House approves moving primary elections to March, but there's a wrinkle | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

House approves moving primary elections to March, but there's a wrinkle

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2015 at 11:14 AM

The House this morning approved moving 2016 primary elections from May to March 1 so the state can join in Republican Party leadership plans to have Southern state primaries on the same day. The vote was 56-32 and drew opposition from Democrats and Republican Nate Bell, who said sufficient study hadn't been given to the longer campaign, family burdens during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and potential lack of knowledge among candidates for minor offices. The vote was 56-32.

Supporters claimed the move would improve voter turnout and give Arkansas a meaningful place in the race for at least the Republican presidential nomination.

The emergency clause failed on a 61-27 vote, which delays its effectiveness until 90 days after the close of the session.

The moving of the primary in turn brought about legislation to move the fiscal session of the 2016 legislature from February to April.

The Senate must approve the election change, too. Yesterday, a Committee refused to advance the bill.

UPDATE: The House was asked to reconsider failure to adopt the emergency clause. Bell argued against it. He said it would be functionally impossible to make changes for an earlier primary if the emergency clause isn't approved and thus provide a means to defeat the bill. Without an emergency clause, the law wouldn't take effect until September, a short time for election commissions to prepare for a season beginning in November.

The motion to reconsider the vote on the emergency clause passed 67-12 and the new vote on the emergency clause was approved 68-13, sufficient for passage. Bell than asked that the ballot be sounded, which means a roll call to be sure each voter was in his or her seat. Two votes were struck as the roll was called — Bob Ballinger and Joe Farrer — and that put the vote below the level necessary for approval.

So, a mess obtains on this bill.

UPDATE: Senate President Dismang did the normally unthinkable. He got the Senate to vote to pull the primary bill from committee. That took only a majority vote. But then the motion to put the bill on today's calendar failed. Needing 24 votes, it got 22, with two Republicans not present, including Sen. David Sanders on leave and Sen. Jane English. A two-thirds vote also will require every Republican in the Senate, all 24, to approve the emergency clause. If a vote can't be held today, will it take two more days to consider the bill in the Senate. That's been a tentative ruling from Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, who presides.

Do they really want to take this session into next week for an idea that Rep. Nate Bell said was poorly thought out, a truth that becomes more apparent with each minute?

UPDATE: The Senate met into the evening to amend the House-passed primary bill with an amendment that would make it a one-year change and take the law and February fiscal session back to its accustomed place after 2016. That compromise came out of a Senate committee. Will Democrats and Nate Bell accept this? I don't know why making a bad idea a one-time deal makes it a good idea.

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