On Tuesday afternoon, 30 House Republicans stopped the passage of an appropriation bill to fund the Arkansas School for the Deaf. 24 GOP members opposed the bill, while 2 voted present and 4 did not vote.
HB 1193, which included a $6,389 funding increase for the state school for the hearing impaired, only received 69 votes but needed 75 for passage under rules of the House that require a supermajority of votes. Yesterday, GOP members blocked appropriation bills for the School for the Deaf and the School for the Blind.
The move mirrors a pattern seen all session by House Republicans, particularly freshmen legislators, who have voted in bloc to oppose appropriation bills with any level of spending increases.
Rep. Kathy Webb (D-Little Rock), the co-chair of the Joint Budget Committee which steers the bills to the House, released a statement through the Democratic Party of Arkansas on Tuesday evening that displayed the mounting frustration that has been building in the House chamber for weeks.
"The extremist wing of the Republican Party has taken the reigns of their legislative caucus and their actions have hurt Arkansas children in the process," said Webb. "Two of the most memorable experiences I have as a legislator are working with the Arkansas School for the Deaf and the Arkansas School for the Blind, speaking at their commencement and commemorating the opening of their Butterfly Garden. To deprive these children who overcome unfathomable obstacles is both shocking and disgraceful."
Webb’s central Little Rock legislative district encompasses the School for the Deaf and the School for the Blind. She said she plans to bring the Deaf School bill back for a vote on Wednesday.
Rep. John Burris (R-Harrison), the GOP House minority leader, who voted against the measure, said the votes were not a departure from a principled and public position his caucus has conveyed since December 2010.
"We’ve had a very, very, very fair standard since the session started. Every single bill that’s been voted down has had a spending increase," Burris said.
"I’m very disappointed that someone would make this about a particular agency or a group of people," he added. "It’s a debate about the budget and it’s about increased spending."
There were 14 Republicans who voted for the bill. All 55 Democrats supported the bill, including House Speaker Robert Moore (D-Arkansas City), who typically does not vote on bills as he presides over the chamber’s business.