Arkansas Politics Blog

Arkansas AFL-CIO logo.
Arkansas AFL-CIO

A long-running contract between the Arkansas AFL-CIO and the state Department of Workforce Services to assist dislocated workers officially expires on Sunday. The department is taking the work in-house and projecting it will save $100,000 annually. Arkansas AFL-CIO President Alan Hughes doesn’t doubt the state will be capable of continuing the work but said the contract loss has some political underpinnings.

KUAR's Jacob Kauffman spoke with Hughes about the contract and role of organized labor in Republican Arkansas.

File photo: LRSD Superintendent Baker Kurrus, Democrat Gazette publisher and charter advocate Walter Hussman, and Governor Asa Hutchinson.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Governor Asa Hutchinson announced on Wednesday that 150 Teach for America positions will be funded by $3 million dollars over three years from his discretionary funds. Another $3 million in private donations will fund 65 positions in Little Rock schools.

Cecile Blucker Director of Children and Family Services at the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

Cecile Blucker, director of Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services, is resigning effective March 31. She has served in the role since 2009.

In an e-mail to staff, she said she wants to spend more time with family.

"As change is inevitable in all phases of our life, it is time for me to focus more and spend more time with those I love."

Her resignation letter to staff said despite "adverse situations - lack of funding, staff, etc." she is proud of the division's accomplishments.

Arkansas Sheriffs' Association Logo.
Arkansas Sheriffs' Association.

The race for U.S. Senate in Arkansas played out Monday at the Winter Conference of the state Sheriffs’ Association with incumbent Republican John Boozman and Democrat Conner Eldridge seeing close to eye to eye on mandatory sentencing laws. The two glad-handed and worked a room at the Marriott hotel in downtown Little Rock.

Eldridge, a former US Attorney, told KUAR some mandatory minimums may warrant re-evaluation.

The US Supreme Court on Monday ruled that all juveniles serving mandatory life sentences without parole, of which Arkansas has over 50, can challenge their punishment. In 2012 the nation’s highest court banned the future implementation of such sentences but did not apply it retroactively. However, last summer the Supreme Court of Arkansas did just that and 57 cases are under review.

Little Rock resident Whitman Bransford with the Daily Show correspondent Jordan Klepper in Little Rock.
Whitman Bransford

Arkansas gun culture will soon be the target of wit from the Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Correspondent Jordan Klepper was spotted at Midtown Billiards late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. 

My intrepid Facebook contact Whitman Bransford (who has some acclaim of his own) tells me Klepper said he was working on a gun control story when winter weather left them stranded in Little Rock past their expected stay. 

The third congressional district has a late arrival to the race hailing from the Libertarian Party of Arkansas. Steve Isaacson of Eureka Springs was nominated today in Fayetteville to fill a spot left vacant by Nathan LaFrance.

Back in March Isaacson planned to run against US Rep. Steve Womack in the Republican primary. He did not file to do so.

Left to right: Senate President Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy) and Governor Asa Hutchinson (R).
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The news this week was all about the governor’s highway funding plan but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a good reason to talk about the unsettled issue of Medicaid expansion.

Toward the end of Governor Asa Hutchinson’s remarks on the highway proposal earlier this week he cautioned that all of it would need to be scrapped if the legislature doesn’t approve his reconstituted private option, which he calls Arkansas Works, in a special session this Spring.

Chad Causey with Catfish Farmers of America (left) and state Rep. Michael John Gray (D-Augusta) speaking in House Agriculture in 2015.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

There may not be much outright opposition to the governor’s new highway funding proposal but Democratic Minority Leader Michael John Gray in the Arkansas House has his reservations. I caught up with him on Wednesday during the lunch break of an un-related health care task force meeting.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announcing his highway funding proposal.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is proposing that the state for the first time ever dip into general revenue funds to pay for state highways. The Republican governor announced the “no new taxes” proposal on Tuesday for a $750 million, 10-year highway budget that redirects general revenue and surplus funds.

At a press conference the governor said he felt “pretty good” about using general revenue for roads.