Arkansas Politics Blog

Gov. Asa Hutchinson with Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services Director Seema Verma holding a signed and approved waiver for Arkansas's Medicaid program on May 30, 2018.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

More than a quarter of the 27,000 Arkansans subject to a new work requirement in order to keep Medicaid coverage did not satisfy the state’s new reporting rules, according to state officials. The work requirement is the first in the nation to be rolled out, with the approval from the Trump administration earlier this year.

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

President Trump’s trade battles are causing pain for Arkansas farmers who have seen prices drop rapidly under retaliatory tariffs. The state’s political leadership has shown some division over the issue, though elected leaders remain optimistic Arkansas will emerge unscathed.

Arkansas Soybean Association President A.J. Hood said farmers are showing some stress as prices fluctuate on the state’s top commodity and top export.

State Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View.
Arkansas Times/Brian Chilson

The freshly minted Select Committee on Senate Ethics held its first meeting Thursday and elected its leadership. The Senate last week approved rule changes creating the committee to hear and investigate claims of corruption. Its formation comes on the heels of federal investigations that have led to five former lawmakers being convicted.

State Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, was confirmed as chair. She says good ethics rules aren’t partisan.

Second Congressional District candidate Clarke Tucker (D).
clarketucker.com

U.S. House hopeful Clarke Tucker, D-Ark, is opposing the possible use of Arkansas facilities to house migrant children and families detained at the U.S.-Mexico border and rejecting his opponent's claims he's in lock-step with Democratic national figures. While President Donald Trump has ordered a halt to his zero-tolerance policy of separating children from their families at the southern border, federal officials are still planning to scout potential detainment sites in Arkansas on Thursday, including the Little Rock Air Force Base.

U.S. Senator John Boozman in the Republican Party of Arkansas headquarters in 2016 during a campaign interview.
KUAR News

Arkansas’s senior U.S. Senator John Boozman is calling for a stop to the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy to separate children from their parents at the border. Boozman was one of 13 Republican Senators on Tuesday to sign a letter addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying immigration policy must be consistent with "ordinary human decency" and putting the blame for the "immediate cause of the crisis" on the Attorney General’s new policy.

Tom Cotton
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., says some of the immigrant children who are being separated from the adults they are entering the country with at the border with Mexico are not actually related.

Speaking Tuesday on the nationally-syndicated radio program The Hugh Hewitt Show, Cotton was skeptical that many of the 2,000-plus children separated from their parents since April are relatives.

U.S. Rep. French Hill speaking at a meeting of the House Financial Services Committee on March 22, 2016.
C-SPAN

U.S. Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) says current immigration law justifies the Trump administration's decision to implement a zero tolerance policy that separates children from their parents if they illegally cross the border with Mexico. However, Hill says he does not support children being separated from their families and is urging Congress to pass legislation to fix the problem, while putting the blame on past presidential administrations for the creation of the law.

Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

New ethics rules are being put forward by a bipartisan group of Arkansas Senate leaders following a slate of convictions against lawmakers found guilty of redirecting state money in exchange for bribes.

Foremost among the changes may be the creation of a five-member Senate Ethics Committee to investigate claims against members.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren is leading the effort.

Oaklawn Racing & Gaming

Arkansas is one of just seven states that does not spend money to support gambling addiction treatment.

WWW.JAREDFORARKANSAS.COM/

Democratic gubernatorial challenger Jared Henderson tells KUAR he is in favor of an initiative to raise Arkansas's minimum wage to $11 an hour. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has yet to comment and Libertarian Mark West opposes the ballot measure, as well as the concept of a minimum wage.

The ballot item would incrementally raise the state's minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2022. It’s currently $8.50 an hour. Canvassers need to collect 67,887 valid signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot.

Henderson calls the gradual approach “thoughtful” and “responsible.”

House Speaker Jeremy Gillam speaking to reporters after the inauguration of Governor Asa Hutchinson.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Arkansas House Speaker Jeremy Gillam is resigning this month to take a governmental affairs job at the University of Central Arkansas.

The move opens up a leadership vacuum in the state legislature and is riling up democrats, who see it as a sign of a revolving door between lawmaking and lobbyist-like activity.

The Republican from White County had already announced he wasn’t running for re-election. The House will caucus June 15 to elect an interim speaker.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson with Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services Director Seema Verma holding a signed and approved waiver for Arkansas's Medicaid program on May 30, 2018.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Arkansas is one of just a few states that is choosing to implement work-related requirements, in order for people to keep getting health insurance through Medicaid. The state also stands out for requiring that the verification process be done online.

That could mean trouble for low-income beneficiaries, who happen to live in a state with some of the worst access to the internet in the nation. The rollout of the new requirements begins June 1st.

The Arkansas Republican Party primary race between Governor Asa Hutchinson and television pundit Jan Morgan pits one of the nation’s most popular governors against a far right firebrand, who made a brief mark on the national stage for banning Muslims from her firing range.

Take a listen to the full audio report in the link above.

Tuesday, May 22nd is Election Day. Polls are open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

A couple of high profile Democrats are on their way out of the Arkansas House to seek higher office. In this article, KUAR takes a look at the race for House District 35, as state Representative Clarke Tucker seeks higher office.

The race to replace him is between political newcomers Annie Depper and Andrew Collins.

All four candidates in the Democratic Primary for central Arkansas's U.S. House seat are seeking to make improvements on the Affordable Care Act. Early voting is underway in the race between Clarke Tucker, Paul Spencer, Jonathan Dunkley, Gwen Combs, and Clarke Tucker. Election Day is May 22nd.

Take a listen to the full report in the audio link above. Individual interviews are below.

Clarke Tucker

Paul Spencer

Jonathan Dunkley

Gwen Combs

There's a four person race to win the Democratic Party nomination to run against U.S. Representative French Hill in Novemeber. Take a listen to KUAR's interviews about the economy with Jonathan Dunkley, Gwen Combs, Clarke Tucker, and Paul Spencer. Early voting is underway, Election Day is May 22nd.

Jonathan Dunkley

Gwen Combs

Clarke Tucker

Paul Spencer

There are two candidates for governor on the Democratic primary ballot. Both are political newcomers with different backgrounds, levels of political backing, and degrees of adherence to Democratic Party norms. KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman has this report. Election Day is Tuesday, May 22nd.

The May 22nd Democratic primary ballot features the deciding race for Pulaski County Sheriff. The winner will be unopposed in the November general election. KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman reports on the contest between Carl Minden and Eric Higgins. Sheriff Doc Holladay is not running for re-election.

Take a listen to the audio link above for the full story. 

jp4ar.com/Twitter

As the May 22 primary election draws near, Democratic voters in Arkansas House District 39 have a choice to make.

Monica Ball and Joshua Price are both looking to unseat Republican three-term incumbent Rep. Mark Lowery. Theirs is the only race in the state with two Democratic primary opponents running to fill a Republican seat.

Governor Asa Hutchinson is being sued by a former Department of Agriculture employee who claims he was fired for refusing to hire an applicant favored by the governor.

The lawsuit filed May 7 in Pulaski County Circuit Court claims Christopher H. Harris was pressured in March of this year by the Deputy Director of the Department’s Livestock and Poultry Commission, Patrick Fisk.

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jared Henderson is out with his first television commercial. It strikes a positive tone and doesn’t mention his primary opponent, Leticia Sanders or Governor Asa Hutchinson. His campaign says it'll be the only TV spot of the primary.

KATV

In an unexpected announcement, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola said he will not seek a fourth term. In an e-mail released on Tuesday morning, Stodola said he'll step aside at the completion of his term because an immediate family member received a serious medical diagnosis.

Stodola issued a letter to the denizens of the Capitol city.

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CITIZENS OF LITTLE ROCK

Early Voting Begins In Arkansas

May 7, 2018
Election vote
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Early voting begins today for the May 22nd primaries and nonpartisan judicial election. Early voting runs Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

Voters can choose either a Republican or Democratic ballot but not both, regardless of political party affiliation. Voters also can get a nonpartisan judicial ballot, independent of or in addition to a party primary ballot.

The nonpartisan judicial races include the contest for Arkansas Supreme Court Associate Justice between David Sterling, Courtney Goodson, and Kenneth Hixson.

Second Congressional District candidate Clarke Tucker is out with his second television ad in as many weeks. Tucker is in a four-person Democratic primary contest along with Jonathan Dunkley, Paul Spencer, and Gwen Combs. His campaign fundraising totals have eclipsed the rest of the field's combined total.

The new ad takes up a centrist issue and tone, in a primary race typified by candidates embracing the term progressive. The ad focuses on employment for veterans and portrays Tucker as a bi-partisan leader saying, "In Congress, I'll work with anyone." 

Former state Senator Jim Argue
Karen Tricot Steward / KUAR News

Jim Argue, a former state lawmaker and president of the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas, died on Thursday at the age of 66, succumbing to a brief battle with kidney cancer. Argue played a major role in shaping education laws and building up the Methodist Foundation’s assets.

The long-time Little Rock resident served in the Arkansas Legislature from 1991 to 2008. He served in the House from 1991 through 1996. He then moved to the upper chamber, which included time as President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson looking at demonstrators outside of Parris Tower in Little Rock.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson made three stops in central Arkansas on Tuesday and was greeted at each destination by demonstrators opposed to his recent proposals for new public housing restrictions. 

Take a listen to the audio link above for the story.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

With early voting for primary elections set to begin May 7, the four Democrats seeking to run against Republican incumbent French Hill for Arkansas’s 2nd District U.S. Congressional seat gathered for their second debate Monday.

In the Republican gubernatorial primary, incumbent Asa Hutchinson has secured an endorsement from Arkansas Right to Life. In a statement, Hutchinson praised the group and touted lengthening waiting periods for women to get an abortion, parental consent laws, and blocking Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood.

C-SPAN

Ben Carson, the one-time presidential candidate and current Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is making several stops in North Little Rock on Tuesday. It comes as

State Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Bigelow) standing presiding over the unveiling of the state Capitol's new 10 Commandments monument.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A new Ten Commandments monument has been installed on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol. It comes nearly a year after an identical monument was destroyed. 

Last June, a mentally ill man deliberately drove his car into the 6,000-pound granite tablet less than 24 hours after it was erected. Michael T. Reed II had destroyed a similar monument in Oklahoma back in 2014.

State Senator Jason Rapert shepherded the authorization of the Arkansas monument in 2015. Today, he presided at the unveiling of its replacement.

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