The main news from last week in government was the campaigns, the Supreme Court ruling that voter IDs would be required for this election and the lower court judge ruling that the ban against same sex marriage was unconstitutional.
Several counties issued marriage licenses and many gay couples married despite the fact the legislature and the people of Arkansas voted that marriage was to be between a man and a woman. However, Wednesday of last week, the Arkansas Supreme Court said that the state law still prevents county clerks from issuing licenses to same sex couples because it said the court did not address that point.
However, the Supreme Court denied the state’s request to freeze the lower court’s order that struck down Arkansas’ ban on same sex marriages and dismissed the appeal saying the Pulaski Court had not completed the ruling since it did not address the law that prohibited county clerks from issuing the licenses to same sex couples.
Thursday the lower court judge expanded his order striking down the gay marriage ban and added that the ban on clerks issuing a license was also unconstitutional. The state filed its appeal notice within 46 minutes of the new order being released. The petition for a stay with the Supreme Court was filed in about 90 minutes after that.
The Arkansas Supreme Court, on Friday afternoon, granted the stay which will temporarily stop the clerks from issuing license. The court now can take up the actual ruling and decide if they will agree or strike the ruling.
If they agree that the ban is unconstitutional, it would open the state to gay marriages. If they throw the decision out, then the ban will continue and they will have to make decisions on those marriages that took place. There would be many lawsuits to follow, I am sure.
The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has suspended plans to begin 10 highway construction projects because of uncertainty that there will be enough money to pay for them in the Federal Highway Trust Fund. The revenue for road projects comes from state and federal taxes. Some projects rely more heavily on federal grants. Both the state and federal governments collect motor fuels taxes and fees on heavy trucks.
In Arkansas, the state collects 21.8 cents per gallon on gasoline. All over the country the federal government collects 18.4 cents a gallon. On diesel fuel the state collects 22.8 cents and the federal government collects 24.4 cents a gallon. Revenue from these taxes has not kept pace with the cost of highway projects, partly because cars and trucks are more fuel efficient every year and more consumers are purchasing lighter vehicles that get better gas mileage. In Arkansas, to help this issue, voters approved a half cent sales tax to finance a $1.8 billion program to connect the major cities of the state with a four-lane highway. The highway department is promoting its www.idrivearkansas.com website, which displays up to date maps of construction zones.
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