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Arkansas Senate picks Hester as leader, draws committee assignments

Steps leading up to the Arkansas Senate chamber in the state Capitol.
Michael Hibblen
Steps leading up to the Arkansas Senate chamber in the state Capitol.

The Arkansas State Senate drew committee assignments, revised a rule, punished a member, and officially selected its new leader on Thursday.

Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, who will be a guest on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, was voted in as Senate President Pro Tempore for the 94th Arkansas General Assembly, which begins in January.

“It feels really good to get a vote of confidence from your colleagues. And now it feels pretty heavy to represent them, and hopefully, the Senate will do a great job these next two years,” Hester told TB&P.

Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, who has been under ethics scrutiny in the State Senate, was relegated to last in seniority for the next regular session. The vote to punish him for his filing of a frivolous ethics charge against Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, cost Clark his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In other Senate business, lawmakers selected who would serve a two-year and four-year term as a result of redistricting. All 35 Senators’ districts were redrawn after the 2020 Census, and by rule, members draw for either a two-year or four-year term. The 18 Senators who will be up for re-election in 2024 are:

Sen. Ben Gilmore, R-Crossett
Sen. Steve Crowell, R-Magnolia
Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana
Sen. Terry Rice, R-Waldron
Sen. Matt McKee, R-Hot Springs
Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff
Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock
Sen. Mark Johnson, R-Ferndale
Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe
Sen. David Wallace, R-Leachville
Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Jonesboro
Sen. John Payton, R-Wilburn
Sen. Scott Flippo, R-Mountain Home
Sen. Breanne Davis, R-Russellville
Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch
Sen. Jim Petty, R-Van Buren
Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs
Sen. Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville

Senators also chose committee assignments for the 94th General Assembly. Before picking committees, the Republican-heavy Senate passed a rule to limit Democrats to just two members per committee. Previously, Democrats were limited to three members per committee.

Hester said the rule was reflective of each party’s representation in the Senate body. Republicans hold 29 of 35 Senate seats, while Democrats hold six seats.

Among some of the major committees, the following drew chairperson assignments:

Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, Public Health Committee Chair
Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, Education Committee Chair
Sen. Ron Caldwell, R-Wynne, Agriculture/Forestry/Economic Development Committee Chair
Sen. Scott Flippo, R-Mountain Home, City, County & Local Affairs Committee Chair
Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, Revenue & Tax Committee Chair
Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, Judiciary Committee Chair
Sen. Ricky Hill, R-Cabot, Insurance & Commerce Committee Chair
Sen. Blake Johnson, R-Corning, State Agencies Committee Chair
Sen. Mark Johnson, R-Ferndale, Transportation/Tech/Legislative Affairs Committee Chair
Sen. John Payton, R-Wilburn, Joint Retirement Committee Co-chair

Advocacy group Common Ground Arkansas has posted a list of all Senate committee assignments.

Roby Brock is the Editor-in-Chief and Host of Talk Business & Politics.