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State Journal: Piscine politics; Finance fight

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A lawmaker in Hawaii is determined to gut a pair of fish bills in the name of marine education.

Sen. David Ige, the chairman of the Senate's higher-education committee, this month struck down a bill aiming to establish the brown, freshwater fish known as the o'opu as Hawaii's official state fish.

He also pledged to snare a bill swimming through the House, if it reaches the Senate, that seeks to bestow the honor on the humuhumunukunukuapua'a--a more colorful, saltwater fish commonly referred to as the humuhumu, for obvious reasons.

Mr. Ige wants the state's schoolchildren to decide the issue. In 1985, thousands of children elected the humuhumu to a five-year term, in the meantime learning about Hawaii's native marine life and environment. The archipelago state has been without an official fish since 1990.

The education department should hold another election, Senator Ige said. A department spokesman said the state could probably figure out a way to do it, but noted the state is currently trying to chip away at a projected budget shortfall of $250 million over the next two years.

May the best fish win.

Attempts by the Arkansas legislature to find an equitable school-funding plan are testing the patience of lawmakers.

A slew of bills have been introduced in response to a court-ordered overhaul of the state's school-finance system. Among them are Gov. Jim Guy Tucker's plan to create regional taxing districts and a bill that would eliminate the use of property taxes for anything except debt service and impose a 2 percent sales-tax increase.

Under the Governor's controversial proposal, the 56 taxing districts would only be necessary if voters failed to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to levy a uniform property-tax rate and distribute the proceeds.

In one of a series of meetings this month, there was shouting and cursing, and only a strategically placed table kept some of the participants from coming to blows, according to the Associated Press.

But observers say most of the public hearings have been perfectly cordial.

"There just hasn't been any consensus yet," said Kellar Noggle, the executive director of the Arkansas Association of School Administrators.

--Lynn Schnaiberg & Laura Miller

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