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Court filings call for expedited schedule on LEARNS case

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(The Center Square) – Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin is asking the state Supreme Court to expedite briefings in a case challenging the emergency clause of the LEARNS Act.

Griffin is appealing a ruling by Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Herbert Wright that says lawmakers did not take a separate vote on an emergency clause that would make the law effective immediately. The omnibus bill signed into law by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders would include teacher raises, literary coaches for the schools, and “Educational Freedom Accounts” for parents to use to send their children to the school of their choice when enacted.

Without the emergency clause, the bill is not effective until Aug. 1.

The Marvell-Elaine School District filed the case over the state’s plans to contract with a management group to run the district. The district was joined by other plaintiffs, including Arkansas Citizens for Public Education and Students, known as CAPES.

Griffin said in the brief that the ruling would invalidate about 200 appropriations bills and about 100 non-appropriation bills passed by lawmakers.

“That would open the floodgates to illegal-exaction claims, habeas petitions, and countless other challenges,” the attorney general’s office said in its brief. “Only this Court can stem that tide of confusion and prevent serial, meritless litigation over emergency clauses.”

The Supreme Court does not need to decide any factual disputes in the case, the attorney general’s office said.

“Instead, this Court can simply hold the circuit court lacked the authority to entertain such political questions and was required to dismiss this case,” the brief said. “Or, alternatively, this Court could dismiss this case on sovereign immunity grounds.”

The motion asks that all briefs are filed by Aug. 18.

The Friendship Education Foundation said in a motion that it does not oppose an expedited schedule. Ali Noland, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Phillips County residents, said in a motion filed Thursday morning said while she disagrees with several of the state’s statements, she does not object to the expedited motion.

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