We write a lot here about all the bad laws that come out of the state legislature, but today we want to focus on one of the best ones: Act 312 of 2013, sponsored by state Rep. Nate Bell.
As we wrote in November, Act 312 prohibits government employees from using taxpayer-funded resources to influence the outcome of ballot measure elections. Violating this act amounts to a Class A misdemeanor; furthermore, whoever violates it will both lose his or her job and be barred from future Arkansas public employment.
However, news of Act 312’s existence didn’t seem to have reached some Texarkana officials until late last week.
Some Texarkana residents recently submitted a ballot petition with more than 1,400 signatures to lower the city’s “hamburger tax.” Apparently, last week this worried some on the Texarkana Advertising and Promotion (A&P) Commission so much that they proposed a program that clearly violates Act 312.
From the Texarkana Gazette:
In the proposed contract, Adams will develop and implement a public relations campaign designed to educate the public… on the benefit of the A&P taxes assessed in restaurants and hotels/motels in the city limits. Adams’ work will be performed as an independent contractor and not as an employee of the city.
Adams’ contract will go from Aug. 10 to Dec. 10. According to the proposed contract, Adams will be paid a total of $15,000 at $3,7500 per month and a car allowance of $200 per month for each contract month.
It looks to me like Texarkana A&P officials didn’t think residents were “educated” enough about the taxes they paid, so the commission decided to “educate” them by spending more taxpayer dollars! Brilliant!
This proposal was supposed to occur on Friday; however, it was abruptly cancelled after some citizens (perhaps the ones who needed “education”) pointed out that the proposal violated Act 312.
Texarkana Mayor Wayne Smith told us:
I was not provided a reason for the cancellation. I am of the opinion the concern for Act 312 of 2013 could have and should have been a rational reason to reconsider their plan to hire someone to lead the challenge against a citizen led legal right to have something put on ballot and combat it with tax dollars. I am sure the current A & P Commission … will devise an alternate plan to use tax dollars to accomplish their goal of having access to citizens’ tax dollars to give to their friends and serve their personal agendas.
Unless consideration of the proposal gets revisited, it looks like Act 312 just saved Texarkana taxpayers over $15,000. It seems as though the only people in need of being “educated” are those in Texarkana city government, who mistakenly thought this proposal was legal.