Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Arkansas Special Session May Include Measure to Move Presidential Primary to March

Though the official call has yet to go out, it appears as if the Arkansas state legislature will convene a special session starting on May 26.

As is the case in some other states (see Missouri), it is the governor's responsibility in Arkansas to not only call the special session of the legislature but also to define the issues/bills with which the session will deal. Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) on Monday, May 11 said that constitutional amendments and bonds issues dealing with the so-called "super project" industrial area would be on the agenda. But the timing of the 2016 presidential primary in the Natural state has also been discussed as a possible agenda item after failing to pass during the regular session.

It looks as if legislators may have the same options they had during the regular session also: Create and schedule a separate presidential primary (as Arkansas has done twice before -- 1988 and 2008) or move all of the primaries from May to March. Bills covering both possibilities were filed in the Arkansas state Senate by Senator Gary Stubblefield (R-6th, Branch) earlier this year. However, only the bill to create a separate presidential primary in March passed the Senate before getting bottled up in the state House.

Part of the reason that bill died was because of the $1.6 million price tag for the separate election. That issue may be resolved by moving a consolidated election from May to March, but that move would affect the renominations of state legislators themselves; a factor that has made legislators in Arkansas (and elsewhere) hesitant to support such measures.

The official call for the special session is due later this month according to the governor's office.

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