Arkansas is neither vibrant New York nor sunny California. Located in the South-Mid of the United States, Arkansas’ facts are average: Inhabited by 2,949,132 people, Arkansas ranks 32nd with regards to population and 29th in geographical size. At the same time, the “Natural State” - Arkansas is called due to its enduring image - has produced extraordinary figures: Bill Clinton (born in Hope in 1946) made Arkansas famous when the Governvor was elected US President in 1993. Singer songwriter Johnny Cash and former NATO US General Wesley Clark also grew up in the state, which was inhabited by the Caddo, Osage, and Quapaw indigenous people prior to European Settlement.

Looks like voters will get to decide whether the city should scrap its current pension program.

Political consultant Pete Zimmerman emailed The Range today to inform us that the Committee for Sustained Retirement Benefits has turned in more than 23,000 signatures to put the Sustainable Retirement Benefits Act on the November city ballot. The group needed 12,730 valid signatures, so there’s lots of padding there to fight off legal challenges.

The initiative would force the city to scrap the current pension program for new hires and instead enroll them in a program similar to a 401K system.

SB 821, the Keith Ingram bill backed by Attorney General McDaniel to require registration of petition canvassers and otherwise present new hurdles to petition gathering, was approved in a House committee this morning. This is another Friday firm vehicle to benefit the likes of the Southland and Oaklawn casinos, which hate petitions for casino competition, and also to help gas companies who’d just as soon not see another petition effort to raise the severance tax. The frackers joined the gamblers in working for this bill today, opponents said. The bill, if passed, is likely to face a legal challenge for infringing on constitutional protections for petitioning. Legislators were urged to vote against the bill by Paul Jacob, who works for the activist group Citizens in Charge.

When we talk about initiatives and referendums we have a tendency to think of issues on a state level. We often hear about issues that influence states such as California, Colorado, and Oregon to name a few states that have had recent state-led votes on issues that people want to see changed within those states. But people-led issues aren’t limited to just states ”” they also apply to local issues at the city level.

Read more: here

I noted recently objections to the effort by Arkansas’s duopoly casinos at Southland and Oaklawn, in league with their friend Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, to make the referendum process prohibitively difficult in Arkansas so as to discourage future casino amendments, along with other potential laws unpleasant to the business lobby.

I mentioned yesterday that a lawsuit was already cooking should the legislature pass a proposal being pushed by the two Arkansas casinos at West Memphis and Hot Springs to make it difficult to put initiated acts and amendments on the ballot.

Here’s one reason why a lawsuit is likely. The pending Arkansas proposal would prohibit paying canvassers for signatures based on the number of signatures they gather. (This serves as a disincentive, because piece work, particularly in places where mass signatures can be gathered, is far more profitable.)

Read more at Arkansas Times

Laws in 2012 prompted Maryland’s first statewide ballot referendum in 20 years, allowing marriage equality, the Dream Act and congressional redistricting to be upheld by voters.

And if those who don’t agree with Maryland’s likely ban of the death penalty try to get voters to reverse it, a new bill could create obstacles for them and other citizens looking to petition state laws to ballot, lawmakers say. Legislation by Delegate Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery, would demand several things from those circulating petitions to force a ballot issue.

It would require the sponsor to form a ballot issue committee, which is a campaign finance entity, for each law that is challenged.

During this year’s legislative session, Missouri lawmakers rewrote a voter-passed law regulating dog breeders. They also tried to meet a demand of business groups to eliminate cost-of-living increases in the voter-approved state minimum wage. And since voters imposed strict campaign finance limits in 1994, lawmakers have twice acted to change those limits, including eliminating them entirely in 2006. The routine rewriting of voter initiatives would end if a new initiative makes the 2012 ballot and wins approval.

Read the story from the Columbia Daily Tribune

Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece, received the July 2011 John Lilburne Award for sponsoring legislation that would create a citizen initiative and referendum process in New York. The bill (S.709/A.4978) would give citizens the ability to propose and then vote on statutes and amendments to the state Constitution. As it stands, New Yorkers have no such power to enact or appeal laws, or amend the Constitution.

Read the story from the Legislative Gazette

California legislators – who seem unable to come up with an honest balanced budget, who always pursue tax increases and who won’t pass even modest reforms to the state’s unfunded pension system or to anything else, for that matter – want to blame the government’s problems on voters, rather than themselves. Several bills, some of which are likely to pass, would gut the initiative and referendum process, or at least make that process far more burdensome. The ultimate goal: eliminating the main vehicle Californians have to reform a government that will not be reformed by elected officials, thus leaving us completely at the mercy of legislators and the liberal interest groups that control them.