CVD homepage
What's new?
Online library
Order materials
Get involved!
Links
About CVD

Morning News

Group Issues Legislative Agenda: 10-year-old organization tries to counter influence of business, special interests
By Trish Mehaffey
November 11, 2002 

Key Excerpt:

The voting-reform issue has three parts -- early voting to include Saturday and Sunday, same-day registration and voting and instant runoff voting, Tarvin said.The instant runoff voting would allow voters to rate the candidates who are running, in the event a runoff is required, he said. This would eliminate a need to go back to the polls for a second time. The voter would simply put down who would be his or her second and third choices.

Full Article:

A statewide coalition of grassroots and community groups announced Sunday five points of legislation it wants to be considered by the next Arkansas General Assembly.

Representatives of the 50 groups in the Arkansas Citizens First Congress held a news conference on the Fayetteville square to discuss this year's five points: ’ΔΆ Voting reform; ’ΔΆ Funding for domestic-violence shelters; ’ΔΆ Establishing an Arkansas Department of Agriculture; ’ΔΆ Stronger conflicts-of-interest laws; ’ΔΆ Hate-crimes legislation.

Dustin Duke, steering committee member of First Congress, said the coalition was formed 10 years ago to counter the influence of big business and special interest groups in state politics.

The group is holding news conferences and events across the state to gain support from citizens and legislators on the five points.

The Fayetteville stop is part of the semiannual bus tour to promote the issues, and 15 other stops are scheduled over the next few months in Arkansas communities.

Ed Tarvin, steering committee and Green Party member, said the group met in Hot Springs in July to decide what issues to promote during the state's next General Assembly which begins in January.

One representative from each group explained the five points during the news conference.

The voting-reform issue has three parts -- early voting to include Saturday and Sunday, same-day registration and voting and instant runoff voting, Tarvin said.

The instant runoff voting would allow voters to rate the candidates who are running, in the event a runoff is required, he said. This would eliminate a need to go back to the polls for a second time. The voter would simply put down who would be his or her second and third choices.

Tarvin said being able to vote on "Saturday and Sunday makes more sense because people can vote on their days off. These are much more in line with the reality of our lives."

Duke said the group chose domestic violence as an issue because Arkansas has one of the highest rates of domestic violence. Last year, 21 deaths were attributed to domestic violence, he said, and Arkansas is third in the nation for husbands or boyfriends killing women.

"Domestic violence is the No. 1 cause of (homicides) in Pulaski County," Duke said.

This bill would provide more funding for the 34 domestic-violence shelters in the state, he said. The group is proposing a rate increase of $10 to $13 in marriage-license fees to provide about $1 million for the shelters.

Teresa Mauer, steering committee member and farmer, said establishing a Department of Agriculture makes sense for a state that is in the top 10 of agricultural states. Arkansas and Rhode Island are the only states without an agricultural department, she said.

The department could provide new opportunities in marketing and provide farmers with federal funds that are usually disbursed through agricultural departments, she said.

"It would provide a voice for every farmer and be an advocate at the state level," Mauer said.

Laws on conflict of interest should be in place to ensure that a member of any state board or commission doesn't have a personal financial interest in the decision being made, said Jenny Holt, steering committee and Sierra Club member. As it stands now, a member of a state board or commission is not required to disclose conflicts of interest, and this bill would remedy that.

A hate-crimes bill is being proposed in Arkansas because hate crimes affect not only the targeted individual -- for race, gender, sexual orientation or religious discrimination -- but also the whole community, said Georgia Lance, steering committee and Lavender Green Party member. When someone is the target of a hate crime -- the offender is saying that person doesn't have the right to exist, she said.

While Arkansas does not now have hate-crimes legislation, Lance said Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi and Oklahoma all do.


top of page


______________________________________________________________________
Copyright 2002     The Center for Voting and Democracy
6930 Carroll Ave. Suite 610, Takoma Park, MD 20912
(301) 270-4616        [email protected]