by Max Brantley
Nancy Todd met the initial signature threshold to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would grant four casino licenses to promoters of the amendment. The secretary of state yet must verify the drive has gathered sufficient signatures of registered voters.
Todd got back to me yesterday on a point I'd made earlier in discussions on the proposal.
Todd, who's being paid by Branson investors to lead the campaign, had told me earlier that I was in error to presume the casinos — if approved by the voters — would be beyond the reach of state legislative regulation. Language in the amendment is restrictive as to legislative involvement, both in regulation of gambling and taxing proceeds.
But, Todd contends, there's an implicit authority of the legislature to impose regulation. She sent a note explaining her position, which I'll share on the jump. If and when the measure moves closer to a vote, it will bear further examination.
Another proposed amendment by Texas promoter Michael Wasserman would give him licenses for seven casinos. Wasserman, too, turned in sufficient signatures for a secretary of state review. Interesting. The last report he filed on his committee's ballot question activity was in March. It reported no contributions or expenditures. The Ethics Commission made clear, in the case of Todd's effort, that activities toward qualifying an amendment for the ballot must be reported when $500 has been spent. I'd be skeptical that Wasserman gathered 80,000 signatures without paying canvassers to gather them or otherwise spent less than $500 in his long effort to qualify a proposal for the ballot. Wasserman's amendment, by the way, explicitly prohibits legislative regulation.
EMAIL FROM NANCY TODD
It has long been the law in Arkansas that the "State Legislature can exercise all power that is not expressly or impliedly prohibited by the Constitution; for whatever powers are not limited or restricted they inherently possess as a portion of the sovereignty of the State." State v. Ashley, 1 Ark. 513 (1839). Specifically, "[t]he legislature has the authority to implement a constitutional amendment" so long as the legislation implementing a constitutional amendment is "consistent with and not repugnant to the constitutional provision being implemented." Purvis v. City of Little Rock, 282 Ark. 102, 104, 667 S.W.2d 936, 937 (1984).
Here, Section 3.1 of the proposed constitutional amendment states: "Unless otherwise specifically provided herein, neither the General Assembly nor any political subdivision of this State shall enact any legislation, rule or regulation regarding the operation of casino gaming as defined in this Amendment." The term "casino gaming" is defined to mean "any game played with cards, dice, equipment, or . . . ." Implementing legislation that, for example, provided a means of reporting, collecting or distributing tax revenue from casino gaming would not involve "the operation of casino gaming." In no way would it affect games played in casinos. Furthermore, it is not repugnant to the constitutional amendment being implemented. It is the opposite.
Similarly, the provision does not prohibit regulatory legislation so long as the laws do not involve the operation of casino gaming. Regulations not involving the operation of casino gaming are not repugnant to the provision; they are complementary and supportive.