Minimum wage hike up to voters

A group campaigning to raise Arkansas' minimum wage turned in more than 77,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's Office on Monday in an effort to place the issue on the November 2014 General Election ballot.

Give Arkansas a Raise Now submitted its petition and reported turning in 77,288 signatures. Placing the issue on the ballot requires signatures from 62,507 registered voters.

Monday was the deadline to submit petitions for initiatives.

The proposal would raise Arkansas' minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour by 2017. Currently, Arkansas is one of only four states with a minimum wage lower than the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

The proposal is backed by U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor; James Lee Witt, Democratic candidate for the 4th Congressional District; Mike Ross, former Democratic congressman and 2014 gubernatorial candidate; and Jackie McPherson, Democratic candidate for the 1st Congressional District. Additionally, the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP has backed the initiative as well as the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance.

The proposal is opposed by the Arkansas Hospitality Association, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, Rep. Bruce Westerman and Asa Hutchinson, Republication candidate for governor.

Also appearing on the November ballot will be a constitutional amendment that, if passed, would legalize the manufacture, transportation and sale of alcohol statewide. This initiative is primarily supported by Let Arkansas Decide, an organization that hired National Ballot Access to collect signatures. Currently 35 of Arkansas 75 counties are dry.

On Monday, Let Arkansas Decide turned in more than 84,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's office to put the proposed amendment on the ballot. That office will spend the next few days conducting an initial count of the signatures submitted by both initiatives.

The office has until Aug. 21 to verify the signatures and certify any ballot issues.