LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers advanced proposals Thursday to increase funding for teacher insurance, as they opened a special session aimed at reducing rate increases of up to 50 percent set to hit next year.

The Joint Budget Committee endorsed a plan to use $43 million from the state surplus this year to reduce the premium increases. Identical versions of the proposal now head to the House and Senate.

Proposals to redirect money to teacher insurance and overhaul the program also easily won support from legislative committees.

"We've got to make sure we've got a sustainable health insurance program … for public school employees," said Rep. Tommy Wren, D-Melbourne, who chairs the House Insurance and Commerce Committee.

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