Steve Brawner / Talk Business & Politics

Steve Brawner is a freelance journalist and contributor to Talk Business & Politics.

He is also a syndicated columnist in 10 Arkansas newspapers.

You can email him at brawnersteve@mac.com or follow him on Twitter: @SteveBrawner.

Arkansas Department of Human Services Logo
arkansas.gov

More Arkansas children are entering foster care than leaving the system, and there are more than three times as many foster children as foster homes. So the Department of Human Services is trying to streamline the process of creating more of those homes.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

State and public school employees will make bigger contributions for their health insurance in 2017, but the big increases are coming in later years, legislators were told Wednesday.

At a State & Public School Life & Health Insurance Task Force meeting, John Colberg with the independent actuarial firm Cheiron told legislators that public school employees and retirees will see a 2% increase in 2017, while state employees and retirees will see a 3% increase.

Bart Hester
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The number of private option recipients whose insurance premiums are being paid by the program reached 258,161 in July, up 55,000 more than in January.

The number was 213,026 in January. In June, 250,885 were on the program, according to a letter and information sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson by Department of Human Services director Cindy Gillespie Aug. 17.

telemedicine
www.rochester.edu

A rule allowing doctors and patients to establish a relationship using audiovisual technology was approved by a legislative subcommittee Tuesday. But the rule still would not let some telemedicine companies operate in Arkansas, so those companies will attempt to change the law in next year’s legislative session.

The Secretary of State’s office has validated two additional candidates to run for president in Arkansas, while a political group has enough signatures but must find a candidate.

Sec. of State Mark Martin (R)
sos.arkansas.gov / Secretary of State's Office

The Democratic Party of Arkansas has retained the Rose Law Firm for a potential Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office.

Talk Business & Politics reports party officials also plan to make other FOIA requests, and with allied groups, are considering hiring an Atlanta-based voting rights litigation specialist and suing the office in federal court.

Governor Asa Hutchinson Elyxor
Alden Walters / KUAR News

A software engineering company with an office in North Little Rock is expanding from four to 45 employees over the next five years, its leadership and Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday. Boston-based Elyxor supports clients around the world in finance, health care, eCommerce, industrial products and supply chains.

marijuana
npr.org

The Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation is joining with the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce in opposing two medical marijuana initiatives that are likely to be on the ballot this November.

Arkansas is one of 16 states where physician practices will participate in a Medicare payment model reimbursing physicians for providing comprehensive, coordinated patient care.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Monday that beginning January 2017, the five-year Comprehensive Primary Care Plus model reimburses physicians for providing primary care and focuses on access and continuity, comprehensive and coordinated care management, patient and caregiver engagement, and planned care and population health.

marijuana
npr.org

A proposed constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana for medical use fell short of the number of valid signatures required but will have 30 days to make up the difference.

To qualify for the ballot, proposed amendments this year must collect 84,859 signatures. According to a letter sent by the secretary of state’s office to David Couch of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, 72,309 of the 99,629 signatures the group submitted were valid.

marijuana
npr.org

An effort is forming to oppose ballot initiatives that would legalize medical marijuana, saying it would lead to increased use of the drug and, eventually, full legalization.

The Coalition for Safer Arkansas Communities held an informational meeting Friday that included a message from Terry Benham of Impact Management, who is managing the group’s campaign, Keep Arkansas Safe. The main speaker was Little Rock native and Colorado resident Henny Laster of Smart Colorado, a group that opposes marijuana legalization in that state.

v
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansans may have the chance to vote on two medical marijuana initiatives in November. What happens if both pass? The one with the most votes wins, probably. Talk Business and Politics reports.

Virginia Guard Public Affairs / flickr.com

Increased drug costs have caused the state’s five-year match for Arkansas Works to rise from $705 million to $730 million, legislators were told by a consultant Monday.

The Stephen Group told the Health Reform Legislative Task Force that the waiver the state is seeking from the federal Department of Health and Human Services includes a state match that has risen by $25.4 million. The total estimated cost of the program has increased from $9.04 billion to $9.35 billion from the initial waiver request. Most will be funded by the federal government.

File photo: Then U.S. Representative Tom Cotton (R-4th District) at the Clinton School of Public Service (2013).
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas is among 10 Republican senators pushing the U.S. State Department to suspend any security clearances held by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and several of her aides.

FBI Director James Comey earlier this week announced that although Clinton will not be charged with a crime, her use of a private email server for classified material was “extremely careless.”

Several of Arkansas’ Republican elected officials reacted favorably Thursday to a tie vote by the U.S. Supreme Court that effectively upheld a lower court ruling against President Obama’s policy of selectively enforcing immigration laws.

The Court split 4-4 in the case of United States, et al., petitioners v. Texas, et al. In a one-sentence opinion, the court ruled, “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court” without explaining how the court was divided.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will hold a special meeting June 24 to consider adopting regulations to combat a fatal disease that is affecting 23% of deer sampled in a five-county area in north-central Arkansas.

Talk Business and Politics reports:

Former President Bill Clinton will speak at the Democratic Party of Arkansas’ 35th Annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner July 15 at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.

File photo. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) speaking to reporters after addressing the Arkansas General Assembly at the beginning of a special session.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The federal prohibition preventing states and localities from enforcing sales tax laws against out-of-state retailers should be lifted, but the additional revenues raised at the state level should be placed in a “lockbox” and offset with income tax cuts, Gov. Asa Hutchinson told the County Judges Association of Arkansas Friday.

Hutchinson said the combination would be more politically acceptable to pass at the federal level and would lower the income tax rate.

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

A constitutional amendment that would allow casinos in Washington, Miller and Boone counties has been certified by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, and now backers will begin collecting signatures.

Interstate 30
Arkansas Highway & Transportation Dept.

The Arkansas Highway Commission has announced its support for Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s highway bill.

In a statement released Wednesday, the commission said it was “pleased that the call for the Special Session includes a plan from Governor Hutchinson to address our most critical, immediate need for additional highway investment. … While we have concerns about the sustainability of some of the proposed funding sources beyond the first year, we appreciate and support the Governor’s efforts on this critical, immediate issue.”

Bill Clinton
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Former President Bill Clinton encouraged the 41 members of the 10th graduating class of the Clinton School of Public Service to focus on what makes people alike rather than what makes them different.

Members of the graduating class included citizens of Benin, China, Kenya, and Venezuela.

A proposed bill that would do away with the Workers’ Compensation Commission’s Death and Permanent Total Disability Trust Fund has support from some legislators and organized labor but not the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, which supports ending the fund, but after more consideration.

Unity Health, a Searcy-based health system, announced Thursday that it is the first medical provider in Arkansas to join the Mayo Clinic Care Network.

The arrangement means Unity Health doctors will have access to electronic consulting with physicians with the Mayo Clinic, one of the country’s top-ranked medical providers by U.S. News & World Report. Patient medical information such as MRI scans will be transmitted to those doctors. Unity Health also will have access to the AskMayoExpert database with information on disease management and care guidelines.

Libertarian Party of Arkansas Chair Michael Pakko with over 15,000 signatures to be submitted to the Secretary of State's office for ballot access. May 2016.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

In the last two election cycles, one political party in Arkansas has fielded a full slate of candidates to challenge the Republicans for state and federal offices, and it’s not the Democrats.

Members of the Libertarian Party of Arkansas competed for all state constitutional offices and in all congressional races in 2014 and are on the ballot in all congressional races this year. In the First, Third and Fourth Congressional Districts, Republican incumbents are challenged only by Libertarian opponents.

House Speaker Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia) after presenting his "challenge" to spread broadband to every parcel of Arkansas.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

At least three legislative proposals are being floated for a highways-focused special session planned for May 19, but on Tuesday the speaker of the House said it’s doubtful a consensus can be developed on any of them before the session begins.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has announced a plan that will raise about $50 million a year in order to make the state eligible for $200 million in federal funds as part of the federal Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

America’s first whistleblower law was passed July 30, 1778. Michael McCray, a Pine Bluff native who worked in President Bill Clinton’s Department of Agriculture, said it didn’t protect him.

Doyle Webb
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Every delegate matters at the Republican National Convention July 18-21 in Cleveland, and Doyle Webb, Republican Party of Arkansas chairman, will help decide which ones actually count.

Arkansas Capitol building.
Ron Breeding / KUAR News

An amendment that would change the law creating Arkansas Works so that it would end at the end of this year, rather than the end of 2021, passed the Joint Budget Committee, 41-11, Tuesday.

The Ethics Commission is moving forward on investigating Gov. Asa Hutchinson for a possible violation of Arkansas campaign laws.

Attorney Matt Campbell, publisher of The Blue Hog Report website, filed a complaint March 31 regarding Hutchinson’s appearance at two events from 7:30 until 11 a.m. on Feb. 29 on behalf of Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot, who defeated his primary challenger March 1.

hutchinson medicaid
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Failure to pass his Arkansas Works program could lead to the cancellation of a planned special session for highways, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday.

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