by Max Brantley
Opinion No. 2015-054
July 1, 2015
The Honorable Mickey Gates
377 North Highway 7
Hot Springs, Arkansas 71901
Dear Representative Gates,
You have asked for my opinion on the following question:
If a county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state—prior to Act 137 of 2015 going into effect—adopts an ordinance, resolution, rule or policy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law, does Act 137 prohibit the county, municipality, or other political subdivision from enforcing it?
For the sake of clarity, I want to highlight the question I have been asked to address here. The question is not about what is meant by the phrases “protected classification” or “on a basis not contained in state law.” Nor is the question about whether any particular rule or ordinance of a political subdivision conflicts with Act 137 of 2015. Rather, the question is whether a local ordinance or rule can be enforced when (1) it was enacted before Act 137 and (2) it conflicts with Act 137.
The answer to this question is “no.”
Section 1 of Act 137 prohibits the enforcement of a conflicting local rule or law: “A county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state shall not…enforce an ordinance, resolution, rule, or policy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law.” (Emphasis added.) When a state and a local law conflict, the latter yields. Therefore, if a political subdivision enacted an ordinance, rule, or resolution that conflicted with Act 137, then the local law could not be enforced.
Assistant Attorney General Ryan Owsley prepared this opinion, which I hereby approve.Sincerely,Leslie Rutledge