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This time next year everyone will have to purchase health insurance

The session ended this week unless the leaders call the legislature back before May 17th correct errors or to over-ride vetoes by the Governor. May 17th is the official final day of the session. After that the only way for the legislature to convene again before 2014 is for the Governor to call a special session. On the final day the Governor vetoed 3 election law bills. Earlier in the session the legislature overrode the veto of other bills and it is not decided if they will come back in during the remaining time. I talked about many of the tax reductions measures last week. They include cuts in income tax rates, capital gains taxes, the sales tax paid on energy by manufacturers and income taxes paid by military members.

Under the new federal health care reform act, next year everyone will have to purchase health insurance. Companies would have to offer health insurance if they employ more than 50 workers, or else pay a fine. Large employers that do not offer health insurance benefits may have to pay a fine of up to $2000 for each employee who gets a tax credit to buy coverage on the exchange. The first 30 employees would not be counted against them. Arkansas is going to be allowed to use its Medicaid expansion dollars to help people buy coverage through health exchanges, if their income is too much to make them Medicaid eligible but less than 138% of the federal poverty level. Many businesses supported the private option because they will not be penalized if their employees qualify for the private option and use it to purchase health insurance through the new health care exchanges that will be set up under the Affordable Care act. There will be 250,000 Arkansans that did not have health care that are going to have it now.

In Education: Act 1227 allows student transfers with the restriction that transfers may not violate a federal desegregation order that is still being enforced and the student transferring is responsible for transportation. Act 600 changes the maximum amount of time that a school or district can be in fiscal distress, academic distress or facilities distress to five years. Act 234 changes Lottery scholarship amounts so that they are now graduated. Freshmen at a 4 year university who qualify would receive $2000, as sophomores they would get $3,000 then juniors $4000 and $5,000 as seniors. Act. 696 simplifies the on line school report cards that schools are given for their performance. The school will be given grades from A to F. This prevents schools from hiding their failures behind a lot of complex language. Act 227 allows private colleges to set up their own security office with their officers allowed to attend the Law Enforcement Training Academy.

I will continue to tell you acts that were passed during the session in later issues. If you would like to view all the acts go the the legislative website at www.arkleg.state.ar.us. To contact me please email me at bruce.holland@senate.ar.gov or call me at 650-1884 or write me at P.O. Box 2387 Greenwood AR> 72936.

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