Special session begins | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Special session begins

Posted By on Thu, Oct 17, 2013 at 2:52 PM

  • Duncan Baird/Twitter
  • BACK AT IT: The House begins.

The special legislative session begins at 3 p.m.

It is supposed to be short. It won't be entirely sweet. Legislation off-topic has been introduced and will certainly occasion some speeches, if not action. For example, as detailed on the Legislative Digest blog, Rep. Bruce Westerman has introduced a patently unconstitutional bill to send tax collections from the required 25-mill base millage that exceed the state's per pupil payment of $6,300 back to taxpayers in the district. He's frosted that legislation is in the hopper to prevent his home Fountain Lake School District, and seven others that benefit from small enrollment and inordinate property wealth thanks to major industrial facilities or retirement communities, from scoring a windfall that hundreds of others don't enjoy. The base millage is a state tax that goes into the state pot. 

Rep. Jim Nickels has filed a bill to combine all state and local government insurance plans into a single efficient and equal system. Not going to happen, but a nice idea.

Opponents of the base millage bill — transferring the excess to support the insurance bailout — tried to move the bill out of the Education Committee but failed. Speaker Davy Carter said the bill was a direct implementation of a core part of the Lakeview school finance ruling and was properly in education. That little event is a likely tip to the likely conclusion of the dispute. The House adjourned about 3:35 p.m. after all the pending bills were read and assigned. The Senate made similarly quick work of assignments. Most hope for all to be done by Saturday.

The plan is to knock insurance cost increases for school employees down to about 10 percent next calendar year through transfers of surplus and some other education money, plus an end to the windfall recently provided by a 4-3 court to eight small school districts. The Court indicated in the decision that the legislature could correct the situation.

Opponents raised an extended ruckus in Senate committee, extending debate well into the evening, but it come out of committee on a 5-2 vote, David Goins of Fox 16 reports. The sponsorship lineup on the bill indicates it started with sufficient votes for passge. Which would figure with Gov. Beebe at the controls of the session.

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