Assembly Over, Budget/Ed Plans MIA

April 17, 2003
Posted at: 6:00 p.m. CDT

BROOKLAND, Ark. -- The 84th Arkansas General Assembly came to a close Wednesday night, but was anything actually acomplished?

After a 94-day session, legislators still do not have a budget to carry the state through the next two fiscal years or a plan to improve education, but they did agree to forward voters a contituional amendment to extend legislative term limits.

After repeated attemps in the Wednesday night, the house came up two votes short of the two-thirds majority vote needed to keep the biennial Assembly in session. Special legislative sessions must now be called by Governor Mike Huckabee to finalize a budget before June 30, and find solutions to the state school funding crisis by January 1.

"I do not sense that this legislature is not walking away from it's responsibility or that it is shirking it's duties," Huckabee said Thursday. "It will get it's job done, and I think it will get it done in a much better atmosphere than we were experiencing in the last few days of the session."

While no solutions were found for the education issues of consolidation and funding, legislators did approve an education standards bill. The bill would grant the state board of education new powers to close underperforming schools. Republican representative Mary Beth Green of Van Buren introduced the only significant education reform bill to become law this session.

"(People are) gonna have to have faith in us, and we're not irresponsible," Green said. "I'm sure they're disappointed in what we've done this session, and maybe a little nervous that we're not gonna come through. But we are, we're all dedicated to the kids, our focus has been the children."

In Region 8, administrators like Brookland Superintendent Gene Goza want resolutions on the education issues facing the state. But he believes this delay in decision making is in the best interest of school districts statewide.

"With the amount of disagreement, maybe some people woke up," Goza said. "Maybe they will take a deeper look into the education system, maybe that will be a positive thing to come out of it."