Taxes and Voter Participation: Sharp County Does It Right
By David Ferguson
Legislation in 2017 would have prevented local governments from calling special elections to pass tax increases. Local government associations were opposed to the restriction because they know it is much easier to pass a tax in a special election when voter turnout is low.
The initial vote in the House of Representatives showed the legislation barely passed, but the vote was challenged, and a rollcall had to be taken. Representative James Sturch (R), who had voted “For” the restriction, got up out of his chair and left the chamber so his vote wouldn’t count. This left the legislation one vote short of a majority and the legislation failed.
Despite having the ability to call a special election to pass a tax, the Sharp County Quorum Court decided to submit its proposed tax for a new jail facility at the general election. Sharp County residents may be “for” or “against” the new jail and tax, but the Quorum Court and County Judge Gene Moore deserve praise for submitting the jail issue at the general election when voter turnout is the greatest. Their decision to submit the issue at the general election is what good government should look like.
Representative James Sturch (R), is running for state senate in Senate District 19 against Susie Epperson (D). Sharp County is included in the district. If Sturch is elected, perhaps Sharp County officials can convince him to vote “For” good government … and to not walk out again.
David Ferguson is a former Director of Arkansas’ Bureau of Legislative Research, having a thirty-two-year career as an attorney for the Arkansas legislature. After retirement from state service his primary focus has been beef cattle farming. He is also a former officer of Conduit for Action.