Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday the state’s unemployment rate will be announced as 3.7 percent Friday and said he hopes disputes over trade policies end soon.

The state’s previous unemployment rate was 3.8 percent. Hutchinson preempted an announcement by the Department of Workforce Services by a day while speaking at an agricultural summit in Little Rock.

The Advancing American Agriculture: Ag Technology & the Law conference was hosted by the National Ag Law Center, the National Association of Attorneys General, and the Agriculture and Food Law Consortium.

A crowd of perhaps 200 supporters, protesters and counter-protesters gathered Thursday in front of the Arkansas Capitol for the unveiling of the much-publicized Baphomet statue.

The statue is the showpiece of a group calling itself The Satanic Temple. It’s reportedly about 8 feet tall and bronze. Baphomet is a pagan or occult idol; this one is pictured seated before a little boy and a little girl bearing curious, eager expressions.

Little Rock Police Helicopter
Little Rock Police Department

Authorities say one person was hurt when a powerful wind toppled a Little Rock Police Department helicopter during a test run.

Little Rock Police Lt. Michael Ford tells TV station KATV that a pilot was conducting the test run Thursday after a new battery was installed in the helicopter.

Ford says a straight-line wind tipped the helicopter off a staging area it was sitting on, then the aircraft went into a malfunction and started spinning on the ground.

Ford says one officer suffered a serious head injury but was able to talk to emergency crews as they arrived.

Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO Eileen Drake with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson at Wednesday's announcement that the company will be expanding its south Arkansas facility.
Governor's Office

Arkansas’s ongoing efforts to grow the state’s aerospace and defense sector got a big boost Wednesday after Sacramento, Calif.-based Aerojet Rocketdyne unveiled plans to expand the company’s solar-powered rocket motor manufacturing facility in East Camden.

In a press event at the Governor’s Conference room at the State Capitol, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Aerojet CEO and President Eileen Drake announced that the California defense contractor would invest more than $50 million to expand its sprawling south Arkansas armaments factory and hire 140 new workers over the next three years.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas’s newly-implemented work requirement for recipients of the state’s Medicaid expansion program is the subject of a new federal lawsuit seeking to remove the requirement.

The lawsuit was filed by the National Health Law Program, Legal Aid of Arkansas, and the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of three recipients of the state’s expanded Medicaid program, known as Arkansas Works. The suit, filed in United States District Court for the District of Columbia, names U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma as plaintiffs.

McDonald's
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

McDonald’s on Tuesday announced plans to invest $69 million in 100 of the more than 170 stores in Arkansas by 2019. The work is part of a $6 billion plan to modernize many U.S. McDonald’s restaurants by 2020.

Work on the Arkansas stores is set to begin this year. David Stokes, a Cabot-based franchisee, said the work will use local professional services and help the state’s construction industry.

National Weather Service

Late summer usually means hot, dry weather in Arkansas, but according to National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Cook, predictions for the middle of  this month include highs in the 80s and the poential for heavy rain, "which is a little bit unusual." While rainfall is helping the state avoid wildfires, it's a mixed bag for agriculture industry.

Arkansas Board of Apportionment

On a gray afternoon, Nick Wiench walks to the University of Central Arkansas's Torreyson Library. He studies philosophy and film, not political science, but he's concerned about an easily-overlooked part of the electoral system.

"I know gerrymandering is the thing where they split up basically the districts almost by Republican and Democrat to try and get the most votes into their own political party. It's kind of biased, in a way… but I'm not sure exactly how we can fix it," Wiench said. "It's not exactly a smooth thing that we can do."

But now, two almost identical proposals are seeking to change the way Arkansas draws both its congressional and state legislative districts. 

Bill Gwatney
Arkansas Business

Monday marked the 10th anniversary of the murder of Bill Gwatney, chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas. He was shot August 13, 2008 at the party’s state headquarters in Little Rock and died several hours later. The gunman would be shot and killed by police later that afternoon.

The Arkansas State Plant Board welcomes a new director on Monday.  Butch Calhoun will lead the 101-year-old agency that regulates agricultural policies in the state.  It's the same board that made the closely-watched decision last fall to ban the herbicide dicamba.  Calhoun, who's a native of Des Arc, spoke with Ann Kenda of Arkansas Public Media about his thoughts going into this high-profile position.

He takes over from Terry Walker, who announced his retirement last month.

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