LITTLE ROCK — A bill to modify the requirements for creation of a new school district by detachment from an existing school district fell two votes short of passing Tuesday in the Arkansas House.

LITTLE ROCK — A bill to modify the requirements for creation of a new school district by detachment from an existing school district fell two votes short of passing Tuesday in the Arkansas House.

Meanwhile, a bill to ban so-called telemedicine abortions received Senate approval on Tuesday, lawmakers’ first day back at the Capitol after giving themselves a snow day on Monday.

House Bill 1242 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, failed in the House in a 49-25 vote. Under the bill, a new school district could be formed by detaching territory from an existing district if the new district would have at least 2,500 students. Under current law, the new district would have to have at least 4,000 students.

Jacksonville recently formed a new school district by splitting with the Pulaski County Special School District after a public referendum. Lowery has said his bill would make it easier for Maumelle and Sherwood to do the same.

Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock, spoke against the bill. He said the first time it ran in the House Education Committee it failed, and its endorsement at a later meeting appeared to be the result of confusion over voting procedure.

"Before everyone was seated, there was a motion to not allow debate. Before we knew it, there was a vote and it passed," he said.

Lowery acknowledged that "there was confusion over whether a motion had been made" in the committee, but he said the confusion was cleared up.

"There was only one ‘no’ vote, so the inference (of) some kind of magic sleight of hand is not correct," he said.

Walker criticized HB 1242, calling it an attempt to circumvent desegregation requirements, which he said could land the state in federal court.

He said he was concerned that increased segregation could occur if larger school districts are allowed to split into new districts and the new districts pull white students out of majority black school districts.

Lowery said the bill is intended to start a process that could take years, with extensive examination at every step of the way.

"There’s nothing here with a racial intent. This is a bill about opportunity," he said.

After adjournment, Lowery said he planned to seek reconsideration of the bill on Wednesday.

The Senate voted 28-5 Tuesday to approve HB 1076 by Rep. Julie Mayberry, R-Hensley, which would require that when an abortion-inducing drug is administered, the doctor who prescribed or dispensed the drug must be physically present in the room. A doctor who violated the restriction would lose his or her medical license.

The bill passed previously in the House in an 83-4 vote. It goes back to the House for concurrence on a Senate amendment.

A matching bill, Senate Bill 53 by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, received a "do pass" recommendation from the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on Tuesday, after passing in the Senate last week in a 29-4 vote. It goes next to the full House.

"I think it’s a commonsense, good heath bill," Irvin, who presented HB 1076 on the Senate floor, said Tuesday after the Senate adjourned.

Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, said she voted against HB 1076 — and SB 53 last week — because "when we start talking about whether or not this is safe or that’s safe, those are medical decisions. They’re not decisions that you and I are qualified to make, and I leave it in the hands of those who are in the medicine business to take care of those things."

Senators voted 34-0 to approve HB 1163 by Rep. Nate Bell, R-Mena, which would prohibit a public employer from disciplining, threatening to discipline or reprimanding a public employee for making a request for information under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. The bill goes to the governor.

The Senate voted 34-0 to approve SB 227 by Irvin, under which a person would commit criminal impersonation if he or she used a motor vehicle with a decal or emblem that made the vehicle appear to be a law enforcement vehicle with the intent of impersonating a law enforcement officer. The bill goes to the House.

By a vote of 34-0, the Senate approved HB 1190 by Rep. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, which would allow a current member or honorably discharged former member of the military to apply for a permit to carry a concealed handgun. Currently, Arkansans must be at least 21 to apply. The bill goes to the governor.


John Lyon contributed to this report.