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Old State House Preps For First AR Session in Over 100 Years

The Old State House museum in Little Rock next week will host the Arkansas general assembly for a substantive legislative session for the first time since 1909.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - The Old State House museum in Little Rock next week will host the Arkansas general assembly for a substantive legislative session for the first time since 1909.

The Department of Arkansas Heritage worked to arrange desks and tables on Thursday to prepare for the session.

Matt Rowe with the Old State House Museum says the building is wired, connected and ready to live stream the session on-line.

"All the preparations been done, and I think it's going to be a very great opportunity for Arkansans to see the government at work at the first building that housed its government," Rowe says.

Rowe says wooden desks and chairs in the chamber are approximately fifty years old and are replicas of what would have been found during the legislature of the 1840's.

"We actually borrowed what's going to be the speaker's desk from an exhibit," Rowe says. "It's a replica of the desk used by President Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office."

The current House chamber is undergoing renovations that will prevent legislators from debating at least two key issues, perhaps three in the usual confines.

The session will cover changes to teachers insurance and legislation aimed to ease jail overcrowding.

State senator Jim Hickey, R-Texarkana, says the support is there to add the banning of lottery monitor games.

"At this point we're just waiting on the governor," Hickey says. "I acknowledge it's his decision in the end, so we're just waiting on that."

The House and Senate held a short ceremonial half-day session in 1983, which included an address from then governor Bill Clinton.

"We're getting attention right now for our mission which is to provide a great interpretation of Arkansas history," Rowe says. "And so much of the history is the building here and that's political history."

The history of the Old State House includes a fatal knifing on the floor of the House in 1837 when Speaker of the House John Wilson stabbed state Rep. Joseph J. Anthony in a dispute over land speculation. He was acquitted.

Like the special session in October 2013, lawmakers hope to keep their time at the state Capitol and Old State House limited. The three day special session begins Monday and will likely end with a brief midnight session on Wednesday morning.
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