Change is desperately needed in the Arkansas State Legislature
The previous spring legislative sessions were dumpster fires promising disaster to citizens. A few legislators (Democratic ones) worked feverishly to protect the citizens and the future of Arkansas. They need more help from you by increasing their numbers who will represent you rather than big money interests much of which comes from out of state.
Ask yourself, do you want the people in Arkansas to decide their own laws and their own future, or leave it to outsiders who buy off politicians?
RESPECT FOR THE VOTERS
Legislators need to listen to the voters' needs and work on fulfilling them, instead of dictating to the voters what it is that is to be in their best interest. We have seen this mansplaining approach in the past in the attempts to undo the public's will. After public referendums have been voted on and passed then our current representatives have attempted to legislate bills to dilute or even reverse those laws. while citing fictitious support for reversing the public will and so violating the public trust.
Sen. Bob Ballinger (R) introduced a bill—Senate Bill 115—on January 16, 2019, to provide exceptions to the minimum wage established by Issue 5. The latest version of the bill as amended on March 6, 2019, was designed to prevent the minimum wage requirements from applying to any employee under the age of 18, convicted of a felony, or with a developmental disability. It would have also exempted employers with fewer than 25 employees (up from four) from the minimum wage requirements. Ballinger's original version of the bill was designed to exempt employees under the age of 18, employees of schools, and employees of non-profits. SB 115 was not approved before the 2019 legislative adjourned.
Why is this Senate Bill 115 wrong? Generally speaking it paves the way toward establishing secondary classes of citizens. (Ever hear of the caste system in India ? If not then look it up). There is also the offensiveness of taking a law passed by the citizens and rewriting it to suit the needs of the State Senator for a preferred sector of the public.
More specifically it further downgrades the purpose of the Minimum Wage as it was originally conceived as an entry-level wage with the sweeping generalization that people under the age of 18 are not as valuable, or that they simply don't need as much money to get by. I would argue that some families are dependent on the teens in their household to contribute to the monthly household income to simply keep up with the basics of living and therefore a cut in their wages would be harmful to all. At the time of this bill's proposal the exempted employees would have not only been denied the state level increase from $8.50 to $11.00 per hour but actually decreased to the effective Federal level of $7.25 (a 15% decrease).
The hackneyed argument that businesses can't afford these increases has not been supported by the evidence. If we cherry pick a business that claims it will fail because it has to pay their employees a living wage then it is clear to us that the business is overdue for a new plan because they were already very close to going broke.
Singling out employees with developmental disabilities is so patently offensive I won't even bother the reader with explaining why this is so.
Singling out convicted felons. This opens up the discussion on how we should use the criminal justice system. Some folks claim we need to be harder on crime so sentences are longer and fines are stiffer. So in essence the system serves to punish people more harshly and this is supposed to serve as a deterrent. This rhetoric and practice has been in play since the Reagan years, half a century ago.
How well has this worked? Now the U.S. has one of the largest numbers of incarcerated in the world and Arkansas has one of the highest percentage of its population locked up. On the other hand, there are folks who would emphasize rehabilitation so that once the fine is paid and the sentence served, the "ex-con" can rejoin society as a productive member with most privileges of citizenship returned. Some privileges that are permanently revoked such as ownership of a fire-arm, employment in security related jobs but that is not my concern here. I do take exception for when people who have met the judge's orders of sentencing and fines, but then the legislature jumps on their back to make their lives more difficult with permanent wage constraints. One doesn't need to be a felon to know that getting a job, getting an affordable place to live, and simply getting your life back together is very difficult struggle. Then there are parole violations that label one as a recidivist. This is life on a slippery slope for two-thirds of the prison population. I describe this not to ask for the reader's empathy but to realize that, yes, the felon did wrong, they made a mistake and they paid for it, but I need to ask "does society truly benefit from a life-sentence of wage garnishment?".
PROTECT THE VOTERS
I will champion protecting the citizens' rights to circulate petitions in a simple and forthright manner to achieve access for referendums to be added to ballots.
Citizens must not have their voting rights curtailed by politicians claiming restrictions are needed to avoid election fraud, or even going so far as to claim the elections are stolen while submitting no evidence of theft or fraud. I will join those who support citizens' rights to free and fair elections and will advocate for the use of internet access to registration and voting.