More news and notes: School employee insurance deal in works | Arkansas Blog

Monday, October 14, 2013

More news and notes: School employee insurance deal in works

Posted By on Mon, Oct 14, 2013 at 7:46 PM

A few more items:

* HEISKELL LECTURE ON MEDIA TOMORROW: My friend Ed Gray at CALS reminds me of a good speaker at the children's library on W. 10th Street tomorrow in the J. H. Heiskell Lecture series. Thomas Patterson, who teaches on government and the media at Harvard and is the author of "Informing the News" will talk about misinformation among the American public at 6:30 p.m. A book signing and reception will follow. The American public? Getting bad information?

* SCHOOL EMPLOYEE INSURANCE: Say what you will about Rep. Nate Bell, but he believes in sharing the workings of government with constituents and others. He's posted on his Facebook links to legislation proposed to mitigate the big increase in the cost of public school employee health insurance. You've read about it before. State surplus would provide $43 million. A combined single board would oversee public employee and school employee plans. Money would be redirected in future years from school construction and teacher education set asides to cushion health insurance rate increases. A big ruckus is developing because Tea Party Republicans, including Bell, oppose a bill from Gov. Mike Beebe to restore the intended shape of school finance under legislation Beebe sponsored years ago. A law change inadvertently created a court-declared problem. A handful of small, property-rich school districts sued to claim that the 25-mill property tax contribution all school districts must make to the state basic school funding formula was capped at the state's per pupil payment, currently more than $6,000 per student per year. That was never the intention. All districts are supposed to contribute 25 mills to the pot, however small or large that amount might be. Districts are always free to raise taxes to exceed the state per pupil payout. Many do. These small districts, some of which the beneficiary of giant industrial facilities, think they should keep their windfall from a base mill that exceeds the state payment. Sure. That way they don't have to make the same taxing effort others have made. The Supreme Court has already settled the larger issue, saying the base millage is a state tax, not local district funding untouchable by the state. But Bullet Bob Ballinger and some other teabaggers see it as wealth redistribution. A number of solid Republicans favor Beebe's plan because it's fair to all and it was what the law always intended. But there will be a fight.

* ANOTHER HOMICIDE: Little Rock police Sgt. Cassandra Davis reports that Marcus McFee was found about 6 a.m. this morning at 1600 Elm withmultiple stab wounds in his torso. He died at a hospital about 7 p.m. The police are seeking a former boyfriend of a female friend of McFee, Davis said. Kenneth Smith, 59, was arrested later in the evening.

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