Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hutchinson's Call for Special Session Includes Arkansas Presidential Primary Move

Under a proclamation from Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) a special session of the Arkansas legislature will convene on Tuesday, May 26.1

For our purposes here at FHQ the most noteworthy item on the governor's agenda for the session is "to move the full Arkansas primary elections from May to March". This is an expected move, but an interesting one. The bill (SB 389) that passed the state Senate during the regular session -- and was subsequently withdrawn after it was bottled up in committee on the House -- proposed to create and fund a separate presidential preferential primary election for the first Tuesday in March. That would have left the other primaries back in May.

That separate presidential primary would cost the state an estimated $1.6 million.

But it should be noted that a bill (SB 765) similar to the one the governor is asking the legislature to consider was also proposed during the regular session by the same legislator who introduced the separate presidential primary legislation, Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R-6th, Branch). That bill, when considered beside SB 389, was discarded in committee in the state Senate.

That raises an interesting question: If the Arkansas state House opposes a separate primary, and the state Senate opposes moving a consolidated primary up to March 1, is this special session headed for an impasse? That depends. Did the state Senate committee really oppose the consolidated bill or did it just prefer the separate presidential primary option? If it is the former, then an standoff is likely. However, if it preferred the separate presidential primary option, it may not have opposed the consolidated primary option if it was the only one available.

Either way, that leaves some questions to be answered in a very short three day special session next week.

UPDATE (5/21/15): The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has more details on the presidential primary proposal from Governor Hutchinson. All the primaries would be moved from May to the first Tuesday in March, but the fiscal session of the state legislature would be shifted from February to April as well. That latter move would eliminate the conflict of legislators campaigning in the midst of their work on budgetary/appropriations matters. Hypothetically, campaigning would potentially affect  deliberations on those matters. This is a long-standing norm in Arkansas and other states. It is also something FHQ has discussed before in the context of an Arkansas presidential primary move.

Democrats in the state legislative minority are raising holiday and weather concerns (similar to minority party Democrats in Nevada), but Republicans are countering that the change is being made in time for everyone to adjust (via the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette):
[State Senate Democratic Leader Keith] Ingram said that moving all the state's primaries from May to March will create problems, lead to campaigning during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and devastate state and local primary races if an ice storm occurs on primary day.
But [Speaker of the House, Republican Jeremy] Gillam said that "we are doing it early enough that everybody will have plenty of time to adjust the calendars, whether it be just on making a decision to run for office or how to conduct the elections.

1 The text of press release on the call for a special session:
Governor Asa Hutchinson Makes Official Call for Special Legislative Session
Agenda Items Focus on Economic Development and Government Efficiencies

LITTLE ROCK – Governor Asa Hutchinson has made the official call to legislators for a special session of the 90th General Assembly that will convene Tuesday, May 26, 2015. Along with the official call, the Governor has announced all items on the special session agenda below.

Governor Hutchinson issued the following statement: “This limited agenda focuses on job creation and economic development, while highlighting government efficiencies that will ultimately result in savings to all Arkansas taxpayers.”

Agenda items are as follows:
To consider an Amendment 82 “super project” at Highland Industrial Park in Calhoun County.

To consider reorganization of state agencies to provide efficiencies, better services and savings:
 » Merging the Arkansas Department of Rural Services (ADRS) with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC)
 » Merging the Arkansas Science & Technology Authority (ASTA) with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) » Merging the Arkansas Building Authority (ABA) with the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA)
 » Merging the Division of Land Survey with the Arkansas Geographic Information Office (AGIO) 

To make a minor fix to DWI law to assure continuation of federal highway funds.

To ensure that state law aligns with potential changes in federal law regarding farm-equipment traffic on a new section of interstate highway.

To correct technical errors made to bills when amendments were engrossed.

To move the full Arkansas primary elections from May to March.

To move the General Assembly’s fiscal session from February to April.

To honor Johnson County Deputy Sheriff Sonny Smith.

To confirm Gubernatorial appointments.


Follow FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

No comments: