Log Cabin Democrat (Conway, AR)
Hosted via teleconference, board members approved rates that are expected to drop costs for public school and state employees next year.
Per testimony at the meeting, some 80 percent of active public school employees will see decreases in their portion of premium rates over the next five years, while similar decreases are expected for state employees.
Some base rates, particularly for non-medicare eligible retirees are increasing, but board members were assured that the portion of the state pays for was going up as well.
All 11 board members voted to approve the rates, as well as the removal of the state’s $50 wellness discount for its insurance plans. While the wellness program will continue, benefits for completing the program requirements will be decided at a later date.
In other state news on Monday, Commerce Secretary Mike Preston named Glen Howie Arkansas’ new Broadband Director. Previously employed by Louisiana’s Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity, Howie has 12 years of experience and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Louisiana State University. He is now tasked with carrying out the Commerce Department’s three-year plan to provide broadband access to 110,000 households across the state.
“I’m pleased to welcome Glen Howie to Arkansas, and I am confident that he is up to the task of expanding the availability of broadband to every corner of the state,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, per a press release provided to the Log Cabin. “Broadband delivery has always been one of my top priorities. For Arkansas to reach its full economic potential, we need to do everything we can to close the digital divide and ensure that our citizens in rural communities have the same opportunities as counterparts in larger cities .”
Howie said he is honored to be tasked with leading the Commerce Department’s broadband program.
“Like railways two centuries ago and electricity 100 years ago, broadband internet access today has become a critical piece of infrastructure, igniting economic growth, improving health outcomes, enhancing agricultural output and advancing the educational experience of our children,” Howie said. “It is an honor and privilege to be entrusted to build upon the prior success of the state broadband office and lead the team charged with providing a transformational opportunity to all Arkansans.”