Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has rejected the ballot title for a proposal to amend the state Constitution to allow the legislature to waive the constitutional provision that prohibits lawsuits against the state, a concept known as sovereign immunity.
The issue heated up when the Supreme Court said the provision against lawsuits was virtually absolute. It reversed 20 years of precedent to allow the legislature waive the prohibition in certain cases — over minimum wage in the case under review.
That brought about a proposal from an ad hoc committee to amend the Constitution (this would require a petition drive and statewide vote in November).
But the opinion from Rutledge said the ballot title wasn’t sufficient. Her opinion said:
I believe most voters will be unfamiliar with the term sovereign immunity as it appears in the ballot title, because it is a legal term of art. Most voters will not know that the doctrine of sovereign immunity means that a state cannot be sued in its own courts. Likewise, most voters will not appreciate that authorizing the General Assembly to waive sovereign immunity means giving the legislature the ability to enact statutes that allow people and entities to sue the State in state court for money damages and other forms of relief. Given the content of your ballot title as proposed, both of these concepts sovereign immunity and waiver of sovereign immunity need to be briefly explained to ensure voters are adequately inform[ed] and can make a reasoned decision in the voting booth.
Presumably, barring some clarification of the sweeping change in precedent, the backers of this amendment will submit a new idea for the ballot title.