January 13, 2003
Posted at: 12:35 p.m. CDT
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The state Legislature has begun its regular session.
The 84th General Assembly began with a prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem.
House parliamentarian Tim Massanelli called the session into order.
Education is at the top of the agenda -- but it may be a while before legislators know how much money they have to put forth. The state Supreme Court ordered a study on how public school funding should be increased and distributed fairly. That will have to occur before legislators can put a plan into place.
Many legislators are new to the House and Senate, and numerous experienced lawmakers were turned out because of term limits.
New Senate President Pro Tem Jim Hill of Nashville says he hopes legislators will remain focused. He says the Legislature has to watch the budget while keeping education a priority.
As for a possible tax increase, Hill says money will have to come from somewhere if legislators put additional revenue into education.
Secretary of State Sharon Priest certified the 2002 election results for both chambers, clearing the way for legislators to take their oaths of office.
Senator Tim Wooldridge of Paragould says today marks a unique opportunity for legislators to improve education. But Wooldridge cautions that legislators must be methodical in working out the details of an education plan.
Wooldridge says Arkansans could wind up paying higher taxes, but that decision would likely come late in the session.