The Senate takes shape | Arkansas Blog

The Senate takes shape

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Inside legislative baseballers can click on the Arkansas Senate Twitter link to get up to date on committee chairs and committee memberships for the 2011 session. Seniority rules the Senate choices, with chairmanships given to the majority party. Standing committees have eight members and five votes are required to report a bill to the floor.

Republicans initially stacked a majority on Transportation, but it appears some shuffling has taken that number down to four. (UPDATE: it appears they would up with a majority after all.) I don't know the plan for packing there, but presumably there was one. Same thing on Health, a majority until a late switch by freshman Holland (see below) reduced number to four. Enough for an anti-abortion/anti-contraception rodeo, I imagine, and perhaps a quarantine on gay people. The GOP drew enough for even splits on several important committees. If there arent' some party line divisions a la Washington before the next session's over, I'll be surprised.

More Republicans — Johnny Key, Gilbert Baker and Kim Hendren — signed up for Education than I'd been told yesterday to expect. Maybe the Senate Republican Caucus shook down Jim Walton lobbyist Burt Stacy for more suitable tribute. They were sore at him for not making a large contribution to the caucus several months ago and were reluctant to use committee choices for education with bigger fish to fry elsewhere — such as State Agencies (which does redistricting and constitutional amendments) and Revenue and Taxation. Stacy did pass around plenty of Walton money — at least $75,000 — to individual legislators' campaigns in hopes of packing the education committees with friends who'll whoop through the Billionaire Boys Club's bill to lift the cap on charter schools. The House is said to be fully rented. But the billionaires will face some heat in the Senate, with chair Jimmy Jeffress and brother Gene Jeffress likely obstacles. Other members will be Mary Anne Salmon, Jack Crumbly and Joyce Elliott. The three Republicans will have to pick up two of the Democrats to get a bill out of committee under the rules. That could be hard. But there are further checks to be written; dinners to be had; drinks to be served. It's not over until sine die.

Take it all back: A fourth Republican has just swapped into Education in an exceedingly rare maneuver. Jack Crumbly, a public school administrator, has given up his seat to freshman Republican Bruce Holland. Get a flavor of Holland on his Facebook page. I promise you, a check of that Facebook link is instructive.

Salmon will be Senate co-chair of the Legislative Council.

The Twitter report also mentions that Education committees today approved a 2 percent increase in state support of education next year, about $59 million in all.


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