LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas lawmakers advanced bills Thursday to require the teaching of cursive in public schools and require that a doctor be physically present for a chemical abortion.

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas lawmakers advanced bills Thursday to require the teaching of cursive in public schools and require that a doctor be physically present for a chemical abortion.


The House, after lengthy debate, voted 66-21 to approve House Bill 1044 by Rep. Kim Hendren. R-Gravette, which would require that all public elementary schools in the state teach cursive writing by the end of the third grade.


Hendren told House members he filed the bill after learning that his eighth-grade granddaughter had not been taught cursive in Gravette schools. He said many school districts across the state currently teach cursive, but it is not mandated under the Common Core State Standards.


"The only thing we’re saying is, we’d like to see it done for every child in the state of Arkansas by the third grade," he said.


Several House members spoke against the bill, saying it conflicted with the principle of local control.


"Why not allow local control and allow local school districts to decide whether children need to learn this style of writing?" asked Rep. Nate Bell, R-Mena.


Bell also said that "communication is changing" and that the world is moving toward digital communication.


"At one time, hieroglyphics were the way everyone communicated," he said.


Among those who spoke in support of the bill was Rep. Charlotte Douglas, R-Alma, who said brain research shows that learning cursive increases children’s ability to learn.


"We as a state have said you need to have biology, you need to have English, and we’ve said which grades those are appropriate in. I think this falls under that, because it it so important to kids’ developmental ability to learn other subjects," she said.


The bill goes to the Senate.


The Senate on Thursday voted 29-4 to approve Senate Bill 53 by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View. Under the bill, when an abortion-inducing drug is administered, the doctor who prescribed or dispensed the drug would be required to be physically present in the room with the patient.


The bill is aimed at preventing the practice, not currently available in Arkansas, of overseeing chemical abortions via Internet linkup. A doctor who violated the ban would lose his or her medical license.


Irvin, who opposes abortion, said complications can arise during a chemical abortion.


"I think it’s a commonsense bill that really does speak to the health and safety of the mother," she said after the Senate adjourned.


Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, who voted against the bill, said it is "not an issue in Arkansas."


"I think it’s coming up with a solution where there is no problem, and it’s a continuing effort of our assuming we know better than doctors how to carry out their practices in a professional way. I find that totally unnecessary, and it’s insulting, I think, to the folks that are prepared to do the work," Elliott said.


The bill goes to the House.


The Senate also adopted an amendment to a bill that mirror’s Mayberry’s bill, HB 1076 by Rep. Julie Mayberry, R-Hensley, but did not vote on the bill itself, which previously passed in the House in an 83-4 vote.


The House gave final passage to HB 1012 by Rep. Rebecca Petty, R-Rogers, which would require that up to six close relatives of a victim be allowed to witness an execution and up to 12 more close relatives be allowed to view the execution via closed-circuit television.


The bill is titled Andi’s Law after Perry’s daughter, who was abducted and killed in 1999. Her killer, Karl Roberts, is on death row.


The House and Senate both approved HB 1012 previously, but on Thursday the House voted 91-0 to concur in a Senate amendment. The bill goes to the governor.


The Senate voted 34-0 to approve SB 204 by Rep. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, which would prohibit the attorney general from entering into a contingency-fee contract with a private attorney unless the attorney general first makes a written determination that the contract is cost-effective and in the public interest.


SB 204 also would set caps on the contingency fees and require the attorney general’s contracts with private attorneys, as well as contingency fees paid to the attorneys, to be posted on the state transparency website.


The bill goes to the House.


The Senate voted 22-8 to approve SB 230 by Sen. Larry Teague, D-Nashville, which would require wineries to collect local taxes on direct shipments of wine. The bill goes to the House.


Elsewhere Thursday, the House Education Committee endorsed HB 1242 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, which would allow the creation of new school districts with as few as 2,500 students. Current law does not allow a new school district to be created with fewer than 4,000 students.


Lowery said the bill would make it easier for Sherwood and Maumelle to detach from the Pulaski County School District, as Jacksonville has done. The bill goes to the House.


The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee endorsed SB 314 by Sen. David Burnett, D-Osceola, which would allow the governor to appoint two additional members to the Arkansas Racing Commission, currently a five-member panel.


The bill seeks to allow Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis, a greyhound racing track, to have representation on the board. The bill goes to the Senate.


At the close of the House’s session Thursday, House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, met with members from Saline County to advise them that a threat had been made by someone in Saline County toward all elected officials from that county. He told reporters later he had no information on the nature of the threat.


Laura Labay, spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office, said the Capitol Police secured all checkpoints at the Capitol after learning of the threat. No incidents were reported at the Capitol.