Monday, September 19, 2016

Casino backers says amendment challenge should be dismissed

Posted By on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 1:03 PM

Arkansas Wins in 2016, the group proposing a constitutional amendment to allow three more casinos in Arkansas, told the Arkansas Supreme Court today that a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the proposal should be dismissed for lack of standing.

The motion says the plaintiffs in the lawsuit seeking ballot disqualification of the amendment — Chuck Lange and Bill Walmsley — are not sponsors of the amendment and have no claim on that ground against Secretary of State Mark Martin, who certified it for the ballot. They also say Lange and Walmsley haven't shown they suffered any injury by certification of the issue. Thus, the petition argues, the Supreme Court doesn't have jurisdiction in the case absent cause for them to challenge the exclusive jurisdiction of the secretary of state.

The law once provided an ability to challenge sufficiency of signatures, but the lawsuit says that statute was repealed in 2013. It was perhaps inadvertent, but the lawsuit says the law change preserved the right of 25 electors to challenge an initiative AFTER an election and also preserved the right of a sponsor of a petition to go to court over a secretary of state's decision. 

However, there is no provision in Title 7, Chapter 9 that gives Petitioners in their capacity as taxpayer, voter, or ballot question committee the right to bring an action to review the Secretary’s decision to certify the Amendment. 
The response also answers a claim that the measure is improper on its face for including sports betting, a subject I mentioned earlier today.

The Court also does not have jurisdiction because the language of the Amendment is not clearly contrary to the Arkansas and U.S. Constitutions on its face.  Under the Amendment, whether sports wagering that conflicts with federal law will be allowed depends on
future enabling legislation by the General Assembly. In addition, federal law does permit some forms of sports wagering such as horse racing and jai-alai
Here's the pleading.

Said Robert Coon, a political consultant for Arkansas Wins:

“Act 1413 very clearly repealed provisions in Arkansas law pertaining to the right of review for parties other than the sponsor of a measure. We believe that the General Assembly has the authority to enact laws dealing with the initiative process, that the statute is clear, and subsequently that the case should be dismissed.”
PS: I should add that the legislation that omitted the ability for citizens to challenge signatures was in a bill sponsored by backers of the existing casinos in West Memphis and Hot Springs. Lawyers for those facilities undoubtedly had a hand in the writing. So the betting is that the omission not only wasn't accidental, but meant to make it impossible for some citizen to challenge a ballot petition.

Realistically, the Supreme Court can take up just about anything it wants to take up.

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