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Teacher health insurance rates up in the air

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - According to Governor Mike Beebe, the state legislature is at a standstill regarding teacher health insurance. There are just 15 days left for the state to boost funding for the program. Without it, insurance rates for teachers will double on January 1.

Beebe said he won't call a special session to discuss the increases until there is enough legislative support to pass the proposed bills. He said a special session could last for weeks and cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. So before calling one, it's important to ensure support.

The House has 77 of 75 required votes, but a lack of votes in the Senate is holding things up. It's a few votes short of the required three-fourths vote.

Beebe said rushing a decision isn't ideal, but since the insurance hikes take effect January 1, there's no other option.

Lawmakers look at teacher insurance proposals

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas House and Senate leaders are measuring support for a package of bills that would increase state funding to teacher insurance and overhaul the program to avoid rate hikes of up to 50 percent thousands of teachers will face next year next year.

House and Senate members on Friday received a list of bills that are being proposed for a potential special session to address the looming rate hikes. Gov. Mike Beebe has said he won't call lawmakers back to the Capitol unless there's consensus for the changes.

The proposals would lower the rate hike teachers face next year to 10 percent, with $43 million in surplus money being used to alleviate the hike next year. Ongoing funding would come from general revenue and redirecting other state funds.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

"Drawing a Line: 30 Years of Cartoons & Illustrations by John Deering" at Thea, Oct 4 - 18

"Drawing a Line:  30 Years of Cartoons & Illustrations by John Deering" at Thea, Oct 4 - 18

The Thea Foundation is happy to host a retrospective exhibition by one of central Arkansas’s most recognized names.  “Drawing a Line:  30 Years of Cartoons and Illustrations by John Deering” will be on display in the Thea Gallery from October 4 - 18, kicking off with an opening reception the evening of October 4 from 7:00 to 9:00pm.  Visitors will enjoy heavy hors d’oeuvres and libations, and get the chance to meet the artist himself.  

Sen. Pryor trying to expand broadband services for families, businesses

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Senator Mark Pryor spoke on the significance of internet in the community Monday as part of his efforts to expand broadband services for families and businesses.

Pryor said he wants to make sure that Arkansas does not get left behind in the technology world.

"If we're not careful, what can happen is the tale of two Americas. You'll have urban and suburban American, which will have the latest and the greatest of everything, and then rural America will be left behind with second or third rate technology. We don't want that to happen," he explained.

Pryor said its important Congress doesn't stifle competition between companies because competition breeds innovation, and it's the competitive factor that works in the consumer's favor.

Clarksville teachers won't go back with guns

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A plan to arm a group of teachers and staff at the Clarksville School District faced another setback Wednesday, after the Arkansas Board of Private Investigators and Private Security Agencies ruled to suspend the district's ability to train and arm staff.

The seven member board cites Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's ruling that school districts cannot be considered private security firms. Previously, the board authorized Clarksville and 12 other school districts to become private firms, so they could legally arm and train teachers and staff.

"At this point, we're gonna stand down with that program, and we're gonna allow the process to take place," said Clarksville Superintendent David Hopkins.

Now the board will schedule hearings for each of the teachers and staff members already trained through the program.

Hutchinson calls for phased-in cut of income tax

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Republican gubernatorial hopeful Asa Hutchinson is calling for a phased-in reduction of Arkansas' income tax, embracing a tax cut approach he once criticized.

Hutchinson told members of the Political Animals Club on Tuesday that Arkansas' income tax is too high and hurts the state from competing with its neighbors. Hutchinson proposed phasing in a reduction of an income tax over time, but declined to say how much of a cut he's proposing.

Hutchinson later told reporters that he didn't believe a phased-in income tax cut approved by lawmakers earlier this year went far enough.

During his unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 2006, Hutchinson criticized Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe's plan to phase in a reduction of the state's sales tax on groceries rather than eliminating it outright.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Lawmakers addressing confusion over home-school, extra-curricular activities

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Confusion over a law regarding extra-curricular activities in schools sparked discussion Monday at the state capitol.

Lawmakers voted to allow home schooled children to take part in interscholastic activities like band, choir and basketball. Not all schools, though, are sure who qualifies. One of the rules are even though you're taught at home, you have to take at least one class a day.

"It's just kind of hit or miss as to what you get if you're a home schooler. If you're in Bentonville, you get a pretty good situation. Somewhere else they may say, 'Well, the law is that you're supposed to take one academic class if the extracurricular activity is not an academic class.' They'll say, 'The law says one, but we're going to require three," explained Jerry Cox, the Family Council president.

Students must also score average or above on standardized tests in math, English, science and social studies.