LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Senate on Tuesday gave final passage to a bill to make it easier to form new school districts by detaching territory from existing school districts.

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Senate on Tuesday gave final passage to a bill to make it easier to form new school districts by detaching territory from existing school districts.


Also Tuesday, the House rejected a resolution calling for a convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution and a House committee advanced one abortion bill and rejected another.


School district detachment


The Senate voted 20-6 to approve House Bill 1242 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle. Under the bill, a new school district could be created by detachment from an existing district if the new school district has at least 2,500 students, instead of the current threshold of 4,000 students.


The bill passed previously in the House and now goes to the governor.


Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, said the bill would affect Maumelle and Sherwood, which are looking at the possibility of detaching from the Pulaski County Special School District, as Jacksonville has done.


Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, spoke against the bill, saying it could reopen issues in the long-running desegregation case in Pulaski County and that she has not seen a compelling argument for creating new school districts.


"What we ought to do is fix the ones we have," she said.


English said Maumelle and Sherwood would have to do feasibility studies before they could seek to detach, and if issues regarding desegregation exist, the studies would reveal them.


"There is a very long path after this to get any kind of a new school or detachment," she said.


The bill passed in a party-line vote, with all of the "yes" votes coming from Republicans and all of the "no" votes coming from Democrats.


Constitutional convention


House Joint Resolution 1003, which calls for a Arkansas to seek a convention of states to consider amending the U.S. Constitution, fell short of the 51 votes needed for passage in the House.


The resolution by Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, states that the convention would be limited to considering constitutional amendments that would limit the federal government’s power, limit federal spending and set term limits for federal officials. At least 34 states would have to petition Congress for the convention.


Rep. Jana Della Rosa, R-Rogers, spoke against the bill, saying a constitutional convention called under Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution could have unintended consequences.


"With this type of wording, it is so broad you could literally do anything to the Constitution," she said.


Ballinger responded, "What we presently have is a runaway Congress, and if we do nothing we’ll still have a runaway Congress."


The resolution failed in a 45-38 vote.


Abortion bills


The House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee endorsed HB 1394 by Rep. Charlene Fite, R-Van Buren, which would allow only a doctor to dispense, sell or administer an abortion-inducing drug and require that the dosage and administration instructions on the label be followed.


Also, the bill would require that the doctor who dispenses, sells or administers the drug have a contract with a doctor who agrees to handle complications. The doctor who contracts to handle complications would have to have admitting privileges and gynecological/surgical privileges at a hospital that is designated to handle complications resulting from abortion-inducing drugs.


Violation of the measure would be a Class A misdemeanor, although the mother could not charged, and would make a person liable for civil penalties. A medical professional who violated the measure would be subject to disciplinary action.


Fite, who opposes abortion, said her bill is not intended to limit access to abortion but to protect women from risks associated with off-label administration of drugs like RU-486.


"This bill to me is strictly about women’s health," she said after the hearing.


The bill goes to the House.


Another abortion bill, HB 1421 by Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, failed to clear the committee. The bill would require that when an abortion is performed in an abortion clinic, a doctor with admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic must be on the premises.


Bentley, who has a nursing degree, said in an interview that she opposes abortion but filed the bill because she is "just looking out for the health of women in Arkansas."


The bill received nine votes in support and three against, falling short of the 11 votes it needed to clear the 20-member committee. Bentley said she planned to run the bill again, saying it only failed because some members were not in the room.


Other bills


The Senate voted 33-0 to approve HB 1359 by Rep. Bob Johnson, D-Jacksonville, which would make an Arkansas driver’s license valid for eight years instead of the current four. The bill passed previously in the House and now goes to the governor.


The House voted 90-0 to approve Senate Bill 55 by Sen. Jon Woods, R-Springdale, which would to add human trafficking and patronizing a victim of human trafficking to the list of offenses considered sex offenses for the purpose of requiring registration in the state’s sex offender database. The bill passed previously in the Senate and now goes to the governor.


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Dale Ellis contributed to this report.