Arkansas Lawmakers Anticipate Teacher Insurance Special Session

Arkansas Lawmakers Anticipate Teacher Insurance Special Session

Members of the Arkansas General Assembly say they believe enough support exists to allow Governor Mike Beebe to call a special session addressing rising teacher insurance premiums.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - (KARK) Members of the Arkansas General Assembly say they believe enough support exists to allow Governor Mike Beebe to call a special session addressing rising teacher insurance premiums.

House Education committee chair Rep. James McLean, D-Batesville, said Monday he is "counting votes" to make sure support in the House exceeds the 75% needed to pass legislation in a potential special session.

"My goal is to have close to 85 members saying they support it," McLean said Monday.

Beebe gave lawmakers a Tuesday deadline to indicate whether sufficient support exits to call only the second special session of his tenure as governor.

"They're telling me they think they're getting there," Beebe says. "We'll see. They're trying to line up where the votes are because I've got to be satisfied the votes are there before I'll call a session."

Premiums for educators on the public school employee insurance plan are set to increase 48%, or more than $500 a month for some members, effective January 1st.

Beebe says he will only call a special session if a short and long term solution is agreed upon beforehand.

The short term solution proposed includes $43 million in one-time state surplus money to lower the premium increase in 2014 to only 10% for those participating in the plan.

The long term solution includes five pieces of draft legislation that call for increased funding annually but also structural changes to the plan to encourage a greater percentage of public school employees participating.

"Right now we're right around 60% participation," McLean says. "That's not enough, we need about 75% of the employees in the plan."

It's possible that public school employees will know the exact details of the deal before the special session happens.

McLean says he's working with colleagues to get a feel when the most lawmakers can be in Little Rock for a minimum three day special session.

"We need to make the schedules mesh but for a special session, I just have to believe people will make time to be here," McLean says. "This is an important issue, everyone that's going to support it, needs to be here to vote on it."
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