Senate panel rejects birth-certificate bill

LITTLE ROCK — A Senate committee on Monday rejected a bill to allow same-sex couples to have both spouses’ names listed on their children’s birth certificates without seeking a court order.

The only Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Will Bond, D-Little Rock, moved to give a “do pass” recommendation to Senate Bill 580 by Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, but the motion died for lack of a second.

The bill would remove gender-specific language from a state law governing whose names are to appear on the birth certificate of a child born by the means of artificial insemination and surrogacy.

Elliott said the bill would bring Arkansas in line with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling that legalized gay marriage nationwide. Arkansas is the only state requiring same-sex couples to seek a court order to have both spouses’ names listed on their children’s birth certificates, she said.

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House OKs funding for Medicaid expansion

LITTLE ROCK — With no debate, the House voted 77-2 Monday to approve House Bill 1284 by the Joint Budget Committee, a $100 million appropriation of state and federal Medicaid money for the state’s Medicaid expansion program, formerly known as the private option and now known as Arkansas Works.

As an appropriation bill, the measure required a three-fourths vote, or 75 votes in the 100-member House, to pass.

The federal government is paying 95 percent of the program’s cost in the current calendar year. Under the Affordable Care Act, the state’s share of the cost of the program — which provides subsidized private health insurance to more than 300,000 Arkansans — will increase gradually to a maximum of 10 percent by 2020.

The bill goes to the Senate.

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House approves bill to cap schools’ carryover funds

LITTLE ROCK — The House voted 52-29 Monday to approve a bill to require public school districts with large carryover fund balances to reduce those balances.

House Bill 1575 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, which the House rejected previously, initially failed again Monday, but the House later adopted a motion for consideration and then passed the bill.

Under the bill, if a school district’s net fund balance at the end of a fiscal year is greater than 20 percent of its net revenues for that year, the district would be required to reduce its balance to no more than 20 percent of revenue within five years.

The district would be required to reduce the balance by 20 percent of the total required reduction each year. The bill suggests using the excess money on programs such as pre-kindergarten education, remediation or career and technical education.

The bill goes to the Senate.

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House OKs bill to use Internet sales tax revenue on highways

LITTLE ROCK — The voted 56-25 Monday to approve a bill to direct to highway needs a portion of sales tax revenue from out-of-state sellers with no physical presence in Arkansas.

House Bill 2085 by Rep. Johnny Rye, R-Trumann, initially failed, but the House later adopted a motion to reconsider and then passed the bill. The bill goes to the Senate.

Amazon said earlier this year it would voluntarily begin collecting sales taxes on purchases in Arkansas. A bill currently stalled in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee would require other online sellers to collect sales taxes as well.

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Attempt to revive highway bill fails

LITTLE ROCK — An attempt in the House to revive a highway funding bill that the chamber previously rejected was unsuccessful Monday.

Rep. Dan Douglas, R-Bentonville, asked the House to expunge the March 14 vote by which House Bill 1726 failed. The bill would place a proposed 20-year bond issue for highways on the November 2018 ballot.

The motion to expunge the earlier vote received 63 votes in support and 19 votes against. Expunging a vote requires a two-thirds vote, or 67 votes in the 100-member House.