Arkansas House Considering Options for Speaker's Race Tie

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Monday, Nov. 12, 2012 2:39 pm  

"I would just assume we would have to work out some type of shared leadership structure if no candidate got a majority of the votes," Williams said.

That'd be a new wrinkle in a potentially heated legislative session where no party in either chamber has the 3/4th supermajority needed to pass most budget bills, including legislation to allow the state to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law.

As for a split House, lawmakers could look to former Arizona state Sen. Randall Gnant for advice. Gnant, who now lives in the northwest Arkansas city of Bella Vista, served as that chamber's president after the 2000 election produced a 15-15 split. The Republican said he evenly divided the state Senate's committee chairmanships between Democrats and Republicans.

In Arkansas, the speaker selects committee chairmen but committee assignments are divvied up by seniority.

"They might have an opportunity that comes once every couple generations to demonstrate that both parties can work together to get good stuff done," Gnant said.

The unknown vote in a split House would be Fred Smith, the former Democratic lawmaker who resigned after a felony conviction and is now returning to the chamber as its sole Green Party member. A judge later dismissed the theft case, but Smith was blocked from running in the Democratic primary for his old seat because he had a conviction at the time he filed.

Smith said he's undecided, but indicated hard feelings remain against his former party, who blocked him from the primary because he had a conviction at the time he filed. A judge has dismissed the theft case.

"I forgive, but guess what? Sometimes we don't forget," Smith said

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