Education Bills On Legislative Agenda

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 80 views 

The seventh week of the Arkansas General Assembly will likely feature several education bills up for discussion, ranging from Common Core and workforce training as well as the state commission that funds college scholarships.

The legislature adjourned Thursday and cancelled sessions Friday due to winter weather around the state.

A session was also postponed Monday (Feb. 16) due to the weather.

On Sunday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Talk Business & Politics host Roby Brock sit down for an in-depth conversation on the governor’s prison reform proposals. Also, Cong. Bruce Westerman discusses his Medicaid reform legislation that could provide flexibility to the Arkansas Legislature if the measure passes.

Tune in Sunday at 9 a.m. on KATV Ch. 7 for Talk Business & Politics. A wrap-up of the news from those two interviews will be online at TalkBusiness.net following the TV program.

The following is a breakdown of expected legislative action during the new week:

MONDAY
The House is expected to take up a bill that would get rid of the state’s lottery commission.

The House Rules Committee approved Senate Bill 7, sponsored by Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana. The bill would abolish the Arkansas Lottery Commission and move the commission’s functions to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

Under the bill, a 12-member legislative committee perform oversight of what the commission now does.

The lottery was approved by voters during the 2008 general election.

The House is also expected to take up a bill to amend state law involving assault and battery against an unborn child.

The House Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to approve House Bill 1376, sponsored by Rep. Nate Bell, R-Mena.

The bill would add “an unborn child in utero at any stage of development” to the law dealing with assault and battery. There are currently protections in the law involving murder.

Bell told the committee that a January ruling by the Arkansas Court of Appeals asked for clarification on the issue.

TUESDAY
The House Education Committee could take up a bill Tuesday that would delay the use of so-called Common Core standards in the state.

The bill, House Bill 1241, is sponsored by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle.

“The State Board of Education shall cease participation and its role as a governing state with the Partnership of Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) no later than May 31, 2015,” Lowery’s bill noted. “The state board may not require the use of the PARCC assessment or participate in a PARCC related activity or event after May 31.”

The bill would also forbid the state board and the Arkansas Department of Education from providing access to student data to “the federal Department of Education, to any of the federal Department of Education’s designated program monitors, technical assistance providers, research partners, government assistance organizations or auditors … without the express written consent of the parent or legal guardian of the student.”

Supporters of the process have said the data allows states and schools to measure student achievement, while opponents have said the process strips away at local control of schools.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has formed a task force to study the issue of Common Core with Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin as the chairman of the panel.

The House Public Transportation Committee is also supposed to take up a bill that would ban the use of handheld wireless devices, including cell phones, while driving a vehicle.

Rep. David Fielding, D-Magnolia, introduced House Bill 1373 on Feb. 5.

Under the bill, a driver would be banned from using the devices on roads. However, the device could be used during an emergency or if the driver has pulled over to the shoulder of the road.

A police officer, firefighter and other emergency personnel are exempt from the law. A person could also be pulled over if an officer sees the person using the device.

If convicted on the misdemeanor offense, a person could face a $50 fine for the first offense, a $150 fine for a second offense within two years and a $200 fine and a suspended license for up to a year for a third offense.

The House Revenue and Taxation Committee may also discuss a bill that would provide tax credits for businesses that hire recently returned combat veterans.

Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, sponsored House Bill 1187. The bill would allow for a $1,500 credit for each veteran hired by a small business among other parts of the bill.

WEDNESDAY
A series of workforce training bills are also on the agenda for the Senate Education Committee Wednesday.

Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, filed Senate Bills 368, 369 and 372 Feb. 13. The bills would revamp the state’s workforce education programs.

Senate Bill 368 would create a statewide workforce development system as well as a 10-member board to develop and monitor a state plan for vocational-technical education.

The board would supervise all vocational, technical and occupational education programs generally in the state, as well as have control over administering the state’s adult education funds.

Senate Bills 369 and 372 would work on administrative issues.

Under the bills, the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board would be removed from deciding service areas for two-year institutions and the service areas would be eliminated.

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