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Governor calls special session

Gov. Mike Beebe issued a call Tuesday to bring the Arkansas General Assembly into a special session to provide funding that will open more inmate beds and improve the viability of the Public School Employee Life and Health Insurance Program. The special session will begin at 4 p.m. Monday, June 30.

The call includes bills that, if approved, will do the following:

- Provide ongoing revenue to open about 600 additional beds in Department of Correction facilities and the Pulaski County Jail

- Eliminate part-time employees from eligibility to participate in the Public School Employee Life and Health Insurance Program

- Adjust the composition of the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Board and its subcommittees, modify the definition of and require verification of “dependents,” require that some participants establish health savings accounts, require the board to identify FICA savings within districts for potential employee premium assistance, and limit coverage for the treatment of morbid obesity and bariatric surgeries.

The above changes to the Public School Employee Life and Health Insurance Program resulted from study and analysis undertaken by a legislative task force created for this specific purpose last October during another special session.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Mike Beebe said Monday the governor believes there is enough legislative support for proposed measures on teachers’ insurance and prison overcrowding to call a special session, but discussions on whether to include a third issue were continuing.

“Lottery is the holdup right now. There’s still disagreement between the House and Senate on whether the session should include an effort to prevent the state lottery from adding monitor games,” Beebe spokeswoman Stacey Hall said.

House and Senate leaders were polling members last week about proposals that seek to avoid large increases in public school teachers’ insurance premiums and make 600 additional prison beds available. They said the polling showed majorities supported both proposed measures in each chamber, but a third proposal that would ban the lottery from offering monitor games had strong support in the Senate only.

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