Inside the tobacco vote | Arkansas Blog

Friday, February 6, 2009

Inside the tobacco vote

Posted By on Fri, Feb 6, 2009 at 2:02 PM

House Speaker Robbie Wills continues his informative blogging with some back story on yesterday's passage of the tobacco tax. Though he won, he's not going to let some bad manners by opponents slide -- like the heckling several of them gave Rep. Greg Reep when he spoke for the bill -- "complete lack of respect," said Wills. And then there was the refusal of opponents to agree to "pair" votes to help a sick legislator (Rep. Eddie Cooper of Melbourne, I was told).

I saw a violently ill member pull himself off his sickbed and drag himself  to the House chamber to cast his “yes” vote because we couldn’t find a single solitary opponent to “pair” with him.  Pairing is a time-honored legislative professional courtesy extended to members who, for whatever reason, are unable to attend a voting session.  The absent member and the present member both sign a form, witnessed and notarized, that locks in their votes.  This way, the absent member’s vote counts.  It ensures that member’s 28,000 constituents can be represented on that particular issue.  It’s also the decent thing to do.  In a shocking display of pettiness, the leaders of the opposition enforced a strict “no pair” policy.  Therefore, each opponent we approached to pair with our sick colleague turned us down flat.  One said they’d been told by “leadership” that a “pair” would be treated the same as a “yes” vote, and “there’d be hell to pay.”  Some new members were simply confused by the whole process.  So, the sickly supporter had to come to the chamber to cast his vote - the 75th and decisive “yes” vote, as it turned out.

PS -- Rep. Mark Martin (R-Twilight Zone) apologized to the House today for being unruly during Reep's speech.

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