Arkansas lawmaker’s ability to participate remotely halted

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – An Arkansas lawmaker who was convicted this month for insulting a colleague temporarily lost his ability to participate remotely Thursday after a heated argument with the lieutenant governor during a debate.

The Arkansas Senate voted to end remote membership participation Thursday afternoon after the controversial exchange between Republican Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Democratic Senator Stephanie Flowers. Flowers, who suffers from diabetes, is the only member of the 35 Senate members to participate remotely due to concerns about the coronavirus.

“I have the right to participate. I am an elected senator, ”Flowers said before the vote.

Griffin had ordered Flowers’ microphone cut during a debate on legislation the Senate narrowly approved demanding the state pay back fines it collected from businesses for breaching coronavirus safety measures . Griffin said Flowers was out of order to continue speaking after questioning the sponsor of the measure bill.

“It doesn’t have to turn into a dang screaming match every time you ask a question of someone you don’t agree with,” said Griffin, who chairs the Senate.

“You just don’t have to hit the hammer like you do, and let me ask my questions,” she replied.

Flowers, one of three black members of the Senate, was censored earlier this month for calling a fellow senator “stupid” during debate on a resolution on the story that was defeated after lawmakers in both parties have called it misleading and needlessly partisan. She was also suspended from two committees where she sat for three days for comment.

Senate Speaker Jimmy Hickey has said he wants to limit the suspension to Thursday and speak to lawmakers to see what further action may be needed.

“The decorum of this body is not what I wanted,” Hickey said.

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