Friday, March 2, 2012

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
        LITTLE ROCK –  The 2012 fiscal session of the General Assembly was the final session for 11 term-limited senators with a combined 162 years of legislative experience.
        They will continue to represent their constituents at interim committee meetings, where issues are studied and discussed but not voted on.  Also, if a state government emergency develops and the governor calls a special session during calendar year 2012, those 11 senators would  again convene at the state Capitol. 
        If a special session is not called, however, the 2012 fiscal session will be the last one at which they conduct legislative business.
        The Senate has 35 members and the 11 who are term-limited are those who rank highest in seniority.  They chair important committees and they are closely involved in negotiations with the House of Representatives and the governor's office when important and controversial legislation is considered. 
        However, they do not make up the entire leadership because in response to the term limits amendment the Senate approved rules changes that disperses power among a greater number of senators and prevents a concentration of power within a small circle.
        Amendment 73 to the state Constitution was approved by Arkansas voters in 1992 by a vote of roughly 494,000 to 331,000.  It limits state senators to two terms of four years each.  Most state Senate terms are four years, but every 10 years senators serve a two-year term when their district boundaries are redrawn to reflect shifts in population. 
        The state Supreme Court has ruled that two-year terms are not to be counted against a senator's allowable time in office.  That means it is constitutionally possible for a senator to serve 10 years, if it is for two four-year terms and one two-year term. 
        In fact, some senators have served 12 years because after their first election to the Senate they served a pair of two-year terms, sandwiched around redistricting of Senate boundaries, rather than a single four-year term. 
        That happened with several senators who were sworn into office in the Senate on the first day of the 2001 regular session and who will leave the Senate at the end of this year.
        Several outgoing senators also served in the House of Representatives.  Amendment 73 limits House members to three terms of two years each.  Prior to their service in the Senate, some of the term-limited senators served in the House for six years. 
        A couple of senators served only two terms in the House but have said that they will run again for the House even though they could do so under the term limits amendment.
        By order of seniority, these are the 11 term-limited senators who will leave office at the end of 2012 and who bid farewell to the Senate at the end of the 2012 fiscal session.  After their names is the first year they were sworn into the legislature, either in the House or the Senate: Ruth Whitaker of Cedarville, 2001; Gilbert Baker of Conway, 2001; Percy Malone of Arkadelphia, 1995;  Jimmy Jeffress of Crossett, 1997; 
        Kim Hendren of Gravette, 2001, and four previous years served in the Senate from 1979 through 1982 that were not counted against his allowable terms; Jim Luker of Wynne, 1995; Sue Madison of Fayetteville, 1995; Gene Jeffress of Louann, 1999; Mary Anne Salmon of North Little Rock, 1999; Randy Laverty of Jasper, 1995, with a two-year gap in 2001 and 2002 when he was out of the legislature, and Jerry Taylor of Pine Bluff, 2001.

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