A resolution that would allow consideration of legislation to let the governor forgo calling a special election for lieutenant governor was approved by the Senate and a House committee on Tuesday, the second day of the Legislature’s fiscal session. Senate Resolution 6 by Senate Majority Leader Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot, was approved 32-0. The House version, House Bill 1009 by House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, received a “do pass” recommendation from the House Rules Committee in a voice vote in which no “no” votes were heard. The resolution advances to the full House, where a two-thirds majority vote will be required to consider the non-budget proposal in a fiscal session.
Mark Darr resigned as lieutenant governor Feb. 1 after being fined $11,000 by the state Ethics Commission for misuse of campaign contributions and taxpayer money. Current state law requires the governor to call a special election within 150 days of declaring a vacancy in the office, but legislative leaders have said they want to avoid the cost of a special election since the office is up for election anyway in November.
Under the matching proposals, a special election would not be held to fill a vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s office when the vacancy occurs within 10 months of a general election in which the office would be filled, if the governor determines that holding a special election is impractical because of the timing of the vacancy. Gov. Mike Beebe has said he will sign the legislation if it reaches his desk.