Tuesday, March 13, 2018
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Latest on the start of the Legislature's special session (all times local):
A panel of the Arkansas House has approved a bill imposing limits on how and when people can raise challenges to farms that hold special permits to discharge liquid animal waste.
Rep. Jeff Wardlaw said the bill was needed to protect bankers who lend money to farmers. The Republican lawmaker from Hermitage told the House Public Health Committee on Tuesday that allowing a series of lawsuits over issues raised in public comment periods put the farmers' investments at risk.
Environmentalists said they fear lawmakers want to disrupt their fight against a hog farm located near the Buffalo National River in northern Arkansas. They said they would give the benefit of the doubt, for now, to lawmakers but promised a challenge later if the hog farm tried to use the proposed law to ward off challenges.
Arkansas lawmakers opened a special session Tuesday. They will also look at reimbursement rates for pharmacists under state-run health insurance programs, among other things.
An Arkansas House panel has advanced a proposal to allow what are known as 529 college savings funds to be withdrawn for K-12 education expenses, including at private and religious schools.
The House Education Committee on Tuesday endorsed the proposal, which is aimed at mirroring a change in federal law that was included in the tax overhaul. Supporters say the change is needed to ensure Arkansans don't face state tax penalties if they withdraw the funds for those purposes.
Opponents have raised concerns about the impact the move will have on the state's finances, citing an estimate that it could cost Arkansas as much as $5.2 million a year.
A dispute over the change had temporarily stalled the state treasurer's budget during the fiscal session last week.
The proposal now heads to the full House.
Arkansas lawmakers are meeting at the Capitol this week to take up pharmacy reimbursement rates, highway funding and several other issues.
The House and Senate convened Tuesday for a special session, the day after the Legislature formally adjourned this year's fiscal session.
The top item on the agenda is a proposal to regulate pharmacy benefit managers. Lawmakers are also considering changes to the state's open container law that officials say is needed to protect highway funding and a proposal to allow college savings funds be withdrawn for K-12 education expenses.
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