Optometrists in Arkansas won a huge scope of practice victory with the passage of Act 579 in March of 2019. But the battle wasn’t over, with the medical lobby, led by Safe Surgery Arkansas, pushing for a veto referendum to put the issue up for a public vote—and hopefully rescind the law. The groups spent the year gathering signatures for the petition but failed to meet the requirements in August of 2019 due to a filing error, a mistake that foretold the movement’s ultimate demise.
Today, the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the ruling that the group opposing the law did not follow proper petition requirements, incorrectly validating canvassers’ background check status. Of the 64,027 total signatures submitted, 51,911 were deemed invalid by the Court because they were acquired by paid canvassers who did not have a certification stating they had passed a background check—only “acquired” one.1
“We are pleased the Court agrees with the Special Master’s findings that the group opposing Act 579 did NOT follow petition requirements and the measure does NOT qualify for the ballot,” Vicki Farmer, chairperson for Arkansans for Healthy Eyes, the group leading the cause for optometry, said in a statement. “Patients across Arkansas will now have improved access to quality eye care from the doctor of optometry they know and trust.”
ODs in the state can now forge ahead with the credentialing process to allow optometrists to perform certain procedures, including certain injections, incision and curettage of a chalazion, removal and biopsy of certain low-risk skin lesions, and even some laser procedures such as capsulotomy and trabeculoplasty.
1. Arkansas Judiciary. Arkansans for Healthy Eyes, a ballot question committee; and Vicki Farmer, individually and on behalf of Arkansans for Healthy Eyes v. John Thurston, in his official capacity as secretary of state of the state of Arkansas; Safe Surgery Arkansas, a ballot question committee; and Laurie Barber, M.D., individually and on behalf of Safe Surgery Arkansas, an original actionr. September 17, 2020. https://opinions.arcourts.gov/ark/supremecourt/en/item/485308/index.do. Accessed September 17, 2020.