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.

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.

Rep. Mickey Gates
www.arkansashouse.org

Arkansas Speaker of the House Matthew Shepherd on Friday said he is taking the rare action to remove a colleague from a House seat.

Shepherd, R-El Dorado, wrote a letter to House members explaining that he intends to put forth a resolution calling for the “immediate removal” of Rep. Mickey Gates, R-Hot Springs, from the chamber. Gates pleaded last month no contest to not paying state income taxes and worked out an agreement to pay part of what he owed.

gambling
Wikimedia Commons

After five days of teaser ads, Cherokee Nation Businesses and Legends unveiled their plans for a proposed resort and casino in Pope County. The $225 million Legends Resort & Casino Arkansas will bring “world-class entertainment to the region,” the groups said on Monday.

Some of the proposed amenities include:

Georgia Pacific Crossett
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

Georgia-Pacific announced Tuesday it is permanently shutting down the equipment and processes supporting the bleached board operations at its Crossett facility in south Arkansas as of October 2019. About 555 jobs will be impacted by the closure. Also, the timber and paper giant will close a particleboard facility in Hope, laying off 100 workers.

The Crossett decision was based on an assessment of the mill’s ability to compete effectively in the bleached board market, the company said.

CZ-USA gun maker
Talk Business & Politics

Cold beer, good food, and bike trails may have sealed the deal for Arkansas’ newest foreign investment.

On Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and local economic leaders announced in a state capitol press conference that CZ-USA, a Czech Republic-based gun manufacturer would locate its North American headquarters in the Little Rock Port Authority. The $90 million facility will manufacture, warehouse and distribute the company’s high-end, precision firearms, while employing up to 565 workers over the next six years.

Sig Sauer

Ammunitions manufacturer SIG Sauer cut the ribbon on its expanded Jacksonville, Ark. facility on Tuesday. Gov. Asa Hutchinson, U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, and local government and economic development officials participated in the ceremony for the state-of-the-art facility.

Financial terms of the expansion were not disclosed.

Matt DeCample
KUAR

TV reporter, press spokesman, PR professional, film enthusiast, comedian. Not necessarily in that order. Matt DeCample wore a lot of hats in his too-short life.

A former KATV reporter and longtime spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, DeCample died Sunday evening after a nearly three-year battle with cancer.

He came to Arkansas in the 1990’s to work for KATV Ch. 7 in Little Rock as a general assignment reporter. Bob Steel, the former news director who hired him, said DeCample was one-of-a-kind.

Andy Davis
Talk Business & Politics

A permanent half-cent sales tax for roads. An increase in the motor fuel tax. Registration fees, revenue transfers, and reforming the procurement process.

These are all ideas being floated to craft a highway funding plan in the Arkansas Legislature, according to Rep. Andy Davis, R-Little Rock, who is one of several lawmakers in the middle of discussions.

Davis appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics to discuss a highway plan and Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s state government reorganization effort.

The Arkansas Insurance Commissioner approved two licenses for pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs), under the guise of a new law passed in a 2018 special session.

AID Commissioner Allen Kerr approved a PBM license for Aetna Health Management, LLC based in Hartford, Connecticut. The company does business in Arkansas as Aetna Pharmacy Management and is registered as a Foreign Limited Liability Company with the Secretary of State.

Asa Hutchinson
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Gov. Asa Hutchinson will celebrate his election to a second term with two days of inaugural events on January 14-15, 2019.

Hutchinson was re-elected to a second term as governor in November 2018 with 65% of the vote.

The two-day inaugural celebration will center around the theme “Together for Success” and will include free and paid events and activities. Dave and Sarah Hutchinson Wengel, Hutchinson’s daughter and son-in-law, are co-chairs of the 2019 Inaugural Committee.

Arkansas Children's Hospital
KATV-Channel 7

Arkansas Children’s Hospital CEO Marcy Doderer said one of the state’s largest health care systems will raise its minimum wage for entry level jobs to $14 per hour in the next fiscal year.

Doderer, appearing on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, discussed this topic, the debate over pre-existing conditions, and a new legal initiative underway with Walmart and Legal Aid of Arkansas.

Senator Tom Cotton
Talk Business & Politics

In the wake of a coordinated bomb scare targeting two former Presidents, a former Vice-president, Democratic officials and critics of President Trump, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., says Americans should appeal to their better angels and he noted that heated political rhetoric is coming from all sides.

election vote
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The race for the Arkansas Supreme Court looks largely undecided two weeks before Election Day. And, an amendment proposal to expand casinos in Arkansas has been improving its odds for passage.

A new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll of 528 likely statewide voters, conducted on Oct. 18-19, 2018, asked:

Q: If the non-partisan race for State Supreme Court Associate Justice were being held today, and the candidates were State Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson and David Sterling, for whom would you vote?

Governor Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

President Donald Trump has seen an upsurge in his job approval rating in Arkansas and that’s boosting the Republican brand in political races headed into the Nov. 6th general election.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson leads his Democratic challenger, Jared Henderson, and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has a sizable lead on her Democratic opponent, Mike Lee, according to a new poll from Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College.

The latest survey asked 528 likely statewide voters on Oct. 18-19, 2018:

French Hill Clarke Tucker
Talk Business & Politics

A poll taken right before a controversial radio ad produced a skirmish in the Second Congressional District race shows incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, with a slightly growing lead over his Democratic challenger, State Rep. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock.

In early September, Hill had a nine point lead over Tucker in a Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey. In a new poll conducted Oct. 17-18, Hill’s lead is a 12-point advantage.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A new poll conducted this week shows the race for Little Rock Mayor to be close and competitive among three of the five candidates with nearly one-third of the city’s voters still undecided on their choice less than a month before Election Day.

The Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll, commissioned by KATV Ch. 7, surveyed 498 likely Little Rock voters on Oct. 8-9, 2018. The survey used automated and live calls and has a margin of error of +/-4.4%.

Voters were asked about their choice for mayor based on how their names will appear on the ballot:

2nd district candidates
AETN

There were no seismic moments in the only scheduled debate between the three candidates for Arkansas’ Second Congressional District. The nearly one-hour debate hosted at UCA and airing on AETN featured incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. French Hill, Democrat Clarke Tucker, and Libertarian Joe Swafford.

The three candidates rotated answers to questions surrounding the MeToo movement, immigration, election interference by Russia, the rising national debt, tariffs and raising the minimum wage.

Arkansas voters overwhelmingly favor constitutional proposals to require voter ID and to tighten term limits, and by a 2-to-1 margin they oppose a measure to alter civil lawsuits and court rules.

The latest Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey of 1,701 statewide likely voters was conducted on Sept. 5-7, 2018 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.4. The statewide survey sample is a combination of four Congressional District polls that achieved more than 400 respondents per district. Automated calls and live calls were conducted.

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