Arkansas Republicans approved several minor rule tweaks at their summer meeting Saturday, but the meeting's greater focus was on Republican efforts at the state and U.S. capitols and honoring a recently deceased former state senator.
The Republican Party of Arkansas State Committee held a moment of silence for former Arkansas Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, R-Pocahontas, who was found dead outside her northeast Arkansas home Tuesday. The manner of death hasn't been released, but the case is being investigated as a homicide.
Nearly all of the party faithful who addressed the committee took a moment to acknowledge Collins-Smith, who lost her Senate seat in the 2018 Republican primary.
Party Chairman Doyle Webb also said the party has created a special fund in her name to recruit female candidates to run for office. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge made the first contribution to the fund. She appeared via video Saturday to address state Republicans.
"I'll do everything in my power as attorney general to ensure justice [in every case], including Linda's," the Republican attorney general said.
The party's summer meeting was less eventful than in some previous years since it's not an election year, but members are beginning to look toward 2020. The Republican National Committee's southern regional political director Brian Barrett updated the state party on national efforts already underway to re-elect President Donald Trump.
Party members were especially pleased about Trump's Friday evening announcement that he'd reached an agreement with Mexico to crack down on migrants passing throughout that country en route to the U.S., avoiding promised tariffs.
U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., updated members on congressional action in Washington, D.C., and he took questions from committee members. Several of the questions centered on partisan divides in the nation's capital.
Hill said there's often productive bipartisan conversations at the committee level, but the discussions become more politicized as they move up the congressional leadership chain.
"[House] Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi is just running 'message' bills through the House, none of which will be taken up by the Senate," Hill said.
The committee also received state legislative updates from leaders in the state House of Representatives and Senate.
The committee approved, without dissent, a rule change in the process for filling vacant state legislative seats in districts that contain more than one county. The new rule simply formalizes the process that has been used in the past to nominate candidates, Webb explained.
Under the rule, the number of delegates from a particular legislative district will be based on the share of population from each county included in that district.
In the past, each vacancy was handled on a case-by-case basis by the state party's executive committee, Webb said.
"We're codifying what we did before, instead of waiting until the event occurs," he said.
The state committee also approved a rule that will allow county party chairmen to designate an additional signatory on county committee accounts. Webb said many party chairmen are busy, and having an additional signatory will ease the burden on them.
The state GOP didn't discuss filing fees for state legislative seats -- a discussion that dominated state Democrats' summer meeting earlier this month.
The Democratic Party of Arkansas State Committee last week voted to keep filing fees the same for 2020 -- $3,000 for state House candidates and $4,500 for state Senate candidates -- after several hours of debate, but it expressed a commitment to cut the fees in 2022.
The Republican Party of Arkansas' state legislative filing fees are $7,500 for Senate candidates and $3,000 for House candidates.
Both state parties' fees are among the highest in the nation.
Webb told the committee that under state party rules, the state executive committee sets filing fees and that it had voted to keep fees the same for 2020.
He said in an interview that he was unaware of any dissatisfaction within the state party with the fees.
Ken Yang, a former spokesman for Collins-Smith, addressed the state committee Saturday, saying that memorial service details were being sorted out. He said Secretary of State John Thurston had authorized a temporary memorial site in the state Capitol rotunda this week and that Collins-Smith's family would hold a Tuesday morning news conference at the state Capitol.
"It's still a shock to me," Yang said. "This is not the type of media I ever thought I'd be doing."
Metro on 06/09/2019
Print Headline: Deceased former Arkansas senator on minds at state GOP meeting