- Associated Press - Friday, February 6, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Concerns about an Arkansas lawmaker’s husband’s effort to eliminate the lieutenant governor’s office helped sink a House bill on Friday that opponents viewed as tied to the argument for getting rid of the job.

The bill failed in a 46-19 vote but no one spoke against the proposal, which needed 51 votes to advance to the Senate. Republican Rep. Julie Mayberry of Hensley offered a way to determine the majority party in Arkansas if neither Democrats nor Republicans won a majority of the state’s seven constitutional offices.

In that scenario, the party whose candidates have the most combined votes in the latest general election would be designated the majority party, which is allotted more positions on county election boards. She said there are no current guidelines for how to deal with a tie and worried about what would happen if an independent won statewide office.

No one spoke against the bill on the floor, but several members said after the vote they felt the proposal was linked to Mayberry’s husband’s failed bid for lieutenant governor. Andy Mayberry, a former state representative, vowed on the campaign trail to eliminate the position, which would reduce the number of statewide constitutional offices to six. This would also increase the possibility of a tie in determining the majority party.

Removing the office would require a voter-approved constitutional amendment.

“I saw it as a fight about the lieutenant governor’s office,” said Rep. Justin Harris, R-West Fork, who voted against the bill. “I feel like it’s an important position for the state of Arkansas.”

Republican Rep. Charlotte Douglas of Alma shared a similar concern.

“What muddied the water was her effort to also do away with the lieutenant governor’s office,” Douglas said. “We just wanted to slow down the process and make sure we have a bill that’s fair to everybody.”

The proposal was the first of the session to be defeated on the House floor.

Mayberry said after the vote that passage of the bill would help efforts to eliminate the state’s No. 2 office, but said tiebreaking procedures should be defined under law.

“Regardless of what happens to the lieutenant governor’s position, whether it’s eliminated or not, we need to fix this and come up with a way to solve that problem,” she said.

Mayberry said she didn’t do a good enough job of explaining the proposal to her colleagues and that she will run the bill again.


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