by Max Brantley
The snow apparently lent some urgency to the opening day of the legislature's first budget session. Gov. Beebe spoke briefly and, according to Rep. Steve Harrelson, emphasized concerns about Medicaid expenses.
Harrelson also said the great hubbub about raising campaign cash during the session was to be settled by the Rules Committee with a clarification that a rule against contributions during sessions applied regardless of the office being sought by a legislator.
You'll remember that some, including House Speaker Robbie Wills, who's running for Congress, had said the rule only prohibited contributions to state House campaigns. Republicans, none facing May primary challenges, made hay out of this, forcing Wills to forego contributions during the session. Now the rule will be clear. For the House. The Senate has no rule. The senators can raise money or not as they choose and some choose, including Sen. Joyce Elliott, also a Democratic congressional candidate.
Chairman Robert Moore of the Rules Committee said he'd polled members and they agreed that the rule says "exactly what it says" -- it's a violation to accept a campaign contribution during a session regardless of the office sought. There was no discussion. On a motion by Rep. Greg Reep, the committee endorsed that interpretation without dissent.