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Special legislative session opens at Capitol

By David Harten

This article was published October 17, 2013 at 5:36 p.m.

Two attempts to reassign bills to different committees were denied during the opening day of a special session of the 89th General Assembly at the state Capitol.

Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsman, objected Thursday to the placement of House Bills 1004 and 1010, which are set to go before the House Committee on Education. Instead, he moved to have both go before the House Committee on Revenue and Tax.

Ballinger's motion to reassign House Bill 1004 failed to get the Legislature's two-thirds-majority vote necessary to pass, while his motion for House Bill 1010 fell in a voice vote.

House Bill 1004 is an effort to reallocate millions in property-tax revenues from eight better-off school districts to help cover school construction projects around the state. House Bill 1010 states it would "require excess revenue from the uniform rate of tax be credited to the public school fund and to declare and emergency."

During the nearly 30-minute session, Rep. Tommy Thompson, R-Morrilton, spoke in favor of Ballinger's motion to reassign House Bill 1004, while Speaker of the House Rep. Davy Carter, R-Cabot, spoke against the motion for House Bill 1010.

"I feel the bill is properly assigned," Carter said to the committee of 89 representatives.

Meanwhile, Rep. Andrea Lea, R-Russellville, moved to suspend House Rule 41, which requires a two-day delay for bills passed through the House to be seen by a committee. The House approved Lea's motion in a voice vote.

Gov. Mike Beebe had issued a proclamation Wednesday calling for the special session, primarily to address a proposal to use $43 million from state surplus funds to subsidize health insurance plans for public school teachers. On Thursday, the Joint Budget Committee endorsed Beebe's proposal.

If approved by the Legislature, teachers' premiums would only increase by about 10 percent, as opposed to a 50-percent increase if the funding is not used. That increase would take effect on Jan. 1.

A three-fourths vote in both the House and Senate will be necessary for an approval. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette previously reported that Beebe told reporters 77 members of the House were in support of the bill and that Senate leaders alerted him late Tuesday that 29 of a possible 34 Senate votes were expected as well.

The House will reconvene at 11 a.m. Friday.

Read more about this story in tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Andrew DeMillo/The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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