Referendum effort on Arkansas eye surgery law rejected

Referendum effort on Arkansas eye surgery law rejected

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas election officials have rejected an attempt to hold a referendum next year on a new state law expanding what procedures optometrists can perform that's sparked an unusually expensive and public lobbying fight.

Secretary of State John Thurston's office on Friday said supporters of the referendum fell short of the nearly 53,500 signatures from registered voters needed to put the issue on the November 2020 ballot. Thurston's office said it determined the petitions submitted had 23,953 signatures.

The new law allows optometrists to perform several procedures that currently only ophthalmologists can. It's drawn heavy opposition from ophthalmologists who say the change puts patients at risk.

Safe Surgery Arkansas, the group behind the referendum effort, says it’s prepared to go to court to challenge the petitions’ rejection.