LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas' House speaker on Friday said he's seeking the removal of a lawmaker who pleaded no contest to not paying state income taxes.
Speaker Matthew Shepherd told House members that he's filing a resolution to remove fellow Republican Rep. Mickey Gates, who was arrested last year and charged with not filing returns from 2012 through 2017. Under an agreement with prosecutors, Gates entered the no-contest plea in July in Garland County Court to one count of not filing or paying income taxes and was ordered to serve six years of probation.
"I am saddened that it has come to the filing of a resolution, but we must abide by the laws that we pass and uphold the trust of the people of Arkansas," Shepherd said in a letter to the House.
Removing Gates will require two-thirds support in the majority-Republican House. Shepherd said a date has not been set for the House to take up the resolution.
Shepherd last month said Gates should resign but stopped short of saying whether he would seek the lawmaker's removal. Gates, who did not immediately return a call seeking comment late Friday afternoon, has said he won't resign and that he plans to seek re-election next year.
Shepherd cited a measure enacted this year that prohibits someone who has pleaded guilty or no contest to a "public trust crime" from running for or serving in the Legislature. Gates voted for the legislation. Shepherd said reviewing that law's language was the "tipping point."
"When he was not willing to step down, I felt it falls on me to move forward in seeking his removal," Shepherd told reporters.
Jeff Rosenzweig, Gates' attorney, said the lawmaker doesn't fault Shepherd for his decision but believed it's unconstitutional to rely on the new law since it adds to the qualifications spelled out in the Arkansas' constitution on who can serve in the Legislature.