An Arkansas legislative committee has advanced a bill to use state surplus funds to lower an increase in teacher insurance premiums that are to hit next year.
The Joint Budget Committee on Thursday endorsed the proposal to use $43 million from the surplus to lower the premium which otherwise would increase by as much as 50 percent. The proposal is the centerpiece of a package of bills aimed at reducing the premium increase.
The surplus money and redirected surplus funds in subsequent years is expected to lower the premium increase to 10 percent.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is offering a $119 million settlement to three districts involved in a long-running school desegregation case.
In a letter Thursday, McDaniel said any settlement must involve the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County districts.
Arkansas pays about $70 million annually to the districts under a 1989 agreement. The offer was in response to a proposed settlement McDaniel recently received from Little Rock to phase out its payments in either a $297 million lump sum or $42.4 million a year for seven years.
Competing proposals have been filed in the state Legislature over the state's efforts to reclaim excess property tax revenues from a handful of Arkansas school districts.
Two bills were filed Thursday over the property tax issue, which is on the agenda for the special session Gov. Mike Beebe called to address a looming hike in teacher insurance rates.
Democratic Sen. Bruce Maloch filed a proposal backed by Beebe that would phase out the excess money eight districts receive from levying the state-mandated property tax millage. The money would go back to the state.
The Little Rock Zoo will kick off its annual "Boo at the Zoo" attraction this weekend to provide Halloween-themed entertainment to families in central Arkansas.
A longtime tradition, the event features live music, carousel rides, a haunted house and a safe trick-or-treating environment for children and teenagers. The all-ages celebration also has a number of new attractions this year, including an event in which kids can trick-or-treat for toys as an alternative to candy and other sugar-filled snacks.
Members of Arkansas's congressional delegation supported legislation to reopen the federal government and avoid a threatened national default.
The House voted 285-144 in support of the bill Wednesday night. Republican U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford, Tim Griffin and Steve Womack voted for the measure.
After the House vote, Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said he reluctantly supported it. It passed the U.S. Senate 81-18 on Wednesday night with the support of Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor and Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, according to the Senate's website.