Final House action should complete the short special legislative session agenda today. The only drama appears to be around whether the House this go-round can put the emergency clause on the legislation to move the 2016 primary elections from May to March to be part of a Southern Republican primary roundup in Southern states. Opponents have signaled, however, that they think a deal has been worked out.
The primary bill passed the Senate late yesterday after an amendment made it a one-time move rather than a permanent change. It comes with companion legislation to move the fiscal session in 2016, normally in February, to April.
The legislature also will approve an $87 million handout to Lockheed Martin so it can be more competitive in price with other bidders for a military vehicle contract that would be produced in Camden. It also cleaned up DWI law to clarify it is a strict liability offense. A sufficient blood alcohol level is all that’s needed for conviction, not proof that someone knowingly drove under the influence. An amendment removed strict liability for those under the influence of prescription drugs.
A failure to adopt the emergency clause on the primary bill would push its effective date until early September, about two months before the beginning of the filing season. An opponent of the move, Rep. Nate Bell, has said this could make the law difficult to fulfill, though election commissions can plan for the news rules even though the law wasn’t yet fully in force.
UPDATE: The House completed action on the big bills at mid-afternoon, though it took some struggle to get the required two-thirds vote for the bill and emergency clause, finally approved 67-23, including ballots from six absent members on the primary switcher.
Asa Hutchinson pronounced the bond issue bill a boon to business.
The legislature also consolidated some minor agencies as the governor requested and cleaned up a small glitch in the DWI law to make it easier to convict drunk drivers.