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It will take 24 votes, as usual, of the 35-seat Senate to consider nonspending bills during the fiscal session, a panel of rule-makers decided Tuesday, even though there are three vacancies in the upper chamber.

Steve Cook, chief attorney for the Senate, told the Rules, Resolutions and Memorials Committee that a 1939 Arkansas Supreme Court case established that voting thresholds for appropriation bills should be based on the total "elected" number of senators, regardless of any vacancies.

He said that precedent should apply to other votes during the fiscal session.

Lawmakers would open themselves up to lawsuits, Cook said, if they decided to base the two-thirds threshold for nonspending bills on the number of filled seats, which would require only 22 senators to vote to consider those issues.

"That would be subject to a court challenge if someone had a big difference with the bills being passed," Cook said.

The vacancies were created by the resignations of Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, and Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot, as well as the death of Sen. Greg Standridge, R-Russellville.

-- John Moritz

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