Notes from the campaign trail: Governor’s highway plan faces hurdle in Senate committee

by Roby Brock (roby@talkbusiness.net) 13 views 

Editor’s note: Notes from the Campaign Trail is a compilation of various political insider tidbits and is sponsored by Little Rock-based Capitol Advisors Group.

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GOVERNOR’S HIGHWAY PLAN FACES HURDLE IN SENATE COMMITTEE: Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s highway plan is expected to have widespread support in the Arkansas House and Senate in the special session that starts Thursday. However, can the bill get out of a key Senate committee?

Political observers contend the bill could go to either the Senate Transportation Committee or the Senate Revenue and Tax Committee. Most likely, it goes to Transportation, where the committee make-up is as follows:

Sen. Bill Sample, R-Hot Springs
Sen. Bobby Pierce, D-Sheridan
Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith
Sen. Ronald Caldwell, R-Wynne
Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs
Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana
Sen. Bryan King, R- Green Forest
Sen. Greg Standridge, R-Russellville

Sens. Sample, Caldwell, Hickey and Standridge were floating a more ambitious alternative to Hutchinson’s plan. A cursory survey of those members on Tuesday afternoon indicated that Files and Hendren were solid yes votes, but Caldwell, Hickey and King were all undecided. Five votes are needed to get the bill out of committee although it could be withdrawn, a rarely-used parliamentary move.

Food for thought: The governor did put a few bills near-and-dear to Standridge and Caldwell on the call for the special session. Standridge is the lead champion on the workers compensation bill on the session call, while Caldwell’s district benefits from the expedition of the merging of Crowley’s Ridge Technical Institute into East Arkansas Community College.

STATE SUPREME COURT TO HEAR ORAL ARGUMENTS ON DEATH PENALTY DRUG SECRECY LAW: While the state legislature meets on Thursday, another branch of Arkansas government will be busy. The Arkansas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments May 19 on the constitutionality of the state’s execution secrecy law.

The arguments will be presented starting at 9 a.m. at the Supreme Court courtroom in the Justice Building in Little Rock.

One of the drugs that can be used for lethal executions will expire in June and drug maker Pfizer says it won’t sell the drugs needed to continue executions.

Last September, Gov. Hutchinson set execution dates for eight death row inmates after more than a decade-long dearth of lethal injections. A lawsuit, whose arguments will be heard Thursday by the high court, was filed in October that led to the suspension of those executions.

DOJ, EDUCATION AND TRANSGENDER BATHROOM GUIDANCE: Rep. Stephen Meeks, R-Greenbrier, says he will push for adoption of a resolution regarding the recent Obama administration’s guidance on transgender bathroom access.

At a Wednesday committee hearing, Meeks’ interim resolution will request the “Arkansas Legislative Council to encourage Arkansas school districts and institutions of higher education to disregard the May 13, 2016, joint guidance issued by the United States Department of Justice And United States Department of Education and to request that the United States Department of Justice cease its actions against the state of North Carolina in the wake of the passage of House Bill 2.”

That bill from North Carolina set off the firestorm that has erupted the transgender bathroom debate. Gov. Hutchinson told Arkansas school leaders to disregard a “significant guidance” by the Obama administration warning schools that they must allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. In a statement from his office, he said the guidance “is offensive, intrusive and totally lacking in common sense.”

Meeks’ resolution will call for the following actions:

THAT the Legislative Council supports the statements made by Governor Hutchinson and Attorney General Rutledge and encourages local school districts and institutions of higher education to disregard the guidance issued by the United States Department of Justice and United States Department of Education on May 13, 2016.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Arkansas Legislative Council supports the right of North Carolina as a sovereign state to develop its own laws and policies and calls on the United States Department of Justice to withdraw its lawsuit against North Carolina and respect that state’s right to enact legislation deemed necessary by its lawmakers.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be delivered to each school district and institution of higher education in the State of Arkansas, the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina Senate, and the United States Department of Justice.

The resolution currently has Meeks and 29 other Republican supporters signed on to it.

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