The outgoing and incoming Arkansas State Senate met today in its first organizational meeting since the election. The meeting began with the outgoing (or current) Senate members electing Sen. Jonathan Dismang to be the Senate President Pro Tempore for the remainder of the current 89th General Assembly. The former chamber leader, Sen. Michael Lamoureux, resigned this week to serve as Governor-elect Asa Hutchinson’s new chief of staff. Following this, Dismang was then elected as Pro Tempore Designate by the new Arkansas Senate members.
Republican Majority Leader Jim Hendren made the motion for both actions and Dismang was elected by acclimation without any opposition. Earlier, Sen. Gary Stubblefield had said he would seek the post, but he withdrew on Wednesday.
Dismang gave some brief remarks to the Senators following his election.
“First, there are 34 Senators in this room who think they represent the greatest Senate district in the state of Arkansas. Two, there is not a member in this room who you will not have a disagreement with at some time during the session. That’s a fact. And three, when we leave here and gavel out, you will have 34 friends,” said Dismang as the Senators applauded.
“We have a lot of weight on our shoulders as this body,” Dismang continued pointing out that the Senate now has the most experience of any body in the state capitol. “We are going to have challenges this next session and we are not going to agree on the path every time. But we are going to agree on the common goal that we want to make Arkansas a better place.”
The new Senate has only 4 new incoming freshmen members out of the full 34 members – with Lamoureux’s vacancy still to be filled (the GOP asked for a primary today) – which is quite a contrast with the House, which has 40 freshmen out of 100 members. The 4 new members drew for seniority positions with – Senators-elect Scott Flippo drawing 31, Terry Rice drawing 32, Blake Johnson drawing 33, and Linda-Collins Smith drawing 34.
The Senators also chose committee members and chairs, which largely went as expected. The only somewhat surprise was Republican Sen. Jimmy Hickey’s election as chair of the Joint Audit Committee over fellow Republican Sen. Bryan King who held that position last term. After a lengthy meeting, this committee emerged with Hickey announced as the new chair and Democratic Sen. Linda Chesterfield as the vice chair.
Note that all three standing committees including Audit, Legislative Council, and Joint Budget met behind close doors to elect their chairs. Democratic Sen. Larry Teague will remain as chair of Joint Budget with Republican Sen. Missy Irvin as vice chair. And Legislative Council will keep Republican Sen. Bill Sample as chair with fellow Republican Sen. Terry Rice as vice chair.
Here are the chairs for the Senate Committees:
Judiciary – Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R)
Revenue and Taxation – Sen. Jake Files (R)
Insurance and Commerce – Sen. Jason Rapert (R)
Public Health – Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R)
State Agencies – Sen. Eddie Joe williams (R)
Transportation – Sen. Bill Sample (R)
City, County, Local – Sen. Missy Irvin (R)
Education – Sen. Jane English (R)
Agriculture – Sen. Ronald Caldwell (R)
Rules – Sen. Bruce Maloch (D)
Joint Performance Review – Sen. Alan Clark (R)
Joint Energy – Sen. David Burnett (D)
Children and Youth – Sen. Stephanie Flowers (D)
Efficiency – Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D)
Retirement – Sen. David Johnson (D)
The full Committee list can be seen here.