Arkansas for Fair Wage Set to Defend Minimum Wage Petition

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Time) — After a challenge filed by a coalition of big business interests opposed to minimum wage increases — including the Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas Hospital Association — the Arkansas Supreme Court’s appointed magistrate is set to hear arguments this week on whether Issue 5 can remain on the ballot.

The ballot initiative was certified by the Secretary of State in August based on the submission of 84,526 signatures gathered by Arkansans for a Fair Wage, a cushion of more than 16,000 signatures above what is required by the law. The measure would gradually increase the state’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2021.

A previous popular ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 passed overwhelmingly in 2014.

Arkansans for a Strong Economy, the group of corporate interests opposing the measure, filed a lawsuit earlier this month, challenging the canvassing procedures and the validity of the submitted signatures. It alleges that paid canvassers didn’t comply with strict rules regarding canvassing for initiated acts and constitutional amendments.

In a press release, Arkansans for a Fair Wage expressed confidence that its signature-collecting process was proper, and called the Chamber’s legal challenge a an attempt “to undermine the voters’ will by manufacturing frivolous issues.”

From the press release:

More than 300,000 hard-working Arkansans will see their wages go up if Issue 5 passes. Recent polling has demonstrated broad support for the measure from Democrats, Independents and Republicans from across the state.

Kristin Foster, Campaign Manager for Arkansans for a Fair Wage, spoke on the stakes of this week’s hearing: “We are defending the right of the more than 84,000 Arkansas voters who signed our petition to have their voices heard. Rather than have an honest debate with Arkansas voters about the issue of low pay, the Chamber of Commerce is attempting to undermine the voters’ will by manufacturing frivolous issues.

“We are confident both in the signatures we collected in support of Issue 5,” continued Foster, “and the public support that will help us win a raise for thousands of hard-working families this November.”

The challenge is one of several involving ballot measures. Legal challenges are also ongoing regarding the proposals for casino expansion, term limits, and limiting damages in malpractice lawsuits

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