Gillam elected Arkansas House speaker as session ends, only fifth speaker elected to multiple terms

by Steve Brawner (BRAWNERSTEVE@MAC.COM) 23 views 

Arkansas House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, was re-elected by unanimous voice vote Monday as the Legislature adjourned sine die, meaning this year’s fiscal session is over.

Gillam, 39, was re-elected at the conclusion of the session. He was the only candidate who attended a meeting April 12 for any member interested in pursuing the speakership.

Gillam will be the fifth Arkansas House speaker to serve multiple terms in that office. Afterward, he thanked his family and said, “I think of us as a family, and like all families, sometimes we’re going to have disagreements on things, but I am very, very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish so far together. I’m proud of the camaraderie that we’ve been able to show this state that exists in this Capitol, and that there is a better way of doing things than the example that we see on TV so much out of Washington.”

House Republicans then adjourned and elected their executive committee for the next year. Rep. Mat Pitsch, R-Fort Smith, was elected as majority leader, defeating Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville. Rep. John Payton, R-Wilburn, was elected majority whip over Rep. Laurie Rushing, R-Hot Springs. Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Springdale, was elected secretary over Rep. James Sturch, R-Batesville. The committee takes office immediately.

As majority leader, Pitsch will appoint leadership positions, including the treasurer and those governing policy, rules and elections.

“I’m an engineer. That’s the best way to describe it,” Pitsch said in describing himself. “That usually means we’re pretty much a numbers, Xs and Os type person.”

Also, House members also raised $1,780 for the Baby Sharon Fund, an organization that provides funding for families with children suffering from a medical catastrophe. As part of “Do Pass for Denim,” House members donated $20 and wore jeans in the chamber.

The organization was started by an Arkansas teacher after a granddaughter, Sharon Lin Emmel, died at age two months in 2001. Sharon was born in Ho Chi Minh City but needed immediate heart surgery at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. However, the family did not have access to the $36,000 demanded by the government of Vietnam for the family to leave the country, and Sharon died.

The organization has provided families nearly $117,000 to date.

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