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.

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.

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.

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