Lawmakers Side with State Constitution for Upcoming Senate Votes

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Republican primary elections are underway Tuesday night to fill two open seats in the Arkansas Senate.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday afternoon the third will be determined during a special election in August.

However, the fiscal session must go on three senators down.

Day two of the session quickly came and went with the passage of a couple housekeeping items that allow lawmakers to move forward with budget talks.

The only vote worth noting did not happen in either chamber but a Senate committee.

Lawmakers decided Tuesday morning that the three-fourths and two-thirds requirement during the session would be taken from the entire 35-member body, not the current sitting 32 senators.

That means the chamber needs 27 votes for budget issues, like the state's Medicaid expansion program, and 24 for non-appropriation bills.

The Medicaid budget squeaked by 27 to 1 last year.

Several sources told KARK the Senate has the votes as of Tuesday, while some were still skeptical, including the committee chair.

"All three senators, Sen. Greg Standridge who passed away and two other senators that have resigned, all voted for it so I'm not certain where the vote is right now," said St. Sen. Bruce Maloch, D-Magnolia. "If we did the two-thirds or three-fourths of 32 members, it would lower that threshold, but then I think we would be open to a challenge on anything that we pass with something lower than that so I think this is the prudent thing to do."

There is also a lot of work being done behind the scenes to see if some issues with the state's new enhanced carry law and pharmacy reimbursement rates can be resolved non-legislatively.

That is why lawmakers said they have not yet voted on the non-appropriation bills filed Monday that would address these problems.

If they decide to intervene, both the House and Senate could move on considering the bills in the next week or so.

In regards to Tuesday's primary elections, three GOP candidates are running in Senate District 16 to replace Greg Standridge, who passed away last fall. The winner will face Democrat Teresa Gallegos.

Two Republicans are running in Senate District 29 to replace Eddie Joe Williams, who left for a job in the Trump administration. The winner will square off against Democratic candidate Steven McNeely. 

Voters were also hitting the polls Tuesday in House District 83, where two Republicans are running to replace David Branscum, who took a job in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

No Democrats are running in this race.

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