- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Legislation to move Arkansas’ primaries from May to March failed Tuesday to make it out of a Senate committee, while a House committee narrowly advanced an identical bill.

The legislation would make Arkansas part of a planned regional nominating contest among southeastern states called the “SEC Primary,” a reference to college athletics’ Southeastern Conference. Bill sponsor Sen. Gary Stubblefield, a Republican from Branch, said after the vote that he will consider making a motion to pull the bill from the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee onto the Senate floor. That motion would require a majority vote.

“This bill has already passed out of the House (committee), and I just think it should have passed out of here,” he said. “It puts us in a group of other states that would surely give us a voice in who the presidential nominee is going to be. I don’t understand their logic.”

Legislation that moved only the presidential primary stalled during this year’s legislative session. But the special session legislation would move all nominating contests and nonpartisan judicial races for the 2016 elections.

Sen. Linda Chesterfield, a Little Rock Democrat who voted against the measure in committee, said she was doubtful that states like Florida and South Carolina that hold primaries in January would give up their earlier elections for a March date.

“They’re talking about it, but it will require a change. And it will require a vote from their legislatures, a vote that has not taken place yet,” she said. “So we’re going to be out there by ourselves on this March 1 thing.”

The identical House measure narrowly passed out of the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Several representatives asked about the logistics of the move and its possible effect on campaigns, including moving the candidate filing date to the beginning of November. Republican Rep. Andy Davis, the House bill’s sponsor, said people who want to run for office would likely seek out the information and be aware of the change. The potential benefit of giving Arkansas voters more say was a more important consideration, he said.

The measure is scheduled to head to the House floor Wednesday.

The House committee also advanced two closely tied measures, one to amend the requirements for when candidate campaign finance reports would be due and one to move back the start of the legislative fiscal session held on even years from February to April.

The Senate committee did not discuss those bills Tuesday after the SEC Primary bill failed.

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