LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A lawsuit running since the Arkansas LEARNS Act was first voted upon was dismissed Thursday by the state supreme court.
The court’s decision ended the potentially far-reaching debate on how the state legislature passed laws with an emergency clause. The decision maintained that the state legislature had done so correctly.
An emergency clause is sometimes placed on the end of a piece of legislation so that when it passes it goes into effect immediately, as was the case with the LEARNS Act. Without the clause, a new law has 90 days to go into effect.
The lawsuit opposing the legislation going into effect was filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court by a group opposing LEARNS. The lawsuit maintained that the way the Arkansas Constitution is written, without a separate vote on the emergency clause attached to a piece of legislation the legislation will not go into effect for 90 days.
Circuit Judge Herbert Wright granted a restraining order delaying LEARNS going into effect. The decision delayed the implementation of the act in the Marvel-Elaine School District, which was in the process of contracting with a company to take over school operations.
The Thursday ruling overturned Wright’s decision, which had been appealed to the Supreme Court by the attorney general’s office, including in its argument that declaring the emergency clause process improper could interrupt a great deal of state legislation.
The opinion included three justices concerning with the court’s decision, and Chief Justice Dan Kemp the sole dissent. Kemp maintained the matter before the court was moot since LEARNS had since gone into effect after the 90-day period passed.
Justices Karen Baker, Shawn Womack and Rhonda Wood concurred, but based their concurrence not on the legislative process, but essentially that the court should not become involved in a political question like the legislative process.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders had supported LEARNS as a cornerstone of her administration as she took office in January. She stated on X, formerly known as Twitter, that today’s ruling was a win for the good guys, and a defeat of extremists.
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of the LEARNS Act is a historic victory for Arkansas parents, teachers, and students, and a crushing defeat for the partisan extremists who tried to undermine our kids’ futures,” the governor stated.
Attorney General Tim Griffin also supported the court’s decision.
“This is a win for the people of Arkansas,” Griffin said. “The Arkansas Supreme Court confirmed that the General Assembly’s long-established procedure for adopting emergency clauses is valid and not subject to challenge. This ruling dismisses the lawsuit challenging LEARNS and confirms that all similar challenges fail as a matter of law and must be thrown out.