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Arkansas Capitol Almanac

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 16, 2013 at 7:11 pm •  Published: April 16, 2013


Arkansas governor signs bill rewriting school choice law struck down by federal judge

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe has approved new rules for how students may transfer from one school district to another to replace a law that a federal judge tossed out last year.

Beebe on Tuesday signed into law a measure that removes race as the factor governing transfer decisions. A federal judge struck down the 1989 law last year — saying it was unconstitutional for Arkansas to use race as the only factor in determining whether students are allowed to transfer.

The bill by Republican Sen. Johnny Key allows students to change school districts as long as the transfer doesn't violate a court desegregation order. It also limits the number of transfers at 3 percent of a district's average daily membership. The law takes effect immediately and expires in July 2015.


Arkansas House approves 2 percent increase in per-student funding to state's public schools

The Arkansas House has approved increasing the per-student funding public schools receive from the state by 2 percent.

The House voted 92-0 Tuesday to approve the bill that would increase the per-student funding amount schools receive from $6,267 to $6,393 next school year. The following year, the per-student amount would increase to $6,521 under the legislation.

The measure would cost the state about $58 million additionally each year. The proposal now heads to the Senate.

A legislative committee last year recommended that Arkansas increase per-student funding between 1.8 percent and 2.5 percent. The recommendation was part of a report that the Legislature is required by law to issue to define what it costs to provide an adequate education.


Arkansas Legislature gives final approval to $125 million in funding for new steel mill

Arkansas is set to provide a new steel company with $125 million in financing and tax breaks to build a mill in the northeast part of the state now that the Legislature has given final approval to the plan.

By an 81-9 vote, House lawmakers on Tuesday passed a Senate-approved budget bill to fund Gov. Mike Beebe's proposal to provide Big River Steel with a loan and pay some construction costs of a $1.1 billion steel mill the company wants to build in Osceola. In exchange, the company promises to create at least 525 permanent jobs with an average annual wage of at least $75,000 — twice the state's average.

Big River Steel has said it wants to close the deal in the third quarter of this year.


Ark. lawmakers refer to voters proposed constitutional amendment on agency rule-approval

Arkansas voters will decide next year whether the state Legislature should have the final say over the administrative rules of state agencies.

The House voted 88-0 Tuesday to refer to voters a measure that would give lawmakers the ability to require that agencies' administrative rules receive legislative approval before taking effect.

The Senate approved the measure last week, and the proposed constitutional amendment will now be placed on the 2014 ballot.

The Legislature can place on the ballot up to two more proposed constitutional amendments.

A legislative committee on Monday rejected a proposed amendment to ban corporate campaign contributions and most gifts from lobbyists. The Senate last week rejected a measure that would have made it harder for people to get their proposals on the ballot.