New Year Brings New Laws to Arkansas

Thursday, January 2, 2014
Clay County Clerk Pat Poole demonstrates the new system for printing photo ID's for voters. The ID's are made by the small printer to the right of the monitor, and will be available to those who require them

A number of laws were passed during the 2013 regular session of the Arkansas Legislature, with most of those measures taking effect Aug. 1. But, several of the bills written had an effective date of Jan. 1, 2014 including measures concerning changes to the voting procedure and cuts in state taxes.

Beginning Jan. 1 all Arkansans who are currently paying one percent in income tax will see their taxes lowered by one tenth of a percent. Meanwhile, those in higher income brackets will begin seeing reductions in their rates next year.

The 89th General Assembly also voted to reduce the sales and use tax for utilities used in agriculture structures, such as chicken houses, and lawmakers also increased the tax deductions for volunteer firefighters.

The back of one of the new voter ID cards available through the county clerk's offices in all 75 Arkansas counties. As the card notes, they may only be used for voting purposes in the county in which they were issued.

The new year also brings an increase for prepaid wireless customers, as they'll notice a surcharge. The 65 cent fee is being added to each retail transaction for wireless services, and the funds will be used to assist 911 emergency phone systems throughout the state.

A change was also made in the state law concerning fireworks, as the sale and use of sky lanterns will be prohibited in 2014 and beyond. A sky lantern is defined as an unmanned free floating device, designed to contain an open flame. These are commonly used in wedding celebrations.

But, due to previous incidents involving the lanterns, and the chance of future fire hazards, lawmakers voted to outlaw their use during this year's session.

Another important piece of legislation which takes effect Jan. 1 is the act which requires a voter to provide proof of identity when voting. Starting in 2014, voters will be required to present a photo ID at the polls.

"In recent years poll workers have asked for an ID when people came to vote, but if they refused we still allowed them to vote in the usual manner," Clay County Clerk Pat Poole said of the change. "Now, they must produce a photo ID which includes their full legal name, address and date of birth. If they do not have one they'll have to vote by way of a provisional ballot and will then have a number of days to bring in their ID. If they don't, their ballot will be reviewed by the board of elections, and may not be counted."

To help aid with compliance, the act also sets up a system in which the clerk's offices in each of the 75 counties in Arkansas will be able to issue a photo ID for voters who do not already have such form of identification. These ID cards will be provided to those who require them at no charge.

"Anyone who does not have a photo ID, such as a driver's license or such, will be able to come by the clerk's office and apply for one," Poole explained. "But, we will be able to accept a number of ID's--such as an official photo ID, a concealed carry license, U.S. passport, state or federal employee identification, U.S. military identification card, a student ID card or public assistance ID card."

Recently the state installed a camera and printer to the computer system in the clerk's office, and those who do not have any other form of ID may apply for one beginning Jan. 2.

"We want to stress the voter ID card may only be used for that purpose," Poole added. "Those who need one may come by and fill out an application, which also includes an oath which verifies they have no other ID's."

Those applying for the ID's must have their completed application, available at the clerk's office, along with documentation of their full legal name and date of birth along with documentation of their residential address.

"We have a number of guidelines for documenting these facts," Poole noted. "Legal name and date of birth can be verified by an original or certified copy of a birth certificate, copy of a marriage license application or notarized copy of the applicant's state or federal tax return filed from the previous year."

The clerk's office will also accept a paycheck or paycheck stub bearing the imprinted name of the applicant's employer, an original of a Medicare of Medicaid statement, an original of the annual social security statement for the current or preceding calendar year, certified school record of transcript, naturalization document or a DD-214 form issued by the federal government for members of the military.

Documentation of the residential address may be accomplished by presenting a utility or cable bill issued within the past 60 days, bank statement issued within the last 60 days, notarized copy of the applicant's state or federal tax return, homeowner's insurance policy or bill from the current or preceding calendar year, mortgage or payment coupon, deed or property tax bill, personal property tax bill, current auto registration receipt or a W-2 issued by the applicant's employer for the preceding calendar year.

"These are just guidelines, and this is not an exclusive list," Poole explained. "If one document contains both your full legal name, date of birth and address it could be used to demonstrate both your identity and residency."

More information on the changes and the process is available on Secretary of State Mark Martin's website at www.sos.arkansas.gov

"We're not expecting a lot of demand for the new ID cards here in Clay County," Poole surmised. "During one of our meetings on the subject the state officials told us we would likely process less than 10 a year, but we're prepared and the equipment is set-up and ready for the first of the year."

Those wanting more information may call the county clerk's office in Piggott at 598-2813, or the Corning office at 857-3480.

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