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Arkansas lawmakers wrap up special session

Arkansas State Capitol

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers wrapped up a three-day special session Thursday by completing work on legislation pertaining to pharmacy reimbursement rates, highway funding and college savings plans, just as Gov. Asa Hutchinson was saying he hopes such special sessions don't become routine.

The Legislature on Monday concluded its bi-annual fiscal session, at which it is restricted to handling appropriations bills unless two-thirds of each chamber vote to go beyond money matters. Tuesday, lawmakers opened a special session where the governor sets the agenda, but bills require only a simple majority to pass.

At a news conference to announce plans to reorganize state government, Hutchinson said issues had developed that needed to be addressed before the 2019 regular session.

"As to a pattern for the future, I will certainly not plan on special sessions following fiscal sessions," Hutchinson said. "I hope that doesn't happen, but fiscal sessions do bring to the surface other challenges that need to be met."

Hutchinson on Thursday approved a bill that regulates pharmacy benefit managers. In January, scores of pharmacists had flocked to the Capitol complex to complain that some reimbursement rates were so low that their businesses were at risk.

Other measures approved by the House and Senate include a bill to make it harder to perpetuate complaints against farms that need permits to retain then dispose of liquid animal waste, and one to let 529 college savings funds to be withdrawn for K-12 tuition, including at private and religious schools.

Another bill approved makes changes to the state's open container law that officials says is needed to protect some highway funding.