Arkansas Legislature

The latest news about the Arkansas Legislature.

A federal jury has convicted a former Arkansas state senator of fraud involving legislative grants to a small college in Springdale. A co-defendant was also convicted.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that Jon Woods was convicted Thursday on 15 of the 17 counts he faced, while co-defendant Randell Shelton Jr. was convicted on 12 of 15 counts. Federal prosecutors said the men were involved in a kickback scheme involving Ecclesia College. The college's former president pleaded guilty in the case last month, and former state Rep. Micah Neal pleaded guilty last year.

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The governor of Arkansas says he's opposed to raising the state's sales tax on groceries after a legislative panel voted to study the idea as a way to pave the way for further income tax cuts.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson told lawmakers Thursday he's opposed to raising the 1.5 percent sales tax on groceries, which is set to decrease next year to .0125 percent. A task force looking at ways to further reduce income taxes voted last week to study proposals to raise the tax and, in conjunction, creating a credit or rebate for moderate and low income residents to offset the hike.

Voter ID Vote photo ID
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas officials are appealing a judge's order blocking the state from enforcing a voter ID law nearly identical to a measure struck down as unconstitutional four years ago.

Almost all the action in Democratic state House primaries next month is taking place in central Arkansas. The seat for House District 33 is open after a high profile incumbent, Warwick Sabin, announced he is exploring a run for mayor.

The primary election is between Tippi McCullough and Ross Noland. The primary winner faces no opposition in the November general election.

Take a listen to the audio link above to hear the candidates thoughts about education, UAMS, public safety, and legislative leadership.

Ten Commandments
Max Brantley / Arkansas Times

A Ten Commandments monument will be installed outside Arkansas' Capitol next week, months after the original display was destroyed.

The Arkansas Secretary of State's office said it expects the new display to be installed on the morning of April 26.

The original display that was installed outside Capitol last June was destroyed less than 24 hours later. The man accused of driving his car into it apologized in 2015 for also destroying a Ten Commandments monument outside Oklahoma's Capitol.

Wendell Griffen
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A handful of state lawmakers are calling for Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen’s impeachment amid questions of his fitness to serve on the bench.

Griffen on Tuesday repeated his April 2017 protest of laying on a cot in front of the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, intending to symbolize a condemned inmate on a gurney.

State Sen. Trent Garner (R-Camden), who called for Griffen’s impeachment following last year’s protest, said Griffen’s vocal objection to capital punishment is one of many questionable actions and public statements made during Griffen’s tenure.

Jury selection is underway in the trial for a former Arkansas state senator accused in an alleged kickback scheme.

Former Sen. Jon Woods faces 15 fraud charges. Prosecutors accuse of him of taking kickbacks from former Ecclesia College president Oren Paris III in exchange for directing state funding to the college.

Paris pleaded guilty last week to one count of fraud and agreed to testify for prosecutors. Woods' attorney, Patrick Benca, has said his client is innocent and that defense attorneys will prove that, despite Paris' guilty plea.

The Arkansas House of Representatives chamber.
arkansashouse.org

The Arkansas House of Representatives is getting upgrades to its historic chamber and committee rooms at the state Capitol building. New desks, carpeting, chairs and voting machines will feature prominently in the House chamber, which is already undergoing renovations.

Gary Clements of North Little Rock-based Clements & Associates is serving as the consulting architect on the project. He said the upgrades are the final steps in a larger project for the chamber.

Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas' governor has signed into law legislation to continue the state's Medicaid expansion, which will impose a work requirement on thousands of participants this year.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson's office said Thursday the Republican signed the budget bill for Medicaid and the expansion, which uses federal and state funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents. More than 285,000 people are on the program, which was created as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.

House Speaker Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia).
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

An impasse over the Arkansas Treasurer’s budget is being averted in the state Legislature. After two-days of falling short of the needed three-quarters vote, lawmakers moved on Thursday to strip a contested provision, regarding a proposed tax deduction for contributions to a savings fund for private education. Representative Lane Jean spoke from the well of the House.

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