Friday, November 16, 2012

TOP STORY >> Legislators from Cabot in top spots

Leader staff writer

Two Republicans from Cabot and one from Searcy have been elected to top positions in the Arkansas Legislature.

Rep. Davy Carter of Cabot was chosen by fellow representatives as the speaker of the House after a vote to nullify the election of Darrin Williams of Little Rock, who was to have been the first black speaker of the House.

Sen. Eddie Joe Williams was chosen Senate majority leader, second to Sen. Michael Lamoureux of Russellville, who was chosen Senate president pro tem.

Sen. Jonathan Dismang of Searcy was chosen majority whip.

Lamoureux replaces Sen. Larry Teague, a Democrat from Nashville, who was elected Senate president pro tem before Republicans took the majority of positions during the election on Nov. 6.

Williams will chair the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee. The vice chair will be Sen.-elect Jane English of North Little Rock.

In addition to committee chairmen and vice chairs and assigning bills to committees, Carter said his job will be to build consensus among state legislators.

With 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one Green Party representative, to work with, Carter says he doesn’t expect the job to be easy.

But Carter said, “I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Health care and tax reform will be the biggest issues to work through in 2013, he said.

Williams said his job will be to keep the Republicans on point.

The biggest challenge of the legislative session will be the estimated $400 million shortfall in Medicaid that has been funded for the past three years with stimulus money.

“We’ve known it existed and we’ve chosen to kick the can on down the road,” Williams said.

Insurance reform and lawsuit reform will also be priorities, he said.

This is the first time Republicans have controlled the legislature since Reconstruction.