Arkansas House Speaker Matthew Shepherd (R-El Dorado) was reelected Friday to another two-year term leading the chamber. Representatives unanimously showed their support for Shepherd during a voice vote after formally adjourning the biennial fiscal session of legislature. He was unopposed.
Shepherd became a state representative in 2011 and was first elected speaker in 2018. The next term will begin next January when lawmakers convene for the 93rd General Assembly.
"I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to serve alongside each of you as we serve our state during these trying times," Shepherd said during a speech to colleagues inside the Jack Stephens Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
The House has been meeting in the basketball arena over the last two months to allow adequate social distancing for lawmakers and staff during the coronavirus outbreak. The Senate has been meeting at the Capitol during the fiscal session this month and a special session last month to address budget shortfalls because of the health crisis.
Shepherd said the COVID-19 outbreak and its aftermath will continue presenting challenges to the state.
"We must work together to help our state and our fellow Arkansans to pick up the pieces that are left in the wake of this unprecedented global pandemic that has left our economy unstable, but found our people unwavering; that has disrupted our communities, but laid bare our need to communicate. This will be our undertaking, to reopen, revitalize and reignite our state," Shepherd said.
Last week the Senate voted to elect Sen. Jimmy Hickey (R-Texarkana) president pro tempore, beating Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) during a vote conducted with secret ballots.
Outgoing Senate President Jim Hendren (R-Sulphur Springs) said Friday that plans are in place to upgrade remote participation software for legislators "as there’s no telling how long the coronavirus will continue being a threat."