Arkansas Politics

Stock Photo

A judge has ruled that a group seeking to create a voter-approved commission to redraw Arkansas’ legislative and congressional lines after each census doesn’t have to collect signatures in person but also can’t use electronic signatures and must abide by the state’s July 3 deadline.

U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes III issued a preliminary injunction May 25 barring the enforcement of a state law requiring signatures to be witnessed in person and also said canvassers don’t have to sign an affidavit with a notary present.

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 Department of Finance and Administration Director of Budget Jake Bleed (left) and Education Secretary Johnny Key at the Joint Budget Committee meeting Wednesday.
Arkansas Citizens Access Network

Legislative leaders expect to wrap up the biennial fiscal session of the Arkansas General Assembly on Thursday. The House and Senate gave initial approval Wednesday to identical versions of the $5.8 billion Revenue Stabilization Act for the budget year that begins in July.

Lawmakers had been pressured to complete the session as quickly as possible given the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak. Fiscal sessions typically last at least a month, but Thursday will be the ninth day for this one.

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.

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.

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.

Arkansas State Capitol
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

A proposal has been filed in Arkansas that would create a new nine-member independent commission to redraw the state's congressional and legislative districts.

Arkansas Voters First on Thursday filed the proposed amendment to the state's constitution that the group hopes to get on the ballot this fall. The group must submit nearly 90,000 signatures from registered voters by July 3 to qualify the measure for the ballot.

Arkansas' legislative districts are redrawn by a panel comprised of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state.

Polling location vote here
Michael HIbblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Democrats coalesced behind Joe Biden in his bid for president on Tuesday. Final results from the Secretary of State’s office show he won by a nearly two-to-one margin over second place finisher Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Arkansas Democratic Primary Results (100% of precincts reporting):

Joe Biden: 40.5
Bernie Sanders: 22.4
Michael Bloomberg: 16.7
Elizabeth Warren: 10.0

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Former Vice President Joe Biden won the Arkansas Democratic Party presidential primary Tuesday on the same night he won a string of Southern states.

ABC News projected Biden as the winner in Arkansas at 9:15 p.m. Shortly after 9 p.m., Biden was leading the field with 33.4% of the vote, according to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s website. At the time, 19% of the state’s 2,570 areas had reported.

Sarah Kellogg / KUAR News

Arkansans joined voters in 13 other states and one territory on Super Tuesday to pick, among other races, the Democratic nominee for president. In Pulaski County, voters are also choosing an Arkansas Supreme Court Justice, a statewide race, as well as certain circuit court judgeship positions and others. 

Outside of Little Rock’s Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church, supporters of at least nine different candidates lined up and waved signs to ongoing cars and to voters entering the building to vote.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Arkansas is part of Super Tuesday, the largest single-day primary nationwide, when voters in 14 states and American Samoa will choose which of the remaining Democratic presidential candidates to award more than one-third of all total Democratic delegates to.

And though the state is solidly red, candidates are making their respective efforts to court Arkansas voters. 

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.

Wikipedia

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will be the third Democratic presidential candidate to visit central Arkansas ahead of Super Tuesday.

Warren will host a town hall event at the North Shore Riverwalk Part in North Little Rock on Saturday, Feb. 29. The event will be the second of three Warren will take part in that day; she’s set to appear in Columbia, S.C. before the event, and will hold a town hall in Houston afterward.

Amy Klobuchar
Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Democratic presidential candidates are hoping to rally momentum in Arkansas during the final week before the state takes part in Super Tuesday's primary election.

On Monday, Michael Bloomberg’s campaign said the former New York City mayor will return to Arkansas on Thursday to speak at a rally in Bentonville. The announcement comes one day after Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota spoke to an enthusiastic crowd in central Arkansas.

Amy Klobuchar
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar is returning to Arkansas this weekend. The Minnesota senator is scheduled to speak at a rally Sunday beginning at 3:30 p.m. at the Maumelle Event Center.

It comes just over a week before Arkansas will be among 14 states taking part in primary elections that could give a solid boost to a candidate in the Democratic race.

Arkansas Works Governor Asa Hutchinson Work Requirement
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal appeals court panel in Washington has upheld a lower court's decision that blocked the Trump administration's work requirements for Medicaid recipients.

Friday's decision from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., found the Arkansas work requirements for Medicaid recipients to be “arbitrary and capricious.”

The Trump administration has allowed states to require able-bodied adults drawing Medicaid benefits to work, volunteer or study. Officials argue that work can make people healthier.

Arkansas Secretary of State

As the nation turned its attention to New Hampshire’s primary, voters in Arkansas were perfectly split between the two candidates in a Democratic runoff election for a vacant seat in the state House of Representatives.

Unofficial results show Joy Springer and Ryan Davis each received 372 votes in Tuesday’s runoff for House District 34, which encompasses parts of east, central and west Little Rock. The seat has been vacant since the death of longtime Democratic State Rep. John Walker in October 2019.

Pulaski County Election Commissioner Joshua Price said, as far as anyone can recall, this hasn’t happened before.

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.

Frederick Love Fred
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

With less than a month before Arkansas Democrats vote in the presidential primary, the state is getting more attention from the candidates’ campaigns. Arkansas is one of 14 states that will be taking part in Super Tuesday on March 3, with early voting to begin Feb. 18.

Former Arkansas governor and senator David Pryor and his son, former senator Mark Pryor, are supporting Joe Biden's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The former vice president's campaign announced the endorsements from the Pryors on Tuesday.

Arkansas is holding its primary on March 3 along with more than a dozen other states.

David Pryor served as Arkansas governor from 1975 to 1979 and went on to serve three terms in the U.S. Senate. Mark Pryor served two terms in the Senate before losing re-election in 2014.

As the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump gets underway in the U.S. Senate, Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas said he and his colleagues recognize the gravity of the situation. The Republican also said he wouldn’t be surprised if the chamber eventually votes to allow witnesses to testify

The state’s senior senator spoke with KUAR News about the impeachment trial, sharing his thoughts and expectations.

MICHAEL HIBBLEN: First off, how do you feel as this begins given everything that has happened leading up to this in the House and now coming to the Senate?

Michael Bloomberg
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg returned to Arkansas Monday, the second time he has visited the state since announcing he was running for the nation's highest office. The former New York City mayor walked near the front of Little Rock’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. parade, surrounded by supporters wearing "I Like Mike" shirts and waving signs.

Picture of a tractor on a farm
Creative Commons

A “Phase 1” trade deal was signed Wednesday by President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He that reduces some tariffs between the countries and seeks to boost U.S. agri exports to China. Critics say the deal avoids the hard trade issues between the two countries.

Following are some of the items in the newly signed deal.

Rusty Cranford
Arkansas Nonprofit News Network

A lobbyist who pleaded guilty to bribing three former Arkansas state lawmakers, including the governor's nephew, has been sentenced to seven years in prison without parole.

Rusty Cranford was sentenced in federal court Monday for bribing Republican state Sen. Jon Woods, Democratic state Rep. Hank Wilkins and Republican state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson. Prosecutors say Cranford paid the bribes to benefit the Missouri-based nonprofit Preferred Family HealthCare, whose former executives also face charges.

Michael John Gray
Daniel Breen / KUAR News

A former U.S. Senate candidate's silence on why he dropped out is making a Democratic presence in the Arkansas race unlikely. Speaking with reporters at party headquarters Monday, state Democratic Party Chair Michael John Gray voiced his disappointment.

"There are emotions all across the range of them of the frustration that at this point it does not look like there will be a Democratic candidate on the ballot," Gray said.

A former lobbyist who pleaded guilty as part of a corruption investigation that ensnared several Arkansas state lawmakers is to be sentenced Monday. Rusty Cranford could face up to 10 years in federal prison, but his defense attorney says Cranford’s cooperation with investigators should weigh heavily with the judge.

Since pleading guilty to a federal bribery charge in June 2018, Cranford has repeatedly met with investigators and appeared before federal grand juries.

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.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., could likely run for a second term without having to face a Democratic challenger, but officials with the state Democratic Party disagree.

Cotton, who has served in the Senate since 2015, originally faced Democratic challenger Josh Mahony of Fayetteville. Mahony, who ran unsuccessfully against Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Womack in 2018, announced he was dropping out of the Senate race Tuesday. His announcement came roughly two hours after the campaign filing period ended.

Kelly Connelly / KUAR News

An Arkansas state legislator announced a bid Tuesday to unseat a Republican congressman in 2020 as the filing period for next year's election came to a close.

Democratic state Sen. Joyce Elliott is the only Democrat who filed to run against Republican Rep. French Hill, who was first elected to the 2nd Congressional District in 2014.

Elliott said she believes the district, which includes Little Rock, could be competitive for Democrats.

Pages