AG Says No to Casino Proposal; Ability to Sue State Pops Up After Court Opinion
A recent court decision and a long-held desire to open casinos in Arkansas pushed
two groups into taking the first step in a bid for the November ballot.
Driving Arkansas Forward submitted a ballot title seeking to allow three casinos in the state, with 65 percent of tax revenue going to the state for road improvements.
The wording for the Arkansas Casino Gaming and Highway Funding Amendment of 2018 was rejected, however, on Thursday (January 25th). Attorney General Leslie Rutledge questioned whether the phrase "Highway Funding Amendment" would mislead voters.
The measure is a casino gaming measure, she wrote, and not a comprehensive highway funding measure. The proposal seeks to allow a casino to operate in Jefferson County, Crittenden County, and then in either Miller, Mississippi, Pope, Union or White County.
Rutledge also cited ambiguities in the text of the proposal, including multiple references to the licensing of casinos and casino gamings.
"These various references to the licensing of "casinos" and "casino gaming" create uncertainty regarding the casino licensing process. They also render uncertain the precise meaning of the undefined term "casino license," Rutledge wrote in her opinion.
State law requires ballot titles be certified or approved by the Attorney General before sponsors can collect voter signatures for a spot on the ballot.
Supporters of another proposal submitted this month are waiting to hear how they fair with the Attorney General.
The Committee to Restore Arkansans' Rights submitted a proposal Jan. 24 seeking approval for a ballot measure that would allow the legislature to waive immunity in certain situations.
The proposal followed an Arkansas Supreme Court decision earlier this month that said the legislature did not have authority to waive the state's immunity to lawsuits. The divided opinion in a case about employee overtime immediately raised questions about whether state agencies could be sued for anything.
The group's proposal would add "clarifying language" to Article V, Section 20 of the Constitution to allow the legislature to waive immunity. The section currently reads "The State of Arkansas shall never be made defendant in any of her courts."
Rutledge has 10 days to issue an opinion regarding the proposal.
Currently, the Attorney General has certified only one group to collect voter signatures for the November ballot. The Arkansas Term Limits Amendment was certified in October 2016. The deadline to submit signature petitions for the ballot is July 6.
Read the rest of our January ballot issue newsletter.
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