Arkansas attorney general files brief with state Supreme Court in LEARNS Act case

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin addresses the media Feb. 17 during a press conference in Little Rock. (File Photo/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin on Friday filed a 45-page brief laying out his arguments for why the state Supreme Court should overturn a lower court ruling that has delayed implementation of the LEARNS Act.

The brief is part of Griffin's appeal of a ruling by a Pulaski County Circuit judge that lawmakers failed to follow the state Constitution when passing the law's emergency clause, which was needed for it to take effect immediately. 

Under Circuit Judge Herbert Wright's ruling, the law is scheduled to take effect Tuesday.
Under Article 1 Section 5, of the constitution, to pass an emergency clause, the Legislature needs to hold a “separate roll call,” vote. 

When passing the LEARNS Act, an overhaul of the state's education system championed by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, lawmakers voted simultaneously on the bill and the emergency clause, a practice the Legislature has followed for decades. 

Without an emergency clause, laws take effect 91 days after the legislative session officially ends.

Wright's ruling came in a lawsuit brought by a group of Phillips County residents and two public education activists.

In his brief on Friday, Griffin said how the Legislature passes emergency clauses is a political question that should be left to lawmakers. He also said the state has sovereign immunity that should shield it from the lawsuit.

A response by the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is due Aug. 11.