The Arkansas Supreme Court on Monday (April 23) rejected a petition for an expedited hearing from a group pushing a casino proposal that has been rejected four times by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.
“Petition for expedited consideration of petition is granted. Petition denied. Motion for accelerated briefing schedule and for emergency hearing is moot,” the Arkansas Supreme Court said in a short statement provided by Driving Arkansas Forward, the ballot question committee pushing for a casinos for highway funding proposal.
“Attorney General Rutledge is pleased that the Supreme Court agreed with her argument and denied the petition from Driving Arkansas Forward. Recently, the Supreme Court has set a very high bar for proposals to be determined as sufficiently clear to appear on the ballot, and it is the Attorney General’s responsibility to ensure that voters fully understand what exactly a ‘for’ or ‘against’ vote means,” said AG spokesperson Nicole Ryan.
“We are disappointed by the court’s decision because we believe voters deserve an opportunity to be heard on a matter that would support Arkansas highways and create jobs for communities that need them,” said Aaron Sadler in a statement from Driving Arkansas Forward. “In the meantime, we will continue working to address the Attorney General’s concerns so that we can begin collecting signatures as soon as possible.”
Rutledge has said previously that she has followed the Arkansas Supreme Court’s standards for certifying ballot initiatives.
Driving Arkansas Forward had asked the state’s high court for expedited consideration of its petition and an accelerated briefing schedule after Attorney General Leslie Rutledge rejected its amendment proposal for a fourth time. The group contends it met the AG’s concerns, but Rutledge still cited “ambiguities” in rejecting the measure from moving forward to the signature gathering process.
By state law, a group wishing to place a proposed amendment on the general election ballot must receive approval from the Arkansas Attorney General before qualifying to collect signatures for the measure. If an appropriate number of voter signatures are collected and approved as legitimate by the Arkansas Secretary of State, then the proposal qualifies for the general election.
The Arkansas Casino Gaming Amendment of 2018 would authorize two new casinos – one in Jefferson County and one in Pope County – while enhancing the gaming operations at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs and Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis. The bulk of tax revenues from casino gaming under the proposed constitutional amendment would go for highway needs statewide, as well as in the counties and cities where the casinos are located.