Roby Brock / Talk Business & Politics

Roby Brock is the Editor-in-Chief and Host of Talk Business & Politics.

He can be reached by e-mail at: Roby@TalkBusiness.net.

Follow him on Twitter: @RobyBrock.

Leslie Rutledge attorney general
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, the first Republican and the first female elected to the office, said Wednesday she will run for governor in 2022.

Wendy Kelley
Arkansas Public Media

Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Secretary of Corrections, Wendy Kelley, will retire at the end of July, it was announced at a Board of Corrections meeting on Monday.

Kelley has served as leader of the Department of Corrections, which employs more than 6,000 people, since 2015. Arkansas’ correction system had 18,181 inmates at the end of February, up from 17,846 at the same period in 2019. She was the first female leader of the agency.

Protesters demonstrate Tuesday evening in front of Little Rock City Hall.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in Arkansas stating that recent assemblies and protests across the state “have been overtaken by destructive and violent individuals, creating conditions of distress for the citizens and businesses of the state.”

Demonstrators block traffic on Interstate 630 Saturday evening near the Arkansas State Capitol to protest the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Arkansas Department of Transportation

A day of peaceful protests in Little Rock grew more intense and eventually turned to violence on Saturday. The scene played out in more than two dozen cities across the nation as people gathered to protest the May 25th death of George Floyd in Minnesota and the larger issue of police brutality.

Floyd, who was black, was choked to death on camera by white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.

Talk Business & Politics

Stacy Hurst, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, says the plans that are in motion to re-open casinos, restaurants, parks and large venues are  moving cautiously forward.

Appearing on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, Hurst said the state’s three casinos have outlined new protocols to keep gamblers safe as Arkansas eases restrictions on businesses in the wake of COVID-19.

Talk Business & Politics

One of the obvious outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic is that telemedicine and telehealth will no longer be a wave of the future. They’re here and here to stay.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson loosened regulations on the use of telehealth due to the coronavirus outbreak that had previously limited the ability of doctors, nurses and patients to see one another in person to start a relationship. In an executive order issued in late March, Hutchinson suspended the rules that require a face-to-face meeting to establish a physician-patient relationship.

Governor's Office / YouTube

A midst a sea of masked legislators, Gov. Asa Hutchinson addressed the 92nd General Assembly, which opened its biennial fiscal session on Wednesday in Little Rock.

Talk Business & Politics

On Jan. 19, 2020, Gov. Asa Hutchinson began to assume the worst. That was the day a 35-year old Washington state resident was identified as having COVID-19 – the first U.S. coronavirus patient.

“Like many Americans, when I first saw that this hit in China, I thought that it would probably be confined there,” Hutchinson said in an exclusive Talk Business & Politics interview aired Sunday.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson signs legislation creating COVID-19 Rainy Day Fund into law just before 1 a.m. Saturday.
Governor's Office / YouTube

The first extraordinary session of the 92nd General Assembly was rather ordinary in its business, but extraordinary in its setting.

Arkansas lawmakers wrapped up a three-day special session to create a COVID-19 Rainy Day Fund. The funding mechanism will collect money from a variety of surplus and discretionary state accounts and be available to handle special money from the federal government, if necessary.

arkansas gaming casino
Talk Business & Politics

A Pulaski County judge has ruled that Gulfside Casino is a qualified applicant and its application with the state Racing Commission must be considered. Circuit Judge Tim Fox said the state’s decision to bar Gulfside’s application because the signatures of local elected officials did not include current officeholders was incorrect.

French Hill
Talk Business & Politics

While Congress has already taken steps to address the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, said more help will be on the way.

Sun Paper
Governor's Office

Representatives of Sun Paper Co., the $1.5 billion paper mill project slated for Clark County near Arkadelphia, have said the deal is officially terminated.

In a letter dated March 15, Andrzej Bednarski, International Project Director for Shandong Sun Paper Co., Ltd. notified Gov. Asa Hutchinson and AEDC officials that the project would not move forward, citing trade tensions, economic uncertainty, and the coronavirus outbreak as reasons for pulling the plug.

A new report funded by Entergy Arkansas and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation indicates that 41% of Arkansas households are either below the federal poverty level or have incomes that struggle to afford housing, childcare, food, transportation and healthcare.

The report addresses “ALICE” households – those that are “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed.” While the federal poverty line for a family of four sits at $24,600, ALICE households are between that amount and $46,812.

Corona
U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

As the coronavirus spreads in parts of the world and is contained in others, there is growing consensus that things will still get worse before they get better. Economist Mervin Jebaraj predicts that the next several months will see a variety of ripple effects as health professionals, government officials and others seek to contain the deadly virus.

Arkansas Highway Commission Chairman Tom Schueck, seen here at the dedication of the Big Rock Interchange on July 8, 2015, died Tuesday.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Highway Commission chairman, steel manufacturing businessman, and Arkansas Business Hall of Fame member Tom Schueck died Tuesday, according to a statement from the family. He was 78.

Schueck was the founder and former chairman of Lexicon Fabricators and Constructors, a major player in the steel manufacturing industry.

His son, Patrick Suhueck, issued a statement on behalf of the family.

Michael Bloomberg
Talk Business & Politics

Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg, the former New York City Mayor, made his third trip to Arkansas last week appearing at a rally in Bentonville. Sitting atop a Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll in early February, Bloomberg said there’s two reasons why his message is resonating with Arkansas voters.

Picture of a tractor on a farm
Creative Commons

Marshall Stewart’s farm equipment company has navigated the financial storms that have wrought havoc on the state’s agricultural community. Between tariffs, low commodity prices and historic weather challenges, the state’s farmers have had a tough row to hoe.

"It’s been difficult and it has placed a lot of strain on the agriculture sector. We did have the MFP [Market Facilitation Program] payments to help offset that. So, when you look at net farm income over the course of the last couple years, you’ve not seen them go down tremendously," he said.

University of Arkansas at Little Rock
ualr.edu

To make up an $11 million budget shortfall, UA Little Rock Chancellor Dr. Christina Drale has embarked on a rare path of “retrenchment” aimed at re-evaluating the school’s programs, personnel and mission. At this juncture, it may be easier to say what will remain versus what may go away.

Just four percentage points separates first place from fourth place in a new survey of likely Democratic primary voters in Arkansas.

The latest Talk Business & Politics/Hendrix College Poll asked 496 likely Democratic primary voters statewide for their preference in the March 3rd Presidential primary. The poll, conducted on Feb. 6-7, 2020, has a margin of error of +/-4.3%.

Frank Scott Jr.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. is backing Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg. Scott, who is one year into office, announced his endorsement Monday and praised Bloomberg's commitment to spread opportunity to Americans who are being shortchanged by the current economy.

Talk Business & Politics

On March 24, 1966, then-Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus wrote a letter to Melvin and Charlotte Schexnayder, the leaders of the Dumas Clarion newspaper in southeast Arkansas. Charlotte would later serve as a state representative for the region.

Arkansas political observers may be cross-eyed by the time all of the legal machinations between optometrists and ophthalmologists are settled.

On Thursday, the Arkansas Supreme Court denied a petition for rehearing of a ruling that allowed Safe Surgery Arkansas to proceed with its efforts to gain ballot access for its proposal to reverse Act 579. That law was passed in the 2019 regular session and expanded optometrists’ scopes of practice, allowing them to perform certain eye procedures that have traditionally been limited to ophthalmologists.

Talk Business & Politics

The promise of some portion of $550 million in new federal funding brought together a consortium of state and national broadband leaders in mid-December at the Association of Arkansas Counties headquarters in Little Rock.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is preparing to grant and loan money to boost high-speed broadband Internet infrastructure in rural America. The USDA Reconnect Pilot Program has an application window for this new round of funding that is set to open Jan. 31, 2020.

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Secretary of State John Thurston’s office must count signatures collected by a group wanting to repeal a state law regarding optometrists’ scope of practice.

Walter Hussman
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

In the midst of a technological revolution, a simple business basic may be the salvation that rescues the 200-year old Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper.

Publisher Walter Hussman and VP for audience development at WEHCO Media Eliza Gaines both contend that customer service has been crucial in leading subscribers from the print version of the statewide newspaper to its iPad-friendly digital version.

Issue 1 Governor Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

With less than a year until the November 2020 election, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and stakeholders for better roads officially launched their campaign for Issue 1, a permanent extension of a half-cent sales tax that is set to expire in 2022.

On Friday, Hutchinson kicked off the “Vote for Roads. Vote for Issue 1” campaign. Issue 1, referred by legislators to voters would extend the half-cent sales tax for roads in perpetuity when it expires in 2022.

Rick Crawford
Talk Business & Politics

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, said he is “voluntarily” giving up his seat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) to Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, in preparation for next week’s impeachment hearings. Crawford characterized the substitution as a “temporary resignation.”

The House is preparing for open hearings from witnesses as part of the impeachment inquiry formally opened last week in a partisan vote of 232-196. House Democrats have put forward a plan and guidelines for the process of the Congressional inquiry.

Rep. French Hill
Julia Kraus / KUAR News

Scores of political candidates filed for office on Monday (Nov. 4) at the Arkansas capitol as the week-long filing period officially opened for federal and state races. Among the high-profile races on next year’s ballot are a March 3, 2020, Presidential primary, statewide races for the U.S. Senate and Arkansas Supreme Court, and 117 legislative seats in the Arkansas House and Senate.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaking at Tuesday's announcement that DXC Technology is adding 1,200 jobs in Conway.
Governor's Office

Fortune 150 technology giant DXC Technology will expand its Conway operations by adding 1,200 new jobs to its current workforce of roughly 400. Gov. Asa Hutchinson and company officials made the formal announcement on Tuesday at press conference in Conway.

Domtar Corporation announced Thursday that it will permanently shut down two of its paper machines with one of the closures being in Ashdown, Arkansas. The other closure will be in Port Huron, Michigan.

The company said these measures will reduce its annual uncoated freesheet paper capacity by approximately 204,000 short tons and will result in a workforce reduction of approximately 100 employees.

The closure of the Ashdown paper machine will be effective immediately and the closure of the Port Huron machine by mid-November.

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