The ugliest vote of the 92nd General Assembly will take place soon.
But one of Arkansas' most violent acts between opposing politicians, a stabbing death on the floor of the Arkansas House back in 1837, will again be rolled out for all of the public to remember.
The vote this time, however, won't be over a debate about the state paying a bounty on wolf scalps, but on the actual paying of one's personal taxes.
The expulsion vote will be among the 100 House of State Representatives to approve or disprove a resolution, filed by the House Speaker, to expel one of its own members.
It simply comes down to will the House vote to expel this member.
Or not to expel this member?
House Speaker Matthew Shepherd (R-El Dorado) followed through on a public promise to file a resolution calling for the expulsion of State Representative Mickey Gates (R-Hot Springs) by filing HR1079 recently.
Gates was arrested in June 2018, for having failed to pay taxes or file a tax return since 2003.
Stop and let that sink in for a bit.
Since 2003, Gates as a resident of Hot Springs, Garland County, Ark., and now an elected state Representative, who draws a $40,000-a-year salary from state tax money, has failed to pay state taxes or file a state tax return since 2003.
Gates had been a Quorum Court member in Garland County over the last 20 years -- a compensated position -- paid in tax monies from local taxpayers in Garland County.
It is unclear if he was compensated via tax monies as he served in a County Constable position in Garland County.
He was first elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2015.
Gates went on to win re-election with 65 percent of the vote last November. He has collected a legislative salary, per diem and mileage since his election in 2015.
A month ago, he pleaded "nolo contendere" to six counts of having failed to pay taxes or file a tax return. This plea indicates, that under state law, the statute of limitations means he could be charged for six years' worth of failing to pay.
It was after this "nolo" plea that Speaker Shepherd, after having consulted with House staff, asked Representative Gates to resign.
Refusing to resign, the Speaker said he'd seek Gates' expulsion from the House.
It will take a two-thirds vote of the 100 members to expel Gates from the lower Chamber's members.
The new statute, Act 894, for expulsion reads that "If a person has pleaded guilty or nolo contendere to or has been found guilty of a public trust crime, he or she shall not: (1) File as a candidate for a constitutional office; (2) Run as a candidate for a constitutional office; or (3) Hold a constitutional office."
This was a 2018 bill, by the way, that Gates voted in favor of passage from the House floor.
The state House is comprised of 76 Republicans and 24 Democrats.
Remember, Gates, also gets a vote on his ouster as well.
Should the vote fail to get 76 votes (the minimum) for the two-thirds majority, Gates would be able to complete his current term--which isn't up until the 93rd General Assembly is sworn in on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.
However, Act 894 would prohibit Gates from running for re-election.
Just so you know, in the 1837 expulsion, Wilson was removed after he stabbed, Maj. Joseph Anthony of Randolph County, a fellow state representative to death on the House floor. Wilson attacked Anthony with a large knife.
Wilson later went on trial, but a jury found that the killing was justified, under dubious circumstances.
Wilson later moved to Pike County and was again elected to the state House.
He stabbed no additional state representatives.
Does Rep. Gates stay or go from the State House over the non-payment of taxes?
Your local state Representative will get a vote in this decision soon.
-- Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.
Editorial on 09/25/2019
Print Headline: Will State House expel member over non-payment of taxes