- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a lawsuit challenging the attorney general’s decision to reject the wording of a ballot measure that would impose new campaign finance and ethics restrictions on elected officials.

Justices dismissed the lawsuit Little Rock lawyer David Couch filed against Attorney General Leslie Rutledge over his proposed constitutional amendment. Couch had asked the court to order Rutledge to approve the wording of his measure or to substitute new language to address her concern. The court didn’t elaborate on the reasons behind its dismissal in the one-page order, which came a day after Rutledge asked justices to toss the suit.

“Attorney General Rutledge’s response to Mr. Couch’s ballot title proposal was timely, as has always been the case since she entered office,” Judd Deere, a spokesman for the AG, said in an email. “The ballot title was rejected because it was misleading, and it is important that voters understand proposals on which they are voting.”

Couch said in his lawsuit filed last week that he’s running out of time to meet the July 8 deadline to submit signatures, especially since state law also requires he publish a notice statewide about the proposal by June 8. Rutledge has rejected the wording of the proposal three times. Rutledge’s approval is required before he can begin gathering the nearly 85,000 signatures from registered voters needed to put the proposal on the November ballot.

Rutledge had rejected Couch’s proposal three times. Couch said he was unlikely to submit a new version of the proposal this year given the limited time remaining.

“Basically the attorney general in her sole discretion can determine a ballot title is misleading for perpetuity and I don’t have a remedy with the Supreme Court,” Couch said.

Couch’s proposal would expand the state’s ban on lobbyist gifts to elected officials by eliminating exemptions for governmental bodies and travel expenses paid by national or regional organizations. It calls for other new campaign finance restrictions, including a ban on political action committees funded by corporations or limited liability companies. It would also lower the maximum amount a donor can contribute to a candidate from $2,700 to $1,500.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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