Beebe: Votes Short For Arkansas Teacher Insurance Fix

Oct 15, 2013

Gov. Beebe speaking to reporters at the Capitol Tuesday afternoon.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Governor Mike Beebe says for now he won’t call a special session of the legislature to address a 50 percent hike in public school employee insurance premiums. As KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman reports Beebe says the votes from legislators just weren’t there.

Governor Beebe had a preliminary vote count for both chambers of the legislature. He said with 77 votes, the House has the three fourths vote required for legislation to pass, but the Senate is a couple votes short. Beebe said there’s support for a short term fix, capping premium increases at 10 percent, by using state surplus funds and money from school districts but there’s less support for proposed long term fixes. He said it needs to be sorted before a special session is called.

“I was here when other Governor’s have called special sessions without having it decided beforehand. You end up spending 25, 30 days and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars while everybody just argues about something with no consensus on it. That’s not what a special session should be like,” said Beebe.

However, Republican leader Bruce Cozart of Hot Springs said he’d like to see disagreements over long term funding settled by bringing lawmakers together.

“I can only speak from the Republican side, of our caucus. There was a lot of debate about this yesterday [Monday]. Most everybody’s on board but there’s still some issues that need to be discussed. I think everybody’s ready to have a session and then put this on the table and discuss it in committees,” said Cozart.

Cozart said the proposed long term fix using funds from eight school districts meeting minimum funding requirements per student without the full collection of property taxes is objectionable to some of his colleagues. He said at this point they don’t yet have an alternative solution.

Governor Beebe said the issue is time sensitive because school districts need to prepare their staff for available options.

“They’ve got to get the notices out for the public school employees to be able to choose a plan. They’ve got to do that by the 1st of November. They’ve got to have a couple weeks to prepare the materials,” said Beebe.

Beebe says he has no timetable for legislators but he’s willing to call a special session immediately in the event of a legislative consensus.

Jacob Kauffman, KUAR News