Friday, September 05, 2014

TOP STORY >> Minimum wage on November ballot

Leader staff writer

An initiative to raise the state’s minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour by 2017 has landed on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Stephen Copley of Little Rock, who spearheaded the effort to put the matter to a vote, said more than 70,000 signatures Give Arkansas A Raise Now turned in were verified by Secretary of State Mark Martin. The group only needed 62,507 verified signatures.

Copley said, “It is on the ballot, and we’re certainly very excited about that.”

He continued, “We think that the proposal we have is a good stab in the right direction to make sure hardworking Arkansans have enough to live.”

Within the next week, the campaign will know whether it will host any events in the local area to encourage voters to approve the measure, Copley said.

Advocates of expanding alcohol sales statewide through a constitutional amendment that would make every county wet were also successful in getting their proposal on the ballot.

But a lawsuit is feared. Opponents, mostly liquor store owners, dispute the July 7 deadline to turn in signatures.

According to attorney David Couch, who is spearheading that campaign, they are claiming that Friday, July 4, should have been the first deadline because state law requires that signatures for ballot measures be turned in four months before Election Day.

Couch has told The Leader the opponents are “grasping at straws” because it has been the Secretary of State Office’s policy since 1925 to extend deadlines to the next business day when they fall on holidays.

A ruling for the opponents could also invalidate the minimum wage signatures as they were turned in on the same July 7 deadline.

But, Copley said, “We don’t think (the Arkansas Supreme Court) would rule in favor of the opponents.”

Polls have shown 78 or 79 percent of voters support raising the minimum wage, he told The Leader previously.

He was unsure how the proposal, if approved by voters, would affect waiters and waitresses who make $2.30 an hour plus tips.

But Copley said he thought that the law required employers to make up the difference if servers don’t earn enough in tips to cover the difference between $2.30 and the minimum wage. He said servers could see an increase in their earnings if voters approve the minimum wage initiative.