LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A coalition of business groups on Tuesday asked Arkansas’ highest court to disqualify a proposal from the November ballot that would raise the state’s minimum wage, claiming that thousands of signatures submitted in favor of the proposal were invalid.
Arkansans for a Strong Economy filed the lawsuit with the state Supreme Court challenging the proposal, which would gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2021. The organization was formed by industry groups, including the state Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas Hospitality Association, in opposition to the minimum wage hike proposal.
State officials last month said the campaign behind the wage increase measure turned in more than the 67,887 signatures from registered voters needed to qualify for the ballot. The lawsuit claims the group behind the measure, Arkansans for a Fair Wage, didn’t follow laws requiring it to provide current residential addresses for its paid signature gatherers and didn’t obtain proper criminal background checks for them.
“There is a clearly outlined process in place for putting a measure on the ballot, and Arkansas voters expect that process to be followed. It wasn’t here,” said Randy Zook, chairman of Arkansans for a Strong Economy. Zook also heads the state Chamber of Commerce.
The coalition also asked the court to appoint a special master to review its claims about the petitions and to issue recommendations to the court.
Officials with the wage increase campaign said they were confident it would survive the challenge and remain on the ballot.
“Arkansas voters deserve the chance to vote up or down on a wage increase this November. Arkansans for a Fair Wage will defend our petitions and the voters who signed them,” David Couch, the legal counsel for Arkansans for a Fair Wage, said in a statement.