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Minimum wage hike among ballot winners.

Arkansas voters have approved a ballot measure that will gradually increase the state's minimum wage to $8.50 by 2017 and defeated a measure that would have legalized the sale of alcohol in every county.

The proposal on Tuesday's ballot had enjoyed widespread support from Democrats and some Republican candidates, too. Democrats had pushed the wage increase, touting it as a way to boost turnout in the election.

Arkansas' minimum wage is now $6.25 an hour. The state is among the few in the country with a minimum wage below the U.S. level of $7.25 an hour.

The proposal qualified for the ballot after supporters turned in more than 62,000 signatures from verified voters. But the validity of those signatures were challenged in a lawsuit, which the Arkansas Supreme Court rejected month.

Arkansas voters, meanwhile, turned down a proposed constitutional amendment that would have legalized alcohol sales in all 75 counties.

Backers of the proposal had argued that Arkansas' current patchwork of wet and dry counties is archaic and that legalizing alcohol sales everywhere would boost local economies. But opponents of the measure say whether alcohol is available should be decided on the local level.

Opponents vastly outspent supporters in the campaign, with much of the money coming from liquor stores in wet counties.

Now, a county can hold an election to legalize alcohol sales if supporters gather signatures from 38 percent of registered voters in the county. The proposed constitutional amendment would have done away with local-option elections and legalized alcohol sales beginning on July 1, 2015.

--The Associated Press

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Title Annotation:Politics
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Nov 10, 2014
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