirements, they don't qualify for an additional 30 days of canvassing to gather more signatures if valid signatures fall short in the check for properly registered voter signatures.

Failure of this campaign would be a blow to Democratic candidates, who hope to run on the minimum wage issue. All the Democratic candidates support an increase, which is in line with all polling on the question. I haven't yet seen a Republican candidate who supports the initiative. Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson wants to leave it to the legislature, which has refused to raise the rate since 2006. The GOP's 2nd District Congressional candidate French Hill opposes minimum wage rules, period.

The Arkansas Interfaith Alliance has been the lead organization for the wage measure, with financial support from labor and Democratic groups. It reported Tuesday that it had raised $449,000 for the campaign and spent virtually all of it. In June it paid $70,000 to the Markham Group for consulting work, of which about $9,000 went to canvassers.

The alcohol petitioners, who hired a canvassing firm, gathered their 84,000 signatures in one month on a reported expenditure of $28,000.

Steve Copley, who's led the Give Arkansas a Raise Now campaign, has previously expressed confidence in sufficiency of the signatures gathered. Canvassers went door to door in an effort to insure a higher percentage of valid signatures, as opposed to using festivals and Walmarts for mass collection.

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