LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — (9/13/19) Arkansas’ House speaker took the first step Friday toward removing a lawmaker who has refused to step down after pleading no contest to not paying state income taxes.
Speaker Matthew Shepherd filed a resolution to remove fellow Republican Rep. Mickey Gates, who was arrested last year and charged with not filing returns from 2012 through 2017. As part of an agreement with prosecutors, Gates in July pleaded no contest to one count of not filing or paying income taxes. He was ordered to serve six months’ probation and repay the state.
Shepherd last week said he was seeking Gates’ removal, which will require two-thirds support of the majority-GOP House. A date has not been set for the House to take up the resolution.
“The resolution speaks for itself,” Shepherd said in a statement issued by his office. “I am now working with House staff on the process moving forward. I will advise the members and make public the schedule once finalized.”
The three-page resolution refers to a law enacted this year preventing anyone who pleads guilty or no contest to a “public trust crime” from running for or serving in the Legislature but said that’s not the main basis for the action. It instead cites the House’s authority under the Legislature to discipline its own members.
Gates’ attorney has argued it would be unconstitutional to expel him using that law since it adds to the qualifications spelled out in the Arkansas’ constitution on who can serve in the Legislature. Attorney Jeff Rosenzweig said Gates has no plans to resign and intends to seek re-election next year.
Rosenzweig also noted that, under Arkansas’ constitution, the House couldn’t expel him for the same reason if he’s ousted and is re-elected next year. He said they would have to see whether the resolution passes before deciding on any legal action.
“Unless and until it passes, there’s no legal action to take,” he said.
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