When the 89th Arkansas General Assembly convenes in January it will be the first Republican-dominated legislature since the Reconstruction Era, and Lonoke County will have a presence it has possibly never before seen. Legislators with Lonoke County ties will hold three of the top positions in the legislature.
District 43 state Representative Davy Carter (R - Cabot) will hold the influential office of Speaker of the House, District 28 state Senator Eddie Joe Williams (R - Cabot) will be the Senate majority leader; and District 29 state Senator Jonathan Dismang (R - Searcy) will be the Senate majority whip.
Carter and Williams represent much of north Lonoke County, while Dismang represents much of southeast Lonoke County.
Carter replaced District 36 state Representative Darrin Williams (D - Little Rock) as Speaker-designate for the 89th General Assembly during an organizational meeting held Nov. 13.
“I’m committed to working with a diverse membership to accomplish what is best for the state of Arkansas,” Carter said after the vote.
The majority leader and whip hold no constitutional authority, but nonetheless wield significant power through their party functions. The party members in the Senate and House elect leaders, majority and minority.
The leader is the spokesman for the party and develops the session calendar and assists the Senate president pro tempore or Speaker of the House with program development, forming policy and policy decisions.
Senator Eddie Joe Williams said he believes he was elected to the post because he brings, “wisdom and age.”
“There are a lot of bright, intelligent people [in the legislature], much smarter than me … I bring wisdom and age to their talent,” he remarked.
“I love Cabot, I love Lonoke County, and I love Arkansas,” Williams said. He said he worked at each level, as mayor, then as state Representative and Senator, to improve conditions for everyone, and expects to continue in that direction.
“I think it will be exciting,” Williams said of the upcoming General Assembly. “After 138 years under a Democrat legislature, Arkansas is last or next to last in nearly everything.”
“If I could pick one word that I think will characterize [the General Assembly], that would be ‘reform,’” he remarked.
Williams said he expects to see efforts to reform education, lawsuits and insurance.
Dismang will be the Senate Majority Whip.
The expression “whip” is a foxhunting term for someone responsible for keeping dogs from straying from the pack.
Both majority and minority parties elect a whip who assists the party leader by keeping party members informed of policy decisions and encouraging support of party positions and policies. responsible for counting heads and rounding up party members for votes and quorum calls, and they occasionally stand in for the majority or minority leaders in their absence.
Carter’s election to Speaker of the House overturns the previous election of state Representative Darrin Williams to the post.
Williams had been elected speaker-designate in March under a Democrat-dominated House. However, the Nov. 6 General Election shifted the balance of power, giving Republicans a 51-48 majority. A Green Party member holds one House seat.
Arkansas law calls for the incumbent Speaker to set a date for a re-election if 51 or more members sign a petition that the election of the Speaker of the House is questioned.
On Nov. 9, current Speaker of the House Robert Moore announced that he had been given petitions, bearing the required number of signatures, calling for the re-election. He said Democrats and Republicans, alike, signed petitions to settle the question, “In a timely and bi-partisan fashion.”
A 49-48 vote failed to re-elect Williams.
The Arkansas Speaker of the House presides over the House of Representatives. The Speaker assigns committee leadership and names members to select committees. Other duties include recognizing members to speak on the House floor, preserving order in the House, and assigning bills to the proper committee. The 89th General Assembly will vote to confirm the Speaker-designate when it convenes in January 2013.
Carter is serving his third term in the Arkansas House of Representatives. During the 88th General Assembly, Carter served as chair of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. He has also served on the House City, County and Local Affairs Committee; Legislative Joint Auditing Committee; and the House Rules Committee.
Senator Michael Lamoureux (R – Russellville) will be the President Pro Tem. He will make certain committee assignments, and will be second in line of succession to be acting governor in the event both the governor and lieutenant governor are out of state.
Minority Leader will be Senator-elect Keith Ingram (D - West Memphis) and the Minority Whip will be Senator-elect Bobby Pierce (D – Sheridan).