Local & Regional News

Arkansas local and regional news

When Arkansas voters took the step to legalize medical marijuana in the November 2016 election, the Natural State was hailed as an outlier for being the first state in the Southeast U.S. to take such a bold step.

Today, with Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and other surrounding states moving with medical marijuana programs or early stage plans and ballot initiatives to legalize pot, Arkansas is now an example of a “red state” facing marijuana implementation problems with some officials in charge of the process on record as being opposed to the use of marijuana in any capacity.

Hughes Street Interstate 630 I-630 expansion
Arkansas Department of Transportation

U.S. District Judge James Moody said he will likely issue a decision Tuesday on whether to halt an expansion project just getting underway on Interstate 630 in Little Rock. On Monday he heard a full day of oral arguments and testimony that continued into the evening. 

Stone Bank
Arkansas Business

Despite predictions that brick-and-mortar bank branches would be rapidly declining in this online era, the number of bank locations in Arkansas actually increased over the last budget year. Arkansas Business Editor Gwen Moritz wrote about that in this week’s issue, which was released Monday.

Like ink-on-paper publications, brick-and-mortar bank branches are taking much longer to die out than predicted when the millennium was new.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Yet another guilty plea has been entered in a kickback scheme using tax money related to convicted lobbyist Milton “Rusty” Cranford, a former Preferred Family Healthcare executive.

Duane “Dak” Kees, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced Thursday that Jerry Kennedy Walsh of Magnolia, Ark., pleaded guilty today to conspiring to misapply over $380,000 from South Arkansas Youth Services (SAYS)without the authority of the non-profit’s Board of Directors.

Arkansas charities are speculating about whether the recent near-doubling of the standard deduction, very welcomed by taxpayers, will have an unintended effect on fundraising by reducing the incentive to itemize.

Under the Tax Jobs and Cuts Act signed by President Trump in December, the standard deduction for individuals went from $6.300 to $12,000.  For married couples, it went from $12, 600 to $24,000.  Only the itemization method of filing taxes, which is chosen by less than 30 percent of taxpayers according to the most recent IRS data, offers a way to deduct any charitable donations.

Hughes Street Interstate 630 I-630 expansion
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

As a construction zone is being set up to widen a 2.2-mile stretch of Interstate 630 in Little Rock, a federal lawsuit aims to bring the $87.4 million project to a halt. One lane is to be added in each direction between Baptist Health Medical Center and University Avenue.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas argues that a proper environmental assessment was not conducted. Attorney Richard Mays is asking for a temporary restraining order which would stop construction until the lawsuit can be heard in court.

Corey Lewandowski
C-SPAN

The former campaign manager for Donald Trump’s presidential bid will be speaking at the annual convention of the Republican Party of Arkansas this weekend. Corey Lewandowski and conservative commentator Candace Owens are scheduled to be special guests at the gathering which is taking place in Benton.

State party spokesman Stephen Houserman said in an email that party members are eagerly anticipating both guests.

Interstate 630 highway construction
David Monteith / KUAR News

The speed limit is being reduced and concrete barriers are going up along a 2.2-mile stretch of Interstate 630 in Little Rock. Unless the weather causes delays, lanes will be closed beginning Monday night to prepare for the placement of concrete safety barriers along the stretch of the interstate between University Avenue and John Barrow Road.

30 Crossing
Arkansas Department of Transportation

A final public meeting on plans to expand a 6.7 mile stretch of Interstate 30 in Little Rock took place Thursday evening in North Little Rock. The Arkansas Department of Transportation presented an environmental assessment on the project, which would run through the downtowns of Little Rock and North Little Rock.

The environmental assessment is a nearly 4,000 page report on the proposal to expand I-30 to 10 lanes. Department spokesman Danny Straessle says the $630 million project is necessary to fix unsafe ramps downtown.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

The most recognizable signs of July in Arkansas are probably cookouts, fireworks, and red-white-and-blue everything. But, in downtown Little Rock, a sea of taekwondo instructors, students and their families have become an annual fixture of summer in the city. 

The American Taekwondo Association, which is headquartered in Little Rock, holds its World Expo at downtown's Statehouse Convention Center each year. The event is by far the largest tourist gathering in the city, with an estimated 20,000 visitors from around the world making the trip to Arkansas's capital city.

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