The Arkansas Senate and House both caucus tomorrow to select committees for the 2021 session. Expect some action in the Senate, including the official dispelling of talk to reverse the earlier vote that designated Sen. Jimmy Hickey of Texarkana as the president pro-tempore for the coming session.
A secret ballot vote was held after floor pitches by Hickey and Sen. Bart Hester of Cave Springs. Hester, who’d been majority leader, was expected to win based on an earlier Republican caucus vote. But Hickey was also nominated and thanks to what is believed to be a coalition of Republicans and the 9 Democrats in the Senate was the surprise winner.
In recent weeks, rumors have grown of an effort to have a new vote. Sen. Trent Garner was often mentioned as a potential participant in the movement. There was an expectation, realized, of change and growth in the Republican caucus. Rep. Dan Sullivan ousted Sen. John Cooper and Republicans Charles Beckham and Ben Gilmore ousted Democratic Sens. Eddie Cheatham and Bruce Maloch.
I was told the caucus met this afternoon, including with next year’s new members, and re-voted Jimmy Hickey as the next president pro-tempore. He’s expected to be nominated and voted by acclamation during the Senate caucus Friday. Hester himself told me, “He has my support on the floor tomorrow.”
What seems likely to change is that there won’t be floor contests in the future. The Senate caucus vote, which Hester had won this year and then was surprised by a floor nominee from his party, will determine the outcome. Fights will stay within the caucus, I was told.
But also look for other developments in a Senate that now will have 28 Republicans and 7 Democrats. Committee assignments will continue to be made by seniority, minority party membership will be limited to three and no minority party member, regardless of seniority, can choose to be chair of a standing committee.
But this rule change is expected to be proposed: To prohibit minority party chairmanship of ANY committee, including sub-committees and other special committees. Democratic Sen. Larry Teague, for example has been Joint Budget chair; Sen. Linda Chesterfield has chaired the management committee and Maloch chaired Rules. This bipartisan practice seems unlikely to continue.
I’m told to expect some other proposals for Senate rule changes that should be “interesting.”
The fun starts at 9:30 a.m. in Big MAC. The House will meet in its chamber at 8:30 a.m. Both meetings will be streamed.