Talk Business & Politics Staff

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Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and President Donald Trump on August 2, 2017.
The White House

President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., are struggling with independent voters in Arkansas less than five months before Election Day.

A new survey from Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College shows that Trump and Cotton have negative job approval ratings with voters, with independents giving them low marks by a double-digit margin. The poll was conducted Tuesday, June 9 and Wednesday, June 10, of 869 statewide likely voters and has a margin of error of +/-3.3%.


Dspite a slow rollout of medical cannabis in Arkansas, public support for the industry is growing.

A new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll of likely statewide voters shows the issue has gained momentum since its passage with 53% support in November 2016. In a survey conducted June 9-10, 2020, voters voiced a double-digit increase in approval.

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson remains immensely popular in Arkansas for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his response to recent social unrest. His latest policy move bucks public sentiment and may dent his approval, but he has room to fall.

A new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey shows Hutchinson with a job approval rating three times higher than his disapproval rating. The poll was taken on Tuesday, June 9 and Wednesday, June 10 of 869 statewide likely voters and has a margin of error of +/-3.3%.

Governor's Office / YouTube

Another 160 known community cases of COVID-19 were reported Saturday, with 27% of those in Northwest Arkansas. Of the cases found since March 11, 13.4% have been in the past three days. 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Saturday during his COVID-19 briefing the state is in a second peak of positive cases. The first peak was around April 25.

“It’s clear and evident to me … we’ve had a deep dip and then we’re having a second peak right now and they’re really about 30 days apart,” Gov. Hutchinson said.

Lance Beaty has decided to comply with Arkansas’ cease and desist order mandating he cancel a concert Friday at his TempleLive venue in downtown Fort Smith. The Travis McCready concert is set three days before a May 18 date that allows events in indoor venues.

Beaty, owner of Beaty Capital Group which owns and manages TempleLive, had said the state’s decision was based on politics and power and not science. During at 1 p.m. Thursday press conference, TempleLive spokesman Mike Brown said the concert would be moved to May 18 “against our will.”

Department of Parks, Heritage & Tourism

A cease and desist order is being sent to TempleLive in Fort Smith to stop a May 15 concert planned at the venue, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday. The event is scheduled ahead of the allowed date of May 18 for the limited opening of indoor venues, and the governor said a business can’t “arbitrarily determine” a reopening.

Lance Beaty, owner of Beaty Capital Group which owns and manages TempleLive, told Talk Business & Politics he is disappointed in the decision.

Murphy Oil Corporation's headquarters in El Dorado, which was built in 2015. The company announced Wednesday it is moving corporate operations to Houston.

El Dorado-based Murphy Oil Corp. announced Wednesday it will close its corporate headquartersin south Arkansas and relocate to its existing offices in Houston. The El Dorado office has 80 employees, according to a corporate news release. The company is also relocating 110 employees from its Canadian office in Calgary to Houston.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson listens as Steuart Walton, chairman of the Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force, speaks to reporters during Wednesday's daily briefing.
Governor's Office / YouTube

A sixth state prison inmate from the Cummins Unit in southeast Arkansas has died of COVID-19. Dr. Nate Smith, secretary of the state Department of Health, made the announcement at Wednesday's press briefing, adding that 876 prisoners there and 54 staffers have tested positive for the virus.

Entergy Arkansas's solar project in Searcy will be the largest utility-owned project in the state.
Entergy Arkansas

The Arkansas Public Service Commission this week approved a new utility-scale solar project that will provide Entergy Arkansas customers with 100 megawatts of solar power and 10 megawatts of battery storage for when the sun does not shine.

The Searcy Solar project in White County will be the largest utility-owned solar project in the state and the first to feature battery storage. It was first announced in March 2019.

FastilyClone / WIkimedia Commons

Following a monumental, but brief surge in cattle production in March, the market in April is set for one of the worst production months in decades.

The number of federally inspected slaughtered cattle for the week ending on April 24 was 469,000, a 25% (173,000) drop from the same week in 2019, according to an economic impact report released by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. The number of ready-to-process cattle will spike, and prices will drop, agri-economist John Anderson said.

Alleviant Health Centers will expand its headquarters in Little Rock, the company said on Tuesday.

An operator of mental health clinics across the U.S., Alleviant provides a combination of traditional therapies and innovative, holistic methods for its patients. In addition to maintaining their corporate operations of 20 employees, the company will add 115 corporate jobs, described as “high-paying,” that includes 22 telebehavioral professionals. The corporate jobs include functions in finance, accounting, marketing, business development, human resources and legal.

Tyson Foods

Tyson Foods Chairman John Tyson warns “millions of pounds of meat” will disappear from the supply chain as the COVID-19 pandemic closes packing plants and backs up the animal supply.

“The food supply chain is breaking,” Tyson, grandson of the company founder, wrote in a full-page ad published by several major U.S. newspapers on Sunday. ”There will be a limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed.”

Governor's Office / YouTube

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Saturday that traditional high school graduation ceremonies will not be allowed prior to July 1. Arkansas Department of Education officials also are reviewing options in the event it is not safe to fully open schools in the fall.

The governor and Education Secretary Johnny Key said during Saturday’s COVID-19 press conference they know the delay is disappointing to many, but is necessary for public safety.

Cynergy Cargo, an enclosed cargo trailer manufacturer headquartered in Douglas, Georgia, announced Thursday that it will build a new facility in the Crossett Industrial Park. The company plans to hire 70 new, full-time employees within 24 months, including carpenters, welders, and electricians.

Cynergy currently employs about 60 people at its facility in Douglas where it runs two lines. The company chose to expand in Crossett to be closer to customers and increase production with a third line.

Steuart Walton, chairman of the Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force, at his office in Bentonville on Wednesday. He says the group will look at ways to restart business activity in the state without causing additional health challenges.
Talk Business & Politics

Steuart Walton has a message for citizens who may be eager to reopen the state’s economy sooner rather than later.

“They’re not alone,” Walton said. “I think everybody is at some level of that feeling.”

Governor's Office / YouTube

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Saturday announced the creation of the Arkansas Economic Recovery Task Force, which is charged with making recommendations on how best to return the state’s economy to normal following the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The recommendations must be consistent with public health requirements, Hutchinson said, while creating confidence among state residents. The announcement came one day after the governor announced a May 4 target date to begin “Phase 1” reopening of the state's economy. 

Outgoing Senate President pro Tempore Jim Hndren (R-Gravette) praised members of his chamber for wrapping up the fiscal session in nine days. Budget sessions typically take about a month. Sen. Jimmy Hickey (R-Texarkana) was then elected by senators to ser
Arkansas Citizens Access Network

Arkansas lawmakers concluded the biennial fiscal session in less than two weeks, passing a $5.89 billion budget with significant cuts to most state agencies. The Senate also selected a new leader for the chamber.

With social distancing requiring legislators to conduct business in the Senate chamber and gallery as well as the Jack Stephens Center at the University of Arkansas Little Rock, it was anything but business as usual.

Arkansas Unemployment
Stock Photo

The surge in Arkansas jobless claims receded last week by 44%, according to Thursday’s U.S. Department of Labor report. Arkansas’ total for the week ending April 11 was 34,635, down from a spike of 62,086 the week prior.

The latest data pushed Arkansas’ total the past four weeks to 133,752.

David Wildy, a prominent Arkansas farmer, in a field of soybeans that were damaged by dicamba.
Dan Charles / NPR News

Farmers may again begin using the weed killer dicamba this week, but a significant amount of litigation is on the horizon.

A Missouri peach farmer was recently awarded $265 million after a jury found that his orchard was damaged by dicamba-based pesticides, according to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. A U.S. District Court jury doled the money to Cape Girardeau farmer Bill Bader in February after 30,000 of his peach trees were reportedly damaged or destroyed by dicamba used by other farmers near his farm.

LM Wind Power
KATV-Channel 7

Once heralded as an advanced manufacturing success for Arkansas, LM Wind Power announced it will close its wind blade facility that has been in existence for more than a decade.

A spokesperson for GE Reneweable Energy, parent company to LM Wind Power, tells KATV television that the site will close later this year due to a decrease in demand for wind blades made at the plant.

Little Rock Port Authority Port of Little Rock
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. announced that retail giant Amazon has bought an 80-acre site at the Port of Little Rock for $3.2 million.

“We have settled upon acquisition of land with Amazon online,” Scott said, according to KATV, channel 7.

Governor Gov Asa Hutchinson face mask
Governor's Office / YouTube

COVID-19 cases in Arkansas jumped to 830 on Sunday, up 96 cases from the 734 on Saturday. It is the largest one-day increase since the pandemic arrived in the state. 64 of the state’s 75 counties now have at least one COVID-19 case. The number of deaths rose from 14 to 16.

The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 67 on Sunday, down from the 72 on Saturday. As of Sunday at 1 p.m., there were 324,052 U.S. cases and 9,180 deaths. Globally, there were 1,249,107 cases and 67,999 deaths.

Nate Smith
Governor's Office / YouTube

Two additional deaths from COVID-19 were reported Saturday in Arkansas, bringing the total to 14. The number of people testing positive for the virus has reached 743, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, an increase of 39 from the previous day. 

Meanwhile efforts to help businesses facing financial hardships are coming to fruition, he told reporters. State officials have approved 80 bridge loans through the Quick Action Loan Guaranty Program, with $1.7 million going out to help businesses facing financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hutchinson said. 

Arkansas Unemployment
Stock Photo

Initial jobless claims in Arkansas for the week ending March 28 were 26,944, nearly triple the amount reported in the previous week. Jobless claims nationwide totaled 6.64 million, an increase of 3.34 million from the previous week’s revised level, according to Thursday’s U.S. Department of Labor report.

The Arkansas revised total for the week ending March 14, according to the Labor Department, was 9,275, more than six times the 1,382 in the previous week. The increase in the state’s jobless claims has skyrocketed roughly 1,850% in two weeks.

Governor's Office / YouTube

The number of COVID-19 deaths in Arkansas rose from three to five as of Saturday, with Gov. Asa Hutchinson expressing frustration about supply chain issues that are limiting testing for the pandemic that continues to spread globally. He also said the number of weekly jobless applications in the past week totaled more than 30,000, which followed about 9,400 applications in the prior week.

Publicola / WIkimedia Commons

The Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control on Thursday issued a rule allowing restaurants and microbrewery restaurants to sell beer and wine for off-site consumption with the purchase of food. However, the new rule does not include the sale of mixed-drinks.

The rule is in place for 30 days.

UAMS covid-19 coronavirus
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The number of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas has risen to 12, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Saturday. The three new cases are healthcare workers at Jefferson Regional Medical Center and related to the original case discovered in Pine Bluff.

Hutchinson also said during Saturday’s press conference that he has authorized the Arkansas National Guard to be activated to help with logistics, call center support, transportation, EMT support and other needs.

Governor Asa Hutchinson
Governor's Office / YouTube

Arkansas has five new "presumptive" cases of the coronavirus, Gov. Asa Hutchinson confirmed Thursday He also announced schools are being closed in Pulaski, Saline, Jefferson and Grant counties.

Lorie Tudor
Department of Transportation

Lorie Tudor, a 36-year veteran with the Arkansas Department of Transportation who began at the agency as a clerk typist, was named Thursday the director of the state’s high-profile department. She is the agency’s first female director.

The Arkansas Highway Commission has named Tudor as director following a special meeting held Thursday. She succeeds Scott Bennett, who announced his retirement effective March 20, 2020.

Scott Bennett
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Department of Transportation Director Scott Bennett is retiring effective March 20, 2020. Bennett informed the Highway Commission of his decision in a letter dated Feb. 19.

"I’ve had a great career at ARDOT, and I’ve been fortunate to be a part of many success stories," Bennett said, "but it’s time for me to step down. I’ve always been told ‘you’ll know when it’s time,’ and I believe that time has come for me."

Commission Chairman Tom Schueck of Little Rock praised Bennett for his leadership. "It’s been a privilege to work with Scott," Schueck said.