The Arkansas Senate on Wednesday balked at confirming former Gov. Asa Hutchinson's nomination of former Hutchinson aide Doug Smith of Cave City to the Parole Board and Hutchinson's nomination of Jimmy Warren of Conway to the state's Minority and Women-owned Business Advisory Council.
Senate President Pro Tempore Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, later signaled he plans to ask the 35-member Senate to reconsider its decision not to confirm Smith.
The Senate on Wednesday also voted to confirm more than 100 of the former Republican governor's nominations to state boards and commissions.
The appointments the Senate confirmed include that of Bill Jones to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Katie Anderson to the Arkansas Public Service Commission, Col. Nathaniel Todd to the University of Arkansas board of trustees, Jeff Wood and Lisa Hunter to the state Board of Education, and Seth Summerside and Charles Metz to the Arkansas Agriculture Board.
The Arkansas Senate Rules Committee on Monday rejected Hutchinson's reappointment of Jammy Turner of Gillett to the Arkansas Agricultural Board and Hutchinson's reappointment of Dexter Booth of Little Rock to the Arkansas State Claims Commission.
Then, the Senate on Wednesday declined to suspend its rules to clear the way for a vote on whether to confirm the reappointment of Booth to the Arkansas State Claims Commission.
Hutchinson's appointment of Smith to the Parole Board divided the Republican-dominated Senate. The Senate includes 29 Republicans and six Democrats.
In September, Hutchinson announced his appointment of Smith, the governor's office then-public safety liaison, to the Parole Board to replace Boyce Hamlet, after Hamlet was appointed as Arkansas' drug director, with Smith's term expiring Jan. 14, 2029. Smith had served in the governor's office since 2015.
He worked in law enforcement for more than 20 years, with police departments in Osceola and Manila and as a town marshal in Dell. He retired from law enforcement in 2006 and worked as a field representative for U.S. Congressman Rick Crawford from 2010 to 2014, and was a field representative for Hutchinson's gubernatorial campaign in 2014.
Smith fell one vote short of the 18 votes required in the 35-member Senate for his appointment to be confirmed Wednesday. The Senate voted 17-10 to confirm him with five senators not voting and three senators absent
Then, Hester's motion to expunge the vote not to confirm Smith fell three short of the 24 votes required to expunge that vote and clear the way for another to vote on whether to confirm Hutchinson's nomination of Smith to the Parole Board.
The Senate voted 21-8 to expunge the vote not to confirm Smith with three senators not voting and three senators absent.
Sen. David Wallace, R-Leachville, told senators Smith is an experienced former law enforcement officer in Mississippi County who would be a great addition to the Parole Board.
Politics is a full-contact sport, and Smith shouldn't be blamed for carrying water for Hutchinson when Smith worked as aide to the former governor, he said.
Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, said Smith "helped me get elected when all the odds were against me" in 2010 when Democrats were in control of the Legislature, and she knows that he will do a fabulous job on the Parole Board.
Sen. John Payton, R-Wilburn, said he couldn't think of anyone better than Smith to stop the revolving door on the Parole Board.
"I'm telling you, he will do a great job on the Parole Board," he said.
But Sens. Dan Sullivan, R-Jonesboro, Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville, and Clint Penzo, R-Springdale, urged senators to vote against expunging the vote not to confirm Smith.
In urging senators to not expunge the vote against confirming Smith, Clark made reference to the late Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, R-Pocahontas, who was ousted by then Rep. James Sturch, R-Batesville, in a 2018 primary election. Hutchinson supported Sturch in that primary election.
In a voice vote Wednesday, the Senate voted not to confirm Warren to the state's Minority and Women-owned Business Advisory Council.
Hester made a motion not to confirm Hutchinson's nomination of Warren to the advisory council, saying it is a personal choice and he doesn't believe Warren should be confirmed by the Senate.
Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, said it would seem to her that Hester should provide a rationale for why the Senate should not confirm Warren.
Afterward, Hester said he didn't believe Warren should be confirmed based on "feedback from my colleagues," and declined to provide more details.
The Senate Rules Committee voted Monday to approve a motion by Sen. Ron Caldwell, R-Wynne, to reject Hutchinson's nomination of Turner's reappointment to the Arkansas Agricultural Board. Caldwell said Monday that Turner works for Monsanto and that company previously sued the state Plant Board over decisions regarding dicamba, and Turner would be biased serving on the Arkansas Agricultural Board. He said he wants to have board members who have no bias toward any product they may make recommendations over.
In September 2017, Turner resigned from the state Plant Board to take a seat on the Arkansas Agriculture Board.
At that time, he said his resignation had nothing do with with his employment and the controversy over the previous two years concerning the use of dicamba herbicide and Monsanto's genetically engineered crops.
The Plant Board is part of the Department of Agriculture and is in charge of regulating numerous aspects of the agricultural industry, including the registration of herbicides and pesticides.
The Senate Rules Committee on Monday initially voted to recommend the Senate confirm Hutchinson's nomination of Booth to the Arkansas Claims Commission. But the committee later expunged that vote and voted to reject Hutchinson's nomination of Booth to the commission at the behest of Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy.
Over the past two decades, the state Senate has rarely rejected a governor's nominees to boards and commissions.
Last week, the Senate Rules Committee initially rejected Hutchinson's nomination of 36 appointees to state boards and commissions, and recommended that the full Senate vote to confirm 14 of Hutchinson's nominations of appointees to state boards and commissions.
The Senate eventually voted to reject 30 of the former governor's appointees to state boards and commissions, and confirm 20 of Hutchinson's appointees to state boards and commissions, after it voted to overturn the Rules Committee's rejection of six appointees.