Thursday, May 28, 2015

Arkansas Senate Passes Compromise SEC Primary Bill

Arkansas legislators worked into the evening on day two of the current special session yesterday. After failing to gather enough votes to suspend the rules and consider SB 8 on the floor of the state Senate1, senators in support of the move to join the SEC primary on March 1 redoubled their efforts to push the measure through.

Those efforts by majority party Republicans included cutting a deal with state Senate Democrats to make the move of the consolidated primary -- including the presidential primary -- to March 1 temporary. Under the provisions of the amended bill, the Arkansas presidential primary will move into the SEC primary position on the calendar, but only for the 2016 cycle. The election would automatically revert to its current May position at the end of 2016 (for the 2020 cycle). This would either save future legislators from having to change the date back to May as they have in other instances when Arkansas has moved its presidential primary forward on the calendar (see 1988 and 2008) or force them to revisit whether to hold an early primary again in 2020 and beyond.

The amended SB 8 emerged from the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee with a "Do Pass" recommendation and was subsequently passed by a 28-6 vote by the full Senate. The measure now heads to the House for consideration. The lower chamber passed the original (unamended/permanent) version of the SEC primary bill on Wednesday.

For more see coverage from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

1 The chamber was able to gain enough support to extract the bill from committee, but not enough to meet the supermajority requirement to consider the bill immediately. Without that supermajority, the bill, by rule, had to wait two calendar days before the chamber could consider it. That would have pushed the special session, originally scheduled to adjourn on Thursday, May 28, into Saturday.

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