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Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016
Test scores improving
Posted Tuesday, February 9, at 2:29 PM
Arkansas students who are college bound continued to show improvement on tests that determine whether they need to take remedial courses in order to bring their academics up to college level. If high school graduates do not score 19 or better on the ACT standardized test, they must catch up their first year in college by enrolling in a remedial class. The ACT is the most commonly used college entrance exam for Arkansas schools, and it has components in math, English and reading...

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State Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, February 2, at 10:33 AM

January 29, 2016 LITTLE ROCK - According to the state Education Department, there are eight academic subject areas this school year in which Arkansas has a shortage of licensed teachers. That means qualified teachers and school administrators can take as many as six hours of college level courses to become licensed in those areas, and they will be eligible to receive reimbursements of up to $3,000 from the state Higher Education Department...

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State Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, January 26, at 9:15 AM

LITTLE ROCK - The governor announced his plans to increase highway funding with budget surpluses and transfers from other state sources of revenue. He is expected to call a special session for the legislature to consider the plan. The governor emphasized that the new highway proposal would not raise taxes...

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State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, January 19, at 12:07 PM

LITTLE ROCK - The enormous Powerball prize generated record sales of lottery tickets in Arkansas and increased income for college scholarships. However, legislative leaders said they would take a long term view of the program's finances and be cautious about any attempt to raise scholarship amounts...

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State Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, January 12, at 2:43 PM

LITTLE ROCK - The Secretary of State's office has issued new rules for groups that want to place ballot issues before voters in the November general election. The rules reflect changes enacted by lawmakers in the 2013 legislative session. Not all the provisions were upheld when the Supreme Court ruled in a legal challenge of the 2013 law. The Supreme Court rulings and a few changes made by the legislature in 2015 are also reflected in the new rules...

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Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, January 5, at 11:18 AM

LITTLE ROCK - The legislature will convene in fiscal session on April 13 to approve budgets for state agencies. Traditionally, the Arkansas legislature holds its fiscal sessions in February of even-numbered years. However, in 2015 the legislature moved the 2016 fiscal session to the second Wednesday in April. It also moved the date of the Arkansas primary elections to March 1 of 2016...

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State Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, December 29, at 10:11 AM

LITTLE ROCK - The new year will begin with an extensive review of the single largest state agency, the Department of Human Services. The governor ordered the review, which will be headed by the lieutenant governor and which will examine the organizational structure of the department to determine if any areas lack resources or can be made more efficient. Assessors will keep an eye open for duplication of services...

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Legislature has extremely productive year
Posted Tuesday, December 22, at 9:14 AM

LITTLE ROCK - The legislature had an extremely busy and productive year in 2015. During the regular session early in the year, lawmakers approved a $100 million income tax cut for middle class families. Taxpayers who earn between $21,000 and $75,000 a year will see their rates go down, beginning in 2016. The reduction will be from 6 percent to 5 percent on income between $21,000 and $35,099 and from 7 to 6 percent on income $35,100 and $75,000...

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Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, December 15, at 2:11 PM

December 11, 2015 LITTLE ROCK - When Congress approved a federal highway funding bill, it was good news not only for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department but also for those in numerous states across the country. The measure guarantees federal transportation funding levels for the next five years, so state highway departments can budget for long-term projects. ...

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State adds 109 foster homes
Posted Tuesday, December 8, at 1:47 PM

LITTLE ROCK - Since August the state has added 109 foster homes with space for 232 more children, the governor announced at the dedication of a 33-bed residential home for children in Charleston. The state Division of Children and Family Services has eliminated a backlog of more than 1,200 foster parent inquiries, which is evidence that it is improving its procedures for handling cases. In November, 50 new homes were added, bringing the total number of foster homes in Arkansas to 1,385...

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Internet makes learning more efficient
Posted Tuesday, December 1, at 12:05 PM

LITTLE ROCK - In schools with high speed Internet access, teachers can post photographs and video clips of classroom projects online, where parents can see what their children are doing. Students with access to broadband don't have to miss class time when winter weather turns bad. They can do lessons that have been specifically assigned for snow days...

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State Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, November 24, at 3:07 PM

November 20, 2015 LITTLE ROCK - More than $703,000 in loans to about 800 former college students in Arkansas will be forgiven under a global settlement between state attorneys general, the federal Justice and Education Departments and the nation's second largest for-profit higher education company...

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State Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, November 17, at 2:57 PM

LITTLE ROCK - More than 249,000 veterans live in Arkansas and more than 106,000 of them are older than 65. The state's second long-term care facility for veterans is scheduled to open in North Little Rock at the end of 2016. Ground was broken in late July and in August the facility received a $15.6 million grant from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs. State funding will also go for construction, which is budgeted to cost about $24 million...

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Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, November 10, at 2:02 PM

LITTLE ROCK - The deadline is approaching for the Governor's Working Group on Highway Funding to formalize its list of ideas on how to generate revenue for highway and bridge projects. The group has been working since June, and its goal has been to come up with funding options that would raise about $160 million a year. Of that total, cities and counties would each receive 15 percent, which is the traditional distribution formula in Arkansas for highway revenues...

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State Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, November 3, at 1:45 PM

LITTLE ROCK - With the support of Senate and House leadership, a legislative committee voted to begin the complex process of providing broadband Internet access to all areas of Arkansas. The President Pro Tem of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives urged the Joint Committee on Advanced Communications and Information Technology to accelerate work on a statewide plan. ...

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Questions arise on inmate executions
Posted Tuesday, October 27, at 1:20 PM

LITTLE ROCK - The Arkansas Supreme Court has issued a stay of execution for eight inmates on death row. The Supreme Court order answered at least one legal question: it clarified that a circuit court judge cannot stay the execution of an inmate. That power is reserved for the Supreme Court, the governor and in certain circumstance the Department of Correction...

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Specialized training on the rise
Posted Tuesday, October 20, at 2:35 PM

LITTLE ROCK - Job training in Arkansas is aligning more closely with the needs of companies seeking to hire workers equipped with skills for the global economy. Two developments in state government last week were clear indicators of the trend. First, the Department of Workforce Services announced that 12 community colleges would receive about $4 million in grants to set up job training programs that are "sector-based."...

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State exports drop by 4.1 percent
Posted Tuesday, October 13, at 9:26 AM

LITTLE ROCK - The value of produces exported by Arkansas companies went down by 4.1 percent last year, but the long-term trend for exports remains positive. In 2014 Arkansas sent $6.9 billion worth of goods to overseas markets. That is a drop from the previous year, when Arkansas exports totaled $7.2 billion. However, it was 30.2 percent above 2009. More than 50,000 jobs in Arkansas are in industries that export products to foreign markets...

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State Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, October 6, at 12:47 PM

LITTLE ROCK - The recidivism rate for state prisoners in Arkansas is going up. The recidivism rate measures the percentage of released inmates who get in trouble and return to prison. The state Correction Department, which operates prison units, released a report on recidivism last week indicating that the three-year recidivism rate had increased by five percentage points, from about 43 percent to about 48 percent...

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State Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, September 29, at 2:58 PM

LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas has numerous apprenticeship programs, and the first one that focuses on information technology has been set up by the state Department of Workforce Services. The department launched the program with the Arkansas Apprenticeship Coalition, which has 75 locations around the state and works with more than 2,000 companies that train people as apprentices...

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State Capital Week in Review
By Senator David Burnett
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