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.

Arkansas Farm Bureau announced Monday it is partnering with Arkansas PBS on programming and other projects.  Corn
Arkansas Farm Bureau

Arkansas Farm Bureau and Arkansas PBS are partnering to produce community programming and local projects, the two groups announced Monday.

The content, which will be called “Good Roots,” will focus on education initiatives, health awareness and supporting agricultural and rural community life. Major funding for “Good Roots” is provided by Arkansas Farm Bureau.

Talk Business & Politics host Roby Brock speaking with Rep. Michelle Gray (R-Bethesda), Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) and Arkansas Secretary of Human Services Cindy Gillespie.
Talk Business & Politics

Under construction for the past year, Arkansas lawmakers and Gov. Hutchinson’s administration will unveil their newest version of Medicaid expansion on Monday.

ARHOME (pronounced “Are-Home”) stands for Arkansas Health & Opportunity for Me. Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, and Rep. Michelle Gray, R-Bethesda, will be two of the lead sponsors of the proposal.

Arkansas state Sen. Jim Hendren in a video released Thursday announced he is leaving the Republican Party. The nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he is considering a run for governor.
YouTube

Arkansas State Sen. Jim Hendren has moved his political party affiliation from Republican to Independent and has plans to form a new organization aimed at working in bipartisan fashion, he announced Thursday.

Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin heads the Common Core task force.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., pivoted from his pursuit of the governor’s office to Attorney General last Monday. His departure from the GOP primary field for the state’s top post leaves Sarah Huckabee Sanders and current Attorney General Leslie Rutledge in the race.

Leon Jones, who heads the state’s Fair Housing Commission, said Thursday (Feb. 11) he plans to run for Arkansas Attorney General on the GOP ticket.

Griffin said his switch in the race was made after hearing from supporters.

fox16.com

The field for Arkansas governor just got smaller. Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., announced Monday (Feb. 8) he would no longer seek the state’s top executive post and instead will run for Attorney General.

Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe, seen here speaking at a March 13, 2020 press conference about the coronavirus outbreak alongside Gov. Asa Hutchinson, announced Thursday he will run for lieutenant governor in 2022.
Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe announced Thursday that he will seek the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor in 2022.

He has served as the state’s surgeon general since 2015 when he was appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Bledsoe has been one of the governor’s chief advisors through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bledsoe is an emergency room physician and earned his medical degree from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. After a residency at UAMS, he spent five years on the faculty in the Johns Hopkins Department of Emergency Medicine.

Arkansas Capitol
flickr.com

The chairmen of the Joint Budget Committee and House Revenue & Tax Committee want to provide tax relief for Arkansans who may not even know they could owe it. Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, and Rep. Joe Jett, R-Success, filed SB 236 on Thursday which would exempt unemployment compensation benefits from state income tax in 2020 and 2021.

File photo. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R).
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Tuesday announced she is leading a coalition of 16 states that have filed an amicus brief supporting the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) lawsuit against New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The NRA’s lawsuit seeks to block James’s attempt in a separate lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, which has come under intense scrutiny for alleged mismanagement of funds and potential violation of rules of operation for nonprofits.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

While legislators prepare to debate the issues in the 93rd Arkansas General Assembly, a more critical debate is already underway: How to conduct a COVID-19 legislative session at the state capitol?

Unlike the fiscal session earlier this year, legislative leaders are already instituting changes that will keep the session accessible to the public, safe for participants, and within the boundaries of their constitutional duties.

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

During a primetime television address delivered Thursday night, Gov. Asa Hutchinson reiterated many of the talking points he has been making for months. In a post-speech interview with Talk Business & Politics, Hutchinson expounded on what he hoped to accomplish in the speech, why he’s seeking more legislative input, what is frustrating him with the federal response, and how he’ll handle the potential for rising cases after the Christmas holidays.

The following transcript is a Q&A with Talk Business & Politics' Roby Brock.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on this week's Talk Business & Politics.
Talk Business & Politics

Gov. Asa Hutchinson anticipates a lot of negotiation over taxes in the upcoming legislative session. With an expected $240 million surplus,

Hutchinson has laid out proposals to:

  • Reduce the top individual income tax rate for new residents to 4.9% for five years. Doing so would attract tech and manufacturing talent and retirees, he said.
  • Lower the sales tax on used vehicles from 6.5% to 3.5% for those with sale prices between $4,000 and $10,000. There is no tax for cars sold for less than $4,000.
  • Place $100 million in the state’s long-term reserve account.

hendrix college
Hendrix.edu

Hendrix College has received a $15 million gift from the Windgate Foundation, the largest outright gift in Hendrix’s history.

“We are grateful for the support of the Windgate Foundation,” said Hendrix President W. Ellis Arnold III. “More than ever, it is critical that we continue moving forward, to meet today’s challenges and to continue to be a leader in higher education in the future.”

A $50 million grant program for hospitality and service sector businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic launches and state government leaders expect to make grant awards in late December.

Stacy Hurst, Arkansas Secretary for Parks, Heritage and Tourism, said the grants will hopefully help those hard-hit businesses stay alive until COVID-19 is under control.

An Arkansas Supreme Court ruling on Thursday (Oct. 29) declared that an existing half-cent sales tax for state highways could not be spent on a $1 billion widening project on Interstate 30 known as 30 Crossing.

The state’s high court ruled that a sales tax approved by voters in 2012, Amendment 91, could not be used on highways with more than four lanes. 30 Crossing proposed to add six lanes of surface highway to ease congestion around downtown Little Rock. A lawsuit brought by a number of environmentalists has been opposing the massive infrastructure project.

Vote button
Talk Business & Politics

A lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the League of Women Voters of Arkansas to alter the process for accounting for absentee ballots this fall. The lawsuit claims the state's requirements for accepting absentee ballots is unconstitutional, and seeks a court-ordered change before the Nov. 3 general election.

The lawsuit – League of Women Voter of Arkansas v. Thurston – was filed in federal court against Secretary of State John Thurston and several members of the State Board of Election Commissioners.

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a proposed initiated act to overturn a state law expanding optometric procedures does not qualify for the November ballot. The measure would have overturned Act 579 of 2019, which permitted optometrists to perform limited eye surgeries.

Safe Surgery Arkansas, which was supported by the state’s ophthalmologists, is the group that was pushing to overturn Act 579. Arkansans for Healthy Eyes, a group led by optometrists, had challenged the ballot initiative.

Talk Business & Politics

U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, launched a new ad in his Second Congressional District re-election campaign that raps Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, for her votes on taxes, particularly a cell phone fee that partially funds 911 calls.

University of Central Arkansas.
www.uca.edu

University of Central Arkansas President Dr. Houston Davis credits an early start on planning for COVID-19 as well as a rapid response in testing turnaround for controlling the coronavirus on his college campus in Conway.

Davis, who was installed as UCA President in 2017, said this challenge is unlike anything he’s ever dealt with in his decades in higher education.

“We’re roughly three weeks into residential operation at this point, and the top two things that we expect of students are to wear their face coverings and keep distance,” Davis said. “We have 3 million square feet of facilities on the UCA campus, and every square foot of those facilities have been reset with social distancing in mind. That’s from classrooms all the way through a mechanical room.

Tom Cotton
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has been selected for a primetime speaking slot in the Republican National Convention. He will speak on the final night, Thursday, Aug. 27, just ahead of President Donald Trump.

Sen. Cotton, who is running for re-election in 2020 against Libertarian Ricky Harrington, discussed his speech ahead of delivering it with Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief Roby Brock.

ROBY BROCK: You are delivering a primetime speech on the last night of the convention. What will be the essence of this speech, Senator?

French Hill
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, debuted his first TV ad of his 2020 re-election bid on Tuesday.

The ad, “Together,” is an on-camera appeal from Hill discussing COVID-19 and his efforts to bring funding to Arkansas families and businesses for relief.

“I’m so proud to call Arkansas home and that feeling runs deep throughout Arkansas’s Second District,” Hill said in a press release for the ad. “When disaster strikes, like the global pandemic, that’s when the spirit of Arkansas is on full display. We have a resilient work ethic unlike any other.”

Gretchen Hall
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Hospitality, travel, and tourism have been the hardest hit industries during COVID-19. Think restaurants, hotels, caterers, meeting facilities, trade shows and the cottage industries that support those businesses ranging from florists to event planners to lighting and banquet logistics companies.

Gretchen Hall, CEO of the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau, views it as the business challenge of a lifetime and the end is nowhere in sight.

A screenshot of Sen. Joyce Elliott's first campaign ad released Tuesday.
YouTube

Arkansas state Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock), the Democratic nominee for the state's Second Congressional District, released her first TV ad of the campaign cycle in her bid to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock).

Fiocchi
Fiocchi of America

A 225-year old Italian company with a large North American presence is expanding manufacturing operations in Central Arkansas.

Fiocchi of America, the U.S. subsidiary of Italy-based Fiocchi Group, announced plans Wednesday to establish a new manufacturing facility in Little Rock. It will invest $15 million in a new facility and hire 85 skilled employees with plans to further increase its workforce as the facility reaches its full potential.

education schools
arkansas.gov

The Arkansas Education Association’s survey of members finds that a supermajority of respondents are concerned about reopening schools this fall in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey, released Wednesday, fielded more than 6,100 responses from members with more than 88% being from teachers. Of those teachers, roughly 44% are from the elementary level, 20% teach middle school, 27% cover high school grades, and 9% were classified as other.

Election Voters Voting
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The November election is less than four months away. In Arkansas, the marquee match up is for the second district congressional seat between incumbent U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock and State Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock.  The seat continues to be one Democrats, despite falling short over the last decade, hope to reclaim.

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences UAMS
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson has been through a health crisis before. When he was entering the medical field in the late 80’s, the country was awakening to the HIV epidemic. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic is moving more rapidly and affecting many more people in Arkansas and across the globe.

With the state recording its highest one-day number of COVID-19 cases – 1,061 on Saturday – Patterson said it’s time for a statewide mask mandate.

Amazon
Amazon

Amazon announced Tuesday plans to open its first fulfillment center at the Port of Little Rock. The new fulfillment center, which is anticipated to launch in 2021, will create over 1,000 new full-time jobs.

The 825,000 square-foot distribution facility will be located on 80 acres at the port and will benefit from yesterday’s announcement of upgrades to road infrastructure.

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.”

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