Safe Surgery Arkansas will announce this afternoon a petition drive for an initiated act for the 2020 ballot to repeal the 2019 law that allowed optometrists to perform certain types of eye surgery.

Medical doctors had lobbied hard against the bill, arguing that optometrists didn’t have sufficient training. It was one of the most expensive lobby fights of the session, with heavy lobby artillery on both sides.


Medical doctors formed the Safe Surgery Coalition to fight the bill in Arkansas and other states, but were unsuccessful here.

Under new changes in the law for ballot petitions, the drive must obtain about 54,000 signatures of registered voters by July 23 (or 90 days after legislative adjournment) to qualify for the ballot. If that is met, the law will be held in abeyance until the election. The law did not have an emergency clause so it has not yet taken effect.


UPDATE: Here’s the actual proposal, which leaves optometrists with the ability to do some limited procedures:


UPDATE: The Arkansas Optometric Association responds:

We’re disappointed to learn special interests have formed a group to try to unwind Act 579 – a law that will give Arkansas patients increased access to quality care.  Arkansas legislators overwhelmingly approved this measure during the recent session, after listening to hours of testimony and debate, and learning optometrists in other states, like Oklahoma, have been safely performing these procedures for more than 20 years.  Lawmakers also heard from constituents who have had to endure added costs and lengthy waits when required to see a specialist for care their optometrist is educated to safely provide.


 The General Assembly determined Arkansas patients deserve better. We think voters will agree. We encourage people to learn the facts before signing the petition, which will likely be circulated by paid canvassers.