The Senate approved a reworked bill Tuesday to merge the financially struggling Arkansas State Police retirement system's investments with another state fund but still allow the police system to have a separate governing board.

The Senate approved a reworked bill Tuesday to merge the financially struggling Arkansas State Police retirement system's investments with another state fund but still allow the police system to have a separate governing board.
The revised version of a measure previously backed by the Senate was negotiated after Gov. Mike Beebe objected to doing away with the police system board's entirely. Beebe has asked lawmakers to set aside $9 million from the state's surplus to help prop up the state police pension.
"If we don't put a permanent fix in place that shows good stewardship of taxpayer money, then we can't put $9 million into a broken system. You don't pump air into a tire without fixing the hole, and that's what we've been doing with that system for years," said Sen. Steve Faris, D-Malvern.
The proposal was approved unanimously in the 35-member Senate. The measure now heads to the House for a vote.
The House, meanwhile, approved a ban on the sale of realistic toy guns a day after rejecting the same prohibition.
The bill, by Rep. Fred Allen, D-Little Rock, passed the House on a 55-38 vote Tuesday. A day earlier, the measure had failed 49-41, needing 51 votes. Allen said he brought the bill back because he'd gained the support of several members who didn't vote either way on the measure Monday.
"There were members that wanted to vote on the bill that were not here," on Monday, Allen said.
Opponents had questioned whether the ban would duplicate restrictions already in federal regulations.
Allen had named his bill the DeAunta Farrow Imitation Firearms Act, after the West Memphis boy who was fatally shot by a police officer who thought he was holding a gun. But Allen agreed to remove the boy's name from the bill after complaints from the family, who dispute police accounts that say DeAunta was holding the toy weapon.
The boy was shot to death in 2007 and a civil lawsuit is pending.
Legislative leaders say they're still confident they can meet a self-imposed deadline of April 9 to end the session, and Senate President Bob Johnson said he hoped to have more details on proposals for spending the state's projected $300 million surplus.
The Senate approved more than 200 bills appropriating money from the surplus for various projects, but not all of them will be funded in the bill.
Johnson said the General Improvement Fund bill will set aside $50 million for the governor's Quick Action Closing fund to attract new businesses and set aside money to make up for shortfalls in the state's budget. Beebe has asked for $100 million to pay for programs that would otherwise go unfunded.
Johnson said he didn't know how much the House and Senate would receive through the GIF bill, but said that the Senate plan is to direct the money through four or five state agencies.
"The fact of the matter is, there's no more of this legislative discretion as to where dollars flow," Johnson said.
The Senate also approved legislation offering incentives to schools for the number of students they graduate who complete the Smart Core curriculum. The proposal by Sen. Mary Anne Salmon, D-North Little Rock, would offer $125 per Smart Core graduate to schools where 100 percent of the graduates have completed the curriculum, $100 per student for schools with at least 95 percent participation and $50 for schools with at least 90 percent participation.
Salmon said the incentives would cost the state about $3 million.
The Senate also unanimously approved expanding the state's nonprofit incentives act to cover more charities that have smaller annual payrolls and spend less on new machinery and buildings.
The House handily rejected a bill that would have called for stricter penalties for members of state boards and commissions who violate ethics rules. There was no debate Tuesday when the House voted down the proposal by Rep. Kathy Webb, D-Little Rock, on a 38-47 vote.
Webb's bill, called the proposed Conflict of Interest Prohibition Act, would make it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $2,000 fine if a board member or commissioner knowingly votes on or influences a decision in which they have financial conflicts of interest.
Webb says the bill wouldn't have applied to city boards and commissions and that neighboring states have much stricter ethics policies. Webb said some members had questioned whether the provisions would discourage Arkansans from volunteering to serve on state boards and commissions.
"I don't think it has an effect on the desire and willingness of citizens to serve on boards and commissions," Webb said. "If you look at the laws of our neighboring states, you're going to find some pretty tough laws that makes this bill pretty weak in comparison."
Also on Tuesday, House members greeted Rep. Johnny Hoyt, D-Morrilton, with a chorus of barnyard noises when he asked members to recall his bill for a milk stabilization program from the governor's office.
The House and Senate had passed Hoyt's measure calling for a tax on dairy products to fund the stabilization program, aimed at helping the state's farmers. But Beebe said Monday that he'd found $9.1 million in funding — from a little-used alternative fuels fund — that he could tap into for the stabilization program.
The recall of Hoyt's bill prevents the governor from having to veto the measure.
A Senate panel endorsed a proposal that would require brewers of beer to be consistent in the prices they charge distributors. By a 5-2 vote, the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced the proposal by Rep. Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis, despite objections from Anheuser Busch Co. that it would take away their flexibility.
Ingram's proposal, which has passed the House, now heads to the Senate for a vote.
Associated Press Writer Jill Zeman contributed to this report.