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‘Interesting week’ at Legislature

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By John R. Schirmer
News-Leader staff

“It’s been an interesting week,” Sen. Larry Teague of Nashville said Friday afternoon as the 91st General Assembly continues at the state Capitol.

Legislators dealt with a number of issues, ranging from guns on college campuses to proposed constitutional amendments.

The House sent the Senate a bill requiring colleges and universities to allow individuals with concealed carry permits to have guns on campus. The proposal has undergone several revisions, including a measure allowing any permit holder over age 25 to have a gun on campus if he or she has completed 16 hours of additional training above what is needed for the permit.

“I don’t think that’s going to work,” Teague said.

Legislators considered changes to the age requirement and other parts of the proposal.

“It will be interesting to see how it works out. We authorized the colleges to approve concealed carry two years ago, and none of them did,” Teague said.

College administrators and security personnel have been unanimous in opposing concealed carry on campus.

Teague said he worked with Gov. Asa Hutchinson on the state employee pay plan. “It doesn’t treat tenured employees as fairly as it should, but we fixed some of the problems in the plan. We can work on it the next couple of years.”

The plan doesn’t include higher education or Game and Fish Commission employees. Higher education’s pay plan rests in the Department of Higher Education.

Hutchinson has sent governor’s letters to the Joint Budget Committee, which Teague co-chairs. The letters contain funding requests. “He sent several letters this week,” Teague said.

Teague said he was “excited to see the revenue report for February” as state budgeting continues. “We need to see our revenue before we apply revenue stabilization.”

The Senate voted on SJR 7 and 9 last week. The measures failed, but the votes were expunged and the matter will be brought up again for a vote.

SJR 7 calls for a constitutional convention to deal with an amendment defining marriage. SJR 9 is a right-to-life amendment. “I have no problem with either concept, but I’m totally opposed to opening up the constitution to a convention, where’s the even a slight chance of something getting out of hand,” Teague said.

Things are moving along more quickly in the session, according to Teague. “We could be out by the end of March.”

The fifth basketball game between the House and Senate was played last week. The Senate won 41-26. Teague made the last shot of the game. Hutchinson played on the Senate team.

With the win, the Senate improved its record to two victories against three losses.

The game was played at the Jack Stephens Center on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock campus.

Teague continues to hold down first or second place in the walking competition among the House, Senate and governor’s staff. The Senate remains on top.

Teague said he recorded 30,000 steps last Tuesday, Feb. 21, before playing in the basketball game that night.