Vouchers, Constitutional Amendments, TESS and Teacher Salaries See Action at the Capitol this Week

Week six at the Capitol saw significant action on education related issues. Vouchers, public education related constitutional amendments, a bill that increases teacher salaries and another that seeks to streamline TESS were all considered by lawmakers. Also this week, the House passed a proposal to wrap up the legislative session on or before April 7. The deadline for lawmakers to file bills is March 6.  As that deadline nears, we anticipate that hundreds of additional bills will be filed. The Senate recessed on Thursday and the House gaveled out on Friday. The Senate will reconvene on Monday and the House will reconvene on Tuesday.

Vouchers

Legislators have filed 3 bills to significantly expand Arkansas’s existing voucher program called the Succeed Scholarship Program. This voucher program allows the parent or guardian of a student on an IEP to apply to receive public funds to pay for a private school for their child. Parents or guardians also must waive their child’s federal civil rights protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to be eligible. This program is managed by a privately funded, third party organization.

The 3 bills that make the Succeed Scholarship Program even worse are:

HB1461 by Rep. Carlton Wing (R) of North Little Rock seeks to allow parents to take the Succeed Scholarship Program voucher to private schools that are unaccredited and not subject to any public oversight.  Parents would still be required to waive their child’s federal civil rights protections under IDEA. AEA executive director, Tracey-Ann Nelson, testified strongly against this legislation which takes public funds and sends our most vulnerable children into unaccredited and unaccountable private schools.  This bill passed both the House Education Committee and the full House this week. It will likely be considered in the Senate Education Committee next week.

HB1056 by Rep. Mark Lowery (R) Maumelle would remove the current requirement that a child must attend a public school for a year prior to becoming eligible for the Succeed Scholarship voucher. Parents would still be required to waive their child’s federal civil rights protections under IDEA.  This bill is currently on the deferred agenda in the House Education Committee.

HB1567 by Rep. Kim Hammer (R) Benton would expand eligibility of the Succeed Scholarship voucher program that takes public funds and sends them to private schools to include children in foster care.

Constitutional Amendments

Also this week, lawmakers considered resolutions that could eventually be referred to the 2018 general election ballot for consideration by Arkansas voters. These resolutions all seek to amend the Arkansas Constitution.  Each legislative session, lawmakers may refer up to 3 of these constitutional amendments to the ballot. Three of the proposals heard this week would significantly harm public education.  They are:

SJR5 by Sen. Alan Clark (R) Lonsdale designates the General Assembly as the sole and exclusive evaluator of whether the state’s public school system satisfied the requirements of the state constitution. This proposal eliminates judicial review from state public school funding issues.

SJR3 and HJR 1005 are Senate and House versions of the same resolution. These resolutions would amend the Constitution to specify that the actions of the General Assembly with regard to the supervision of public schools do not violate the Constitution’s requirement for the state to maintain a public school system and sets up a partnership between the state and local public school districts to fund schools.

All three of these resolutions would significantly undermine the funding safeguards that the Arkansas Supreme Court’s monumental Lake View decision which has served as a critical safeguard to ensuring that schools are adequately funded.  Don’t miss this article detailing the education-related constitutional amendments.

The Senate may advance one proposal and the House may advance one from their respective chambers.  If both chambers agree on an additional measure, they may advance a 3rd constitutional amendment with a 2/3rds vote of each chamber. This week, the Senate chose to not advance either SJR3 or SJR 5, but either proposal could still advance if both chambers approved either with a 2/3rds vote in the weeks to come.

Teacher Evaluation and Support System (TESS)

HB1424 by Rep. DeAnn Vaught (R) Horatio seeks to streamline TESS by making the changes outlined below. AEA testified in support of this bill when it was heard in both the House and Senate Education Committees. It has now been approved by the full House and was approved by the Senate Education Committee this week.  We expect it to be considered by the full Senate next week.

·       Amend summative evaluations.  One overall rating is required for summative evaluations only.  This means no domain level ratings will be required.  All evidence contributes to one overall summative rating.

·       Change formative years to be defined as the 3 years when no summative evaluation is required. Focus on PGP goals and feedback should be based on approved goals.  Support components are aligned system of professional learning opportunities that link PGP and performance.

  • Add novice teacher support which is mentoring support for three years as a novice with no summative evaluation until the fourth year.
  • Remove pre and post observations.
  • Allow school districts to incorporate peer observations and student feedback, if they desire, to contribute to a summative evaluation overall rating.
  • A teacher’s work on NBCT certification may be substituted for all or part of a summative evaluation requirement and/or rating.
  • Create a system that aligns professional support and learning opportunities to link teacher’s professional practice with support for targeted, personalized learning.
  • Make changes to intensive support status so that superintendents may recommend for termination, but it is not required.
  • Remove the requirement for student growth measures to be a separate part of the summative evaluation rating and instead would allow student growth to be part of the data submitted or artifacts considered in a summative rating.  The amendment allows flexibility for districts to use multiple measures for choosing appropriate growth evident.

Teacher Salaries

HB1155 is by Rep. Bruce Cozart (R) Hot Springs. This bill raises the salaries included in all categories of the Teacher Minimum Compensation Schedule by $400. The bill passed the House last week and was approved by the Senate Education Committee this week. It is expected to be considered by the full Senate next week and should head to the Governor’s desk for his approval later in the week. AEA testified in support of this bill.

Tools to advocate for public education

As the legislative session goes into high speed, it’s even more important than ever that you spend some time with AEA’s Educator's Guide to the Capitol:  Creating the Schools Our Students DeserveIt includes information on how to contact legislators, tips on how to be an effective advocate, education committee membership and a guide to the Capitol.

Remember, you may call and leave a message by calling:  

501-682-6211 for your House Representative, or

501-682-2902 for your Senator. 

These messages are a very effective form of advocacy. Legislators receive a stack of phone messages on their desk about various bills. 

Bills AEA is tracking including all new bills this week and retirement bills

HB1208 TO ALLOW A STUDENT WHO ATTENDS A PRIVATE SCHOOL OR A HOME SCHOOL TO ENROLL IN AN ACADEMIC COURSE WITHIN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

Summary: Allows public school districts to adopt policies authorizing private-schooled or home-schooled children in the public school's district to enroll in limited numbers of classes at the public school

Bill Sponsor: Rep. Mark Lowery (R) Maumelle

Status: This bill was signed into law by the Governor this week.

HB1044 TO ALLOW A STUDENT TO CHOOSE WHICH GRADE IN WHICH TO TAKE THE COLLEGE AND CAREER READINESS ASSESSMENT.

Summary: This bill allows a student to decide to take a college and career readiness assessment in either the tenth or eleventh grade. Currently, the law states that any school serving students 10-12th grade must administer this exam before a student graduates from high school.

Bill sponsor: RepFred Allen,(D) Little Rock

Status: This bill has been placed on the active agenda for House Education Committee.

SB27 TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF TEACHERS IN A CRITICAL TEACHER SHORTAGE AREA; AND TO ESTABLISH THE TEACHER CANDIDATE LOAN FORGIVENESS PROGRAM.

Summary: This bill offers $5,000 a year for up to 3 years for students in a degree program that leads to becoming eligible for licensure in a high-needs subject area as identified by ADE.  Program participants must teach in a geographic area identified by ADE as a critical teacher shortage area beginning immediately upon obtaining licensure.  Participants must repay the loans if they fail to meet these obligations. 
Bill sponsor: Sen. Alan Clark (R) Lonsdale

Status: This bill remains on the Senate Education Committee's agenda.

 HB1014 TO CREATE THE TEACHER'S CLASSROOM INVESTMENT DEDUCTION.

Summary: This bill creates a tax deduction for certain items purchased by a teacher for classroom use.

Bill sponsor:  Rep. Greg Leding (D) Fayetteville

Status:  This bill remains on the House Committee on Revenue and Tax’s agenda.

 SB21 TO REQUIRE SPECIFIC ASSESSMENTS TO BE SUCCESSFULLY PASSED IN ORDER TO OBTAIN AN ELEMENTARY-LEVEL GENERAL TEACHING LICENSE OR ELEMENTARY-LEVEL SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHING LICENSE.

Summary:  This bill would require that people seeking elementary-level general teaching license or elementary level special education licensure take the Foundations of Reading Test and the General Curriculum Test of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure, including the mathematics subtest, and submit the scores to ADE.

Bill sponsor: Bill sponsor:  Sen. Alan Clark (R) Lonsdale

Status:  This bill remains on the Senate Education Committee's agenda.

 HB1029 TO EXCLUDE PRINCIPALS, ASSISTANT PRINCIPALS, AND CENTRAL OFFICE EMPLOYEES WITH A MULTIYEAR EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT FROM THE DEFINITION OF "TEACHER" UNDER THE TEACHER FAIR DISMISSAL ACT OF 1983.

Summary: This bill seeks to exclude central office staff, principals and assistant principals with a multiyear contract from the definition of teacher under the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act.

Bill sponsor:  Rep. Mark Lowrey (R) Maumelle. 

Status:  This bill remains on the House Education Committee's deferred agenda.

SB26 TO INCREASE TEACHERS IN HIGH NEEDS SUBJECT AREAS; AND TO PROVIDE ENHANCED ARKANSAS ACADEMIC CHALLENGE SCHOLARSHIPS FOR TEACHERS WHO AGREE TO TEACH IN THE HIGH NEEDS SUBJECT AREAS.

Summary: This bill seeks to allow for a student who has already received the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship to receive an enhanced award of $5,000 if the recipient is classified as a junior, another enhanced award of $5,000 if the recipient is classified as a senior, maintains a GPA of 3.25, is enrolled in a teacher education program and agrees to teach in a high-needs subject area as determined by ADE for a minimum of 5 years.  The total amount cannot exceed $10,000.  The recipient must repay the amount if they do not seek licensure in a high-needs subject area and begin employment in the high needs subject area in the recipient's first year after licensure.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Alan Clark (R) Lonsdale. 

Status:  This bill remains on the Senate Education Committee's agenda.

 HB1002 TO REGULATE EQUIPMENT REQUIRED FOR SCHOOL BUSES; TO REQUIRE THAT CERTAIN SCHOOL BUSES BE EQUIPPED WITH SEAT BELTS; AND TO ENFORCE THE USE OF SEAT BELTS ON SCHOOL BUSES EQUIPPED WITH SEAT BELTS.

Summary: This bill seeks to require new school buses purchased on or after Jan.1 2018 to be equipped with seat belts or restraint systems. Exceptions include physical disability, medical reasons, or emergency situations. The bill would also allow a school district to implement a disciplinary policy to enforce seatbelt use.  It also allows for the school district to seek a local property tax increase to purchase, install or maintain seatbelts if 10% of the school district's qualified electors sign a petition to do so.

Bill Sponsor: Rep. Mark McElroy (D) Tillar

Status: This bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee for consideration.

 HB1017 TO ALLOW THE TEACHER FAIR DISMISSAL ACT OF 1983 TO BE WAIVED IF A PUBLIC SCHOOL OR PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT IS UNDER STATE AUTHORITY AFTER BEING CLASSIFIED AS BEING IN DISTRESS.

Summary:  This bill seeks to waive the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act for school districts that have been taken over by the State for academic or fiscal distress.

Bill Sponsor:  Bruce Cozart (R) Hot Springs.

Status:  This bill remains on the House Education Committee's deferred agenda.

 HB1019 TO AMEND THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE SCHOOL LEADERSHIP COORDINATING COUNCIL.

Summary:  This bill adds 2 members to the School Leadership Coordinating Council.  The two additional members proposed are the Chair of the House Education Committee and the Chair of the Senate Education Committee.  It also allows these 2 legislative members to be paid per diem and mileage as members of the General Assembly.

 Bill sponsor:  Rep Bruce Cozart (R) Hot Springs

Status:  This bill has passed the House and Senate Education Committee and is expected to be considered by the full Senate next week.

 HB1022

TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING SCHOOL DISTRICT WAIVERS.

Summary: This is only a shell bill, but it seeks to amend Act 1240 of 2015 to allow school districts that have lost one or more students to a charter school to petition the State Board of Education to grant any or all of the waivers granted to the charter school receiving those students.

Bill Sponsor: Rep. Regionald Murdock (D) Marianna

Status:  This bill is on the House Journal Committee as it remains a shell bill.

 HB1027

TO PROHIBIT A SCHOOL DISTRICT FROM USING PUBLIC FUNDS TO PAY A TEACHER'S OR CLASSIFIED EMPLOYEE'S MEMBERSHIP DUES IN A PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATION.

Summary:  This bill seeks to ensure that public school funds are not used to pay any teacher, classified employee or superintendent's dues for their professional association.

 Bill sponsor: Rep. Jon Eubanks, (R) Paris

Status: This bill remains on the deferred agenda in the House Education Committee

SB12 TO ESTABLISH THAT EMERGENCY OR SECURITY RECORDS OR OTHER INFORMATION FOR A PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT, PUBLIC SCHOOL, OR STATE-SUPPORTED INSTITUTION OF HIGHER EDUCATION IS EXEMPT FROM THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT OF 1967 

Summary:  This bill seeks to exempt public school and state institutions of higher ed security plans and related documents from FOIA .

Bill sponsor: Gary Stubblefield (R) Branch

Status: This bill has passed the Senate and is currently on the House Education Committee’s agenda.

HB1154 AN ACT TO REQUIRE THAT ANY INCREASES IN PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FUNDING EACH SCHOOL YEAR BE USED FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITIES; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

Summary: Requires the Department of Education to use any additional funding that is over the required amount for teacher professional development for the development and administration of professional learning communities.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Bruce Cozart (R) Hot Springs

Status: This bill passed the House and has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

 HB1155 AN ACT TO AMEND THE MINIMUM TEACHER COMPENSATION SCHEDULE; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

Summary: Raises the salaries included in all categories of the Teacher Minimum Compensation Schedule by $400.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Bruce Cozart (R) Hot Springs

Status:  This bill passed the Senate Education Committee this week and is expected to be considered by the full Senate next week.  

SB112 TO ALLOW AN INCOME TAX DEDUCTION FOR QUALIFYING EDUCATION EXPENSES.

Summary:  Creates an income tax deduction for homeschool expenses, private school tuition and expenses and required public school expenses for items such as uniforms, textbooks, instructional materials and supplies.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Jane English (R) North Little Rock

Status:  This bill remains on the Senate Revenue and Tax Committee agenda.

 HB1144  AN ACT TO ALLOW THE INSTALLATION AND OPERATION OF AN AUTOMATED SCHOOL BUS SAFETY CAMERA; TO USE A PHOTOGRAPH OR VIDEO AS EVIDENCE OF CERTAIN TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES

Summary:  Allows public school districts or open enrollment charter schools to install automated school bus safety cameras to automatically record vehicles illegally passing a school bus.

Bill sponsor: Rep. McElroy (D) Tillar

Status: This bill has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee.

 HB1222 THE ARKANSAS PARENTAL EMPOWERMENT FOR EDUCATION CHOICE ACT OF 2017

Summary: Creates an income tax credit for donations to nonprofits that distribute education savings accounts to parents for use against the cost of tuition, tutoring, services and related costs of attending nonpublic schools, and higher education institutions.  This is effectively a voucher bill.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Jim Dotson (R) Bentonville

Status: This bill is listed as pending fiscal impact on the House Education Committee agenda. It has already been amended 3 times and we expect additional amendments to be added soon.

 HB1303  AN ACT TO AMEND PROVISIONS IN THE ARKANSAS CODE REGARDING THE TEACHER OPPORTUNITY PROGRAM; TO PRIORITIZE THE AWARDING OF FUNDS TO TEACHERS FOR ADDITIONAL EDUCATION IN CERTAIN FIELDS; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES

Summary: Prioritizes funding from the Teacher Opportunity Program to go to teachers seeking additional education in STEM fields, computer science, literacy, pre-K, or special education.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status:  This bill was signed into law by the Governor this week.

HB1307 CONCERNING THE PAYMENT BY THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OF HEALTH INSURANCE CONTRIBUTIONS FOR PARTICIPANTS IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL EMPLOYEES' HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM

Summary: Requires the health insurance contributions made by the Department of Education to take place in equal monthly installments rather than 11; increases the Department’s transfer from $35 million to $55 million.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Jim Sorvillo (R) Little Rock

Status:  This bill passed the Senate Education Committee and should be considered by the full Senate next week.

HB1408  AN ACT CONCERNING WHO MAY SERVE AS A PROCTOR OF A TEST OR ASSESSMENT ADMINISTERED UNDER THE ARKANSAS COMPREHENSIVE TESTING, ASSESSMENT, AND ACCOUNTABILITY PROGRAM

Summary: Prohibits a relative or guardian of a student taking a comprehensive assessment from proctoring that examination.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status: This bill has been assigned to the House Education Committee.

HB1415 AN ACT TO MAKE TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS TO TITLE 6 OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING EDUCATION

Summary: This bill makes technical corrections to the education code.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Matthew Shepard (R) El Dorado

Status: This bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee

HB1417 CONCERNING THE OFFENSE OF SEXUAL SOLICITATION; PROVIDING FOR IMPOUNDMENT OF A MOTOR VEHICLE; AND PROVIDING FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS EDUCATION FOR EDUCATORS

Summary: Allows a police department to impound the motor vehicle of a person arrested for sexual solicitation; requires a $500 fee to release the vehicle from impoundment, requires school districts to make 30 mins of professional development available to recognize warning signs of human trafficking and identify victims of human trafficking.

Bill sponsor: Rep. James Sturch (R) Batesville

Status: This bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee

HB1424 TO AMEND THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING THE TEACHER EXCELLENCE AND SUPPORT SYSTEM; AND TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING ADMINISTRATOR EVALUATION

Summary: Amends various provisions of TESS.

Bill sponsor: DeAnn Vaught (R) Horatio

Status: This bill passed the Senate Education Committee this week and will be considered by the full Senate next week.

HB1425 CONCERNING THE LICENSURE OF TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS AND LICENSURE EXCEPTIONS; TO AUTHORIZE A TIERED LICENSURE SYSTEM; AND TO ALLOW DISTRICTS TO BASE COMPENSATION ON LICENSURE LEVELS

Bill Sponsor: DeAnn Vaught (R) Horatio

Summary: Establishes expanded criteria for teacher licensure, creates additional available licenses and provides for a tiered teacher licensure system

Status: This bill passed the Senate Education Committee this week and will be considered by the full Senate next week.

HB1435 TO REQUIRE PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND OPEN-ENROLLMENT CHARTER SCHOOLS TO POST THE CHILD ABUSE HOTLINE TELEPHONE NUMBER.

Summary: Requires schools to post the Child Abuse Hotline number in a clearly visible location on their premises as well as in all bathrooms in a manner that allows a student to privately access the information.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Clarke Tucker (D) Little Rock

Status: This bill passed the House this week and has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

SB156  AN ACT TO MAKE AN APPROPRIATION FOR PERSONAL SERVICES AND OPERATING EXPENSES FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, 2018; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

Summary: Appropriates funds to the Department of Education for operations.

Bill sponsor: Joint Budget Committee

Status: This bill has been referred to the Joint Budget Committee.

SB168 AN ACT FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION - GRANTS AND AID TO LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS AND SPECIAL PROGRAMS APPROPRIATION FOR THE 2017-2018 FISCAL YEAR.

Summary: Appropriates funds to the Department of Education for grants and aid to local school districts and special programs

Bill sponsor: Joint Budget Committee

Status: This bill remains on the Joint Budget Committee’s agenda. 

SB179 TO ALLOW REINSTATEMENT OF A REVOKED EDUCATOR'S LICENSE UPON A SHOWING OF REHABILITATION AND FITNESS TO PERFORM THE DUTIES AUTHORIZED BY THE LICENSE

Summary: Allows the holder of a revoked teaching license to request a hearing before the State Board of Education and present evidence of rehabilitation and fitness to hold a reinstated license.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Joyce Elliott (D) Little Rock

Status: This bill is on the Senate Education Committee and is expected to be heard next week.  Additional amendments to the bill are likely.

HB1442 TO CREATE THE PERSONAL FINANCE AND JOB READINESS ACT

Summary: Amends personal finance curriculum standards to include job seeking skills, soft job skills, and employment benefits; requires high school students to earn a course credit under this curriculum for graduation.

Bill sponsor: Andy Davis (R) Little Rock

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee

HB1456  TO ALLOW A SCHOOL DISTRICT TO WAIVE PHYSICAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS FOR A STUDENT WHO PROVIDES PROOF OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY; AND TO EXEMPT A STUDENT WITH A PHYSICAL EDUCATION WAIVER FROM PHYSICAL EDUCATION GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS

Summary: Creates a waiver that exempts a student from a school district’s physical education requirements with a written form from the student’s legal guardians that the student participates in physical activity equal to the district’s requirements outside of school.

 Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee

HB1457 TO ALLOW A PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT AND AN OPEN-ENROLLMENT PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL TO DEVELOP A PLAN FOR THE USE OF AN ALTERNATIVE METHOD OF INSTRUCTION TO BE USED ON DAYS WHEN SCHOOL IS CANCELLED

Summary: Authorizes school districts or charter schools to develop and implement pilot programs for alternate instruction methods to be used on days when school is closed due to inclement weather or other circumstances.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee

HB1458 TO REQUIRE A STUDENT TO PARTICIPATE IN VISUAL ARTS OR PERFORMING ARTS IN EITHER GRADE SEVEN OR GRADE EIGHT

Summary:  Changes the arts class credit requirements for students in grades 7 and 8, requiring students to take one performing arts or visual arts class over the two grade years rather than participating during both grade years.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee

HB1459 TO PROVIDE FLEXIBILITY IN THE AWARDING OF COURSE CREDITS; AND TO ALLOW A PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT TO DEVELOP AND IMPLEMENT A PLAN THAT ENABLES A STUDENT TO EARN COURSE CREDITS BY DEMONSTRATING SUBJECT MATTER COMPETENCY

Summary: Allows a school district to develop plans for the issue of high school course credit based on demonstration of competency in a subject without completing hours of classroom instruction.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee

HB1461 TO EXPAND THE NUMBER OF PRIVATE SCHOOLS ELIGIBLE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE SUCCEED SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

Summary: Expands eligibility for private schools that have not earned accreditation to receive a voucher for students on an IEP.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Carlton Wing (R) North Little Rock

Status: This bill passed the House Education Committee and the full House this week. It is discussed at length at the top of this update.  

HB1474 CONCERNING THE PARTICIPATION OF HOME-SCHOOLED STUDENTS IN INTERSCHOLASTIC ACTIVITIES.

Summary: Authorizes home-school students to receive approval to participate in interscholastic activities of public schools of a district in which the student does not reside.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Mark Lowrey (R) Maumelle

Status: This bill has been amended and re-referred to the House Education Committee.

HB1509 TO CREATE THE SUDDEN CARDIAC ARREST PREVENTION ACT

Summary: Requires school districts to develop procedures for training staff in first aid technique related to sudden cardiac arrest, in conjunction with the Dept. of Health; requires coaches to receive professional development.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Greg Leding (D) Fayetteville

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee

HB1516 CONCERNING SCHOOL NURSING; TO ESTABLISH SCHOOL NURSE-TO-STUDENT RATIOS; AND TO REQUIRE AN ANNUAL SCHOOL NURSE SURVEY.

Summary: Requires at least one school nurse at each public school campus, encourages higher nurse-to-student ratio for school districts, and authorizes use of national school lunch categorical funds to maintain those ratios.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Andy Mayberry (R) Hensley

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee.  

SB274 TO REVISE THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH A PUBLIC SCHOOL OR PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT THAT HAS BEEN TAKEN OVER BY THE STATE FOR BEING IN ACADEMIC DISTRESS CAN BE RETURNED TO LOCAL CONTROL; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY

Summary: Provides the State Board of Education with the authority to return a district to local control, or deny return to local control, based on the best interest of the school or the district.  Deletes requirement that “all” issues be resolved.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Joyce Elliott (D) Little Rock

Status: This bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee

SB287 TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING SCHOOL ELECTIONS

Summary: This is a shell bill.  The content will likely be amended into the bill at a later date.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R) Cave Springs

Status: Referred to Senate Education Committee

SB303 TO ESTABLISH ENHANCED TRANSPORTATION FUNDING FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICTS; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY

Summary: Distributes enhanced transportation funding to certain school districts for the 2016-17 school year, in various amounts of up to $76,273

Bill Sponsor: Sen. Eddie Cheatham (D) Crossett

Status: Referred to the Senate Education Committee

SB319 AN ACT FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION - DIVISION OF PUBLIC SCHOOL ACADEMIC FACILITIES AND TRANSPORTATION - FOR FUND TRANSFER FOR USE IN PROGRAMS GENERAL IMPROVEMENT APPROPRIATION

Summary: Appropriates $100million to the Dept. of Education-Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation from General Improvement Funds for grants.

Bill sponsor: Joint Budget Committee

Status: This bill passed the House and the Senate this week and heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

SB321 AN ACT FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION - VARIOUS CAPITAL PROJECTS APPROPRIATION

Summary: Appropriates $10 million to the Dept. of Education from the General Improvement Fund for various capital projects.

Bill sponsor: Joint Budget Committee

Status: This bill passed the House and the Senate this week and heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

SB 328 TO REQUIRE A PERSON TO APPLY FOR A K-6 TEACHING LICENSE OR A SPECIAL EDUCATION K-12 TEACHING LICENSE TO SUCCESSFULLY PASS A STAND-ALONE READING TEST AND A MULTI-SUBJECT TEST AS A CONDITION OF LICENSURE

Summary: Requires the State Board of Education to test applicants for first-time licensure for elementary education K-6 and for special education K-12, in subject matter content, pedagogy, and knowledge of beginning reading instruction.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Alan Clark (R) Lonsdale

Status: This bill passed the Senate Education Committee this week and is expected to be heard by the full Senate next week.  

 

HB1517  CONCERNING SCHOOL NURSING AND TO MODIFY THE REQUIREMENTS FOR A SCHOOL NURSE

Summary: Requires school districts to use a school nursing performance evaluation rubric developed by the Department of Education when conducting annual evaluations of school nurses; encourages minimum standards for school nurse supervisors.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Andy Mayberry (R) Hensley

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee

HB1523 CONCERNING THE TRAINING OF MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF A PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT

Summary: Requires a vacancy to occur on a school district board if a board member fails to receive the mandatory six hours of training each year, unless the failure is due to military service or a serious medical condition.

Bill sponsor: Rep. James Sturch (R) Batesville

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee.

HB1539 TO REQUIRE THE PASSAGE OF THE CIVICS PORTION OF THE NATURALIZATION TEST USED BY UNITED STATES CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES BEFORE A STUDENT MAY RECEIVE A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA OR HIGH SCHOOL EQUIVALENCY DIPLOMA

Summary: Would require high school students pass a civics test identical to the civics portion of the naturalization test used by US Citizenship and Immigration Services in order to receive a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Bruce Cozart (R) Hot Springs

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee.

HB1552 TO ALTER THE REQUIREMENTS FOR A LIFETIME TEACHING LICENSE

Summary: Allows teachers who have retired, eligible for a life time teacher’s license; repeals professional development hour requirements for lifetime teaching license holders.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Ron McNair (R) Alpena

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee

HB1567  TO MAKE FOSTER CHILDREN ELIGIBLE FOR A SCHOLARSHIP IN THE SUCCEED SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY

Summary: This bill seeks to expand the voucher program called the ‘Succeed Scholarship Program’ to include children in foster care to be eligible to take public funds into private, unaccountable schools.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Kim Hammer (R) Benton

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee.

HB1575 TO LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF FUND BALANCES A SCHOOL DISTRICT MAY MAINTAIN

Summary:  Establishes a maximum net legal balance for public schools of 20% of the public school district’s current year net legal balance revenues, and requires schools exceeding that balance to transfer the excess funds to the school’s building fund.

Bill sponsor:  Rep. Mark Lowery (R) Maumelle

Status: Referred to House Education Committee

HB1576 TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF THE ACADEMIC FACILITIES PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM CONCERNING APPROVED BUT UNFUNDED NEW CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS.

Summary: Requires a school district construction project that is approved but not funded during a funding cycle have its approval and priority carried over into subsequent funding cycles until it is funded.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee

HB1579 TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATORS AND EMPLOYEES.

Summary: Authorizes the state, for purposes of educational licensing, to submit fingerprint records to the federal Next Generation Identification system and to participate in programs that provide notifications of arrest subsequent to background checks.

Bill sponsor: Rep. DeAnn Vaught (R) Horatio

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee

HB1583 TO CREATE RECALL ELECTIONS FOR MEMBERS OF SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARDS OF DIRECTORS; AND TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARDS OF DIRECTORS.

Summary: This bill seeks to create a process for holding a recall election for school board members; establishes requirements for a petition to call such an election, including the signatures of 35% of the office’s qualified electors.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Jim Dotson (R) Bentonville

Status: This bill has just been filed and has not yet been referred to a committee.

SB329 TO RAISE THE PRICE THRESHOLD FOR THE PURCHASE OF COMMODITIES THAT SCHOOL DISTRICTS MUST PROCURE BY SOLICITING BIDS; AND TO PROVIDE FOR ANNUAL ADJUSTMENTS IN THE PURCHASE PRICE THRESHOLD BASED ON INFLATION

Summary: Increases the threshold for school district commodity purchases that require solicitation of bids from $10K to $20K; requires the Education Commissioner to adjust the amount annually according to the change in the Consumer Price Index.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Alan Clark (R) Lonsdale

Status: This bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee

SB 337 TO REPEAL THE ACADEMIC FACILITIES EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES PROGRAM.

Summary: Repeals the Academic Facilities Extraordinary Circumstances Program, which allowed state funds to be allocated to public school districts and facilities for facility repair and maintenance that might not otherwise be eligible to receive state funding.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R) Cave Springs

Status: Referred to Senate Education Committee

Retirement bills

ATRS Package Bills are as Follows:

SB141 TO MODIFY THE FINAL AVERAGE SALARY CALCULATION METHOD UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Adjusts the anti-spiking formula used to calculate retirement benefits.

Bill sponsor: Sen. John Cooper (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee

SB142 TO PROVIDE FOR AN EMPLOYEE EVALUATION OF AN INTERNAL AUDITOR OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM.

Summary: Allows the ATRS Board Audit Committee to perform the annual evaluation of Internal Auditor.

Bill sponsor: Sen. John Cooper (R)

Status: Act 127 of 2017

SB184  AN ACT TO MODIFY THE METHOD USED TO SET THE TEACHER DEFERRED RETIREMENT OPTION PLAN INTEREST RATE; TO ALLOW BALANCE TRANSFERS BETWEEN RECIPROCAL SYSTEMS; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Adjusts T-Drop interest rates and the authorization of transfers of Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) balances between reciprocal retirement systems with varying DROP periods.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee

SB185  TO MODIFY BUYOUT PLANS FOR INACTIVE MEMBERS OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: CASH program modifications and expansions and CASH program benefit designation for certain inactive vested members.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee

SB186 TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE ADJUSTMENT OF THE MULTIPLIER RATE UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Benefit multiplier adjustment for future service credit.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee

SB187  TO AMEND THE LAW ON CONTRIBUTION RATE ADJUSTMENTS BY THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; TO PERMIT CONTRIBUTION RATE ADJUSTMENTS BASED ON ACTUARIAL SOUNDNESS; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: To allow the employee contribution rate to be adjusted, if needed.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee

SB192  TO ALLOW MEMBERS WITH RECIPROCAL SERVICE TO RETIRE UPON A DETERMINATION OF DISABILITY; TO AMEND DISABILITY RETIREMENT PROCEDURES; TO ENCOURAGE DISABILITY RETIREES TO RETURN TO EMPLOYMENT; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Disability retirees allowed to file another disability application with ATRS if

Social Security denies disability benefits; disability retirees may return to work full-time/part–time, revert to last benefit if unable to continue working; disability retirement to include reciprocal service credit for vesting purposes.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Eddie Cheatham (D)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee

SB193  TO PROVIDE SERVICE CREDIT FOR UNUSED SICK LEAVE TO CERTAIN MEMBERS OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Accrued sick leave to count as service credit if death of an active member occurs.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Eddie Cheatham (D)

Status: Submitted to the Governor.

SB194   TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE DETERMINATION OF SURVIVOR BENEFIT ELIGIBILITY UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; TO PRORATE CERTAIN SURVIVOR BENEFITS; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Allows survivor benefits to use reciprocal service credit for vesting purposes, prorate benefits in correlation of years of service, and allow a 6-month period after a survivor application is filed to submit all requested documents to ATRS.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Eddie Cheatham (D)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB203  TO PROHIBIT THE INCLUSION OF TERMS REQUIRING A MEMBER'S RETIREMENT FROM THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM IN CONTRACT BUYOUT PLANS; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Employer early separation incentive programs may not compel a member to file for retirement with ATRS.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bill Sample (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB205 TO PROVIDE MEMBERS OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM WITH THE OPTION TO WAIVE CONCURRENT SERVICE CREDIT; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Allows members with concurrent reciprocal service to waive ATRS service credit.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bill Sample (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB218  TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE MODIFICATION OF AN EMPLOYER'S CONTRIBUTION RATE UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Modifies the employer contribution rate to allow an adjustment even if ATRS is below a 30 year amortization period, if needed.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB233   TO PROHIBIT PENSION ADVANCES UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Protects members by prohibiting pension advance companies from obtaining a retiree's benefit to repay a loan.

Bill sponsor: Sen. R Caldwell (R)

Status: Submitted to the Governor.

HB1286    TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING EARLY VOLUNTARY RETIREMENT REDUCTIONS UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM;AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Provides authority for ATRS to adjust early voluntary retirement reductions and early T-DROP participation reductions.

Bill sponsor: Rep. J Rye (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1287   TO PROVIDE CERTAIN EMPLOYERS WITH THE OPTION TO PAY A SURCHARGE FOR OUTSOURCED EMPLOYEES IN LIEU OF MEMBERSHIP IN THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Allows ATRS employers that outsource a service common to the normal daily operation of the employer to choose whether to make outsourced employees become members of ATRS or alternatively, to pay a surcharge on the outsourced employees' salaries.

Bill sponsor: Rep. J Rye (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1304    TO AMEND THE DEFINITION OF "ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM"; TO DEFINE "COVERED EMPLOYER"; TO AMEND THE REQUIREMENTS FOR VOLUNTARY RETIREMENT; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Makes minor changes in the wording of existing laws to clarify language and intent of laws affecting ATRS while not making changes to how laws are used or implemented.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Maddox (R)

Status: Passed the House of Representatives. Now on the Senate calendar for consideration.

HB1305   TO ALLOW MEMBERS OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM TO DESIGNATE ONE OR MORE RESIDUAL BENEFICIARIES; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Allows spousal survivor benefit rights to be redirected by member, if specifically designated by the member to another person.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Maddox (R)

Status: Passed the House of Representatives. Now on the Senate calendar for consideration.

HB1365 TO AMEND THE LAW ON CONTRIBUTIONS MADE TO THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM FOR SETTLEMENTS AND JUDGMENTS; TO ALLOW THE PURCHASE OF SALARY OR SERVICE CREDIT USING ACTUARIAL COSTS; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Allows settlement agreements to include purchased annuity, discontinue adding settlement amounts to member, and can add air time or value of future benefits.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Coleman (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1373  TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE APPLICATION AND ADJUSTMENT OF BENEFIT STIPENDS UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Allows benefit stipend adjustments and removal from benefit base, if needed.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Gary Deffenbaugh (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1374   TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE COMPOUNDED COST OF LIVING ADJUSTMENT UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Allows the reversal of the 2009 compounding of the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), if needed.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Gary Deffenbaugh (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

Non ATRS Package Bills are as Follows:

HB1290  TO REQUIRE THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM TO CORRECT AN ERROR THAT UNDERSTATES THE SERVICE CREDIT OF A MEMBER; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Protects educators against clerical errors by an employer or the retirement system which would deprive them from receiving retirement credit for their years of service.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Tosh (R)

Status: Passed the House of Representatives. Now on the Senate calendar for consideration.

HB1327   TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Doug House (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1328   TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE INVESTMENT PRACTICES OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Doug House (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1329  TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING BENEFIT PAYMENTS UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Doug House (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1330  TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE ACCOUNTING AND AUDITING PRACTICES OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Doug House (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1333  TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Doug House (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1336  TO PROVIDE FOR THE FORFEITURE OF BENEFITS UNDER A PUBLIC RETIREMENT SYSTEM BY CERTAIN PERSONS.

Summary: Would restrict earned retirement benefits to a member upon conviction of certain felony offenses during the time a member served as a governmental official.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Tosh (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1355  TO MAKE TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS TO TITLE 24 OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING RETIREMENT AND PENSIONS.

Summary: HB1355 is merely a technical corrections bill which corrects grammatical errors and updates archaic language but has no material impact on the operations of ATRS.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Matthew Shepherd (R)

Status: Passed the House of Representatives. Now on the Senate calendar for consideration.

SB11  TO PROHIBIT CERTAIN TRANSACTIONS BY PUBLIC EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT SYSTEMS.

Summary: This bill prohibits business dealings with state pension systems with any entity adverse to the interests of the state of Israel.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Bart Hester (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB212  TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB215 TO AMEND THE LAW TO FACILITATE RECOVERY OF FUNDS BY PUBLIC RETIREMENT SYSTEMS.  

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB217 TO REVISE THE LAW CONCERNING THE ARKANSAS PUBLIC EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO REVISE THE LAW CONCERNING RETIREMENT AND PENSIONS.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB220  TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING STATE-SUPPORTED RETIREMENT SYSTEMS.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bill Sample (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB221  TO MODIFY THE LAW CONCERNING STATE EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bill Sample (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB228  TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE EMPLOYMENT OF RETIRED MEMBERS OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken. It is believed that Senator Irvin would like to encourage retired educators to re-enter the classroom without fear of compromising or complicating their retirement benefits.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Missy Irvin (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.