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State Capitol in review

Arkansas is one of two states leading the country in making education data useful and valuable for educators, policymakers and parents. Arkansas is one of the few states that have linked data systems for K-12, higher education and the workforce to ensure students are prepared for college and careers. The state also stands out for requiring teacher preparation programs to provide training in the use and analysis of student data.

There is a lot of valuable information on the state department of education website for anyone interested in the school system. The site is www.arkansased.org. Check it out.

The legislature will meet in a fiscal session beginning in February. The main purpose of it is to approve budgets for state government for the following year. Legislators will finalize spending requests for state agencies, public schools and state supported institutions of higher education. Those requests will be approved in budgets for Fiscal Year 2015 which begins July 1, 2014.

A non-budget bill can only be brought up in the fiscal session if the sponsor gets a resolution accepted by two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate. The resolution must be filed on the first day of the fiscal session to be considered. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said that legislation will likely be introduced during the fiscal session that would clarify laws under which schools can train staff and allow more public school employees to carry firearms on campus. Right now the state board that licenses private security firms has voted to allow 13 school districts to train and arm staff, under permits that expire in two years.

Another issue that possibly will be considered is a change to Arkansas’ death penalty procedures. Current law is for the state to use lethal injection to execute inmates convicted of capital murder. However, the Arkansas Correction Department. no longer has supplies of the lethal drugs that are supposed to be used under state law and the state in in several lawsuits filed by death row inmates.

The legislature may consider a change in laws governing parolees. There have been discussions among lawmakers and law enforcement authorities about making it a criminal offense for a parolee to avoid supervision for more than 180 days. Due to pressure from legislators, parole officers are acting under stricter rules and hundreds of parolees are back behind bars for rules violations that previously did not trigger a return to jail.

There may be an attempt during the session to change the new “private option” law that was enacted earlier this year to implement federal health care reform. Arkansas’ method of implementing the federal health care law is unique in how it relies on private sector insurance companies rather than on an expansion of existing government programs.

Wishing each of you a very Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the food, fun, football and shopping but be sure to remember to thank God for all of our many blessings in this country. I am so thankful for my family, friends, this country and the opportunity to serve this district. Thank you.

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

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