Gillam, Dismang ready for hoops showdown, Senate President says MLK-Lee holiday separation bill coming

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 570 views 

On Tuesday night, the Arkansas House faces the Arkansas Senate in a charity showdown on the basketball court, but other legislative battles remain before the 91st General Assembly ends its work.

Appearing on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, Speaker of the House Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, and Senate President Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, discussed the Hoops for Kids Sake basketball game, concealed carry on college campuses, constitutional amendment proposals, tax cuts, and the separation of the King-Lee holiday.

After it was noted that Sens. Jeremy Hutchinson and Jim Hendren, nephews of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, led the effort to tack on a hostile amendment to the concealed carry bill pushed by Rep. Charlie Collins, Dismang said he did not think the governor was pushing the agenda.

“I think there were just some concerns by the members about how it would play it out if it were enacted without the amendments. And I think one thing to remember is, there’s still quite a process even in the Senate,” he said, suggesting that the bill may be altered further.

Gillam agreed that the bill was far from final. “I think a large part of that will unfold, probably over the weekend and through the first part of next week, to see if there’s an additional amendment that’s maybe put on before it gets back to us,” he said.

This session, legislators have agreed to refer just one proposed constitutional amendment to voters from each chamber. The Senate referred SJR 8, a tort reform proposal, last week. Gillam said he’s not sure what will come from the House, which will begin debate on the subject this week.

“I don’t know that there could be a prediction just yet,” Gillam said, but he suggested three proposals have traction. “The Highway Department coming back under the purview of the Legislature and the Executive Branch. An amendment that Representative Dotson has. There’s one from Representative Lowry that concerns higher ed. We’ve got voter ID, and there’s just several that seem to be in the mix right now, that I hear about equal on.”

A looming controversy ahead of the legislative session centered on separating the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday from the Robert E. Lee holiday in Arkansas. Gov. Hutchinson supports a move, but no legislator has filed a bill on the subject yet. The two chamber leaders were asked if they’d put their names on the measure along with members of the Legislative Black Caucus. Dismang said he thought other controversial issues have just taken the focus away from this bill during the early weeks of the session.

“I think it’s a good bill. I think it’s something that we need to do. And I think we’ve just had a number of controversial issues pop up pretty early on in the session and that’s maybe detracted away from that particular issue. But I believe it’s something we’ll get to this session,” Dismang said.

For the fifth year in a row, House and Senate members will compete in the annual Hoops for Kids Sake charity basketball tournament. The event will be Tuesday night, February 21 at 7:30 p.m. at UALR’s Jack Stephens Center. Tickets are $10 and proceeds raised will benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas and the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Bryant and Saline county. Gov. Hutchinson and Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin will participate with the Senate squad.

Watch the fun exchange between Gillam and Dismang on the basketball game and other topics in the video below.