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Honoring Mahony

Former state Rep. Jodie Mahony of El Dorado received a standing ovation today at a joint meeting of the House and Senate Education Committees.

Mahony,  who also served in the Senate and is now an assistant to House Speaker Robbie Wills, was honored for sponsoring Act 102 of 2003, which requires Arkansas high schools to offer Advanced Placement courses in the four core subjects: math, English, science and social studies.

Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, who worked with Mahony on the legislation, presented him with a framed map of the U.S. with school districts that offer AP courses shaded in green. Arkansas was one of the greenest states on the map.

Elliott said the before the legislation passed, only 35 percent of districts in the state offered AP courses. Starting with the 2009-2010 school year, 100 percent of districts in the state will be required to offer the courses.

“Thank you for a wonderful surprise,” Mahony said.

The College Board provided the framed map. Identical maps were given previously to Elliott, Gov. Mike Beebe and the state Department of Education.

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Crime Victims’ Rights Week

It’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, and state lawmakers are taking the opportunity to note laws the Legislature passed this session that seek to combat crime and promote victims’ rights.

House Speaker Robbie Wills of Conway comments on seven new laws, including Act 974 of 2009, also known as Juli’s Law, which provides for the collection of a DNA sample from a person arrested on suspicion of capital murder, first-degree murder, kidnapping or first- or second-degree sexual assault. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Dawn Creekmore of East End, is named for Juli Busken, a Benton woman who was killed in 1996 while a student at the University of Oklahoma and whose killer was identified several years later through DNA evidence.

Sen. Joyce Elliott of Little Rock, who spoke at the state Capitol today during a news conference on Crime Victims’ Rights Week, said later she was pleased to have worked with Rep. Lindsley Smith of Fayetteville on Act 619 of 2009, which prohibits insurance companies from discriminating unfairly against victims of domestic abuse.

Elliott said she was not aware of any incidents of this type of discrimination in Arkansas, but she said some victims of domestic violence in other states have been denied coverage because of a so-called “pre-existing condition,” meaning they were abused in the past.

“Think about what that meant to women and children in particular — that that’s a pre-existing condition, therefore you won’t be covered,” she said.

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Elliott pondering tuition bill

With the March 9 bill-filing deadline just a week away, state Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, says she is still considering filing a bill to offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

“I’m still trying to be very thoughtful about it and do a lot of research,” she said today. “I am pretty much complete with getting that done. I’ll make a decision about what to do about it sometime in the next few days — because I have to.”

A 2005 bill by Elliott, then a state representative, that would have extended in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, was defeated in the Senate after passing in the House. Gov. Mike Beebe has said he will oppose any such measure.

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