Special Session Wraps Up After 5 Days - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Jonesboro, AR -- Gia Hill Reports

Special Session Wraps Up After 5 Days

March 8, 2006 -- 6:50 PM CST


JONESBORO, AR -- The special session that was called by Governor Huckabee came to a close Friday, and Arkansas legislators approved five bills.


Legislators met in Little Rock, AR, to discuss educational funding.  They agreed to boost public school aid by $132.5 million.


Representative Chris Thyer said that he hopes the additional fuding will make a difference.


"Putting $132.2 million into the public school fund will be an enormous benefit to all of the schools and all of the kids in n ortheast Arkansas," said Thyer.


Some of the money will be used to ensure that teachers accross the state are equally paid.


"You've got schools in northwest Arkansas where teachers' salaries are $45,000 a year, and schools in the Delta…we've got to raise them up and get everyone onto an even hill," said Thyer.


While education was the initial focal point of the session, smoking was a hot-topic too.


"Seventy percent of all businesses in the state of A rkansas currently already ban smoking in their workplace," said Thyer.


The "A rkansas Clean Indoor Air Act" made it official---no smoking in the workplace, and restaurants are included.


Thyer said that the smoking ban is exactly what the state needed to crackdown on healthcare costs.


"We will save approximately half a million dollars a year in health costs alone...just in C raighead County," he said.


Lawmakers also agreed to increase minimum wage.    Starting October 1, employees can earn $6.25 an hour instead of $5.15 an hour.


"Helping to raise the minimum wage is something I'm proud of said Thyer.   "I think that it helps the poorest among us by raising it up.”


A bill was also passed banning protesters from gathering at military funerals, and there will be tougher penalties for tracking sex offenders too.



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