Despite defection, AR House Democrats can still block tax reform in committee
Guest article by David Ferguson
Representative Joe Jett of Success switched to the Republican Party. Jett’s switch to the Republican Party has no effect on the Democrats ability to block tax reform legislation in the Revenue and Tax Committee.
Jett is the third member of the Arkansas House of Representatives to be elected as a Democrat last month and then switch to the Republican Party.
Despite two-thirds of the House membership being Republican, Democrats were able to stack the membership of the House Revenue & Tax Committee to achieve a majority on the committee. The Democrats took eleven of the twenty positions on the committee (counting Jett). With Jett switching parties, the membership is now equally divided with ten Republicans and ten Democrats.
Having a majority on the committee only meant the Democrats could block Republican tax legislation. They could not pass their own tax measures against the will of Republican legislators because Republicans have a substantial majority in both the House and Senate. Despite Democrats losing one member, the remaining ten Democrats can still prevent Republicans from passing tax reform in the committee by denying the Republicans the ability to get a majority (11 votes).
Representative Joe Jett’s switch doesn’t resolve the defect in the archaic committee selection rule passed by Democrats decades ago. The rule allowed the Democrats to stack the committee. But, Jett’s switch may relieve some of the pressure from some Republican county committees for House Republicans to immediately fix the rules and reselect committee assignments.
Reforming the House committee selection rules has been discussed by House members for several years. A group of Republicans drafted rule changes in 2012 but their effort was dropped when Democrats pulled a coup and with the help of only a handful of Republicans elected Davy Carter as Speaker. In 2014, a Republican House member tried to gain support for changing the rule and he has promoted it to his colleagues again in 2016.
Some legislators correctly point out that even with the Democrats being able to stop tax reform legislation in committee, the Republicans have enough votes to pull a bill out of committee and vote on it on the House floor. If the legislation is important enough, this could be a way out of the mess. It would be an unusual move. Maybe there is an example of the House pulling a bill out of committee, but I cannot remember an instance of the House doing so. Traditionally, the House has been very reluctant to do so because of a high respect for the committee system. There have been a few instances of the Senate pulling a bill out of committee but it has been rare.
Maybe there is an example of the House pulling a bill out of committee, but I cannot remember an instance of the House doing so. Traditionally, the House has been very reluctant to do so because of a high respect for the committee system.
Many think House Speaker Jeremy Gillam (R) wants to re-appoint Jett as chair of the House Revenue & Tax Committee. Jett’s switch to the Republican Party could reduce criticism of the appointment, since Jett is no longer a Democrat. The appointment would still bump Jett over the nine Republican committee members who ran as Republicans.
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