Arkansas Politics

Denise Ennett

Five Democratic candidates are seeking to replace former state Rep. Charles Blake in representing House District 36, which stretches southeast from downtown along the Arkansas River.

Blake resigned in May to serve as chief of staff for Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. Voters can choose a candidate at a special election on Aug. 6. 

KUAR sat down with each of the candidates and asked the same questions on what they felt were the main issues in the district, and what their plans were for the legislature. 

Roderick Talley

Five Democratic candidates are seeking to replace former state Rep. Charles Blake in representing House District 36, which stretches southeast from downtown along the Arkansas River.

Blake resigned in May to serve as chief of staff for Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. Voters can choose a candidate at a special election on Aug. 6. 

Rita Sklar ACLU American Civil Liberties Union
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas is retiring after nearly three decades heading the group.

The ACLU of Arkansas on Monday announced the retirement of Rita Sklar, who has served as the organization's executive director since 1992. The group said Holly Dickson, its legal director, will serve as interim director and a national search will be announced soon.

Jeremy Hutchinson
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A former Arkansas lawmaker who is the governor's nephew has admitted to accepting thousands of dollars in bribes to help a health nonprofit as part of a plea deal in a sprawling federal corruption investigation.

naloxone
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Amid an epidemic of opioid deaths, Arkansas school nurses are being equipped with an antidote that can reverse overdoses. During a ceremony Tuesday at the state Capitol, Gov. Asa Hutchinson presented several nurses with naloxone kits, saying they will provide an "important lifesaving capability for our schools."

Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Former Arkansas state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson appeared in federal court Tuesday to change his pleas on charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and tax evasion. He had originally faced 25 counts stemming from three separate cases in Arkansas and Missouri. Before U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker, Hutchinson changed his pleas in two of those cases to guilty.

Former Arkansas state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson arriving in court Tuesday for a pre-trial hearing in his corruption case.
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Former Arkansas state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, is scheduled for a change of plea hearing on Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker nearly nine months after he was indicted by a federal grand jury in a wide-ranging public corruption scheme. 

The hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas will be held at the Richard Sheppard Arnold U.S. Courthouse at noon in downtown Little Rock.

Leslie Rutledge Attorney General
Talk Business & Politics

A federal judge has halted his order blocking Arkansas from enforcing a law that prevents candidates for state office from accepting campaign contributions more than two years before an election.

U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. on Wednesday granted Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's request to stay his preliminary injunction against the law while Rutledge appeals his decision. Moody issued the preliminary injunction blocking the law on Monday.

Rebecca Becky Lynn O'Donnell being escorted into the Randolph County Courthouse Monday where she was formally charged with capital murder in the death of former Arkansas state Sen. Linda Collins.
KAIT-TV / Twitter

An Arkansas woman has been charged with capital murder in the killing of a former state senator whose body was found outside her own home.

A state judge also found probable cause Monday to charge 48-year-old Rebecca Lynn O'Donnell with abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence, Jonesboro television station KAIT reported . The judge did not set bond for O'Donnell, who was arrested Friday in former Sen. Linda Collins' death.

Authorities haven't said how Collins was killed.

Missy Irvin
KARK-TV

The family of a former Arkansas lawmaker whose body was found at her home last week say they're saddened and angered by her death, and are confident authorities are using all their resources to solve her killing.

Dozens of Arkansas lawmakers and others gathered at the state Capitol on Tuesday to remember former state Sen. Linda Collins, whose death is being investigated as a homicide. The body of Collins, who went by Collins-Smith in the Legislature, was found June 4 outside her home in Pocahontas, about 130 miles (210 kilometers) northeast of Little Rock.

Linda Collins-Smith
Arkansas Legislature

A remembrance is set for Tuesday at the Arkansas State Capitol for former state Sen. Linda Collins-Smith. Her body was found last Tuesday at her home in Pocahontas and police are treating the death as a homicide.

Linda Collins-Smith
Arkansas Legislature

Authorities in Arkansas have confirmed that a body found outside the home of a former state legislator is hers and say they're investigating the case as a homicide.

Arkansas State Police said Thursday that the medical examiner confirmed former Sen. Linda Collins-Smith's body was found Tuesday outside her home in Pocahontas, about 130 miles northeast of Little Rock. Police didn't provide a cause of death for the 57-year-old lawmaker, but say they're treating the case as a homicide. Investigators haven't named any suspects in her death.

Linda Collins-Smith
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Authorities say human remains found outside the home of a former Arkansas lawmaker are those of a woman but that the condition of the body is preventing immediate identification.

The state GOP tweeted Tuesday night that 57-year-old former state Sen. Linda Collins-Smith had died.

State police say the remains were found Tuesday at Collins-Smith's home but cannot say that the remains are hers. Police are investigating the death as a homicide.

Sarah Kellogg - KUAR News / KUAR

Weeks after the Arkansas state legislature officially adjourned, its leaders are pleased with the work it accomplished during its almost 90 days of session. During a meeting of the Political Animals Club on Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tempore Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, called this past session the "most productive one that I’ve been a part of."

Governor Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he is "anxious for success" as the U.S. negotiates with China over trade tariffs. The escalating trade war has rattled markets, with soybean prices falling to their lowest levels in a decade.

"We’re praying that the president will be successful in these negotiations," Hutchinson said in an interview with KUAR News.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Thursday the state is suing three drug distributors over their role in the opioid addiction epidemic in the state. The lawsuit, filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court, targets the three largest distributors of opioids nationwide, accounting for 85 percent of the nationwide opioid market, with a combined annual revenue of $375 billion.

Leslie Rutledge
Governor's Office

When Arkansas voters go to the polls in 2020, they’ll decide whether to approve an amendment to the state constitution that would make major changes to the process of getting measures placed on the ballot.

Among other changes, the amendment changes filing deadlines and eliminates a 30-day "cure period" where more signatures can be collected.

Jeremy Hutchinson
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, and a husband-and-wife executive team for one of the nation’s largest healthcare nonprofits were charged with 32 new counts in a public corruption scheme that involved embezzlement, bribes and illegal campaign contributions to elected officials in Arkansas and Missouri.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, surrounded by legislative leaders, signs one of three tax reform bills into law Tuesday.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a package of tax cut bills into law Tuesday saying all Arkansans will benefit from the changes. Tax reform was a key priority for the governor during this year’s session of the Arkansas General Assembly.

Included in the legislation is a requirement that, beginning July 1, will require large out-of-state online retailers like Amazon to collect sales and use taxes from in-state buyers.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Bills outlining Arkansas' proposed $5.7 billion budget for the coming year are heading toward their first votes in the state Legislature.

The Joint Budget Committee on Monday approved the proposed Revenue Stabilization Act, which calls for increasing state spending by $124 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1. The House and Senate are expected to vote on identical versions of the legislation on Tuesday. Lawmakers hope to wrap up this year's legislative session by Wednesday.

Arkansas House

A bill that exempts documents disclosing the source of drugs used in lethal injections from open records laws and criminalizes disclosure of such documents passed the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday. 

Senate Bill 464's House co-sponsor, Rep. John Maddox, R-Mena, said the bill was necessary to shield drug companies from negative publicity. 

Asa Hutchinson governor
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas was the first state in the nation to be granted a waiver by the federal government to impose a work requirement on those with healthcare coverage through the state’s Medicaid expansion. With Wednesday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg which halted the requirement, Arkansas leaders have been reacting on nationally-heard NPR programs.

The judge said the requirement undermines the very purpose of Medicaid which is to give medical care to low-income people .

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott , Jr. delivered his first State of the City address of his term Thursday at Horace Mann Arts and Science Magnet Middle School.

Scott began by thanking the city's Board of Directors and the citizens who elected him.

"Every day that I step foot in [City Hall], I do so with great humility knowing that the only reason that I'm there is because you shared my vision of unifying Little Rock," Scott said. "We did this together."

Governor Asa Hutchinson
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is lending his support to legislation that would create a five-year pilot program using state money to cover the cost of sending low-income students to private schools in Pulaski County. It’s called the Capital Promise Scholarship and would provide up to $3.5 million annually from the governor’s discretionary fund to pay the tuition of about 500 children.

Sarah Kellogg / KUAR News

State lawmakers are proposing a $100 million tax cut for Arkansans making less than $22,200 per year. 

The cut would come from a three-part bill proposed by Senate President Pro Tempore Jim Hendren on Thursday. Hendren said the bill, like last month's $97 million cut for the state's top earners, came about through recommendations by the Arkansas Tax Reform and Relief Legislative Task Force. 

Matt DeCample
KUAR

TV reporter, press spokesman, PR professional, film enthusiast, comedian. Not necessarily in that order. Matt DeCample wore a lot of hats in his too-short life.

A former KATV reporter and longtime spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, DeCample died Sunday evening after a nearly three-year battle with cancer.

He came to Arkansas in the 1990’s to work for KATV Ch. 7 in Little Rock as a general assignment reporter. Bob Steel, the former news director who hired him, said DeCample was one-of-a-kind.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

After passing the Arkansas House of Representatives last Thursday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson officially signed his plan to cut taxes for the state's top earners into law on Tuesday. The third and final part of his signature tax cut plan, the law will lower the state's top marginal income tax rate from 6.9 percent to 5.9 percent over a two-year span.

Hutchinson told reporters and Republican legislators gathered at the Capitol the $97 million plan will achieve its goal of making Arkansas more competitive to neighboring states.

A bill that would make it harder for third parties to appear on Arkansas’ ballot is headed to the governor’s desk, while the state is now a procedural vote away from becoming the 13th to call for an Article V constitutional convention to pursue amendments limiting the federal government’s powers.

Senate Bill 163 by Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, would require third parties to collect a number of signatures equal to 3% of the voters in the previous gubernatorial election.

Sarah Kellogg / KUAR News

The new speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives says the chamber is on its way to achieving two big goals as the Regular Session of the 92nd Arkansas General Assembly enters its fifth week.

House Speaker Matthew Shepherd (R-El Dorado) told reporters at the Capitol Thursday that despite concerns from fellow Republicans, he remains optimistic that Gov. Asa Hutchinson's $97 million tax cut plan will pass the chamber.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Arkansas's statewide public television network is launching a new service that will live-stream meetings of the state legislature and governmental agencies.

At a press conference Monday, Courtney Pledger, executive director of the Arkansas Educational Television Network, joined Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) in announcing the online-only service, called the Arkansas Citizens Access Network, or AR-CAN.

Pledger said the new service is designed to boost civic engagement in the state.

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