UPDATE: Senate taps Dismang; Democrats target tort reform committees | Arkansas Blog

Friday, November 14, 2014

UPDATE: Senate taps Dismang; Democrats target tort reform committees

Posted By on Fri, Nov 14, 2014 at 3:08 PM

2015 PRO TEM: Sen. Jonathan Dismang.
  • 2015 PRO TEM: Sen. Jonathan Dismang.
The Senate's organizational meeting for the 2015 legislative session is underway. Complaints from Debbie Pelley notwithstanding, Sen. Jonathan Dismang was elected president pro tempore, including now to replace the departed Michael Lamoureux.

Committee assignments are underway. Senators choose in seniority order. The minority party won't get chairmanships if somebody in the majority wants them. 

I'll post a link to the committee outcome when one's available.

I'll be looking to see how the 11 Democrats in the 35-member Senate attempt to concentrate their waning clout. They happen to hold six of the top eight positions on the seniority list, which gives them a decided edge should they choose to concentrate on specific committees.

In the House, Democrats managed to work a strategy (committees are done by district caucuses) that gave them half the seats on the Education and Insurance and Commerce Committee though they only hold 36 of 100 House seats.

If the Senate Democrats have a strategy, it would be for different committees than those targeted in the House. Public Health is hot in some years because of the abortion battles and, now, continuation of private option. If I were a Democrat, I'd let Republicans carry the freight on private option in committee and look elsewhere for influence. State Agencies, where constituitonal amendments originate, is sometimes a good strategic choice. Also Revenue and Taxation.

By the way, Dismang's appointment for the remainder of 2014 carries clout. He'll soon to have to name two members to the independent commision established by Issue 3 to set pay for state officials, legislators and judges.

Committee news: Democratic Sen. Larry Teague will be co-chair of Joint Budget, as Dismang had promised. This was one of the moves that had teabaggers upset. Teague votes more like a Republican most of the time anyway.

Democrats scored a couple of lesser chairmanships — Linda Chesterfield at Efficiency and David Johnson at Retirement.

UPDATE: Here's the Democrats' wrinkle —- they scored half the seats (David Johnson, David Burnett, Linda Chesterfield and Joyce Elliott) on both the Judiciary and State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committees.  Republican Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, who pushed mightily for the chamber of commerce tort reform amendment in 2013, smelled what was up with his Tweet:

So much for tort.

What's more, Republican Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, a lawyer who led the effort for a tort reform amendment more amenable to trial lawyers, is chair of Judiciary.

ALSO: State agencies, where constitutional amendments arise, includes Sen. Bryan King, who was expected to try again with a Voter ID amendment. That task becomes harder as he acknowledged after assignments. But much trickery can still be done, particularly when Republicans hold 24 Senate seats.

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