Legislative session formally ends


LITTLE ROCK — The 2013 regular legislative session formally ended Friday without an attempt to override Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of a package of bills meant to restructure the state board that oversees elections.

The House and Senate adjourned sine die, a formality since lawmakers completed their business April 19, the 100th day of a session that included passage of $140 million in tax cuts, a private option to Medicaid expansion under the federal health care reform law, stricter abortion laws, broader gun rights legislation and a new school choice law.

The Senate adjourned shortly after 10 a.m. and the House followed up at 10:11 a.m.

“Nothing is perfect but I think things turned out pretty well,” said Senate President Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville. “It was a bipartisan session and I think we made things work … I feel good about what we did.”

Rep. Nate Steel, D-Nashville, praised the Legislature for the amount of work completed.

“I think it was productive,” Steel said, adding he bipartisanship wasn’t the issue that some thought it would be with Republicans having a majority in the Legislature for the first since Reconstruction.

“For the most part, I did not think it was any more partisan then it was last session, really,” he said. “It was mostly a very cordial atmosphere and I credit the leadership on both sides.”

Beebe vetoed the three bills after lawmakers recessed. Senate Bills 719-721, all sponsored by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, would have shifted much of the authority now held by the state Board of Election Commissioners to conduct state elections and investigate alleged improprieties to the secretary of state’s office. In his veto letters, Beebe said the moves would make the state board’s work more, not less, partisan.

King was not at the state Capitol Friday.

Lamoureux said there just wasn’t enough support to override the vetos.

“I think there were some (lawmakers) who had local opposition to the bills,” he said, adding the chairman of the election commission in his home county, Pope County, had told him she opposed the bills.

Beebe, a Democrat, had issued three vetoes during the session that were overriden by the Legislature, the first under Republican control in nearly 140 years. Two were abortion-related bills to ban abortions at 12 and 20 weeks . The other requires voters to show photo identification when they go to the polls.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a legal challenge to the 12-week abortion ban and Friday a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction which prevents the new law from taking effect while the case proceeds. The ACLU has said it also plans to sue to overturn the voter ID law.