Partisanship Blamed on Failed Session

April 21, 2003
Posted at: 6:22 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark. -- The Arkansas 84th General Assembly came to an abrupt end last week, leaving no plan for the state budget or school improvements. So will a special session be more productive?

The session came to an end late April 16 when the House came up two votes shy of the two-thirds majority vote needed to stay in session. In addition to the lack of a budget or education plan, hundreds of other bills died, causing frustration for some legislators like State Representative Don House.

"It was quite disappointing, embarrassing," House said. "(It was) difficult to deal with when you're trying to be the very best."

House and Senator Jerry Bookout blame political wrangling and partisanship for the unproductive session.

"We need to drop the partisanship and tend to our problems, and then when we get past our problems we can be partisan," Bookout said. "Right now we got some serious problems in Arkansas, and we need to be about our business."

According to Senator Bookout, there were too many major issues for legislators to tackle.

"You had governmental reorganization, school reorganization, there were two big tort reform bills in that, and then we had this serious budget deficit facing us, so that was really just to much for one regular session of the legislature," Bookout said.

Now special sessions are on the horizon for the Assembly.

"We'll have at least two special sessions this year I'm sure," House said. "Maybe three."

Legislators expect the first special session to be called in May. It will be dedicated to the budget, which has to be in place by July 1. The other special session, slated for September, will be aimed at improving the educational funding system in Arkansas, which was ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.