Roby Brock

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Roby Brock of TalkBusiness.net covers business and political news happening in Arkansas.

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Betsy Ward, president and CEO of USA Rice Federation, speaking at the Arkansas Rice Annual Meeting Tuesday in Stuttgart.
Arkansas Farm Bureau

The Arkansas Rice Annual Meeting took place Tuesday in Stuttgart. It’s a key event for industry and government leaders to discuss the state of agriculture.

Organizers say about 400 people attended the meeting, included several top state officials, state senators and state representatives.

Talk Business and Politics

As state lawmakers prepare for an April 6th special session to consider the fate of the governor’s health care reform program, Arkansas Works, two state lawmakers say there are multiple issues to address to secure the votes needed for passage.

Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, and Rep. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics to explain how Republicans and Democrats may be persuaded to support the Medicaid expansion plan.

Cuba
Jorge Royan / Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Asa Hutchinson will be joining a group of Arkansas agricultural business interests on a trade trip to Cuba later this month.

The delegation is being led by the Rogers-based World Trade Center Arkansas and is expected to include representatives from Tyson Foods, Riceland Foods and other in-state agri-related businesses. The dates of the trip are Sept. 28-30.

“Governor Hutchinson is set to visit Cuba at the end of the month to promote Arkansas agriculture. We will have more details in the coming weeks,” governor’s spokesman J.R. Davis tells Talk Business & Politics.

Arkansas’ May unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.7% from April, but the measuring stick for job health was down 0.8% from one year ago.

Employment numbers rose by 900 for the month and unemployment ranks added 600 to the jobless rolls between April and May in Arkansas.

During the past 12 months, 46,100 Arkansans have been added to the workforce, while 3,000 have exited. Economists speculate that those departing the workforce are a combination of those giving up looking for work, those moving out of state, and retirements led by Baby Boomers.

Roby Brock / Talk Business & Politics

Members of a task force looking at health reforms in Arkansas took a detour down a philosophical road regarding contract management at the Department of Human Services in a discussion that lasted more than an hour.

Tom Cotton
Talk Business & Politics

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, said Wednesday that he does not think President Obama is willing to commit the resources necessary to defeat ISIS, the militant terrorist group responsible for the kidnapping and killing of Westerners, including American journalists and workers.

“I’m sure the President would like to eliminate the Islamic State (ISIS) and he’s stated his strategy is to defeat and degrade them – which is a fine strategy – but I think he lacks the commitment to put the resources behind that strategy to achieve those proper ends,” Cotton said.

Senator Tom Cotton
Talk Business & Politics

Arkansas’ junior senator, Tom Cotton, likes the crowded GOP field of potential Presidential candidates and says he’s a long way from making a decision on who he will support.

Sen. Cotton, R-Ark., was a guest on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics with Roby Brock, which airs Monday evening at 6:06 p.m. on KUAR.

As part of the review process under Amendment 82, the state’s superproject amendment, lawmakers have received an independent consultant’s analysis of the proposed $87 million Lockheed Martin  Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) bond issue that will be at the center of debate in next week’s special session.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson made the official call for legislators to meet in special session beginning Tuesday, May 26 to vote on helping lure the military’s new JLTV production facility to Camden. The new military vehicle will replace the long-running Humvee vehicle.

Governor Hutchinson Facebook
Arkansas Economic Development Commission

You haven’t seen much out of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s public schedule the last two days. That’s because the new Arkansas governor has been on the West Coast for a little R & R. Not “rest and relaxation,” but for a few “rendezvous and recruitment.”

Rex Nelson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Rex Nelson has joined Pine Bluff-based Simmons First National Corp. as director of corporate communications, the financial institution announced on Monday.

“Simmons is a vital and growing company and with that growth comes an added challenge and responsibility to communicate well to our customers, associates, communities, and investors. Rex’s experiences in government, journalism, and public affairs give him a unique skill set that will create a great foundation for taking our communications to the next level,” said Simmons First chairman and CEO George Makris.

File. A look inside the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Amidst a backdrop described by several podium speakers as a religious revival, Central Arkansas’ startup community held a celebration on Monday to announce a major grant that will spark more activity in the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Winrock International CEO Rodney Ferguson stepped to the stage and said, “I’m not a Baptist preacher, but it sure feels like a revival here today.”

With the Arkansas Manufacturing Innovation Summit only days away, a quarterly industry report by PriceWaterHouse (PWC) showed that manufacturing executives are optimistic about the future despite recent challenges that have maligned the sector once viewed as the pillar of the U.S. economy.

It flew under the radar for the most part, but a significant piece of legislation may make Arkansas a much easier place to start or run a business, Talk Business & Politics reports.

Act 1190, co-sponsored by Speaker Jeremy Gillam and Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, allows the Secretary of State’s office to create a portal for businesses to submit licenses, permits and applications through one interface.

Greg Bledsoe
Talk Business & Politics

Arkansas’ new Surgeon General, Dr. Greg Bledsoe, says the legislative health care task force that begins its work in earnest this week will be looking at a much wider swath of reform than just the private option.

Talk Business & Politics

Newly installed state Education Commissioner Johnny Key laid out his philosophy for public education in Arkansas, stating he was a strong supporter of Common Core and wants to find ways to empower teachers and strengthen leadership in order to improve schools.

“My philosophy is that teachers know best and we need to build from the ground up,” said Key, a former Mountain Home state Senator tapped by Gov. Asa Hutchinson last month to lead the state’s education department.

Talk Business & Politics

Senate President Jonathan Dismang and Speaker of the House Jeremy Gillam said they are satisfied with the outcome of the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that nearly derailed the regular legislative session in the last full week.

HB 1228 religious freedom gay rights
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR News

On a day when renewed opposition from the state’s business community implored Gov. Asa Hutchinson to stop HB 1228, a bill dubbed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” the Arkansas House passed three amendments to the measure that sealed the bill’s fate for the governor’s desk.

Acxiom CEO Scott Howe and Chief Legal Officer Jerry Jones have signed a letter calling on Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto HB 1228, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Acxiom, a Little Rock-based technology firm, is one of the biggest database marketers in the world. It employs about 1,760 workers in Arkansas.

Howe and Jones said in their letter that they “respectfully request” the governor to veto the legislation.

Talk Business & Politics

On Thursday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson officially named Mike Preston as the new executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the state agency charged with recruiting and retaining jobs. Preston comes from Enterprise Florida, that state’s economic development arm.

Preston appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, which will be broadcast Monday at 6:06 p.m. on KUAR.

Preston, 32, spent six years with Enterprise Florida and also worked for a State Representative and State Senator in the Florida Legislature.

Arkansas Economic Development Commission Director Mike Preston.
TalkBusiness.net

 Gov. Asa Hutchinson will turn to the Sunshine State for his new director of economic development.

Talk Business & Politics and The City Wire have learned that Mike Preston, vice president for Government Relations with Enterprise Florida, has been tapped to be the new director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

AEDC is the state’s job development agency and works to recruit and retain businesses in the state. Former director Grant Tennille was not retained in the position by Gov. Hutchinson.

Leslie Rutledge Attorney General
Talk Business & Politics

With the Arkansas Supreme Court ruling this past week declaring the state’s lethal injection procedures as constitutional, executions in Arkansas are set to move forward after a decade of being on hold.

Talk Business & Politics

After a high-profile week centered around a controversial letter to Iranian leaders authored by Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas’ junior senator said he’s far from done with his efforts interjecting himself in the U.S.-Iran discussion.

Cotton, who appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics which airs Monday evening at 6:06 on KUAR, told host Roby Brock that details of the President’s negotiations with Iran to stop a potential nuclear threat “make this too dangerous for the world to accept.”

MSNBC

The American people should be committed to stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Tuesday morning.

Cotton and 46 other Republicans sent a letter Monday to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran about negotiations between the United States and Iran on nuclear weapons.

The letter was not signed by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who sponsored a bill in the past to increase sanctions on Iran. That bill was approved and signed into law.

The legislature heads back to the capital Monday for a ninth week of this year’s session as lawmakers prepare to make key decisions.

Members of the House and Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs committees will likely spend the week going over proposed constitutional amendments, while the task force looking into the Private Option will start its meetings Tuesday.

Also, lawmakers face another deadline – a 5 p.m. Monday deadline – to file non-appropriations bills for this session.

Governor Mike Beebe Portrait
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Roberts Law Firm P.A. in Little Rock announced that former Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe has officially joined Roberts Group, which includes several legal and consulting entities tied to the firm.

On its Facebook page, the firm said: “Roberts Law Firm announces that Governor Mike Beebe has officially joined Roberts Group (Roberts Law Firm, PA, Roberts GR Strategies, LLC, Made in USA Works, LLC, and Roberts International, LLC), effective March 1, 2015. Governor Beebe will not engage in lobbying activities. We are thrilled to have him on board!”

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

The Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives will talk to members of the Central Arkansas Political Animals Club later this month. Rep. Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, will be the March 17 speaker at the Central Arkansas chapter of the Political Animals Club in Little Rock.

The meeting will be at the Little Rock Club on the 30th floor of the Regions Bank building on West Capitol Avenue.

The state’s revenue forecast looks rosier thanks to a strong month of sales tax collections in February. Monthly sales tax collections spiked 5.7% above last year and 5% above forecast to bring in $176.5 million for the month.

The increase boosted year-to-date net available general revenues to more than $3.338 billion, up $127.2 million or 4% above year ago levels. After eight months into the fiscal year, net available revenue is above forecast by $94.6 million or 2.9%.

Talk Business & Politics

With state lawmakers gearing up for a continuation of their debate over changes to the state’s prison system, sentencing guidelines, and parole and probation protocol, there is a push for more transparency to the convoluted and complicated process of criminal justice.

Appearing on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, which airs Monday evening at 6:06 on KUAR, Sens. David Sanders and Jeremy Hutchinson and Rep. John Vines discussed what they see as problems and potential solutions to the challenge.

Talk Business & Politics

Last week, Gov. Asa Hutchinson unveiled his plan to reform the state’s prison, parole and probation programs in a holistic, comprehensive effort to reduce crime, stem repeat offenders and curtail a high-growth area of the state’s budget. The price tag for Hutchinson’s plan is $64 million with about $32 million being spent in the next two years.

City of North Little Rock

“100 Girls of Code” officially is opening a local chapter in Arkansas. The initiative offers free workshops to females ages 12 to 18 to generate interest in computer science among girls. Each participant of the workshop learns computer-programming basics by building websites and video games.

The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub has partnered with the organization to oversee the North Little Rock chapter.

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