Gov. Mike Beebe today signed SB 139 which gives him the power not to call a special election to fill the lieutenant governor’s office this year.
Mark Darr resigned Feb. 1, with 11 months left in his term, after it was discovered he’d spent taxpayer and campaign money on personal expenses. There was bipartisan agreement that the position, which has extremely limited duties, need not be filled in an election year.
So it’s been done. The relevant language:
(c) A special election for a vacancy in the office of Lieutenant Governor shall not be held if:
(1) The vacancy occurs less than ten (10) months before the next scheduled general election;
(2) The office of Lieutenant Governor would in regular course be filled at the next scheduled general election; and
(3) The Governor determines that the cost of holding a special election for a vacancy in the office of Lieutenant Governor less than ten (10) months before the office will be filled at the next scheduled general election is impractical because of the timing of the vacancy.
Note this law change applies to the statute that also covers vacancies in the U.S. house and Arkansas legislature. It makes some changes in the 150-day limit for calling an election after a vacancy occurs. Many fear it opens to the door to gubernatorial skulduggery. For example: What if Johnny Key resigns from the Senate after getting UA lobby job. The only announced candidate so far is Rep. John Burris. He couldn’t run for a special election for the remainder of the term. A little awkward. Maybe the governor would find a way to say circumstances interfered.
Darr resigned Feb. 1. He’s on a monthly payment plan to pay $11,000 in fines for violation of ethics rules. The state Ethics Commission said he’d made his second $1,000 payment today, the due date. I’m checking on the status, too, of $9,836 he’s supposed to reimburse the state for improper expense payments, as well as an earlier $1,137 payment that got lost in processing.