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Key resigns his seat in Arkansas Senate

He decides to start UA job this week

By Michael R. Wickline

This article was published July 31, 2014 at 4:22 a.m.

Sen. Johnny Key, R-Mountain Home, has submitted his resignation from the Senate, effective today, and will start work Friday as the University of Arkansas System's associate vice president of university relations.

Key, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, was hired for the $130,000-a-year job in May after failing to get hired as vice chancellor for government relations at UA-Fayetteville. Randy Massanelli, then the state director for Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, got the $175,000-a-year job instead and started working for the university earlier this month.

Key said in May that he wouldn't begin working for the UA System until January, after completing his term of office.

But Key wrote in his resignation letter dated July 18 to Senate President Pro Tempore Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, that "it is now time for my family and me to embark on a new journey."

Key said in an interview that he decided to resign from the Senate now because "it makes more sense to make the move now" from Mountain Home to Cabot rather than trying to move his family in the middle of the school year.

With the Legislature completing action in a special session earlier this month on measures aimed at reducing premium increases for public school employee health insurance plan participants and another special session not expected before the end of the year, "things have cleared up on the timing issue," he said. Key has served in the state Senate since 2009 and was in the state House of Representatives from 2003-09.

UA System President Donald Bobbitt let Key pick the starting day when Key was hired in May, system spokesman Nate Hinkel said. He said system officials didn't pressure Key to resign from the Senate now, but they're glad that he will be able to start work for them this week.

Key won't be allowed to register as a lobbyist under state law for a year from the expiration of his term of office, but he can legally lobby in an official capacity as an employee of the system, the UA System said in a written statement in May.

Mountain Home Republican Scott Flippo is unopposed in the Nov. 4 general election for the Senate District 17 seat held by Key.

Metro on 07/31/2014

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