Law­mak­ers: Jobs train­ing cen­ter likely

Com­mu­nity col­leges left out, NWACC leader says

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - DOUG THOMP­SON

BEN­TONVILLE — A jobs train­ing bill that would greatly ben­e­fit North­west Ar­kan­sas has passed the Se­nate and should soon pass the House, but there are some po­ten­tial snags, re­gional law­mak­ers told a fo­rum Satur­day.

Re­gional school dis­tricts would be able to pool re­sources into one work­force train­ing cen­ter un­der Se­nate Bill 288 by state Sen. Jim Hen­dren, R- Sul­phur Springs. The bill would al­low more than one school dis­trict to put money and other re­sources into work­force de­vel­op­ment cen­ters that all par­tic­i­pat­ing dis­tricts could use. Rep. Dan Dou­glas, R-Ben­tonville, is lead spon­sor in the House.

The pro­posal leaves out com­mu­nity col­leges, North­west Ar­kan­sas Com­mu­nity Col­lege Pres­i­dent Eve­lyn Jor­gen­son ob­jected at the 9 a.m. leg­is­la­tors fo­rum hosted by the Rogers/Low­ell and

Greater Ben­tonville cham­bers of com­merce, which was held on her col­lege’s cam­pus. Tech­ni­cal schools such as North­west Tech­ni­cal In­sti­tute in Springdale could re­ceive pub­lic school tax­payer sup­port un­der this bill, but the state’s 22 com­mu­nity col­leges could not.

Com­mu­nity col­leges al­ready have a means to get school prop­erty tax money, Hen­dren said. If vot­ers agree, a prop­erty tax can be col­lected on their be­half. SB 288 cre­ates some­thing new. Be­yond that, the bill’s goal is to cre­ate train­ing cen­ters for stu­dents who do not at­tend col­lege. Open­ing an­other door for com­mu­nity col­leges could di­vert money away

from what the bill in­tends.

Richard Page, su­per­in­ten­dent of Gravette School Dis­trict, agreed with Hen­dren’s view. “If there were pos­si­bil­i­ties for cre­at­ing cen­ters like these, we’d al­ready have one,” he said. Gravette High School is 19 miles from NWACC.

Sup­port­ers of the bill say it would help ef­forts to pro­vide more work­force ed­u­ca­tion for spe­cial­ized, in-de­mand skills, such as weld­ing and com­puter pro­gram­ming for in­dus­trial equip­ment. With­out a change, a school dis­trict can­not spend money out­side its dis­trict. The bill also would al­low spe­cial­ists in job skills to teach with­out teacher cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

In other is­sues, Reps. Grant Hodges, R-Rogers, and Jim Dot­son, R-Ben­tonville, spoke in fa­vor of Se­nate Joint Res­o­lu­tion 8. The pro­posed con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment would al­low the Leg­is­la­ture

to set court rules if vot­ers ap­prove the mea­sure in the 2018 gen­eral elec­tion.

This method re­flects the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Congress with the fed­eral ju­di­ciary and was pro­posed af­ter the courts, over the course of years, largely negated lim­its on dam­ages and other lim­its passed by the Leg­is­la­ture in 2003 by their rules process. As of now, the state Supreme Court sets the rules.

Sen. Ce­cile Bled­soe, R-Rogers, re­ported that her bill set­ting rules for telemedicine has be­come law. Telemedicine uses high- speed video and imag­ing to al­low doc­tors to di­ag­nose pa­tients by elec­tronic means.

Also, Dou­glas told the crowd at the fo­rum that a mea­sure to in­crease fi­nan­cial sup­port for high­ways will be filed next week and that the pro­posal will re­quire voter ap­proval.

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