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State Capitol in review - March 19, 2014

Legislators talked last week about looking at different ideas during the 2015 session on how school districts make up for snow days. The Arkansas Board of Education has received requests from 75 school districts and charter schools asking for make up waivers and will consider these during the Thusday and Friday meeting.

The legislature finished the fiscal session last Wednesday after 31 days, but will meet this week for the ceremonial end of the session and the House will select a speaker designate for the 2015 regular session. The budget plan increases state spending by $109 million with the largest amounts going toward public schools, human services programs and prisons. During the session the private option measure was passed. This will allow Arkansas to accept $915 million in federal aid to spend on health care.

A federal judge struck down the ban on most abortions at 12 weeks, saying that viability, not heartbeat, remains the key factor in determining when an abortion should not be allowed. The judge left the part of the law that required a doctor to check for a heartbeat and tell the woman if there is one detected. The act basically had said that at 12 weeks or after, if a doctor detected a heartbeat, he could not perform an abortion.

The Arkansas Trauma System, which the legislature authorized through an act in 2009, saves more than 200 lives and $237 million a year, according to the most recent health department update. The trauma system ensures that accident victims are taken as soon as possible to a hospital that can best address their needs. That is not always the nearest hospital. Now, ambulances are connected with the statewide trauma system through modern communications technology and technicians know immediately whether they should bypass the nearest hospital and transport the victim to a hospital that may be further away but one which has a higher level of care. To date 70 hospitals are participating and 114 emergency medical services.

The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission has scheduled five public meetings across the state to update the public on proposed changes in the state water plan, which was last revised in 1990. The nearest ones to here, will be in Russellville and one in Fayetteville. You can visit their web site for more information. It is www.arwaterplan.arkansas.gov.

If you would like to contact me, email me at bruce.holland@senate.ar.gov, call the office at (479) 650-1884 or write me at P.O. Box 2387, Greenwood, AR 72936.

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