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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Johnny Key leaving Senate; says votes lacking on broadband change

Posted By on Wed, Jul 30, 2014 at 3:25 PM

click to enlarge JOHNNY KEY: Departing Senate.
  • JOHNNY KEY: Departing Senate.
Thrusday will be the last day in the state Senate for Republican Johnny Key of Mountain Home, who'll start a job Friday as lobbyist for the University of Arkansas System the next week.

My original post had dates incorrect. July 31 is his final day in the Senate. Friday, Aug. 1, is his first day with UA.

Key told of his transition in a resignation letter dated July 18 to Sen. Michael Lamoureux, the president pro tem of the Senate. Copies went to the secretary of the Senate, Gov. Mike Beebe, and House Speaker Davy Carter.

It was announced in May that Key had been hired for the previously unfilled job as lobbyist for the University of Arkansas System at $130,000 a year. He'd finished a runnerup to Randy Massanelli for the $175,000-a-year job as lobbyist for the UA campus in Fayetteville.

Key's seat will remain unfilled for the remainder of the year. Scott Flippo is unopposed in November for election to the seat. Key did not seek re-election when he decided to seek the UA job. In the Senate since 2008, Key had a great deal of influence and was the architect, among others, of major changes in school legislation favored by Walton lobbyists for school choice — more charter schools, more state money for "virtual" students and virtually unlimited transfers between school districts.

I'd like to ask Key if this can be taken as any signal that there'll be no special session this year on a change in the state law that prevents public schools from sharing a broadband system now used by the state's universities. Critics of the idea, among other complaints, have complained this is a way to offload costs of the network from universities to public schools. Gov. MIke Beebe has said he'd like to change the law, but he won't call a session without the votes to pass legislation. The telecom industry is fighting a law change fiercely for potential impact on the business they do with schools.

Higher education institutions and other state agencies are exempt from the law that prevents a legislator from going to work as a lobbyist for a year after leaving office.

UPDATE: As I was posting this, Key responded to my e-mail. I think this is probably newsier than his expected  transition. To my question about a broadband session, he said:

The votes aren't there to do anything on broadband.

And Beebe told a conference room full of people Monday at SLC [Southern Legislative Conference] he didn't plan on calling another session.






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