LITTLE ROCK — The House Rules Committee on Tuesday endorsed a resolution that would set rules for the House with changes that would remove a ban on House members raising campaign funds during fiscal sessions and revise the committee selection process in that chamber.
Without discussion, the committee — whose members are handpicked by the House speaker — gave a “do pass” recommendation to House Resolution 1001 by House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia.
Gillam told the committee that fiscal sessions are not about policy issues and said that at every other level of government in the state, “they’re able to conduct their business and no one seems to have a problem with them being able to take donations.”
Because fiscal sessions are held in even-numbered years, a legislator could find himself or herself in a primary race with an opponent who is free to collect campaign contributions while the legislator is not. Gillam said that “with our schedules, with the primaries and the way that they fall out, I believe that this comes into creating a more fair atmosphere for us.”
Another proposed rule change would allow the House speaker to appoint to standing House committees and joint House and Senate committees either four or five members, depending on the committee. Currently, the speaker chooses committee chairmen but other seats are chosen based on seniority, except for select committees such as Rules where the speaker chooses all the members.
HR 1001 states that the speaker “shall consider the political composition and the geographic and demographic diversity of the House; the skills, expertise, personal preferences, and seniority of individual appointees; and he or she shall in good faith consult with the minority and majority party leadership before making such appointments.”
Late last year, Democrats secured a majority of seats on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee despite being the minority party. Chairman Joe Jett of Success later switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, eliminating the Democratic majority on the 20-member panel.
Gillam told reporters Tuesday he was already working on his proposed change to the process long before the developments with the tax panel occurred. Basing committee selection on seniority can prevent people from getting on committees that align with their skills and passions, he said.
“I think you could see over probably the last two cycles to where we weren’t getting a lot of the people that needed to be on committees on committees,” he said.