LITTLE ROCK (AP) — The Arkansas Senate unanimously approved a bill Thursday that would avoid a special election this year for the lieutenant governor’s position left open by the resignation of Mark Darr.
The Senate voted 35-0 in favor of the bill, which would enable Gov. Mike Beebe to not call a special election for the office within 10 months of the November election. Darr resigned Feb. 1, and lawmakers hope to avoid a special election before the November general election that will fill the post.
The secretary of state’s office has estimated a special election would cost more than $1.2 million, and it would be higher if Democrats and Republicans chose nominees by primaries instead of a convention.
The bill now goes to the House for consideration. Beebe has said he’ll sign the measure into law if approved by the Legislature.
Darr resigned under the threat of impeachment and after the state Ethics Commission fined him $11,000 for ethics violations tied to his office and campaign spending.
A separate effort to cut funding for the staffers continuing to work in the lieutenant governor’s office also stalled Thursday. A legislative subcommittee expunged its vote from a day earlier to include language in the lieutenant governor’s budget bill that would have only allowed the office to spend $40,000 on salaries between July 1 and when the next lieutenant governor takes office.
Four staffers are working in Darr’s office with a combined salary budget of about $241,000. Senate President Michael Lamoureux asked the committee to expunge the vote.
Sen. Bruce Maloch, D-Magnolia, who had proposed cutting the salaries, said he wouldn’t bring the measure back up before the Joint Budget Committee’s special language subcommittee unless he had enough support to pass it again.