Brantley and Brummett on Senator Linda Chesterfield’s speedy vote

My sons Wilson and Hunter are in California to help our friend Sherwood Haisty in his street preaching ministry in Santa Monica. However, they spent the last two days trying to get into Yosemite National Park after a landslide. They finally got in yesterday. They saw “Half Dome” yesterday.

Half Dome and El Capitan. Nevada and Bridal Veil Falls. These names conjure up so many different memories for the millions of people that have been lucky enough to visit Yosemite National Park.

There is a bill to put the issue of raising funds for Arkansas roads before the people. Let me take a look at what actually happened to that bill earlier this week.

John Brummett in his article “Let us vote on this truck offer,” Arkansas News Bureau, March 24, states:

Yet the bill got hung up for a while in the Senate Transportation Committee by Republican members, who compose a 5-3 committee majority and who either opposed the measure outright on a blanket anti-tax basis or insisted they wanted only to amend it in two particulars.

The first idea for an amendment was to cap the diesel tax for farm vehicles. The second was to authorize the governor to call only one such special bond election, not one over and over again until he and the highway industry wore voters down.

All this got gummed up in dramatic controversy and procedural trickery the other afternoon.

A special meeting of this Transportation Committee was called after daily adjournment of the Senate. Apparently with only four of the eight committee members present, state Sen. Linda Chesterfield of Little Rock, a Democrat and the chairman, declared a nonexistent quorum and speedily proclaimed the bill passed on a voice vote.

Four Republicans had not arrived, either thinking the meeting was to begin 10 minutes after adjournment instead of the very moment of adjournment or because they needed to go instead to a simultaneous meeting on proposed constitutional amendments.

The one Republican in attendance, Bruce Holland of Greenwood, could have insisted on a roll call vote that would have revealed the absence of a quorum, but did not.

Sen. Jake Files, Republican of Fort Smith and a committee member, stopped by the meeting, then headed to the other session on constitutional amendments where he was sponsoring one of the proposals.

He did so, he told me, secure in the belief that the bill would not be brought up because parties were still working in good faith, he thought, on those amendments.

It was sneaky and heavy-handed on the part of Democrats, thus par for the course. But it was naive and inept on the part of Republicans, too — also par for the course.

Max Brantley has a different take on what went down. Brantley observed:

More on the diesel tax increase, which came out of Senate committee yesterday in a speedy voice vote. Since then, Republicans have been howling that Committee Chair Linda Chesterfield did them dirty by calling for a voice vote and declaring the bill approved with only four people in the room. All agree a quorum of five was present to hold the meeting, but Republican Sen. Jake Files soon absented himself and the voice vote was held without him.

That left only Republican Sen. Bruce Holland in the room when Chesterfield waved the bill out. I still believe the Republicans understood what was up. Republicans have five seats on the eight-member committee. They only have two in place when the meeting on a big tax increase starts and one quickly leaves the room? They make no objection to the voice vote? Senate rules are clear: It takes only ONE senator to question a quorum. It takes only ONE senator to ask for a roll call. Fireball Holland was in the room. He could have stopped the train but he didn’t. I don’t think it was an accident, though Republicans are all rushing to their favorite mouthpieces for sympathetic retelling of the tale of dirty ol’ Linda…

When it’s over, I’m betting the diesel tax will be extracted by majority vote as rules allow and pass the Senate. Republicans will vote against it and keep their anti-tax record clean. This should be accompanied by a decrease in the heated rhetoric about dirty tricks because it’s clearer than ever that some, if not all, committee Repubicans were up to their necks in the events they’re now moaning about. This is bad form. It also rolls downhill. Other side deals and hidden agendas are threatened if Republicans try to have their cake and eat it, too, on things like the diesel vote.

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Today Max added:

Special notice for the five Republicans on the eight-member Senate Transportation Committee.

Sen. Linda Chesterfield, the chair, has called a committee meeting immediately after adjournment. The House bill to refer to voters a 5-cent increase in the tax on diesel to back highway bonds is on the agenda.

Absences require a doctor’s excuse (Sen. Irvin, an independent physician, not your husband or Dr. Bledsoe), will be required). Homework-eating dog excuses are frowned upon. Water breaks after a quorum is declared are ill-advised. Vote or shut up.

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Jason Tolbert put it this way:

The fallout continues from the shenanigans pulled yesterday in the Senate Public Health Committee.  The meeting was hastily called after the full Senate adjourned where the chair of the committee – Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock) – quickly ruled that Speaker Moore’s proposed nickel increase on the diesel tax passed on a voice vote. She called it so fast that no one from the press had time to get to the room.

Sen. Bruce Holland (R-Greenwood) – who voted against the bill’s passage – tells me this morning that he was the only Republican present when vote was called along with the three Democrats on the committee.

“I was surprised that the bill was presented because we were working on an amendment and it was my understanding that it would not be run until the amendment was added,” said Holland this morning

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What is going on here? My head is spinning and I can not figure it all out. At least in the gerrymander debate it is clear that the Democrats are throwing Mike Ross under the bus to try and get a Democrat in the 1st district, and they will stop at nothing to take every last Democrat out of the 3rd district even it probably will get challenged in court.  

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Japan

Waves of tsunami hit residences after a powerful earthquake in Natori

The worst affected areas are thought to be Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate prefectures. In Iwaki, Fukushima, water swept through the town.

 

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