LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The state Supreme Court on Wednesday received replies to briefs filed Tuesday in the second phase of its review of a lower court’s delay of the Arkansas LEARNS Act.
The issue remains if the court should uphold a temporary restraining order blocking LEARNS Act implementation that was made two weeks ago in Pulaski County Circuit Court.
The issue continues to hinge on the use of the emergency clause in implementing the act. The group that sought the restraining order maintains that the Arkansas legislature did not take the mandated separate vote to implement the emergency clause allowing immediate implementation of the LEARNS Act.
If the use of the emergency clause in the LEARNS Act is valid, the state would be able to continue implementing the new law.
If the court deems the emergency clause was not added correctly, then state could be delayed in implementing any part of the act until Aug. 1, 90 days after the legislature ended its session.
With the current restraining order in place, the state cannot contract with the Friendship Education Foundation’s takeover of the Marvell-Elaine School District, which had been underway until the restraining order was put in place.
In Tuesday’s briefings, opponents continued the argument that the emergency act was not invoked properly. The state argued that it had been implemented properly based on established Arkansas legislative procedures.
In Wednesday’s reply briefings, both sides emphasized the argument about the procedure used to record the emergency clause vote.
The state Solicitor General Nicholas Bronni maintained that since the legislature journal records a vote on the act and a second set of votes on the emergency clause, the clause is in effect. The argument is that state law requires an emergency clause vote to be recorded in the journal, and it was, he argues.
The opponents argue that a video of the vote on the act shows no second vote. The state counters this by stating that the record of the vote in the journal is what makes it valid based upon years of law, not what is seen on a video.
One final twist was a second motion filed by the state after Wednesday’s reply briefings were received.
Arkansas Supreme Court rules require reply briefings not to be longer than 2,875 words. Bronni points out that the opponent’s briefing was 3,625 words and should therefore be held invalid.
While the court did put this matter on an expedited hearing schedule, including when to file briefings and reply briefings, the court has not indicated when it will issue an opinion on the arguments.