- Associated Press - Monday, February 10, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The top party leaders of the Arkansas Senate filed a bill Monday aimed at avoiding a special election to fill the lieutenant governor’s office after Mark Darr resigned over ethics violations.

Senate Majority Leader Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot, and Senate Minority Leader Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis, proposed giving Gov. Mike Beebe the choice to not call a special election within 10 months of the November general election.

Beebe, a Democrat, has said before that he would sign a bill about not holding a special election for the lieutenant governor’s seat if it were to come across his desk.

Ingram said the cost of having a special election would be in the millions of dollars and added that it needed to be addressed in this fiscal session, which opened Monday.

“The fiscally responsible thing to do was to address the situation, so that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.

Under current law, the governor must hold a special election within 150 days of declaring Darr’s office vacant. The lieutenant governor is a mostly ceremonial, part-time position whose duties include presiding over the state Senate.

Two-thirds of the House and Senate must approve the measure being introduced before it can be taken up in the fiscal session, which is intended to address the state’s budget. The majority and minority leaders of the state House filed a similar resolution Monday calling for the measure to be considered in that chamber.

House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, said he is unaware of any legislators who are opposed to the bill and added that he believes the legislation will pass unanimously. Senate President Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, has said he believes there’s enough support in the Senate to keep Darr’s office vacant.

Darr, a Republican, resigned Feb. 1 under the threat of impeachment after the state’s ethics commission fined him $11,000 for 11 separate violations, including making personal use of more than $30,000 of his campaign funds.

___

Follow Christina Huynh on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ckhuynh