Friday, November 9, 2012

UPDATE: Arkansas House organizes, leadership change to wait until next week

Posted By on Fri, Nov 9, 2012 at 10:30 AM

ORGANIZING: Rep.-elect John Hutchison, whose race remains up in the air, draws seniority slot 86 this morning.
  • ORGANIZING: Rep.-elect John Hutchison, whose race remains up in the air, draws seniority slot 86 this morning.

BIPARTISAN: Darrin Williams, Terry Rice chat this morning.
  • Andrew DeMillo/Twitter
  • BIPARTISAN: Darrin Williams, Terry Rice chat this morning.
The Arkansas House of Representatives-elect caucused this morning to draw seniority and committee assignments for the 2013 legislative sesson.


Yet to come is what move the Republican Party will make today to overturn the designation of Democratic Rep. Darrin Williams of Little Rock as House speaker. They want to install Rep. Terry Rice of Waldron.

*******

UPDATE: David Goins of Fox 16 on Twitter quotes Rep. Bruce Westerman, the Republican leader, as saying the selection of a new House speaker designate will be delayed until Thursday of next week. This allows for resolution of one pending election challenge that could affect the balance of power. Westerman expects Rice to be installed then. The session has been scheduled for noon Thursday.

********

Elections Tuesday gave the Republicans a bare majority of 51 members of the 100-member House. If it holds, it would be a historic change of partisan control, the first since Reconstruction. In truth, partisanship has not been much of a factor in legislating in Arkansas until the last few years.

The state law provides a process for Republicans to petition for a new speaker designate. House Speaker Robert Moore, a Democrat, has said he'd readily accept that petition and set a future date to consider it. The law allows a waiting period for such because it anticipates the circumstance arising when election outcomes might change the preference for speaker, or even defeat a speaker designate.

UPDATE: Such a petition will be submitted this afternoon and many Democrats, expecting the election results to hold, have signed onto the petition in a demonstration of their agreeable spirit.

The delay was wholly appropriate today. Republicans have a 51-48-1 (the one is Fred Smith of the Green Party, a former Democrat) lead in the house. However, Democrat L.J. Bryant of Grubbs has asked for a recount of his loss to Republican John Hutchison of Harrisburg by 44 votes. That recount, which requires work in four counties, could be completed early next week. Republican leader Bruce Westerman had said he wanted the change in speaker designate today, though this would have required a vote outside of a process anticipated by House rule or state law.

Apparently, Westerman and others decided to follow the moderate approach of Republicans in the Senate, with their quiet ascension to power yesterday. That was in doubt as the day began, in part because the House is traditionally more rambunctious and the incoming GOP majority includes some fire-breathers.

ALSO: It was announced that Rep. Greg Leding of Fayetteville will be the Democratic caucus leader.

UPDATE: The House broke into congressional district caucuses about 10:05 a.m. to make committee selections. It was announced beforehand that choices would be guided in all cases by seniority, not appointments by leadership as has been done in SOME district caucuses in the past. This is a major switch in custom and a product of bipartisan agreement. It's going to be interesting to see if Democrats attempt, as Republicans in the minority have done in the past, to attempt to pack select committees to hold control of targeted committees.

The House will reconvene at 1:30 p.m. It will be "critical," members were told, to fill out some forms then to claim expenses for today's meeting.

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